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WINNING SMILES FOR SMALL FIRMS

While cost cutting has been central to the survival of many Irish firms during the economic downturn, a wide variety of companies have looked at their businesses afresh and rebranded. In a survey of small companies around the country, the Sunday Business Post cited Nugent Engineering in Naas as an example. The company, whose core activity is steel fabrication and erection, had seen its workforce fall from 23 to 12 during the slump and it was trawling around for alternatives.
The manufacture of pet and animal enclosures has been one of its most promising developments. It has also expanded into gates, sheep pens and other steel equipment for farms, while sledges proved popular during the recent snowy spell. The owner of the company, Stephen Nugent, said they had to be open and innovative and “put a lot more effort into new products to push the business forward”.
Established Cork dentist Kevin O’Brien, who had practised under his own name in two surgeries since 1997, decided that this wasn’t enough in a recession and he joined forces with a younger dentist, Kevin O’Grady, to form a company called Winning Smiles.
Winning Smiles offers family dental services as well as a range of cosmetic treatments, ranging from veneers to Botox. “Dentistry had become very conservative,” O’Brien told the Business Post. “Members of the profession need to start thinking as businessmen. It is a business at the end of the day, even though we go into it as health professionals.”
They operate from Glanmire and Carrigaline, providing a wide range of facial procedures. O’Brien said the curtailments in the PRSI-based dental health system in the last budget had placed enormous pressure on the profession and it had forced people to rethink their priorities.
In the hotel industry, the Quality Hotel in Killarney is trying to mark itself out from the crowd by increasing its family facilities – crèche, bouncy castles, playrooms and a leisure centre – while also investing in attractions for teenagers. “Anyone can have a playground, but we’ve added mini-golf, a teenzone with  PlayStation, Wiis, bucking broncos and other activities,” said Patrick Dillon who runs the hotel. “Teenagers are not properly caterer for in Ireland – so we’ve concentrated our resources on them.”

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