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Setting Up a Business in Ireland: Practical Advice for Foreign Businesses

13 December 2012 By Ann Donnelly


If you are a foreign company or individual, thinking of setting up a business in Ireland, you may be wondering about the practical aspects of getting started; like finding office space, hiring staff or opening an Irish bank account. The services and resources you need will vary depending on the size and type of company, the amount of business you are undertaking here and the location you choose.

Getting Good Referrals for Suppliers & Services

In many cases, you will develop a relationship with one supplier early on who can refer you to other reliable suppliers. When we set up a limited company for a business, we are often their first point of contact in Ireland. We have relationships with a number of professionals and other suppliers to assist you in getting started here. When we set up your company it's very likely that we will refer you to a solicitor to assist with legal matters and a bank manager to assist with setting up an account. We would only recommend reliable contacts who would have the same standard of customer care that we have ourselves.

Wizz ToysFor Nigel Caddick, Managing Director of Wizz Toys, recently opened in Dublin Airport, The Dublin Airport Authority was that valuable point of contact. " The DAA have been really helpful in recommending shop fitters etc. They also put us in touch with a recruitment consultancy that provides staff on a temporary basis. This has been an enormous help to us, particularly as we are trading in a secure environment, airside in duty. This means everything is screened, and staff need security passes. I would have been a lot more reluctant to set up if DAA hadn’t been so helpful."

"I did look at setting up a similar operation in Lisbon last year, but the language barrier was a major deterrent.  Ireland was different in that most of the information you need is on-line, and in English. And at the end of the day, the procedures and requirements don’t appear to be too different to those here in the UK", Caddick continues.

Bank Accounts

ushop tax freeSometimes foreign businesses have some challenges in setting up an Irish bank account, how much of a challenge depends on the structure and ownership of your company, as Frank Rosato of  UShop Tax Free  relates, "The only real challenge we had was opening a bank account; due to the highly convoluted beneficial ownership of our company and the seemingly almost paranoid due diligence process from the bank’s compliance department, it took the best part of a year to finally have a bank account!"

Overall Rosato has had a very positive view on setting up their business in Ireland, "On the whole I have found it a very pleasurable experience and would highly recommend setting up a company in the Republic of Ireland to anyone. Everyone I have dealt with has been very friendly, including the total stranger who drove 5 miles out of his way just so that I could follow him when the road I needed was closed due to roadworks and I had no clue how to get back on route.  The only advice I can give is: make sure that your company ownership structure is as simple as possible if you need to open a bank account in a hurry."

He even found dealing with the Revenue Commissioners very easy, "Once the account was opened, we needed a VAT registration and Employer Reference Number, and obtaining these were a lot easier and quicker than I had anticipated, and in subsequent dealings with the Irish Revenue services I have found them very approachable and helpful, and not at all as bureaucratic as their counterparts in other countries."

Setting Up an Office (or can you use a 'Virtual Office'?)

The Virtual Office"The first thing that a business owner expanding into Ireland will need is a business address to work from. Sometimes the cost of hiring a premises and furnishing it with the latest technology can be very expensive, so it’s important to look at this and decide do you really need and office or can you do it virtually", says Samantha Clooney, Principal at The Virtual Office, who supply businesses addresses and phone numbers in Ireland, as well as a range of other administrative services on a 'virtual' basis.

According to Frank Rosato, this was the case for UShop Tax Free, "We did not need any property or actual office space so we used a virtual office provider to provide us with a registered address and mail forwarding facility."

Administrative & Customer Support

In most cases a Virtual Office service will also include Administrative and Customer Support services.  Samantha Clooney has further advice, "The next thing to decide is what kind of back up support your new customers will require. Do they need to have someone on the phone to answer queries relating to your product or service or any other support? Can you provide this support if there is a time difference between both countries? It’s important to have a full customer support back up for your business after all it’s what can make or break your business."  The Virtual Office also offers PR and Marketing services, with a trained journalist on staff to handle your PR and Marketing activities in Ireland.

Call Centre SolutionsJohn Finnegan is Managing Director of Call Centre Solutions, a company that has provided a number of services from virtual office/receptionist, serviced office space and call centre support to a large number of foreign businesses setting up in Ireland. "We love working with FDI companies because they tend to be very loyal once they are getting the service level required. We are seeing a lot more tech companies setting up, who require excellent skills, IT infrastructure and global connectivity. We particularly think, 'The Gathering' is going to add to this in 2013."

Getting Help Online

supply ieThere are a number of websites that can help in your research, particularly in the area of real estate and recruitment, but there is one new website that is a good tool for businesses just moving into Ireland.  Supply.ie provides a sourcing platform for businesses to “shop around” saving time, money and hassle, providing you with a 'local concierge' service for your business whether you are in London, New York or Singapore. You list your requirement on the site and then get quick quotes for business purchases e.g. Office Furniture, Promotional Materials, Printing, Printed Clothing, Catering Equipment, Uniforms and General Stationery. Mike McGrath, founder of supply.ie who also sits on a European Commission Expert Group for e-Sourcing, mentions that “we work with the foreign Embassies in Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, welcoming companies to Ireland by sourcing great local competitive suppliers for their every need. We find that large corporations do not have the time while smaller entrants to the Irish landscape do not have the expertise or networks to source suitable suppliers”.

Skellig AutomationPadraig O'Sullivan from Skellig Automation, a US company setting up their European base in Ireland recently noted that “supply.ie saved us so much time. We did not know where to go or who to call for our initial legals, furniture, equipment or hiring needs. Supply.ie had the answer. From here in Danville, Philadephia, we were able to source 3 competitive proposals from Cork companies with pricing alone for our office furniture ranging from $25,000 to $55,000. With supply.ie's neat supplier rankings, we quickly short-listed the potential suppliers, getting the office set-up before we even arrived. A great service for businesses moving to Ireland and we will continue to use supply.ie for all our sourcing requirements”.

John Finnegan provides an excellent outline of the things a foreign businesses may require when setting up in Ireland:

  1. They want a quick, no hassle set up.
  2. They want someone on the ground who can give them good independent advice about the various services they will require.
  3. Ideally, a "one stop shop" as often the advance party setting up the business flies in and has limited time to get quite a lot done.
  4. They want value for money from trusted reputable suppliers.
  5. Great broadband because that's what they are used to.
  6. Supplier flexibility because the start up phase of the business may be very different to the mature phase.
  7. Great professional advice in terms of Tax Registration etc because if you get this wrong with the authorities, it can take months to start all over again.
So if you are looking to set up a business in Ireland, you can see that most businesses starting up here find it very easy as there are a number of resources to assist with practical matters such as finding suppliers and services to support your new business, starting with those of us here at O'Mahony Donnelly.

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