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BUSINESS Beyond the

GETTING SOCIAL

GRAVE

SMALL FIRMS WITH SOCIAL MEDIA SUCCESS

THERE’S LIFE IN THE FUNERAL DIRECTING INDUSTRY

BETTER BUSINESS Q1 2018

WHAT RICHARD DOES

BROADCASTER & JOURNALIST RICHARD CURRAN ON ALL THINGS BUSINESS

Making it

bed in the

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9

772009 911007

01

BUSINESS

DAVID BRIODY ON AWARD WINS AND FAMILY VALUES

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WELCOME SPRING 2018

Welcome to Better Business, a magazine dedicated to the small business community. On the Cover: David Briody, Company Director of Meath-based Briody Bedding Photography: Paul McCarthy

We have dedicated much of this issue to the SFA National Small Business Awards. Our offices are still abuzz after the Gala Ceremony on February 22nd, where seven category winners and five emerging new businesses were announced. Briody Bedding, a fantastic family business from Co. Meath, scooped the overall award and you can read all about its plans for the future in

Editor: Joseph O’Connor Managing Editor: Mary Connaughton Creative Director: Jane Matthews Designer: Alan McArthur Design Assitant: James Moore Editorial Contributors: Tiernan Cannon, Ellen Flynn, Conor Forrest, Valerie Jordan, John Kinsella, Helen Quinn, Dean Van Nguyen Production Manager: Mary Connaughton Production Executive: Nicole Ennis

this quarter’s cover story. As this issue is the first of 2018, check out the findings of our Small Firms Outlook 2018 survey report to gauge current business sentiment and the main trends for the coming year. As staffing and talent are big concerns for businesses, two articles take different angles on the gig economy and engaging contractors, giving you tips and flagging risks. Elsewhere in this edition you will find guidance on using social media for your business, pitching like a pro, entering into contra deals and how to help employees to avoid personal financial stress. Our sector spotlight delves into

Account Director: Shane Kelly

the undertaking industry, we give you a round-up of the inaugural Business

Sales Director: Paul Clemenson

Connect event and share the key messages from the SFA’s submission to the Low

Managing Director: Gerry Tynan

Pay Commission on the National Minimum Wage.

Chairman: Diarmaid Lennon Email info@ashville.com or write to Better Business, Ashville Media, Old Stone Building, Blackhall Green, Dublin 7. Tel: (01) 432 2200 All rights reserved. Every care has been taken to ensure that the information contained in this magazine is accurate. The publishers cannot, however, accept responsibility for errors or

This magazine contains stories that inform, inspire and entertain. It showcases and celebrates the achievements of small companies, provides advice to help you in your business and keeps you up to date on the latest trends at home and abroad. Ireland is a nation of small businesses. Of over 245,000 businesses in the country, 99 per cent have less than 50 employees (small) and 92 per cent have less than 10 (micro). These companies can be seen in every city, town and village in the country and together they provide employment to half of the private sector workforce. The Small Firms Association has been the voice of small business for

omissions. Reproduction by any means in

over 40 years. We are a trusted partner to over 8,500 member companies,

whole or in part without the permission of

spanning every sector and county. We want to make Ireland the most vibrant

the publisher is prohibited. © Ashville Media

small business community in the world – an environment that supports

Group 2018. All discounts, promotions and

entrepreneurship, values small business and rewards risk takers.

competitions contained in this magazine are run independently of Better Business. The promoter/advertiser is responsible for honouring the prize. ISSN 2009-9118 SFA is a trading name of Ibec.

Better Business is the magazine of the small business community. We welcome your feedback, suggestions and ideas to info@sfa.ie or on Twitter @SFA_Irl. Sven Spollen-Behrens Director, Small Firms Association

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CONTENTS SPRING 2018

05 12 14

Big News for Small Business: News, views and profiles from SFA members and small businesses in Ireland

The Business of Barter Contra deals can represent significant opportunity for businesses, but there are factors to consider

Going Solo Four entrepreneurs who have decided to go it alone on the challenges and opportunities they face

Cover Story We speak to David Briody of Briody Bedding, the man helping people invest in a good night’s sleep

The Great Gig Economy Debate Some of those already ‘gigging it’ fill us in on what the gig economy might mean for your business

Sector Spotlight Undertaking businesses tell us there’s life in the funeral directing industry after some tough recessionary years

What Richard Does Author, writer and broadcaster Richard Curran on his media work and having his glass half-empty

Small Business Profile We meet Philip Noone, MD of Aalto Bio Reagents, a man passionate about tropical diseases

Getting Social We hear from four small firms using social media to help improve their chances of success

Trading Places Meet Paul Kenny, an Irish entrepreneur making digital waves in the Middle East

Arts/Culture The rise of street art in Ireland is causing some tension between artists and officials

A Day in the Life... of Natalia Romanova, founder and MD of 5 Quests Escape Rooms

20 24 30 34 38 40

48 78 88

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Spring 2018  Contents

FROM TOP LEFT: Sole trader Carol Ann Casey on the importance of time management, page 14 // David Briody on Briody Bedding’s big win at this year’s SFA National Small Business Awards, page 20 // Jules Mahon, co-founder of TheTaste.ie, on using Instagram to gain international reach, page 40 // Paul Kenny on mentoring the next generation in the Middle East, page 48

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News  Updates

BREXIT LOAN SCHEME OPENS The Government’s €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme announced in Budget 2018 opens for applications from March 31st. It is designed to provide funding to Irish businesses to implement the necessary changes to address the challenges posed by Brexit.

BIG NEWS FOR SMALL BUSINESS

Loan features: • €25,000-€1,500,000 loan size • Maximum interest rate of 4 per cent

Some of the companies that have availed of support from the GEC include:

• Term of one to three years • Loans of up to €500,000 are unsecured • Option for interest-only repayments for an initial period

• Adaptive Mobile

• Can be used for working capital requirements or to fund innovation, change or adaptation to mitigate the impact of Brexit Eligibility: • Viable businesses with less than 500 employees

• Must meet scheme criteria – see www.sbci.gov.ie To apply, fill out the eligibility form available from the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (www.sbci.gov. ie) and return by post or email. The SBCI will determine if you are eligible and if so you will be provided with an eligibility reference number. Provide the eligibility reference number to your preferred participating lender when completing the loan application form.

SFA MEMBERS IF YOUR BUSINESS HAS SOME NEWS TO SHARE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE FEATURED IN THE NEXT EDITION OF BETTER BUSINESS, CONTACT LINDA BARRY ON 01 6051626 OR LINDA.BARRY@SFA.IE

• Black Shamrock • Dovetail Technology • GirlCrew The Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin

AWARDS

• Impacted by Brexit (ie. at least 15 per cent of turnover is exposed to negative Brexit impacts – direct or indirect)

• Benetel

• Jam Media • Nasal Medical

GEC Bags Global Incubator Award

Dublin’s Guinness Enterprise Centre (GEC) has been named the World’s Top Business Incubator, Collaborating with University, 2018. The award was presented to the GEC at the UBI Awards and Recognition Gala ceremony at the World Incubation Summit in Toronto, Canada, on February 22nd. The GEC saw off strong competition from more than 1,300 incubators worldwide, which were assessed and benchmarked by UBI Global, the prestigious Stockholm-based research and advisory firm. The GEC, which is managed by Dublin BIC, was recognised by UBI Global for its world class facilities, its supportive start-up ecosystem and its strong culture of community. It also recognised the GEC’s contribution in terms of hosting both business and social events for its start-ups, ranging from investor networking opportunities, hackathons and tech meet-ups, to yoga classes, golf trips, hiking and football tournaments.

DOMAIN REGISTRATION CHANGES If you haven’t already registered the .ie online address you need and you have a valid claim to the name, you should register it before the rules change in March. From March 21st 2018 the need to explain why you want a particular name (also called ‘claim to the name’) will be removed, but the requirement for applicants to prove their connection to Ireland will be retained. This means that anyone with a connection to Ireland can register any available .ie domain name on a first-come, first-served basis. By removing the claim requirement, IE Domain Registry says that registering a .ie address will be easier and faster for businesses. Secure your available .ie online addresses today at www.iedr.ie/finalcall.

€26,825

ACCORDING TO THE DOT IE DIGITAL HEALTH INDEX FROM IE DOMAIN REGISTRY, SMES WITH A WEBSITE EARN ON AVERAGE AN ADDITIONAL €26,825 PER ANNUM.

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Updates  News

RED TAPE

BIOPHARMACHEM SECTOR TAKES CENTRE STAGE

Oliver O’Connor, CEO, IPHA; Minister of State at the Department of Health, Jim Daly; and Jean Delaney, Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences Leader and Tax Partner, PwC Ireland

To read about one biochem company making waves in various overseas markets go to our small business profile on page 38.

NEW SUPPORTS FOR SMES TO ACCESS PUBLIC SPENDING At the end of January, Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan launched a new range of materials from the Office of Government Procurement to encourage SME participation in the Irish public procurement process. The initiative, which was launched at an SFA breakfast event, includes a series of introductory breakfast briefings in Waterford, Athlone, Cork, Galway, Newbridge and Limerick, organised by InterTradeIreland. A range of videos explaining the procurement process was also launched. For further information and to view the videos visit ogp.gov.ie.

EI INVESTED €31M IN STARTUPS IN 2017 New figures from Enterprise Ireland show that the state agency invested €31 million in Irish start-ups in 2017. Investment was provided through Enterprise Ireland’s High Potential Start-Up (HSPU) and Competitive Start Fund (CSFs) programmes by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. At its annual Start-Up Showcase event in Croke Park in February, Enterprise Ireland also announced a new €500,000 Competitive Start Fund for regionally based start-ups.

EI START-UP SUPPORT •9  0 new High Potential Start-Ups (HPSU) •9  1 new Competitive Start Funds (CSF), which inject critical early stage funding into new businesses •6  7 investments in female-led start-ups •O  ver half (55%) of start-ups based in regions outside Dublin • 1 5 spin-out companies from the third-level sector • 1 66 entrepreneurs participated in the nationwide New Frontiers programme • 1 8 investments in overseas entrepreneurs who have moved to Ireland to establish their businesses

TRADING

The biopharmachem sector maintained its position as the largest exporter of goods from Ireland in 2017, with record total exports of €67.8 billion. This was one of the key messages at BioPharma Ambition, an international conference staged on February 21st and 22nd in Dublin Castle. The conference was jointly sponsored by the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association (IPHA), BioPharmaChem Ireland and the National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training (NIBRT). Speakers at the event include Jean Delaney, Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences Leader and Tax Partner, Ireland, PwC; Martin Shanahan, Chief Executive Officer, IDA Ireland; and Minister for Health Simon Harris.

SMALL BUSINESS STILL BURDENED BY ADMIN

New research has revealed that Irish SMEs lose up to €2.2 billion annually in productivity due to burdensome administrative tasks. The report published by Sage, ‘Sweating the Small Stuff: the impact of the bureaucracy burden’, shows businesses in Ireland spend an average of 70 working-days per year navigating the bureaucracy burden. Administration accounts for 3.5 per cent of the total manpower of the average business and, according to the company’s live productivity tracker, the cost of lost productivity so far in 2018 amounts to over €309 million.

ICONIC MUSIC STORE CLOSES ITS DOORS

betterbusiness.ie was sad to report the news in February that iconic music store Waltons on George’s Street, Dublin had closed its doors after nearly 30 years in business. The store opened in the early 1990s and famously appeared in the 2007 film Once, where Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova sang Falling Slowly. In a blog post, Waltons Managing Director Niall Walton explained the reasons for the closure, citing soaring rental prices in the city: “With the ever rising costs of doing business in the city centre we need to make sure that our cost base does not make us uncompetitive. We want to be able to give our Irish based customers the best instruments and accessories at the right price in Ireland.” The business is to continue trading at its Blanchardstown store.

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News  Updates

CRAFT BREWERS TO BENEFIT FROM NEW BILL Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI), the representative body for drinks manufacturers and suppliers in Ireland, has welcomed the progression of the Breweries and Distilleries Bill, which was debated and passed by the Oireachtas Justice Committee on February 15th. ABFI says that the new Bill, which will allow craft brewers and distillers to sell their produce onsite to visitors, could support tourism and Ireland’s small drinks businesses. It says that it will be engaging with the Department of Justice & Equality in relation to possible further amendments to the Bill to ensure it benefits all small distilleries and breweries. Are you a fan of craft beer? Check out our new Better Beer slot on page 87.

MEMBER PROFILE

Pictured at the launch of Open Labs by DIT Hothouse in DIT Grangegorman were David Gardiner, Linda Moloney and Dr Paul Maguire of Dublin Institute of Technology

DIT LAUNCHES SME PROGRAMME DIT Hothouse has launched a pioneering new SME programme which aims to remove the barriers facing SMEs and start-ups in participating in early-stage research and innovation. The itiative, called Open Labs, will provide access to over 600 DIT researchers and facilities in five high-tech sectors – product prototyping, virtual reality, Internet of Things (IoT), data analysis for business and innovative surface coatings. “Early stage research is often high risk and requires significant investment, meaning many small businesses are effectively restrained from developing product ideas,” said Paul Maguire, Senior Innovation Portfolio Manager in DIT Hothouse. “Open Labs by DIT Hothouse will allow a company to develop a product idea using DIT researcher expertise, labs and equipment essentially creating an external R&D wing for the company.” To find out more about what’s on offer at Open Labs by DIT Hothouse go to www.dit.ie/ hothouse/openlabs.

Gerry Nesbitt, Director, CLIRINX

CLIRINX CLIRINX (Clinical Research IT) is helping medical researchers discover new cures and better treatments for human diseases by providing them with electronic data collection software and artificial intelligence tools. Recently, CLIRINX partnered with the Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, USA for three years to provide a complete web-based IT solution for its precision medicine and natural history studies initiatives. Other recent partnerships include Baylor College of Medicine in Texas and the Rett Syndrome Research Trust. www.clirinx.com

“Every business is different and will need to make their own assessment of how best to ensure employee safety and minimise disruption.” Sven SpollenBehrens, SFA Director, on how businesses should respond to the Beast from the East

“Not only is Briody Bedding manufacturing in Co. Meath, it is carrying out extensive R&D to develop innovative products to help the company penetrate new export markets.” Linda Barry, Assistant SFA Director, on the overall winner at the SFA National Small Business Awards

“We are shining a light on some of the successful collaborations between different parts of Ireland’s business community and creating a pipeline of opportunities for all participants, large and small.” Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair, speaking at the Business Connect event at Aviva Stadium

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Updates  News

WORKPLACE WELLBEING DAY

Ireland’s fourth National Workplace Wellbeing Day takes place on Friday April 13th. Last year, over 500 companies of all sizes from across the public and private sectors participated in the annual event, which aims to improve employee wellbeing through promoting better exercise and nutrition in the workplace. Small companies including MCI Dublin, Fenero and Aspire Technology demonstrated a best-in-class approach to Ibec CEO Danny McCoy and Ibec President Edel Creely, Managing Director employee wellbeing. Ibec is calling of Trilogy Technologies, launch this year’s National Workplace Wellbeing Day all employers to sign up and participate on the day, and to get outdoors and get moving alongside their employees. It makes business sense as research shows that employees are more likely to stay long-term with an employer who shows an interest in their wellbeing. Keep an eye on fooddrinkireland.ie/wellbeing for more information, as well as hints and tips on what your company can plan for the day.

TOP TWEETS It is important that everyone stays safe while we are dealing with #TheBeastFrom TheEast Ireland visit our website to see our most recent advice. #helpingbusiness todobusiness

Small Firms Assoc @SFA_Irl

Big congrats to our local home grown bedding and furniture company Briody Bedding on your well deserved award

St Brigids GFC @Stbrigids_gfc

Chair of the @SFA_Irl highlighting the achievements of small businesses & the 33 finalists (along with their 607 employees) #sfaawards2018

Geraldine Lavin @GeraldineLavin

ABOUT ND SPORTS PERFORMANCE

Noel Doherty, founder, ND Sports Performance; Aidan Shine, HBAN Coordinator for South-East Region with Michelle Freany from WIT Arena

INVESTMENT

HBAN Invests €300K in Kilkenny Company

HBAN, the all-island organisation responsible for the promotion of business angel investment and a joint initiative of Enterprise Ireland and InterTradeIreland, has announced a €300,000 investment in Kilkenny-based ND Sports Performance and its cloud-based hamstring assessment system products aimed at improving athlete performance. The funding, which will lead to the creation of up to 10 new jobs, was led by HBAN’s South East Business Angel Network (SEBAN), with support from Enterprise Ireland.

In 2012, a hamstring injury prevented Noel Doherty from winning a third Intermediate Hurling All-Ireland with Kilkenny. Using his background in design and engineering, Doherty developed the HamstringSolo Pro exercise aid which enables athletes to train effectively by safely performing a range of high-tension exercises that improve hamstring performance and resilience. www.hamstring.ie

The importance of having a website for small and micro businesses! Thanks @IEDR_dot_ie for the info! Plenty of learnings here @ WoodQuayVenue with @BordGaisEnergy this evening. #bizbytes #smallbiz #helping businessgrow

Small Firms Assoc @SFA_Irl

Thanks to everyone at @SFA_Irl for hosting an excellent event today @ AVIVAStadium. A stellar line up of speakers including Dr Peter Brennan from @BidServicesIE and lots of inspiring Irish SMEs sharing insights about tendering, pitching and innovation #bizconnect #bidtowin

Barbara Shaw @barbarashaw1

@SFA_IRL

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Business-changing finance. We offer a suite of tailored asset and invoice finance products from refinancing to asset based lending (ABL); enabling you to release vital working capital back into your business. For more information, contact your local expert today.

Talk to us today +353 (0)1 699 4260

Visit closecommercialfinance.ie

Close Brothers | Modern Merchant Banking Close Brothers Limited (being a UK registered private limited company and its Irish registered branch of the same name having registration number 907899), trading as (and having as registered business names) Close Brothers Asset Finance, Close Brothers Commercial Finance, Close Brothers Premium Finance Ireland, Close Brothers Motor Finance and Braemar Finance, is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority in the United Kingdom and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority in the United Kingdom and is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland for conduct of business rules. UK registered address: 10 Crown Place, London, EC2A 4FT, registered at Companies House, Number 00195626. Directors: M. Biggs (UK), O. Corbett (UK), G. Howe (UK), J. Howell (UK), L. Jones (UK), E. Lee (UK), B. Macaskill (UK), M. Morgan (UK), P. Prebensen (UK) and A. Sainsbury (UK). Close Brothers Invoice Finance and Close Brothers Commercial Finance are registered business names of Close Invoice Finance Limited, a UK registered private limited company (and its Irish registered branch of the same name having registration number 908024). UK registered address: 10 Crown Place, London, EC2A 4FT, registered at Companies House, Number 00935949. Directors: J. Brown (UK), C. McAreavey (UK), A. Sainsbury (UK), I. Steward (UK), D. Thomson, (UK).

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Updates  News

CRO CHANGES ANNOUNCED The Companies Registration Office (CRO) has published a series of changes taking place in the months ahead. They are as follows: • From April 1st 2018, B1s will be automatically rejected where the B1 signature page or overall certificate is not signed or if it has only one signature. • From April 1st 2018, financial statements must be uploaded prior to sending in a signed signature page to the CRO. • From June 1st 2018, the CRO will no longer be accepting cheques as a method of payment to top up a customer account. For more details visit www.cro.ie.

TECHNOLOGY

SMES POLLED ON WORKPLACE TECHNOLOGY

New research has found that 52 per cent of European SME leaders believe their business will fail within five years if they do not introduce new workplace technology. The study commissioned by Ricoh Europe, which involved 1,608 SMEs, including in Ireland, shows that SME leaders prioritise technology that addresses core employee needs, with almost three quarters (72 per cent) believing automation will have the most positive impact on their organisation. It was followed closely by data analytics (64 per cent), document management (62 per cent) and video conferencing (56 per cent). For more findings from the survey go to www.ricoh-europe.com/ thoughtleadership.

LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM U9S

SCOTT MCINNES, FOUNDER & DIRECTOR, INSPIRING CHANGE, DRAWS BUSINESS LESSONS FROM COACHING KIDS’ RUGBY.

E

veryone has been focused on the 6 Nations of late but, for some of us, that’s only one chapter of the rugby season. Every Sunday morning through the winter you’ll find me and eight other hardy Dads coaching Under 9s rugby in Suttonians RFC. They’ve grown in leaps and bounds since they were five – they’re actually like little rugby players now. The difference is amazing! And I’m often at pains to point out that it was us, the coaches who did that. It doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by design. When I thought about it, much of that design applies as much to business leaders as it does to a team of Dads on a pitch every Sunday morning: n We have a shared vision and a

game plan. We know what we want to achieve with them in a season (effectively our long-term objective), we know how we’re going to get there and we tell them a lot (see later).

n We’re consistent in how we train.

We’re eight very different people with different backgrounds and levels of rugby expertise. But we all train in the same way, using the same drills, to the same level. So regardless of the coach a group of players gets, they’re going to get a consistent experience every week. n We lead by example. We don’t ask

them to do anything we wouldn’t do ourselves. It creates a level of respect and allows us to demonstrate the right way to do things. It’s also good fun – even big boys like to get muddy sometimes!

Scott McInnes, Founder & Director, Inspiring Change

n We stretch them. We know from week

to week what they’re able to do but we continue to push them that bit further. And when they stretch themselves and deliver… n We praise them. I’ve never seen a

seven-year-old’s face light up as much as when they get feedback from a coach on how well they did. n And we repeat things “Run forward,

pass backwards”, “hands up”, “ruck over”. We tend to say the same things often and until they become second nature. Over time they do sink in – it just takes time and a lot of repetition. There’s barely a week, come hell or high water, that we aren’t all there. We love doing it and we have a lot of fun – that rubs off on the team. Can you say the same of yourself or the leaders in your organisation? www.inspiringchange.ie

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News  Updates

Partner Brief

MAKING YOUR EMPLOYEES’ HEALTH YOUR BUSINESS Richard Jones, Head of Corporate Life & Pensions at Aviva Ireland, asks whether your company is protected against employee illness.

For more on access to finance and some of the organisations providing funding options for small businesses go to page 69.

If you would like to know more about group income protection from Aviva and our early intervention services talk to your financial broker.

MEMBER SPOTLIGHT

The European Investment Fund (EIF) has signed a second agreement with Microfinance Ireland (MFI) to support 2,100 micro-entrepreneurs under the European Commission’s EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI), after the first one signed in 2015. As a result of the EU support, the EaSI guarantee provided by the EIF will enable MFI to provide an additional €30 million in loans to micro-borrowers including migrants and entrepreneurs over the next five years.

Absenteeism is a serious issue for Irish companies. Seven million days are lost each year as a result of it, at a cost of €750 million. Musculoskeletal disorders like back pain, arthritis and Richard Jones, osteoporosis are Head of Corporate Life & Pensions, the leading cause of Aviva Ireland illness among Ireland’s workforce, accounting for 50 per cent of all absences, and these will only increase as our population ages. When one of your employees gets ill, the whole company can be affected. That’s why it’s important to consider this possibility and put a plan in place to ease the pressure on both them and on your business. At Aviva we understand how important it is to support both employees and their companies during illness, so we have added ‘Early Intervention’ services to our group income protection policy. Early intervention can speed up recovery for the employee, get them back to work sooner with the support they need and reduce the cost of their absence for the company. Delivered in partnership with Spectrum Health, our early intervention offers a range of specialist services to support your employees when they fall ill. These include rehabilitation and nurse visits at work, functional capacity evaluation, job demands analysis and work station assessment, physiotherapy, psychological therapies and chronic condition management programmes. Taking a proactive approach to your employees’ health can really benefit both them and your business. There are many things you can do to help, like assess and reduce workplace health risks, promote staff health and wellbeing, and destigmatise mental health issues. Keep the lines of communication open. Let your employees know that you are willing to do whatever you can to support their return to work after an illness or injury, including things like adapting the workplace, facilitating ongoing treatment or allowing them to work from home. A healthier workforce is a happier workforce, so helping your employees look after their health is a win-win for everyone.

5 QUESTS IMMERSIVE ESCAPE ROOMS

5 Quests Immersive Escape Rooms is where the art of stage design meets the latest technology. This new company has recently opened its doors in Cornelscourt, Dublin 18 offering unique team building opportunities to small and medium sized teams. Escape rooms are logical puzzle adventures in an immersive movie set type setting. Teams of two to eight people must find clues, solve puzzles and escape the room in 60 minutes. It is an opportunity to practice and analyse your team’s skills in communication, organisation, critical thinking, logic and creative genius in a high-pressure adventure scenario with a ticking clock. Kind of like many offices, right? By being immersed into an interactive adventure the team must use their collective skills in order to complete the mission or to escape. For more on what 5 Quests founder Natalia Romanova does with her day go to page 88. For further information on how your company can experience teambuilding exercises at 5 Quests visit 5quests.com or check Facebook.com/5Quests.

EU ANNOUNCES €30M SUPPORT FOR MICROBUSINESSES

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Feature  Contra Deals

CONTRA DEALS REPRESENT SIGNIFICANT OPPORTUNITY FOR BUSINESSES, BUT HOW CAN YOU IDENTIFY THEM AND MAKE THEM WORK FOR YOUR COMPANY? BETTER BUSINESS INVESTIGATES.

THE

BUSINESS

barter OF

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ontra deals are barter-style arrangements between two businesses exchanging goods or services without cash changing hands. They’re a common mode of transaction for small enterprises in Ireland and can represent significant opportunity for business, particularly with easing the burden of cashflow problems, converting surplus time, capacity or stock into buying power. PJ Timmins of the Alternative Board, which offers business coaching and helps business owners identify opportunities, has some advice. “You want to manage these deals like any process because you are dealing with the assets of the company,” he says. “Keep up the accounts of what the transactions are so that the asset flows in your business are controlled. It also makes a lot of sense that both parties are registered for VAT. He also advises not to engage in contra illegally. “For example, if you start getting a plumber to do stuff for your home, that’s really messy; you’re bringing liability on yourself and you don’t want that kind of culture in a business. You want to have it in a legitimate sort of bartering situation.” We spoke to the MD of an events company – who prefers to remain nameless for the purposes of this article – who said his

business was able to obtain product through a bartered negotiation that it otherwise may not have been able to pay for. “These types of deals are a useful way of obtaining products that the business would benefit from, but might not have been risked if they required regular payment and would have been deferred due to cashflow constraints. Likewise, these deals may encourage a new customer to buy from your company thereby opening up new opportunities.”

The Risk Factor Like any transaction, there are certain risks associated with bartering. An IT business owner spoke of some of the disadvantages they’d encountered with contra deals, saying that in their experience, one party has tended to lose out. “The services provided in a contra rarely tend to match each other. Sometimes you might have different hourly or daily rates and the distinction between them and the matching of services doesn’t quite work out.

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Contra Deals  Feature

PJ Timmins, CEO, The Alternative Board

“One factor which leads to them not working out is that they tend to be loose agreements and what happens with a loose agreement is, there is no scope of services, there is no contract in place, it’s just a gentleman’s agreement and a handshake. “I’ve probably had one really good deal where we got real value out of it for services provided to us but again, it’s not really measurable. Go back again to the lack of structure in these contra deals. There doesn’t tend to be any KPIs set outlining that I’m going to deliver this exact service to your company and there is very little tracking in these loose agreements.” In this kind of situation, Timmins would advise putting something slightly more formal in place, without compromising the culture of the deal. “It makes sense to value

what you’re exchanging and do it by way of email: outline what the normal charge for X is and what the other side is going to do for you in return,” he suggests. Typically, business is based on trust, with one party trusting that another will deliver. Contra deals function under the same premise, the biggest risk being that one party doesn’t deliver or prioritises a client that they are getting money from. “This is an opportunity but it’s not the core of any business,” says Timmons. “It has to be quite a small proportion of anybody’s business.” The MD of the events company agrees it’s important to view these relationships like any other business relationship. “As with any supplier there needs to be a confidence that what is delivered is fit for purpose and although there is no money changing hands the relationship between supplier and customer should be no different to regular transactions.”

A Marriage of Convenience Another risk which should be avoided is engaging in a deal that’s not actually appropriate for your business because it looks attractive at the outset. The MD of the events company advises ensuring the value placed on the goods and services provided by and to your company would make sense in a regular transaction. “A company shouldn’t overpay cash for services or goods you receive so it does not make sense to overpay just because it is your own goods rather than cash that is being traded.”

Top Tips on Contras 1. Identify your surplus time, product or capacity 2. Look out for opportunities that are appropriate to your business that can be traded for your surplus 3. Outline the exchange by email 4. Manage these deals like any other business transaction, remembering you are dealing with the assets of your company 5. Evaluate how contra deals are working for your business

Timmins says that while contra can represent a real opportunity, some businesses are better at these deals than others, and he advises careful consideration before entering a deal. “This is like any good negotiation – go into the negotiation thinking, ‘what would be of benefit to both businesses that comes at no extra cost?’ Think through your negotiating tactics. Because there’s no cashflow involved it’s a tremendous opportunity for business, but it’s down to the deal that you actually do.”

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Feature  Solo Entrepreneurs

S O L O Going

Carol Ann Casey, Managing Director, CA Compliance Limited

OPERATING AS A SOLE TRADER COMES WITH ITS FAIR SHARE OF PRESSURE, BUT IN MANY WAYS IT CAN BE A LIBERATING WAY TO CONDUCT BUSINESS. TIERNAN CANNON SPEAKS TO FOUR ENTREPRENEURS WHO HAVE DECIDED TO GO IT ALONE TO GET A SENSE OF THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES THEY FACE.

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T

he decision for an entrepreneur to set out on their own path can be an extremely daunting one – acting as the sole worker within a business naturally involves a great deal of pressure concentrated towards a single person. Yet for all its stresses and responsibilities, working in this manner has advantages that working within a company foundation simply doesn’t. The speed and authority with which decisions are made can prove to be hugely beneficial, as can the comparatively small amount of red tape that comes with a simple business structure. Every operation is different, and experiences vary greatly, but if a solo entrepreneur has the right mindset, then there is very little to hold them back from success.

CAROL ANN CASEY CA COMPLIANCE LIMITED

With an academic background in legal studies, Carol Ann Casey’s professional interests have covered HR, dispute resolution and corporate governance. Over the years, she has served as a law clerk for the late employment lawyer, Dr Mary Redmond, and has also held a HR role with Statoil Exploration Ireland, from which she was made redundant. “That was the catalyst to become self-employed,” she recalls. “Upon market research, I found that there was an opening to provide outsourced HR solutions, and I pursued this. Yet in advance of this, I took time out to travel to Asia and broaden my mind! In setting up my business in April 1999, I took three immediate memberships, one of which was the SFA, which has been an excellent support to me ever since. I networked well and from there my client base developed quite quickly.” Throughout the years, Casey and her business have evolved with experience, and her work has taken many different forms. She has operated under the past auspices of CA Consulting, CA Careers, CA Training and CA Employment, but has settled presently upon CA Compliance, a consultancy firm specialising in HR compliance, complaint management and governance services. Operating now as a sole trader, Casey is always busy and is forced to perfect a delicate and sometimes draining balancing act, as she explains. “You have to recruit the business, do the business, finance the business, pay your own CPD, manage administration – regardless [of whether or not it is] outsourced – so you need to be motivated and good at time management,” she says. “I have always taken professionally serviced business office accommodation and do not work from home.” Yet in spite of the many challenges, there are advantages to such a set-up too. As Casey herself points out, sole traders are their own managers, so they can control how, when, where and with whom they work. So long as sole traders prove able to manage themselves effectively, there is nothing to hold them back. “Be authentic, active, agile and alert,” Casey advises. “And look after yourself! Have good relationships with your support network, such as with an accountant, a lawyer, and a mentor, [and gain] good memberships such as with the SFA.”

“BE AUTHENTIC, ACTIVE, AGILE AND ALERT. AND LOOK AFTER YOURSELF!”

Solo Entrepreneurs  Feature

JANE MANZOR MANZOR MARKETING

With both of her parents being businesspeople in their own right, Jane Manzor grew up deeply immersed within the world of entrepreneurship. As she herself puts it, “I come from two business parents. I grew up in business. I didn’t have as much fear [going into business] because I was reared into working hard to get results from the start.” Manzor is now the CEO of a onewoman marketing agency dedicated to the food, beverage and SME sectors. Manzor Marketing was set up over a year and a half ago, following on from its owner’s 15 years’ experience working for firms within the food and beverages sector, such as Kepak, Unilever and Valeo Foods. The decision to set up shop as a sole trader was not necessarily an easy one, and there are several factors that pushed Manzor to take the leap of faith. On top of her parents’ entrepreneurial influence and, in the businesswoman’s own words, “a bit of madness,” Manzor was made redundant from her job five years ago. She had always had it in her own mind that she would one day like to work for herself, and the circumstances at the time gave her the push she needed to go about making this dream a reality. Having set up Manzor Marketing, she has not looked back, and plans to expand the business in future. Ultimately, she does not envision Manzor Marketing as a one-woman venture forever, and within the next five years she would like to have a team of her own. For the meantime, however, she remains Manzor Marketing’s sole worker, which she says is certainly demanding. “Keeping motivated and keeping the sales funnel full,” Manzor offers as an example of the strains associated with operating alone. “Sometimes it can be hard working on your own, but I have joined a lot of networking groups and I have my own mentor, so if I’m having a bad day I can just ring them, so I don’t feel like I’m on my own.” Manzor consistently emphasises the importance of networking for sole traders. Her own business sees her attending events aimed specifically at her target market – the food and beverages sector – and it is the act of being physically present at such events that will allow a solo operation to grow. “Get over your fear and get out and network!” she says. “Because it really does work.”

Jane Manzor, CEO, Manzor Marketing

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Feature  Solo Entrepreneurs

“SOME PEOPLE IMAGINE THAT BECAUSE YOU WORK FOR YOURSELF, IT’S GREAT NOT TO HAVE A BOSS. THE TRUTH THOUGH, IS THAT YOU HAVE SEVERAL BOSSES – THEY’RE CALLED CLIENTS!”

GERRY BUTLER SIGNAL DESIGN & MARKETING

“There are no parachutes for sole traders,” remarks Gerry Butler of Dun Laoghaire-based Signal Design & Marketing. “Anyone who is self-employed has the almost constant concern of where they are going to get the next project. It really doesn’t matter how good you are or what profession you’re working in, if you are a sole trader there’s always that anxiety.” Butler is speaking from direct experience, as he is the sole operator of Signal Design & Marketing, which works on corporate design, annual reports, advertising, branding, and more besides. He has extensive experience in design, starting out at a print and publicity company in Brussels in the 1970s, before working as a designer at the Dublinbased Scene magazine, alongside Hot Press editor Niall Stokes, who was working as a columnist there at the time. After Scene, Butler moved over to Jemma Publications, before setting up Butler Claffey Design with a colleague. Now he has moved out on his own. “After working primarily in publishing, I wanted to see if I could cut it with broader creative challenges,” Butler explains. “Having said that, in my naivety, I thought getting away from nine-to-five would offer me more flexibility in my day-to-day life, but I soon discovered that when you decide to go it alone, you have to work long and hard, but the rewards can make it worthwhile. Also at this stage, I know I couldn’t work for somebody else, as making your own decisions becomes part of your mindset.” In his experiences thus far, operating as a sole trader has had both its benefits and drawbacks. For example, on the plus side, he explains that it can be liberating to be in a position where one makes their own business decisions – but conversely, it can be difficult to not have business colleagues to bounce ideas off. “Some people imagine that because you work for yourself, it’s great not to have a boss. The truth though, is that you have several bosses – they’re called clients!” he says. “It’s worthwhile to remember that, although you may have several projects on the go at the same time that require your attention, each individual client is only focused on their job, so reassure them that their job is top of your priority list. You will have your good and bad days, but always be prepared to accept rejection as well as praise. As someone once said, ‘It’s nothing personal, it’s strictly business.’”

Gerry Butler, Signal Design & Marketing

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Solo Entrepreneurs  Feature

DERMOT FREEMAN DERMOT FREEMAN & ASSOCIATES

Dermot Freeman is a lean practioner – that is, he works towards replacing lengthy business plans with lean alternatives. He works with companies that are interested in eliminating waste and implementing lean as a way of conducting business, and he does so as a solo operator. Having spent several years working within larger organisations, he decided that he wished to take his experience and apply it to other businesses in new ways. Of course, this was a challenge, particularly at the beginning. Notably, he suggests, it can be difficult operating in a business environment without first generating a name for yourself. “No matter how good you are, you have to develop a history of delivering benefits for your customers. 99.99 per cent of my work is based on referrals, and nothing improves your rating like success,” he says. “Another challenge is keeping yourself busy with paying work. As a consultant, it can take a long time to get a company over the line and agree to work with you. You are constantly looking forward to ensure you are kept busy. [It’s a] bit of a chicken and egg situation. I tell anyone who listens that it takes seven years to become an overnight success!” Naturally, operating as a solo entrpreneur is a challenging and sometimes exhausting affair. Yet for all its challenges, the sole trader has total control of the business and has the satisfaction of seeing the rewards generated benefiting both themselves and their customer. This can make the hard work and effort worthwhile. “Be prepared to work for less than the minimum wage as you build your business, as you will not be working within the hours of a normal working week. Only junior doctors will work as many hours as you will,” Freeman suggests. “In saying that, you will have the pleasure of reaping the efforts of your work. I have never been more content at work, and would not look to change things. The fact that you are not guaranteed any work going forward keeps you on your toes and stops any complacency setting in. As a result, I have no trouble getting up early to go to work.”

Dermot Freeman, Dermot Freeman & Associates

“BE PREPARED TO WORK FOR LESS THAN THE MINIMUM WAGE AS YOU BUILD YOUR BUSINESS, AS YOU WILL NOT BE WORKING WITHIN THE HOURS OF A NORMAL WORKING WEEK. ONLY JUNIOR DOCTORS WILL WORK AS MANY HOURS AS YOU.”

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How To ...  Tips

Fiona O’Connor, Director, Drury i Porter Novelli

t c e f r e P h Pitc

TIPS FOR SMALL BUSINESS ON PITCHING LIKE A PRO.

1

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE

Always ask who you will be pitching to and know their roles. Try to establish who the decisionmakers are; this is particularly important when a pitch is being run by the procurement department. While they will be interested in cost and service levels, the members of the organisation who you will be working with day-to-day are likely to be the ones you need to win over.

4

PICK YOUR TEAM

If you have the luxury of having a choice of colleagues to bring with you, then consider the best fit as regards experience, capacity and diversity. Ensure each member of the team is aware of their role, both in the pitch presentation, and on the client team if you are successful. In a multiperson presentation, agree handover points during the presentation so that there is both continuity and cohesiveness.

2

UNDERSTAND THE BRIEF

In a pitch, you are trying to create the shortest mind journey for the potential buyer, to make it an easy decision to select your firm. Show them that you understand their needs and that you can get under the skin of the problem or opportunity. Gather insight on the organisation. Speak to people who work with them, review media coverage about the industry and check their website for reports and company news. Demonstrate to them that you will be much more than an agency or a consultant.

5

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Getting feedback on both content and style ahead of the pitch is very useful. Build in time for at least one dry run in front of an audience. Being critiqued by colleagues can be brutal but it’s better to hear negative feedback in a rehearsal than after an unsuccessful pitch. Time the presentation during the dry run to ensure you are keeping to the schedule outlined.

TECHNOLOGY TRIP UPS Check ahead of time about the IT set-up – do you need to bring a laptop or will one be supplied? Can you access the pitch venue early to set up? Always bring a back-up copy of your presentation on a USB. Be prepared for an IT meltdown and ensure you are able to survive without the slide show.

3

SPEAK THE RIGHT LANGUAGE

When you are making a presentation, it’s not just about what you say, it’s also about how you say it. The right body language can communicate energy, conviction, and dynamism. Speak at a pace that is clear and understandable. Sit or stand straight and tall; be confident in your stance. Make eye contact with your audience. Use your hands to tell the story. Don’t forget to smile!

6

QUESTION TIME

There may be a Q&A as part of the pitch. Consider questions that might arise and prepare responses. Use this time to highlight further examples of your relevant experience. Give everyone on the team a chance to participate in the Q&A. Use this time to ask your own questions; this is a first date in the corporate sense, both sides need to know if there is business chemistry.

Calm Those Nerves Nervous presenters may find it hard to control shaky hands; try holding the sides of a podium, the back of a chair, or a pen.

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Business  Cover Story

Making

Bed it in the

BUSINESS

PEOPLE’S WILLINGNESS TO INVEST IN A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP HAS KEPT BRIODY BEDDING IN BUSINESS FOR OVER 40 YEARS. COMPANY DIRECTOR DAVID BRIODY TELLS BETTER BUSINESS HOW INNOVATING AND TAKING CONTROL HAS BEEN KEY TO ITS SUCCESS.

D

avid Briody was 11 years old when he started carrying out odd jobs at the family business factory in Ballinrink, Co Meath. His parents Benny and Bríd set up Briody Bedding, a bed manufacturing company, in 1974 and after school their son David would help out running errands and doing menial tasks at the company’s factory. For a small family-run business, particlarly one operating in such a niche market in rural Ireland, it was all hands on deck for the Briodys, who started out with just three staff producing between 15 and 20 beds a week. David, who became properly involved with the business when he finished college at 20, is now company director. He runs the business along with his two brothers Martin and Brendan, and sister Bridget. Today, Briody Bedding has 50 employees and deals with around 1,000 bed units per week.

David Briody, Director, Briody Bedding Paul McCarthy

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Cover Story  Business

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Business  Cover Story

“It was my parents’ forward-thinking that brought the business to where it is today,” says David Briody, speaking to Better Business just days after the company was crowned Overall Winner at the SFA National Small Business Awards. “There’s not a lot of companies in Ireland doing what we do. There would be a lot of importation of beds and even with some of the small manufacturers in Ireland, they import the spring unit. The main advantage we have is that our spring unit is manufactured here in Ireland as well, so the product is 100 per cent Irish.”

In Control Acording to Briody, that’s the company’s unique selling point. It manufactures the divan base, the mattress, the headboard, essentially everything that makes up the bed that you sleep on at night. Briody Bedding keeps everything in-house –that includes delivering the product with its own fleet of transport. The company currently offers over 40 different models of mattress and this year it is investing in research and development for a new spring interior. Briody says having such control over the production and delivery process has been crucial to the company’s success as he doesn’t depend on third parties, where the business would be open to a downgrade in quality. Taking all aspects of production in-house is something that Briody Bedding has built up over time (the company used to import its spring units) but it’s a move that has reaped rewards. It has allowed the company to forge strong partnerships with hotels by producing exclusive units for a given chain. “We work closely with our retailers as well,” says Briody who won’t be drawn on names of furniture retail outlets to

“IT WAS MY PARENTS’ FORWARDTHINKING THAT BROUGHT THE BUSINESS TO WHERE IT IS TODAY.”

which they stock, stating that he doesn’t want to give one preferential treatment over another. “If they come to us with specifications and price points we tailor make products to suit them as well as offer our standard range because they like to have exclusivity in their areas as well. Because we manufacture everything inhouse it gives us that capability.” Briody says business was good in 2017 but Brexit is an obvious caveat to be conscious of in the next year or two. “It has been picking up over the last three to four years,” he says. “Last year was a good steady year but no one knows what Brexit

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Cover Story  Business

“LAST YEAR WAS A GOOD STEADY YEAR BUT NO ONE KNOWS WHAT BREXIT IS GOING TO BRING. ALL YOU CAN DO IS CUT THE CLOTH TO FIT THE SUIT AS BEST YOU CAN.” up all the time and nobody seems to be looking into it or doing anything about it. There are all these different claims and you don’t know what a person is going to get for an injury and no matter what you do for insurance companies they always look for something else. It’s a very big cost for a small business.”

Paul McCarthy

A Family Affair

is going to bring. All you can do is cut the cloth to fit the suit as best you can. We have to see what happens but, for us, the hotel industry is performing very strongly for the last couple of years so we’re working hard on that.” Aside from Brexit, what are the other key challenges facing Briody Bedding in 2018 and beyond? Like many small businesses, the high cost of insurance premiums remains a major bugbear. “Keeping our costs down is always a challenge. We can work on that internally but insurance is a problem every year,” he says. “Insurance premiums are going

Better Business has previously reported on the trials and tribulations of working in a family business environment, however, Briody – perhaps conscious of offending his siblings – claims it has been nothing but a favourable experience. “It’s all pros at the minute to be honest,” he says. “There’s myself and my two brothers and my sister, and we’ve been working together all our lives and with our father before he passed away, so we all have our own sections within the company. We have a monthly meeting to see how everything is going so that helps a lot. If there are any issues or problems we’ll have a chat about it, so I can’t say there are any cons. We’re a tightknit family.” Briody Bedding has been an SFA member for the past number of years, and as a small business owner Briody believes it offers the perfect platform to give small firms strength in numbers. “For small businesses if you’re shouting on your own you’re not heard,” he says. “If you’re shouting collectively you are and that’s where the SFA helps. They have great advice. From a legal standpoint, it’s important to be able to pick up the phone and speak with someone who has the knowledge to help you out.” Briody is not your average company director – he’s soft spoken, wears a beard and ponytail, and speaks of his business success in a humble manner. It’s no surprise then that his response to winning

both the Manufacturing category and the Overall Award at the SFA National Small Business Awards is a modest one. “The award is testament to the vision our father Benny had when he started the company back in 1974,” he says. “Many staff members that started with the company are still working with us today. We have a fantastic team around us from our office, production and management staff, so I would like to thank them for their dedication to the company.” Briody says the business currently has a couple of big contracts in the pipeline but nothing in writing that he can share with us. For now, he says, Briody Bedding is minding its customers, innovating to manufacture its own products and penetrating export markets, such as those in mainland Europe. “The company is very much bucking the trend that has seen so much manufacturing disappear from Ireland,” he says. “In the Irish market you’re going to win a customer today and lose one tomorrow, you’re never going to have the entire country to yourself but there is always plenty of business to acquire and plenty of business to grow, to innovate with new products and bring out new developments.”

SFA Fact

Did You Know? One major draw to doing business with Briody Bedding is that it makes daily deliveries to customers. This means that a furniture retailer doesn’t have to store stock but can order as and when it needs to.

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Feature  Gig Economy

Gig great

THE

ECONOMY

DEBATE

MOVE OVER THE NINE-TO-FIVE WORKING DAY. STEP ASIDE THE HOUR FOR LUNCH. FORGET THE 20 DAYS ANNUAL LEAVE. THESE DAYS IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GIG ECONOMY. WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOUR COMPANY? BETTER BUSINESS CAUGHT UP WITH SOME OF THOSE ALREADY ‘GIGGING IT’ TO FIND OUT. 24 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS

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D

Gig Economy  Feature

o a search on the web for ‘gig economy’ and you’ll be hit with a barage of opinion articles and foreboding headlines about this supposedly ‘new phenomenon’. Amongst them you’ll find a seemingly endless stream of verse debating whether the gig economy is good or bad for workers – and indeed employers. The gig economy is the buzzword title used to describe the tendency for businesses to hire independent contractors and short-term workers, and the increasing availability of workers only too willing to avail of these short-term arrangements. The proliferation of short-term and contract work has coincided with the increasing availability of fast and reliable broadband, remote working and new apps and technologies that mean many types of work can be done from anywhere. Whether the rise of the gig economy is a good or bad thing is up for debate. On the one hand, as one US-based ‘gig economy’ worker wrote in The Irish Times last May: “The gig economy is liberating millions of workers around the globe from the shackles of traditional, rigid shift-based working conditions. Drivers for Uber, hosts for AirBnB and deliverers for Favor get to choose when, where and how they work. This pioneering generation of workers in the digital age are the first to exercise autonomy of their work schedule.” However, for every article sticking up for this new type of work trend, there

Hero Recruitment’s Top Gigging Tips...

are just as many others warning that the ‘Gig Economy May Damage Workforce’, as the Irish Examiner reported just a few weeks previous. Somewhere in the middle, journalists (many of them no doubt writing as freelance!) seem to love pontificating in articles about whether the gig economy ‘suits employers more than workers’. Gig economy work and zero hour contracts have similarities but are not the same. Gig economy roles are normally paid per ‘gig’ while zero hour contracts are paid by the hour. Workers who are freelance, self-employed, part-time or causual can all fall into the gig economy category.

Michelle Kilcar, Director, Hero Recruitment

Giving Gigging a Name Whilst much criticism has been levelled against employers who engage young people on an ad-hoc or part-time basis, the phrase ‘gig economy’ really only emerged at the height of the financial crisis in 2009 when unemployed people sought to make a living by “gigging” or working several parttime jobs where possible. According to David O’Riordan of Sherwin O’Riordan Solicitors: “Section 18 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 specifically deals with zero hours contracts and provides certain protections to employees that are subject to such contracts. As with most European countries part-time work forms an essential part of the workforce and in general, such work is carried out substantially by students and young workers.” O’Riordan admits that some employers undoubtedly seek to to exploit the system, by engaging people on zero hours contracts and thereby avoid payments and perks. “The reality is that legislation such as the

FOR EMPLOYERS From an employer’s perspective, the danger is that the skills they avail of through contractors are not embedded into their business. The gig worker can move on to another contract, and that knowledge is then lost to the employer. Bringing in a selfemployed contractor who specialises in a specific skillset is a big risk. However, the benefits to the employer outweigh the dangers, and so you can expect to see more contractual work in the jobs market in the coming years.

Organisation of Working Time Act and the Protection of Employees (part-time workers) Act 2001 comfortably predates the idea of a gig economy,” he says. “People have been working on an ad-hoc basis in industries such as the hotel business where work is seasonal for many years but there is some legislative protection in place for such employees. In reality, certain industries could not survive were it not for part-time work and it is therefore a necessary part of the labour force and therefore the economy.” Michelle Kilcar, a Director with recruitment specialists Hero Recruitment says that contractual work has been gaining popularity since the mid-1990s. “I think

FOR WORKERS A big danger for workers is the lack of a permanent contract. The first people to get cut if budgets are slashed and business drops are the contractors. You can be let go just as easily if you are permanent, of course, but in that case you have a safety net in your redundancy package, or even the benefit of a pension plan. Gig economy workers are lacking that. However, the reality is that there is a lot of contractual work out there for people with specialist qualifications, so they will always have opportunities available to them.

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Feature  Gig Economy

“THE ADVANTAGES FOR THE EMPLOYER IS NOT TO HAVE HIGHLY PAID WORKERS ON PAYROLL WHEN THOSE HIGHLY SPECIALIST SKILLS ARE NOT REQUIRED.” we saw a real acceleration of this type of employment when the economic recession hit,” she says. “All of a sudden, full-time employment became difficult to provide for some businesses, often a luxury in fact. But they still needed certain skills and expertise to operate, so they turned to contractual work as a result. Added to that, in reaction to the recession we saw a huge increase in the number of start-up companies being formed. For a new company with a small budget, gigging was fantastic. It allowed them access to specific skillsets when they needed them, without the obligation of a permanent hire, meaning they could grow.” Kilcar believes that the popularity of gigging is also being driven by an increased desire of employees to take control of their lives. Flexible working allows them to create a more favourable work-life balance, she says, pointing to a recent Workplace Relations

Commission report, which shows more than 200,000 people in contract work in Ireland. Hero Recruitment is currently seeing big demand for flexible staff in the areas of IT, quality, validation, project engineering and automation. “IT has probably seen the biggest uplift,” Kilcar explains. “In terms of quality, when the medical device companies have a remediation issue, and the FDA tell them there is a problem with the product, that they have to recall or stop manufacturing it, that’s when they really look for contractors to come in and solve their problems. These are problems that are potentially costing them millions of euro. So, quality regulation is a big area in the gig economy. Then you have the whole area of automation. A lot of companies are investing in automation, artificial intelligence and robotics, to reduce costs in the production process. We are seeing more demand for contracting, and I think it is set to continue.”

Designed for Gigging

Anne Brady, Founder, Vermillion Design

One of the sectors that uses contract workers more than most is design. Many firms involved in the design industry rely on the services of casual or short-term workers. One such firm is Vermillion Design, a Drumcondra-based creative design agency. According to Anne Brady, Vermillion has successfully utilised the services of freelance workers and short-term service providers since the firm was founded by her in 1999. “We have always employed external specialists when short-term client contracts require extra key skills, including photography, videography, web development, technical illustration and copywriting. We work with a range of externals ranging in scale from businesses with large teams through to self employed individuals. From time to time, if one of our client contracts requires it, we contract in a self-employed specialist to work in-house with us on a highly specialised project. These projects tend to last 3-6 months.” Brady explains that the nature of contracts and tendering in the design industry

means that a steady supply of work is rarely guaranteed – which makes it difficult to employ staff full-time. “Any economy that is not looking after the self-employed or short-term contract specialists is not placing value on these people’s basic needs,” she says. “People need to eat, have a roof over their heads, have stable sustainable employment. Placing people on short-term contracts without any security of future employment has a knock-on effect when our financial society is based on certainty, including applying for mortgages, loans, rental properties.” Brady warns that one of the main pitfalls for a company that employs contract workers is that there is no certainty those specialists will be available when the next client contract commences, particularly in highly skilled areas of work. “The advantages for the employer is not to have highly paid workers on payroll when those highly specialist skills are not required,” she says. “The advantage to the contract worker in the short term is that within the design industry freelance specialists often earn double the daily rate of a PAYE worker. The disadvantage for the contract worker is the lack of financial security once a contract finishes.” Given the hype around gig working, there are increasing calls for the Government to intervene and help to protect both employers and employees. If Brady had her way, she’d like to see the Government encourage less unnecessary tendering and competition for projects under €25,000. She’d also like to see the State do more to help self-employed workers. “It would be great if the Government could allow the self-employed to pay voluntarily into a ‘safety net’ fund,” she says. “That way, if they find themselves out of work, they have similar rights to PAYE workers. At present, self-employed people do not get the same PAYE credits and no jobseekers benefit if their business goes down the tubes. Allowing those who can afford it to pay into a tax efficient special ‘safety net fund’ for a minimum of three years would be welcome. On a positive note, the whole government funding around the ‘Skillsnet’ training is excellent. It appears to be working really well at local level where self-employed people can avail of highly subsidised training courses.”

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15/03/2018 10/03/2016 12:10 26/01/2016 12:30 09:04


Advice  Wise Guys

WISE GUYS

IN BUSINESS AND THRIVING - SIX INDUSTRY EXPERTS SHARE ONE SECRET OF THEIR SUCCESS

1

Marketing Cathy McGovern Sales & Marketing Director, Inspiration Digital Marketing

Specialise in one target market from the start – it brings everything into focus. When you are talking to prospective customers, you have relevant industry expertise and client testimonials. As you develop products and services, do so in response to the needs of a very tight market. We decided to specialise in manufacturing exporters. It wasn’t the sexy end of the business but it gave us real purpose; we’re not just building websites – we’re creating jobs in Ireland. Match your specialisation with your passion. Be inspired!

2

Healthcare Conor O’Daly

CEO, Kora Healthcare Think big, start small and scale intelligently. Being in the driving seat of an emerging pharmaceutical business over the past two years has taught me to constantly look for daily opportunities to step back, reflect and think about the bigger picture. Too often we get dragged easily into the day-to-day operations and the hereand-now. Spend more time on futurist thinking; the ‘why’ and ‘how’ and the strategy will almost craft itself.

3

Print and AV Service Greg Clarke Managing Director, Digicom

Time and again I am struck by the simplicity and impact of seeking out how you can help the other person, and then doing so. This basic behaviour always leads to a mutually successful outcome, be it at work or in your personal life. You also need to give yourself time in order to gain and grow.

There are many definitions, but there’s one thing that all great business leaders agree on, and that’s how success can only come by persevering despite failure.

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Wise Guys  Advice

“Don’t worry about being successful but work toward being significant and the success will naturally follow.”

4

Coaching Mar Healy

Founder, Mar Healy Mindfulness & Coaching Be authentic, be real. It’s tempting in business, especially when you’re just starting out, to look to what others are doing for guidance and inspiration, but people will recognise it if you’re just replicating rather than being uniquely ‘you’. Stay in your own lane! Remember your values, your vision, your authenticity and the right clients and customers will connect with you. Also, shift your focus from what you can get out of your business to how you can best serve others.

If you are a business leader

5

Health and Safety Martin Nugent

Managing Director, Nugent Workwear + Safety We set the business up with one main focus – to make sure we exceeded our customers’ expectations. Over 20 years later we are still operating with this focus and are driven by a can-do attitude no matter what the challenge. Without satisfied customers we wouldn’t have a business and with so many competitors out there you need to stand out from the crowd. Our approach has always been to be honest and upfront with our customers, even when it means being the bearer of bad news from time to time. They will respect you in the long run and it helps to build a trusting relationship.

Oprah Winfrey

(January 29th 1954 – Present) is an American media proprietor, talk show host, actress and producer.

6

Procurement Mert Demiralp

Commercial Manager and Co-Founder, Silverline Project Supply Ltd. Make sure you work every day to build a solid network around you by always performing with the highest integrity, delivering on commitments and treating everyone with sincere respect. Silverline started only a couple of years ago but we were able to bank on the relationships built in the past by our partners across various industries, founded on mutual trust. This is how we achieve global reach today via our network agents, and how we continue to grow.

and you feel you have some words of wisdom to share with the small business community please email linda.barry@sfa.ie

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Feature  Funeral Directing

BEYOND THE GRAVE DEATH IS A FACT OF LIFE FOR US ALL BUT TO SOME IT’S ALSO THEIR LIFE’S WORK. BETTER BUSINESS SPEAKS TO FUNERAL DIRECTORS AROUND THE COUNTRY TO FIND OUT WHETHER DEATH IS A RECESSION-PROOF BUSINESS.

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F

uneral directing isn’t a profession sought by many; most get into it through a family business. Not so for Mary Cunniffe. She says she stumbled into the funeral business following two quite sudden family deaths. After a career in the bank, she spent several years on the road meeting funeral directors across the country and educating them around grief planning with Golden Charter. In 2007, she was offered a job with Massey Brothers and said she found the job that was made for her. She describes her role as “the most privileged of work, helping families through three of the worst days of their lives.” Cunniffe has also just been made president of the Irish Association of Funeral Directors (IAFD) – she’s the first female president that doesn’t actually own her own funeral business. Her role there is to oversee the various boards and committees, ensuring any issues are being addressed and to improve the standards of the industry. “We need to, as a profession, show our people that we are a real profession with real standards and that we can stand the test of public scrutiny,” she says. Throughout her years in the business, Cunniffe says that she’s witnessed a significant increase in the service required of funeral directors. “There is more demand on the funeral director now for service,” she explains. “It’s like every other service that the public buys – they’re expecting value for their money, they’re shopping around, comparing prices and demanding more in whatever they buy. The assumed loyalty isn’t there as before. “The family unit has also changed in the last ten years and the same onus isn’t on the son or daughter to look after their parent. People now are much more inclined to look after their own affairs and know what they want.”

A Suited Profession Jonathan Stafford is the third generation involved in the family business, Staffords

Funeral Directing  Sector Spotlight

Funeral Homes, which was started by his grandfather in the early ‘50s. He says that of his siblings, it was probably always going to be him that took over the business: “My personality kind of suits it, in the sense that you need to be relaxed and have a pretty good level of empathy. When my grandfather died, there was an opening and I stepped into the fold then and I haven’t really looked back since.” Stafford believes he’s been really lucky to work with his family. He says his father has been very nurturing, allowing him to develop the business in his own way and to bring it into the 21st century. They say nothing is certain in life other than death and taxes, yet Stafford has found that funerals are not a recessionproof business. “The recession was tough,” he recalls. “Because we are a very slow moving business, we did see it but saw it very slowly. Then all of a sudden it hit us. In 2010, you could clearly see people did not want to spend any money. Removals almost became obsolete – they were quite a traditional thing in the city, where you’d have a removal going to the church the night before.

“THERE ARE OVER 1,000 FUNERAL DIRECTORS THAT WE’RE AWARE OF ON THE ISLAND OF IRELAND AND I WOULD ESTIMATE THAT ONLY TEN TO 20 PER CENT OF THOSE ARE FULL-TIME.”

Staffords Funeral Home, Portmarnock

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Sector Spotlight  Funeral Directing

“MY PERSONALITY KIND OF SUITS IT, IN THE SENSE THAT YOU NEED TO BE RELAXED AND HAVE A PRETTY GOOD LEVEL OF EMPATHY.”

Jonathan Stafford, Director, Staffords Funeral Homes

“Funeral directors, in my opinion, go out of their way to make sure families feel comfortable on every level - whether that is from a financial point of view or on a purely emotive side. If someone came in here and said they didn’t want a removal, I certainly wouldn’t want to push them because it adds to the bottom line. That’s not what we’re here to do. Okay, it is a business but we’re here to care for the families first. That’s kind of our motto.” Stafford says the number one quality needed in a funeral director is emotional intelligence. In recent years, he introduced psychometric testing when interviewing candidates due to his recognition that is extremely difficult to tell if someone is going to be suited to the funeral business. “You have to have that level of emotion where you understand,” he explains. “You can’t get too upset by anything but you can’t be dead inside either. You need to show that empathy but not overly.” James Cooney Funeral Directors was established in 1920 in New Ross, Co Wexford, and Joanne Cooney is the third generation of Cooneys to run the business. She took over the business from her father in 2002 and is a full-time funeral director. Cooney’s business, too, has changed over the last number of years and she says that customers will speak more openly now about their finances. “The main change in the last few years is that more and more funerals are going from the home straight to the church – the evening removals are nearly coming to an end,” she says. “Cremation also is

on the increase and with emigration funerals are being delayed more for families to travel home. “The general public are more knowledgeable about funerals and they know what they want. They understand what happens at funerals and what funeral directors are able to do for people – so we’re getting more involved.” Cooney is also an embalmer and she says she gets a lot of satisfaction when the deceased’s family are pleased with how they’re presented. “It’s also nice being able to help families through one of the hardest times in their life.” Cooney is busy when we speak to her (during a particularly cold snap) and says every year demand for her services increase – as the population grows, so too does the death rate. The winter months are the busiest, she explains, and things quiet down significantly during the summer months. She says the unpredictability of the business can be a challenge. “Time is the main challenge. We always say that if you get a quiet spell, then beware as you’re probably going to get a lot in the one go. Staff is the other challenge for small businesses because you don’t generally hire external people, so as the death rate increases you come under pressure. You have to make a lot of sacrifices in your own personal life, too, as you’re on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Two Sides to the Business There are two sides to funeral directing in Ireland – the full-time urban director, and the part-time rural director. Colm Kieran is a part-time funeral director at Kieran Bros Funeral Care in Kingscourt, Co Cavan as well as chairperson of the communication committee for the IAFD. “Typical of funeral directing businesses in rural Ireland, our business is not sustainable as a business on its own,” he explains. “There are over 1,000 funeral directors that we’re aware of on the island of Ireland and I would estimate that only ten to 20 per cent of those are full-time. Rural funeral directors are generally propped up by one or two other businesses. Around the country you’ll see funeral directors combined with auctioneers, publicans, bus companies, taxi services – that kind of thing.” According to Kieran, it’s a numbers game; in a small town of about 5,000 people, the

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Funeral Directing  Sector Spotlight

Colm Kieran, Funeral Director, Kieran Bros Funeral Care

normal death rate is less than 50 per year, so the numbers just don’t stack up for funerals to be a full-time business. This is one of the main challenges for the rural funeral director, he explains, to be viable 365 days a year, but yet not be full-time. “I wouldn’t be typical of the age profile of funeral directors – I’m in my mid-thirties and I ask myself regularly is there longterm potential in this for me,” he says. “We run a furniture business as well but it’s only by adding those two businesses together that there is a sufficient income. And yet, it’s a twenty-four-seven commitment. If my phone rings at any stage day or night to provide a service, I’m going to respond.” Kieran also says his business felt the effects of the downturn. He says that during the recession there was a decline in people’s ability to pay and that since then people’s ability to foot their bill within a specific time has also been a challenge. He suggests that culturally we’re much more accustomed to incurring debt and paying it off gradually. Cashflow is an issue too, he says, particularly for rural directors that generally

don’t request an upfront payment. Kieran has also seen the public’s expectations of service from funerals directors increase in recent years. “And rightly so,” he states. “We would see ourselves much more as service providers rather than hearse-and-coffin providers. We’re much more involved now, providing readings and stationery, personalisation of services with design and for rural reposing at home there’d be more equipment. That all comes with its challenges too in terms of the hours that go into it and trying to identify an appropriate service charge.” Kieran says he gets a real sense of reward from his job, particularly operating in a rural setting where he knows the majority of his customers. “Ninety per cent of the time we’re dealing with families, not dead people and you do get a great sense of achievement in helping families that don’t know what to do at such a time. You’re there to help them arrange a service to reflect the person’s life, and when the family are satisfied with that, you do feel a real sense of pride.”

“YOU DO GET A GREAT SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT IN HELPING FAMILIES THAT DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO AT SUCH A TIME.”

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Interview

 Richard Curran

R

ichard Curran is no slouch when it comes to the ins and outs of Irish business. The veteran journalist has been reporting on it for two and a half decades through his work with RTÉ, Sunday Business Post, Irish Independent and Sunday Independent, not to mention his books, documentary work and hosting Dragons’ Den. For that reason it comes as something of a surprise that Curran has never invested in or started up any sort of business himself. “I’d be useless at it,” he tells us after finishing his presenting duties at the SFA Business Connect event at Aviva Stadium. “And I think I’d be useless at it for two reasons: One is if you’re a glass half empty person you will do well in journalism, and if you’re a glass half full person you’ll do well in business. “My default position is perhaps to be not negative but susceptible, so I am a little bit more of a glass half empty [person]. Having spent 25 years interviewing business people, many of them very successful, they’re incredible optimists. They are also incredibly resilient, that when they get setbacks, their ability to bounce back on a personal level is

incredible. The other reason I’d be useless at it is that I’m no good at managing money, which is one of the core skills you have to have.” Curran notes that business people – entrepreneurs in particular – thrive on things not going to plan. “They’re problem solvers, they love the challenge of that,” he says. “Sometimes they’ll give out about it, they might blow a gasket, but somewhere in their mind it’s that unpredictability that they actually really enjoy. I like things to go right. If I’m going to do something on a particular day, I hope that it falls into place and if a few minor things don’t fall into place I’ll get pissed off about it.” When it comes to investing, Curran admits to being risk-averse. Despite having been presented with numerous opportunities over the years, be it through a meeting or receiving a tip-off, he never played the markets or backed a fledgling company. “I was quite conscientious about it,” he says. “I’ve never bought a share in my life and maybe that was stupid because I probably could’ve made some money, but I might have lost money too. Also, I could never be accused of writing positively about some company because I had an interest in it.”

What RICHARD Does

AUTHOR, WRITER, BROADCASTER AND ALL-ROUND PRO, RICHARD CURRAN, TALKS TO BETTER BUSINESS ABOUT CONNECTING SMALL AND BIG BUSINESS, HIS LOVE FOR RADIO AND HAVING HIS GLASS HALF-EMPTY.

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Richard Curran  Interview

Connecting If you weren’t at the Business Connect event, Curran didn’t have anything to get pissed off about. Everything, it seems, went smoothly and he managed to get the best out of his guests on the panel. The event, which produced some fascinating insights from the likes of Seán Walsh of Poplar Linens Trading Company and Anita Finnegan of Nova Leah, was aimed at small businesses looking to supply to larger firms interested in diversifying their supply chains. As well as offering anecdotes about how small firms had tapped into business offered by multinationals, it was about getting the smaller guys in the same room as big business. For Curran, he believes that there has been an evident shift since the downturn, which has seen small businesses in Ireland make a stronger effort to get business from multinational companies. “I have noticed that it came across very strongly during the crash years that a lot of indigenous SMEs had not made the most of the opportunity of having very large international companies in the Irish market,” he says. “Now it’s not easy because if anything the trends among global corporations are to source things differently, they want to sources things on an international basis. But in recent years, you can see more and more that even the bigger corporations are open to the idea of local sourcing of products and services. That has to represent a big opportunity. But then, that has to be met from the small business side too. “I think there has been a bit of a shift, that’s coming across. And even an event like this where you see the big companies and the small companies together talking about it, how it works, what is the best way to do it, what is it that we want or we need from you guys in a tender or the kind of services that you supply, what are our expectations. Just getting companies to talk together about that is a good learning experience.” On a more general note, despite us having undergone some years of economic recovery, Curran believes small firms are now faced with a fresh set of challenges in 2018. While optimistic about the environment within which they are operating, he says there are risks on the horizon and the difficulty lies with getting small businesses to recognise and prepare for these risks, whether it is Brexit, Donald Trump’s policies or changes to corporation tax.

“MY DEFAULT POSITION IS PERHAPS TO BE NOT NEGATIVE BUT SUSCEPTIBLE, SO I AM A LITTLE BIT MORE OF A GLASS HALF EMPTY [PERSON].”

Author, writer and broadcaster Richard Curran

“Success brings its own difficulties and challenges,” warns Curran. “Those challenges might be around wage demands and wage inflation, the labour market and whether or not companies of any size and scale can get the kind of skilled people that they need, and how much they are going to have to pay for them. There is a government policy issue around the likes of housing and rents and that will squeeze into private sector employers.” Rising business costs are another challenge. “That always happens when things start to upturn,” says Curran. “People jack up the prices to what they feel they can get and that in turn affects businesses as well. It’s not just a consumer issue, if you’re buying services from other companies and they’re looking to hike up the price, your costs have gone up as well.”

SFA Fact

Did You Know? Richard Curran has co-written two books, one on Irish entrepreneurs, Ireland’s Entrepreneurial Elite, and the other on the collapse of Irish Nationwide Building Society, titled Fingers.

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Interview

 Richard Curran

Richard Curran presenting at SFA Business Connect event at Aviva Stadium

Sharing Stories Of course, Curran hears about the trials and tribulations of small business every week on his RTÉ radio show The Business, which he has presented since April 2014. The programme has a listenership of 300,000 so it’s communicating with a very wide audience sharing stories that shape business, our economy, and everyday lives. Curran has worked extensively across print and television but says radio is now where his true passion lies. For him, the visual element of television gets in the way of the content, while he says he no longer gets the thrill he used to out of breaking stories in print. “Because we are catching a very wide audience [with The Business] we have to make it very accessible and I love the variety,” he says. “I wrote in business pages of newspapers for decades about AIB’s dividend policy, CRH share buyback or things like that. To actually find myself interviewing people about totally different kinds of business stories, I really enjoy that. I think

the media has moved on as well. There’s more interest now because basic information is so accessible with the internet; people are looking for more. They feel ‘I can get that there, I want something else’, so the direction of business media coverage is changing more into human interest stories.” Having been a business journalist before and after the crash what are Curran’s views on how business is reported in Ireland today? “Pretty healthily,” he says, before stating that journalism let people down during the boom. “There weren’t enough questions asked and business journalism would probably fall to some extent within that. I know that most journalists would say that government policy let people down, the herd mentality, other people and that’s all true, but I think the media has to ask itself some questions as well.” Curran shows some of his glass half-full side and expresses optimism that lessons have been learned. “I think that’s very much in the past,” he says. “When the crash happened the media went from being not

sceptical enough in the boom to being overly sceptical to a point of being overly negative about the mess we were in and how long it would take to get out of it. I found that interesting and there was a sense of ‘if in doubt don’t give anyone the benefit of the doubt’ because perhaps journalists themselves felt scared or let down by what had being going on in the boom. There was probably too much scepticism at times during the really bad crash years but I think it has rectified itself now and we have moved on to more of an even keel.” Before rushing off to Donnybrook to record the promo for his next radio programme, I ask Curran what his hopes and plans are for the year ahead. “It’s probably going to be about trying to make the most of whatever limited free time I have,” he says. “I live in Donegal and I’ve lived there for six years now and a lot of my work is in Dublin so I’m on the road quite a lot. I don’t intend to change that but I’d like to try and utilise whatever bits and pieces of time I have a bit better.”

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15/03/2018 12:29


Small Business Profile  Aalto Bio Reagents

A

PICTURE OF

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PHILIP NOONE OF AALTO BIO REAGENTS IS PASSIONATE ABOUT TROPICAL DISEASES AND EMERGING PATHOGENS, AND HE’S ALSO AN ASTUTE BUSINESSMAN. HERE, HE DISCUSSES THE CHALLENGES OF R&D, BUILDING A BUSINESS IN IRELAND AND HOW HE BENEFITTED FROM THE ZIKA VIRUS OUTBREAK. 38 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS

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Aalto Bio Reagents  Small Business Profile

“LIKE WITH ALL THINGS AND ALL BUSINESSES, YOU LAUNCH A PRODUCT WITH ALL THE BEST INFORMATION YOU HAVE FROM THE MARKET AND CREATE THE BEST OPPORTUNITY, BUT SOMETIMES THINGS LINE UP A LITTLE BIT BETTER.”

Philip Noone, Managing Director, Aalto Bio Reagents

Any business owner will tell you that while it takes a lot of hard work, it never hurts to be in the right place at the right time. For Philip Noone, this was the outbreak of the Zika virus in 2015. Noone, who has a background in biotech and IVD (in vitro diagnostic devices), bought Aalto Bio Reagents in 2014. They started off developing bio raw materials for Chikungunya virus, a virus that’s growing in the Americas; it launched to lots of interest, but didn’t really explode due to its self-limiting nature. Next, they launched materials to enable the development of diagnostic kits for mosquitoborne Zika virus, just ahead of its outbreak. “Like with all things and all businesses, you

launch a product with all the best information you have from the market and create the best opportunity, but sometimes things line up a little bit better. We were lucky with Zika.” The company had put together a press release in November of 2015 which put it in the number one position on Google when people were suddenly Googling the Zika virus. Noone says this gave them a real headstart in that market. “We went from looking for a new customer base to being the number one customer target for all the big diagnostic companies in the US and Europe. You always want to find that lead product, that champion product that is going to drive you forward. Zika has given us that opportunity to put our stake in the ground and really put Alto on the map.” Since then, Aalto Bio Reagents has continued its expansion into emerging diseases and pathogens within the area of tropical disease, providing biological raw materials to leading research labs and pharma and diagnostic companies around the world. Completing a range of esoteric virus products, it launched Dengue Fever in 2016 and Yellow Fever and West Nile in 2017. The company has also just been awarded Innovator of the Year at the SFA National Small Business Awards. Noone is fascinated by emerging diseases and spends much of his time studying them and reading up on emerging pathogens and tropical diseases. “I am constantly looking at new diseases, emerging pathogens and new areas that we could move into. There is probably two or three more Zikas out there at the moment. I won’t go into the names of the viruses today because I don’t want to give any of our competitors a heads-up, but that’s where the product pipeline is coming from. “There’s probably 10 or 15 emerging diseases that I’d like to develop new bio material for but the company’s growth is happening organically and it has to do it at a certain rate to allow us to do them individually.” Since Noone took over, Aalto Bio Reagents’ turnover has doubled, the business is profitable and doesn’t owe any money. But still, like most small businesses, Noone says finance is still an issue. “I find that at an organic level, if we need €100,000 or €200,000 to build new instruments or build a laboratory, money isn’t readily available. You have to jump through hoops to get it from financial institutions. “Looking at the American model, if you

SFA Fact

Did You Know? Aalto Bio Reagents is starting to make waves in the US and already has plans to expand into China and Japan in the near future. “The challenge for us is that we have a pipeline of opportunity with potential clients at the moment,” says Noone. “We just need people on the ground to hit them face-to-face to close the opportunities.”

have a product idea venture capital funding is hugely available and the availability of capital to fund the business and grow it is easily available also. Ireland still struggles at that level. We need to look at other ways of funding businesses to grow them faster.” Noone reveals that all of the company’s profit goes on research and development and says this can be a strain. He believes the Government could better incentivise businesses to invest in R&D. “Last year we developed our Yellow Fever product from start to finish. For a company of our size to do that is extraordinary,” he explains. “The challenge is that you get 20 or 25 per cent of your research spend back through corporate taxation, which is pretty useless; you have to have the money there to pay the corporate tax to get the money back in the first place. If you look at the Australian model, they give you back 50 per cent of everything you spend immediately. So at the end of your financial year, you submit your spreadsheet of all of your costs and if it’s €100,000 you get a €50,000 cheque back. Here it is piecemealed over two or three years and you’re only getting 25 per cent.” Currently employing 11, Noone says salaries are also a challenge. The business is based in South Dublin, and because of accommodation issues, Noone says people have a huge expectation of salary growth. “Realistically we don’t have to be in Ireland because we are a 96 per cent export business. But because I’m Irish I like the challenge to come back here and build a business in this country. Regardless of the challenges we have, I still think it’s a great country to live in and to bring children up in.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 39

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Feature  Social Media

SOCIAL MEDIA HAS EMBEDDED ITSELF WITHIN THE EVERYDAY WORKINGS OF OUR SOCIETY AND ULTIMATELY REPRESENTS A HUGE OPPORTUNITY FOR SMALL BUSINESS. TIERNAN CANNON SPEAKS TO FOUR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS USING A VARIETY OF PLATFORMS TO HELP IMPROVE THEIR CHANCES OF SUCCESS.

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Social Media  Feature

W

potential of social media. They set to work developing their social media presence, initially focusing on Twitter, but soon expanding across other platforms, as Jules Mahon explains. “In the beginning, Twitter was without doubt our most engaged platform. Three years on and that has evolved considerably,” she says. “Whilst Twitter is still core to our business and is excellent at growing our foodie community – in addition to keeping up with industry news – Instagram has become more and more relevant. With the introduction of Insta Stories, our followers love the live aspect. People love being in the moment, almost on the journey with us. We can link to articles as well, so this is a fantastic driver of traffic to the site.” At the time of writing, TheTaste.ie’s Instagram page has over 87,900 followers, with its Twitter account clocking up a massive 145,000 followers. Mahon explains that, given the sheer amount and frequency of posts, one might expect TheTaste.ie

Jules Mahon, Co-founder, TheTaste.ie

Robbie Reynolds

e live in the age of social media, and for many businesses today the use of such platforms has become an unavoidable reality. The range of different social media platforms available means that companies are afforded the opportunity to bypass the traditional channels of communication that, even a decade ago, would have been essential to their branding and marketing strategies. Social media has become a space where an ever-increasing number of consumers spend massive amounts of time, and so it has become something of a necessity for businesses – either big or small – to engage with. “I see social media like connecting the dots,” remarks Conor McCabe, a professional photographer who utilises the likes of Twitter and Facebook to expand his network of customers and make his service stand out from the crowd. “For example, after completing a job, I may put my best photo on social media and use the Twitter handle to pay compliment to the client for hiring me and the venue for hosting the event. This way my services are highlighted to the venues’ booking department without knocking on their door, and the client gets additional exposure.” When used effectively, social media platforms can connect companies with their customers and partners. However, with so many people and companies possessing a presence on social media, it can be difficult not to be drowned out in the noise. Which is precisely why the most successful businesses on social media use these platforms in a unique or novel way. McCabe recognised this, and in 2015, he created a brand called Realtime Social Media Photography (RSMP), which allows his photos to be instantly transferred from his camera to his clients’ mobile device. This enables clients to share McCabe’s professional images on their social media channels immediately, which he says has had a positive knock-on-effect for business. With a little creative flare, McCabe developed a technology to compliment the power inherent to social media, and his company is reaping the rewards. “Social media is an excellent way to allow potential clients to see my work on a daily basis,” McCabe says. “I am one of very few photographers who can offer RSMP technology to businesses, and I see huge growth potential, as social media is more and more image-driven by the day.”

In Good Taste Launched in 2014, TheTaste.ie is an online magazine dedicated to Ireland’s foodie culture. It is run by husband and wife, Keith and Jules Mahon, bringing the latest news, reviews and offers relating to Ireland’s restaurant, bar and hotel scene. During the time of its launch, the fledgling company received no financial backing, and its marketing budget was thus rather modest. Creative thinking was required, which led the Mahons to recognise the huge marketing

Conor McCabe, professional photographer

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Feature  Social Media

to have a dedicated social media manager, yet she and her husband felt that a more personal touch was required, with the two being extremely active on the sites. Their personalised approach seems to be working, with their social media presence allowing the brand to expand into new markets. “Without social TheTaste would not be as well known or successful, particularly outside of Ireland,” Mahon suggests. “Social gives you an international reach, and working with food, wine and travel brands, this has been invaluable. It also allows you to engage with your readers so they feel their opinion matters, and that is ultimately the most important thing for us. Any business that doesn’t place value on the importance of social is not only missing out on serious revenue potential, but also missing an opportunity to be more present and relevant to clients and other brands.”

Eamon Moore, Managing Director, EMIT

Jim Kirwan, wellbeing coach

“THE KEY IS GOING THE NEXT STEP AND DEVELOPING REAL FACE-TO-FACE RELATIONSHIPS.”

Real Influence While TheTaste.ie has managed to clock up a huge amount of followers across its platforms, social media can still prove extremely helpful when dealing in smaller figures. Eamon Moore, founder and Managing Director of IT company EMIT, explains that in spite of his firm’s relatively small number of followers – about 1,500 on Twitter – the impact of social media engagement can still be huge. He recalls a story from 2014, when EMIT was engaging with Dell as part of a partnership deal. After a little research, the company posted a few blog posts and tagged key figures within Dell on Twitter. This led to a bit of traction, and after liking and following one another, EMIT was in a position to reach out to Dell, first with a conference call, but eventually leading to the two parties working together to form a social strategy. “As the story goes, I woke up one morning after settling my little fella and there it was – loads of emails, loads of retweets,” Moore explains. “Right in the middle of them was a notification that Michael Dell had retweeted our Tweet to one million followers, and then a LinkedIn request from him with a comment saying ‘I hear you’re doing good work with the team, looking forward to working with you’. That’s the point around LinkedIn – we can all try to be influencers and thought leaders, but when you latch on to someone who has real influence, that’s

when you see the difference.” According to Moore, social media hasn’t only allowed him to connect with big names in business, it has been a useful tool for market research purposes. “A lot of the time we’ll test the waters across LinkedIn with some of the new stuff that we’re doing,” says Moore. “For instance, at the moment we are doing a lot of new things around business intelligence. We might talk about that on LinkedIn to see what kind of traction we get and use the interest that we’re getting as part of our market research.” For Jim Kirwan, a health and wellbeing author and consultant, social media can be thought of as a means of aiding faceto-face relationships. Kirwan is currently establishing a fitness business in Ireland, following 14 years in the US running GetAmericaMoving.com, which offers a range of fitness products and services. In developing GetAmericaMoving.com, Kirwan focused initially on creating a presence on LinkedIn, doing so firstly by posting, commenting and sharing regularly on the site, as well as by writing and posting frequent articles, giving fitness advice and tips. This enabled him to expand his network to connect with a wider range of potential clients. While he believes that the use of LinkedIn was an important cog in the wheel of his fitness business, he suggests

that an online presence is not enough in and of itself. “The key is going the next step and developing real face-to-face relationships,” he says. “I followed up with calls with the objective of setting up meetings, and I held some 75 meetings. My goal was to develop a more personal relationship and ultimately to do business.” Eamon Moore agrees that taken as a means to further business connections, social media is an easily accessible realm that small businesses can exploit. “When you’re tweeting ahead of an event, and there might be a hashtag for the event, it’s amazing the amount of people that you connect with,” he says. “But it actually results in a face-to-face meeting too. I’ve developed a lot of relationships as a result of that, and some really good relationships where we’ve done business with people or partnered with people as a result. That was really just from sending a few tweets on Twitter.” Whether it’s being used to network with influencers, promote offers, engage with customers or to simply shout about how great your company is, small businesses will generally benefit from having some sort of social media presence. The key is to find the platform that suits your product or service and use it in whatever unique way you can in order to make you stand out from the crowd. For many, it will equate to much more than some likes, retweets and follows.

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Smart

Work

BEING OWNER OF A SMALL BUSINESS CAN BE LONELY. THAT’S WHY ACHIEVING SUCCESS THROUGH COLLABORATION IS AN EXTRA REWARDING EXPERIENCE. Collaboration is key to the long-term success of any business. Whether it’s helping break into new markets or developing a new product, forming partnerships with other enterprises is critical to small firms in pursuit of growth, innovation and, ultimately, results. Richard Branson once said: “To be successful in business, and in life, you need to connect and collaborate.” With this in mind, Better Business checked in with three small business owners who share their stories on how smart collaboration has yielded significant rewards.

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44 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS

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Brought to you by Virgin Media Business  Smart Work

THE RIGHT FIT?

COINDRUM

Coindrum is the kind of business that wouldn’t exist without smart collaboration. The start-up, which provides airports with self-service units that convert leftover coins into duty free vouchers, is the brainchild of Lukas Decker, who had something of a lightbulb moment while paying a motorway toll in an automatic coin machine lane. “I thought, ‘I would love a machine like that in the airport where I could get rid of all my coin currency’,” recalls Decker. “I even got out of the car and took a picture of the supplier of the equipment.” Getting his nearest airport to take his idea seriously was the real breakthrough his business needed. “One of the first people to meet me at Dublin Airport was CEO of Duty Free Jack McGowan who was able to look at the concept and agree that there was something there and so, he gave us a shot,” says Decker. “It has turned into a great partnership and one from which I was able to generate the first data and prove the technical and commercial viability of the business, which led to many other installations.” Coindrum solves the foreign coin inconvenience for travellers and increases the percentage of people that shop for retailers; a win-win for Coindrum and the airports involved. Today, Decker’s coin machines are present in six countries and ten airports having recently secured a deal with Dubai International Airport. Undoubtedly, as the penny drops, more will follow.

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“A DREAM I HAVE LA PETITE ÉCOLE HAD IS TO OPEN A SISTER SCHOoL IN FRANCE.” Rita Bourdiol-Ruane

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Rita Bourdiol-Ruane had reached a make-or-break moment in her business in 2015. Until then, she had run La Petite École Montessori successfully from her home in Clane, Co Kildare for a number of years but had reached a point where she had to grow the business to make it commercially viable. Around that time the local national school had invited other schools, crèches and montessori to tender for the use of some of its premises. A successful bid enabled Bourdiol-Ruane to increase the number of children attending the montessori from 15 to 50. The collaboration has not only been a success from a business perspective, but it has helped the children familiarise themselves with the school environment before they move on from their montessori years, as Bourdiol-Ruane explains. “It means the children have been in the primary school already. They allow us to use their hall, we can use the playground at certain times of the day too, so it’s just been a fantastic decision.” The name of the business is a giveaway, but La Petite École prides itself on its French connection whereby part of the curriculum is taught in French. One of Bourdiol-Ruane’s ambitions is to further strengthen its ties with France by collaborating with a school there and to have its after school children participate in an exchange programme. “Ever since I opened the school a dream I have had is to open a sister school in France,” she says. “To be able to collaborate with the school here whereby a parent and child would visit France and vice-versa, that would be a dream.”

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Brought to you by Virgin Media Business  Smart Work

WICKLOW WOLF Wicklow Wolf Brewing Co. started out in an old bakery’s premises in Bray, Co Wicklow, supplying its beer to one pub in the town. A little over three years later, the brewery has its range of craft beers available in over 200 pubs and most off-licences nationwide. Like many entrepreneurs, co-founder Quincey Fennelly left the security of a well-paid job to pursue his business idea but says he was undeterred by any negative views on what he was attempting to achieve. “I tend to ignore that,” he tells Better Business. “I have a vision and a dream for the future and I’m not going to be put off by any naysayers saying I’m mad. I am a little mad and I know that, but that’s okay.” In its short lifespan, Wicklow Wolf has collaborated with a number of brands that Fennelly believes made a sensible fit. They include working with Java Republic coffee roasters to create a coffee infused brown ale, with Danish brewer Kissmeyer to develop a honey-flavoured golden ale, and with fruit company Mr Jeffares on a blackcurrant-flavoured beer. “We’ve done several collaborations over the past few years and it’s really important to us,” says Fennelly. “We’re part of a wide community of producers of quality food and quality drink. It’s really important to be surrounded by really good brands that compliment our own.” Perhaps its most significant collaboration has been teaming up with the masters of craft beer themselves, BrewDog in Scotland, providing its UK bars with Wicklow Wolf Red IPAs in time for St Patrick’s Day. “They don’t ask many,” says Fennelly proudly. “We’re delighted to be associated with a cool brand like BrewDog.”

“I’M NOT GOING TO BE PUT OFf BY ANY NAYSAYERS SAYING I’M MAD.”

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SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 47

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Interview  Trading Places

Kenny’s

PAUL KENNY IS MAKING DIGITAL WAVES IN THE MIDDLE EAST, A REGION RIPE WITH OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN E-COMMERCE. CONOR FORREST CAUGHT UP WITH THE BUSY ENTREPRENEUR TO DISCOVER MORE ABOUT HIS PATH TO SAUDI ARABIA, HIS SUCCESS IN BUSINESS, AND HIS WORK MENTORING THE NEXT GENERATION.

Kingdom At 25, most of us are still finding our feet in life, trying to figure out which path to take. Not so for Paul Kenny. By then he had already moved to Dubai and established a burgeoning company, via NUIG, the family’s bookshop business in Galway city, and a stint working for the Jumeirah hotel group. That company was Cobone.com, launched in 2010 after he raised $1.4 million, and three years after arriving in the region. Kenny had spotted a gap in that market, one relatively unchanged by behemoths like Amazon and eBay in Europe, the US and Asia. For e-commerce, the Middle East remained untapped. Inspired by the meteoric rise of Groupon, which sold digital coupons delivered to the consumer’s email inbox, and spotting an opportunity to develop the region’s online buying habits, Kenny launched the business but immediately hit a hurdle – the Middle East’s lack of a payments gateway meant he couldn’t actually sell coupons online. A more traditional solution was required. “We had hundreds of motorbikes delivering these pieces of paper in six countries in the Middle East,” he recalls. “We were delivering 20,000 coupons a month and picking up the cash. Just from a cash reconciliation basis and cash movement it was like a Brinks truck moving around all the time.”

Paul Kenny, founder, Cobone.com and MD, AYM Commerce

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Trading Places  Interview

Within two years Cobone.com was generating around $3 million in revenue as the Middle East’s largest e-commerce company, and was sold to US-based investment firm Tiger Global Management in a multi-million euro deal in 2013. Bigger and more exciting things were on the horizon in the form of AYM Commerce, a company founded by Majed M Al Tahan that specialises in online business and cuttingedge digital technologies, taking offline companies into the online world. Kenny operates as the firm’s managing director along with fellow Irishman and CoderDojo co-founder James Whelton, overseeing the company’s entire operations as it approaches 300 employees. Currently they’re working with the Bin Dawood Group in Saudi Arabia, building the first ever online grocery shopping service in the kingdom, but there are further opportunities – e-commerce in the Gulf is set to reach $41.5 billion by 2020. “The trend is that people are now consuming more and more of everything online, be it content to clothes to food, to whatever that might be. We’re constantly seeing industries being disrupted through online technology,” Kenny explains. “When you’re talking about the Middle East you’re talking about 350 million people, well-educated, very, very connected. They’re very young – 70 per cent of the population is under the age of 35. And they’re all coming into this bracket where they’re beginning to earn money. So they’re connected, they have money, they want to consume their product online. [Essentially] it’s a very big market that people from the outside may look at as complicated, but it’s a market full of opportunity.” Given Kenny’s success in the Middle East and the opportunity it represents with a young and wealthy population, it’s perhaps surprising that more Irish companies aren’t knocking at the door. The Middle East, he believes, has become an easier proposition in the last decade, and AYM Commerce also works with Irish companies seeking to take the plunge. “One of the best pieces of advice that I ever got was that you should always go where other people are going,” he advises. “But not many would be coming to the Middle East, probably purely out of fear of

Paul Kenny was named Mentor of the Year at the 2017 Arabian Business Startup Awards

what could go wrong, when in fact there’s a lot that could go right here.” But it’s not all about growing his own business or those of other Irish companies – Kenny is also trying to foster a greater entrepreneurial spirit across the region. Inspired by a lack of practical guidance throughout his own education, Kenny visits universities in the Middle East (and Ireland) to share the body of knowledge accrued over years in business – what happens when you graduate and step into the real world, the difficulties of life in business, and the realities of success and moving up in your career. Clearly he’s making a difference, having been named Mentor of the Year at the 2017 Arabian Business Startup Awards in Dubai. “These are things that I wish were told to me when I was in secondary school and university. I think the biggest thing lacking in Ireland now is that alone,” he says. “I’ve done a lot of work with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) student population, I’ve spoken at almost all of the universities, and we’ve [held] a massive competition looking for UAE’s best student entrepreneur. I think it’s one thing that people, especially people who have had some form of success, can give back to their community by mentoring people and helping them grow.” So where to from here? Kenny has set his sights on growing AYM Commerce, capitalising on the myriad opportunities this diverse and lucrative region has to offer, working with a number of large brands

Inspiration When he’s having a bad day, Kenny turns to a true sporting legend for inspiration, watching videos of basketball player Michael Jordan and what he was able to achieve on YouTube. “That just kicks me out of whatever mood I was in,” he explains. “He has a quote – ‘Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.’ And I think that’s the key point, you have to be that energy source that makes it happen.”

across the globe, and overall setting an example for other Irish entrepreneurs in search of success, not to mention various projects with the likes of the Japanese government and Enterprise Ireland. A climate where rain is a rarity certainly helps, as does the prevalence of what he describes as a ‘can-do’ and ‘think-big’ attitude. “I think the UAE has been a key platform for me and the success I had,” he says. “I think it’s an incredibly fun part of the world to be in. The complications make it that bit more exciting. I think it’s going to be home for the foreseeable future.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 49

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Business Books  Extract

IN

AN

WORLD

Selling

THE ABILITY OF AUGMENTED INTELLIGENCE TO MAXIMISE THE POTENTIAL OF ENTERPRISE SELLERS IS SLOWLY BEING RECOGNISED BY BUSINESSES. IN THIS EXTRACT TAKEN FROM HIS NEW BOOK, DIGITAL SALES TRANSFORMATION IN A CUSTOMER FIRST WORLD, DONAL DALY ASSESSES WHAT SALES PROFESSIONALS NEED TO CONSIDER.

S

alespeople operate in constantly shifting environments. Every day they contend with new situations and changing information. To remain in control, many companies deploy a CRM as their system of record, or ‘single source of truth’. They ask their sellers to keep the system up-to-date – “if it’s not in Salesforce, it doesn’t exist” – and then, armed with bucket loads of data, they generate reports and dashboards to try to understand the business. While easy to generate, reports and charts are often hard to interpret. Often the glut of data makes it hard to assess what is relevant and what is just noise. An abundance of product offerings using artificial intelligence (AI) or predictive analytics have recently

emerged as potential solutions to solve the problem for sales teams. However, in the context of enterprise sales, there are two key factors to be considered: First, enterprise sales is a small data problem, not a big data problem – there is not enough consistent data for an individual rep to draw accurate

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Extract

conclusions from patterns – and the individual seller is a key variable. Secondly, any functioning AI system must first be taught the intelligence. It can’t learn it on its own. The system needs a base of knowledge from which it can make assertions based on data, and it needs to understand the context of the problem it is solving. Even when AI is used to predict that a sale is likely or unlikely to close, the question remains: “So, what do I do now?” I believe that, in the context of enterprise sales, AI should mean Augmented Intelligence, not Artificial Intelligence. ‘Augmented’ is the right tool for the job where vast quantities of homogenous data do not exist and where reasoning, judgment, creativity, emotional connections and imagination matter. The success of any knowledge-based business or human endeavour is dependent on the reasoning ability of the people involved. A growth mindset, curiosity, problem-solving, deductive reasoning and an ability to cast aside the box, rather than just think outside it, are indicators

language, imagining different scenarios, solving problems that they have not been programmed to solve, managing people, dealing with sudden change, applying expertise without guidance, undertaking unpredictable physical tasks, interpreting patterns they have not been taught to recognise, or interacting with people. In fact, without explicit programming, there’s a lot that machines are not good at, and these are mostly things at which humans are pretty adept. The facts are clear: 1. AI is impacting your personal and professional life today, and the impact will only increase in the short-term and medium-term. 2. AI is getting smarter. (Most of the time we don’t notice.) 3. All AI systems need to be taught about the domain to which they are being applied. This is a critical, but often overlooked, aspect of AI.

“WITHOUT EXPLICIT PROGRAMMING, THERE’S A LOT THAT MACHINES ARE NOT GOOD AT, AND THESE ARE MOSTLY THINGS AT WHICH HUMANS ARE PRETTY ADEPT.”

of success. That’s the world that sales professionals inhabit. There are many things that machines are better suited to than humans. Machines don’t get tired or emotional; they are not subjective or judgmental in their assessment; they don’t spend a lot of time in meetings, on social media sites, or reading emails; they don’t get bored with repeating the same task – in fact, they seem to enjoy it; they rarely get interrupted by their family or in-laws, need to take vacation, or leave a task unfinished. If you need the same thing done over and over again, without variation, consistently, following a prescribed set of instructions, then the machine is your man (or woman) for the job. On the other hand, machines are not good yet at nuance, judgment, reading body

4. Big data works when you truly have big data, but only when you know the big questions. Small data matters too and that fact is particularly relevant to sales professionals today. 5. Augmented Intelligence (AI + Humans) is greater than the sum of the parts. Knowledge remains a core. AI systems for sales are certainly getting smarter, but only when the task to which they are being applied can be reduced to a codified set of signals that they can understand. AI can help with easily defined tasks that can be reduced to binary signals. For all others, the knowledge must be embedded into the system.

 Business Books

This is a good time to think about what you should do next: 1. Embrace the arrival of AI (particularly the augmented variety) as a positive force for the enablement of sellers. 2. Decide what tasks currently being undertaken by your sales people, such as data collection, data processing, scheduling, reporting, can be offloaded to the machine. 3. Look at your most value add activities – those that require the application of expertise, such as strategic sales, marketing strategy, and customer engagement –and consider how these activities would be better if augmented with core domain knowledge. Solving this problem will deliver rapid competitive advantage. 4. Before embarking on any analytics or big data project, consider first the questions that you need to answer that will move the needle in your business. 5. Remember that most value add tasks for knowledge workers are not great candidates for mere data analysis. In most cases the datasets are too small. Your return will be much greater if you can figure out how to apply knowledge to the small quantity of data that you have to gain insight. AI is just the next step in automation – though it is a very significant step. The efficacy of any project will be dependent not just on technology or technical feasibility. The costs of the project, the value of the work, the scarcity or otherwise of the skills needed will all need to be considered. In the context of the work that sales professionals need to do, you will get greater return from investing in the humans – augmenting the seller with Augmented Intelligence – rather than delegating the thinking to the machine. After all, sellers think for a living, and we will benefit by making that thinking more informed. This is an extract taken from Digital Sales Transformation in a Customer First World by Donal Daly, chairman of Altify, reprinted with permission from Oak Tree Press. It is available in all good bookshops and from www.amazon.com. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 51

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I think my lightbulb moment has come over many years rather than through one single occurrence. Together with my colleagues, we have developed a crystal clear focus on our clients’ needs. We don’t believe in communications or PR for its own sake. However, we do firmly believe that, as a practice, communications has to support corporate and business development strategy with clearly defined strategic solutions and tactics. We combine this with a lot of personal energy and a commitment to achieving results and that carries through our entire organisation. I think that’s why we have been so effective in growing the company alongside the growth and development of our clients who we’re really proud to work with on a long term and continuing basis. www.mkc.ie SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 53

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Development  Lightbulb Moment JOE MCGINLEY | CEO AND FOUNDER, ICONIC OFFICES In 2016, I sold two bespoke businesses I was involved in to focus full-time on Iconic Offices, a serviced offices and flexible workspace provider I had set up in 2013. The business grew fast. Once I got the company to seven buildings, I had two options; sit back and enjoy the fruits or go for the long haul and develop the next phase of the company – Iconic Offices 2.0. I knew the business had a lot more runway and with the economy picking up, I couldn’t have lived with myself if I didn’t allow the business to see through its full potential. We were making nice monthly profits, but I had to reinvest this revenue back into employing a management team. Up until this point, I effectively was the business, but my lightbulb moment came with me recognising that to expand quickly I needed to employ a management team with industry specific experience. Those critical hires combined with my vision for an improved Iconic product really slingshot the business to success. As an entrepreneur, the lesson I learned was that you need to invest in the foundations if you want to build high. Having the right team in the right place at the right time allowed me to confidently push forward in expanding the business. www.iconicoffices.ie

Make that switch

Get switched on to better energy savings with Energia. We’re offering a 20 per cent discount to all new business customers and we’ll fix that rate for two years. That’s a substantial reduction in your monthly bill and you won’t need to think about switching again in a year’s time. We’ve got online account management, help with energy efficiency projects and can provide 100 per cent renewable energy. Join the nearly 60,000 Irish businesses that are powered by Energia and you’ll see the benefits in no time. Get a quote at energia.ie/business or call us on 1850 719 376.

FIND CLEVER TIPS TO SAVE ENERGY AT energia.ie/tips 54 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS

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Lightbulb Moment  Development TARA AND MICHAEL GAVIGAN | PROPRIETORS, THE CENTRAL BAR AND RESTAURANT NAVAN Back in 2010, with Ireland drifting further into recession and our property business grinding to a halt, we asked ourselves, what could we turn our hands to in order to keep afloat? The circumstances were difficult here but we had heard that things were on the up in London following a short, sharp recession there. In search of inspiration, we decided to visit for a weekend. Full of life and activity, London pubs, restaurants and clubs were hopping! Our lightbulb moment came with the realisation that London was over the worst and the belief that Ireland too would claw its way out of recession. We recognised that even when money is tight, people still like to go out, but that value for money and quality remains paramount. We believed that with the right concept, a multi-faceted entertainment and food venue would work in Navan, Co Meath. In 2012, the Central Bar and Restaurant opened in the heart of the town comprising 18,000 square feet of seven bars, restaurants, outdoor areas and roof terrace. We put together a strong team headed up by some key colleagues who are now the cornerstone of our business. Two years on, we were named Overall Bar of the Year in Ireland and have won many other accolades since. So many people thought we were crazy opening such a big business in the middle of a recession but we kept the end goal in sight, made lots of changes along the way, responded to customer feedback and, ultimately, were willing to take a risk. Probably because we had no other option! www.thecentral.ie

Conor McCabe

Sell your wares

Would you like to promote your business to over 200,000 people for FREE? At Energia, we offer our business customers the opportunity to advertise a special offer or discount on our customer rewards site, Energia Extra. We’ll feature your offer on the site for one month and highlight it to our full customer base via our monthly ezine. That’s just one of the great benefits of being an Energia customer. Why not find out more about this great opportunity for your business? Email businessextra@energia.ie for further details.

FIND OUT ABOUT OUR CLEVER BUSINESS CUSTOMERS at energia.ie/hub SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 55

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SFA Policy  Small Firms Outlook 2018

in the

Mood FOR BUSINESS

NEW RESEARCH FROM THE SFA SHOWS THAT SMALL FIRMS IN IRELAND ARE CAUTIOUSLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE YEAR AHEAD.

The mood amongst the small business community at the start of 2018 was cautiously optimistic, the Small Firms Association found in its ‘Small Firms Outlook 2018’ survey report. At the end of 2017, nearly two-thirds of owner-managers felt that the business environment was improving, up from 50 per cent one year earlier and 61 per cent in May 2017. Sven Spollen-Behrens, SFA Director, said: “2017 was a challenging year for small business. Whilst cautious optimism seems to be returning, emerging wage demands, increasing business costs and Brexit are dampening the mood. Still,

nearly 60 per cent of SFA members say their businesses are growing, with only 4 per cent declining. This shows that 2018 has the potential to be a strong year, if the risks are managed effectively at firm level and Government level.” Asked what they see as the biggest opportunity for their business in 2018, domestic economic growth was highlighted by the vast majority of businesses. Other positive factors included specific sectoral opportunities, bringing new products to market, new brand/marketing campaigns and exporting. Seventy-one per cent of survey respondents indicated their intention to recruit over the coming year, up substantially from the SFA survey in May 2017. This strong job creation outlook was welcomed by Spollen-Behrens. “Small firms already employ half of the private sector workforce and the majority of our members will be hiring in 2018,” he said. “Small firms have a crucial role to play in job creation around the country, further reducing unemployment and attracting emigrants home to work.” The survey results, however, highlight a number of areas of concern for small firms. The risk factors for 2018 include wage inflation, the ability to attract

talent, legislative and regulatory burdens, increasing business costs as well as Brexit and the Sterling exchange rate. Many of these require decisive measures at Government level and the SFA will work with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and other departments to ensure the appropriate actions are taken. “Full tax equalisation between the self-employed and employees will remain a priority in 2018, as will access to public contracts for small firms and cost competitiveness,” continued SpollenBehrens. “In recent decades, Government has been successful in attracting FDI. The focus must now shift to small businesses and it is time to create a strategy for growth for small businesses with special focus on tax competitiveness and the cost of doing business, especially in light of Brexit.” In conclusion, Spollen-Behrens stated: “The fundamentals of the Irish economy are strong and economic growth and job creation are forecast to continue in 2018. If the specific concerns of small businesses are addressed, 2018 will be a very positive year for the sector, allowing the small business community to fulfil its potential in terms of job creation, enhancing local communities and driving economic progress.”

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Key Issues  SFA Policy

KEY ISSUES RAISED IN FIRST MEETING WITH MINISTER At the end of November, Heather Humphries was named the new Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Early in the new year, the SFA had the opportunity to meet with her and brief her on the major issues facing small firms in Ireland. Sven Spollen-Behrens, SFA Director, Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair, and Linda Barry, SFA Assistant Director, met with the Minister, her special advisor and a senior official from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The meeting centred around the SFA’s key strategic priorities for 2018: n Small business competitiveness, especially

tax competitiveness and the cost of doing business – insurance costs, rates and the minimum wage n Access to talent, staff recruitment and retention n Brexit n Access to funding and lending The Minister committed to working with the SFA and staying in close contact on all of the issues discussed. She attended her first public engagement with SFA members when she presented the SFA National Small Business Awards. You can read more about the awards on page 62.

Sven Spollen-Behrens, SFA Director; Heather Humphries, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation; Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair; and Linda Barry, SFA Assistant Director

CALL FOR MINIMUM WAGE TO REMAIN CONSTANT In February, the SFA made a written submission to the Low Pay Commission on the appropriate level for the National Minimum Wage (NMW). The SFA called for the minimum wage rate to remain at €9.55 in 2019. This is the preference of two-thirds of SFA members as expressed in a flash survey. The submission focused on the threats to competitiveness if the NMW continues to rise. It has increased by 10.4 per cent since 2015, outstripping average wage increases across the economy and well ahead of inflation, which has been minimal over the period. The submission suggests that in the current phase of economic growth, cost competitiveness is of upmost importance if Ireland is to avoid repeating the mistakes of its recent past. Government decisions should take the path of least harm as the economy navigates this critical period. The submission also analysed new data from the Central Statistics Office that shows that minimum wage workers are predominantly young workers, carrying out basic tasks on a part-time basis. In the labour market as a whole, unemployment is declining but those that remain on the Live Register face challenges to entering employment due to their circumstances (low skilled, young people and the long-term unemployed). It is important that no additional barriers to employment are created. A detailed look at economic activity in certain sectors and regions demonstrated the varied circumstances and prospects of businesses. In addition, SFA members have identified wage pressures as the biggest threat to their businesses in 2018. Taking these factors into account, the submission stated that across the board pay increases are not appropriate at this time. Firm level negotiation remains the most appropriate method for setting wages, taking into account the performance of the business and of the individual employee.

To share your views on these topics or to raise any other policy concerns, contact Linda Barry, SFA Assistant Director, on 01 6051626 or linda.barry@sfa.ie

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HR  Gig Economy

THE

Status

Conundrum FOLLOWING ON FROM OUR SMALL BUSINESS FEATURE ON THE GIG ECONOMY, SFA EXECUTIVE HELEN QUINN EXPLORES THE INCREASINGLY COMMON DILEMMA FACED BY SMALL FIRMS IN IDENTIFYING WHETHER A WORKER IS DEFINED AS SELF-EMPLOYED OR AN EMPLOYEE.

Helen Quinn, SFA Executive

T

he rising gig economy offers workers greater flexibility in the days and hours they want to work and more options for businesses to hire workers on a self-employed basis. It seems this is a win-win situation for all involved. However, there may be at least one thorny issue in this freelance relationship, namely does the worker come under the definition of self-employed or should they be classed as an employee? It would appear that when a worker states they are self-employed, they manage their own tax affairs, issue a regular invoice and are on what is called a “contract for service”. In most cases it is clear that the worker is self-employed, however, there are many employment law cases out there that would argue otherwise. For instance, in the UK, two workers took a case against Uber arguing that they were

employees of the company and not selfemployed. The UK Employment Tribunal found in their favour and classified them as employees of Uber. If this decision is upheld in the UK Court of Appeal, this case could open up the floodgates for a number of what are termed “bogus self-employments”. As self-employed persons are not protected by employment law and they are not entitled to any employment benefits such as paid annual leave, access to a company pension or other company benefits, it is very important that a business satisfies itself that the person they have hired is genuinely self-employed. The Code of Practice for Determining Employment or Self-Employment Status of Individuals is a good starting point. It has a checklist that allows businesses to determine if the worker they have engaged is an employee or genuinely self-employed. There are a series of questions allowing you to determine a worker’s employment status.

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Gig Economy  HR

Below are some of the questions the code asks in relation to employee status: n Is the worker under the control of someone who directs how, when and where the work is carried out? n Do they receive a fixed hourly, weekly or monthly wage? n Do they bear any personal financial risks when carrying out tasks? n Do they work for one employer only? n Do they receive travel or other expenses during the course of their work? n Are they entitled to extra pay or time off if they work overtime? n Do they receive annual leave, access to a pension or PRSA and other employment rights?

Key Takeaway In determining a worker’s employment status, businesses should ensure that the contract for service accurately reflects that it is a business to business relationship.

Below are some of the questions the code asks in relation to self-employment status: n Does the worker own their own business? n Are they exposed to a financial risk and do they bear the cost if a faulty or substandard service is provided? n Do they have control and responsibility for the work they conduct? n Do they profit from the work carried out? n Are they free to hire other people to conduct the work? n Can they provide the same service to one or many clients? n Do they provide the materials or the equipment for the job? n Do they have a fixed place of business where they can store materials or equipment? n Do they provide their own insurance, for example public liability? n Do they determine the hours of work whilst ensuring the work is conducted within the agreed specifications?

When deciding if a worker is an employee, it is often the case that they are under the control of the employer. They receive a fixed regular wage and are processed under the PAYE system. They do not assume responsibility for the financial welfare of the business. There are instances where an employee may have two jobs in what is called double employment. They could be employed by one business and be self-employed in another context. Some employees may have a lot of freedom in how they carry out their work, for example someone with specialist knowledge may require little or no direction. What is important is that the employment status as a whole is looked at and that the employee should have a written contract that details the terms and conditions of their employment. The key question to consider is whether the relationship between the business and a selfemployed person is one of mutable agreement and negotiation? Did both parties arrive at an agreed price within an agreed timeframe? In ensuring that the business relationship is one of mutual agreement it is worth referring to the checklist to ensure that the worker ticks many of the elements listed. It is recommended that the contract for service accurately reflects that it is a business to business relationship. An outcome of the Uber case is that the UK government is now conducting a review of modern working practises and what defines self-employment status. The ruling is also being challenged by Uber. Many businesses are waiting to see how the final outcome will play out and whether it will have a significant impact on the growing gig economy, both in the UK and Ireland. Here in Ireland there are a number of employment law cases that have used a variety of tests to determine if a worker is either selfemployed or an employee. One well known case that involves five veterinary surgeons who were employed as temporary veterinary inspectors has been back and forth to the High Court since 2008. The court has still been unable to determine if they are self-employed or employees. It is clear that in some cases employment status can be difficult to define and the lines between self-employed and employee is becoming increasingly blurred as the gig economy grows. For advice, SFA members can contact Helen Quinn, SFA Executive, on 01 6051668 or helen.quinn@sfa.ie. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 59

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Events  Round-up

SFA team pictured at the Business Connect event at Aviva Stadium

GETTING CONNECTED

Sue O’Neill, Chair, SFA; Seán Gallagher, Entrepreneur; and Edel Creely, Group Managing Director, Trilogy Technologies and President of Ibec

IN FEBRUARY, THE SMALL FIRMS ASSOCIATION BROUGHT 350 BUSINESS PEOPLE TOGETHER FOR THE FIRST EVER BUSINESS CONNECT EVENT.

SAVE THE DATE – SFA ANNUAL CONFERENCE 2018 Date: May 24th 2018

Aimed at small businesses looking to supply to large indigenous and multinational firms and bigger businesses interested in diversifying their supply chains, the SFA held its Business Connect event at Aviva Stadium on February 1st. Thanks to its position as part of Ibec, the SFA was uniquely placed to create this marketplace event, bringing its members together with leading companies from across the Irish business ecosystem. Kicked off by RTÉ’s Richard Curran as MC, the morning started with a session on ‘Getting the contract’ with Dr Peter Brennan from Bid Services, Tom Smith, Head of Procurement at Three, Karl McCann, AIB Merchant Services, and Anita Finnegan, Nova Leah. The panellists shared their experiences from both sides of the tender process. Smith spoke about what he looks for in a provider: pricing, ability to scale and to successfully fulfil the contract. Finnegan on the other hand spoke of her experience in a small company, how it won a major contract and the steps she has taken to try and reduce the tender process from 12 months to four. The next session was ‘Making your pitch’, which started with a presentation from entrepreneur Seán Gallagher. He drew from his experiences on both sides of the table pitching an idea or business, including his time on Dragons’ Den where he witnessed many great pitches and some disastrous ones. Barry McLoughlin from The Communications Clinic gave his top dos and don’ts for pitching. Seán Walsh, Poplar Lines Trading Company, spoke about winning a tender with John Lewis to provide many of its household products as well as his exclusive deal with Disney for its merchandise. The final panel of the morning was about how to ‘Collaborate to innovate’, highlighting the versatility of small companies and their ability to react to changes and turn around innovative ideas quickly. John McQuillan, Travel Tech Labs, spoke about his experience of creating solutions for large organisations in a fraction of the time it would take to do it themselves. Dave Byrne, Dualtron, and Ross Brennan, TCD Innovation, focused on how to retain your most innovative team members, ensuring they have the opportunity to grow with you and are recognised for the contribution they make. During the coffee break and throughout lunch there was a great buzz around the rooms where the finalists of the SFA National Small Business Awards were exhibiting. Delegates made the most of the chance to network, ask questions and identify real opportunities to grow their business.

Time: 8:30am-1:30pm Venue: UCD Science Centre The SFA Annual Conference will return on May 24th, brining you a half-day of information, advice and inspiration. This year’s conference will focus on how small businesses can stay competitive, go digital, retain talent and deal with new challenges such as GDPR.

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Business Advice  SFA Feature

Lessons

from building

BRAND

Obama JOHANNA MASKA, FORMER DIRECTOR OF PRESS ADVANCE FOR US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, CHARTS HER ROAD TO SUCCESS IN THE POLITICAL FIELD AND HOW THE LESSONS SHE LEARNED CAN BE APPLIED TO BUSINESS.

In 2015, after eight years working for US President Barack Obama, I decided to leave the White House for the private sector. In that sector I had a mentor; someone who had achieved tremendous success having made the same transition from politics to business, and someone who understood what I had done with President Obama. Offering advice, he said, “Look, you sold air before. Selling a product will be easy.” I like to think that we sold a lot more than air, but I took his point. A political marketing skill set Johanna Maska pictured translates well to the private sector. with Barack Obama As Director of Press Advance for President Obama, I travelled with the candidate, then the president, and managed the images that cameras would capture and what they would say to the wider world. I started in Iowa, where no one expected us to win. I went on with President Obama to the White House, where I led teams all over the world, travelled to 40 countries, and helped him build a global brand. Here’s what never changed: We stood for something. We had an amazingly diverse energetic team. And we refused to give up. Johanna Maska, CEO of Global Situation Room, will be speaking at the Entrepreneurship Export Exchange (E3) Conference at Enterprise Ireland, Dublin on April 17th, an event designed to help small and medium firms go global. For more details visit e3conferences.com.

Here are some lessons that can be applied to a small firm’s journey to success. DREAM BIG DREAMS When you’re first building something, I find that most people are sceptics. After you’re successful, those same people will say, “I always knew you were going to win.” I didn’t care when people questioned what I was doing because I didn’t worry about losing. I simply believed. BE HUMBLE, BUT MAP THE ROUTE TO SUCCESS I remember early on in the campaign, the candidate, then Senator Obama, joined a conference call, during which a mistake was made – a gaffe. It was a rocky moment but he said to us: “I’m not going to be a perfect candidate. And none of you are going to be perfect. But we need to try everyday to be better.” We mapped a route to success, stuck with it, and worked harder everyday to do better. THINK BIGGER People often ask me to trace back to the moment when I knew we were going to win. The answer is I wasn’t really sure until we did. However, the story we told wasn’t about winning. I remember when Senator Obama started telling the ‘fired up, ready to go’ story. It’s a story about a woman in the back of a small room at an otherwise forgettable meet and greet. She stood up, and chanted “fired up, ready to go”. Senator Obama told the story because he said he had started feeling fired up and ready to go himself. He said it taught him that if one voice can change a room, one voice can change a state, one voice can change a nation, one voice can change the world. That’s what we wanted to do. And I believe that’s what we did.

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Events  SFA National Small Business Awards 2018

BIG WINS FOR SMALL FIRMS SECOND GENERATION FAMILY BUSINESS BRIODY BEDDING WAS THE OVERALL WINNER AT THIS YEAR’S SFA NATIONAL SMALL BUSINESS AWARDS.

O

n Thursday February 22nd 2018, the SFA National Small Business Awards – now in their 14th year – culminated with the announcement of Briody Bedding as the overall winner. Briody Bedding is based in Ballinrink, Co. Meath, employing 50 people. It is one of the largest and most comprehensive bedding and furniture manufacturers in Ireland and produces a diversified line of mattress and foundation products. The aim of the awards is to celebrate the achievements of small business in Ireland, and to recognise the vital contribution of the small business sector to the Irish economy. The winners were selected from hundreds of applications received by the SFA for the 2018 programme and all shortlisted companies had the opportunity to showcase their products and services at the Business Connect event at Aviva Stadium on February 1st. Speaking at the awards gala ceremony, SFA Chair Sue O’Neill said: “In our growing economy, the companies we are recognising with these awards are doing well. They are creating employment. Evident amongst them is a strategic approach to diversification in order to combat the immediate and potential future effects of Brexit. Small businesses contributed to the recovery of our economy by making difficult decisions in times of recession. They are proving yet again their resilience and flexibility when faced with new challenges.”

The category winners are: > Manufacturing (sponsored by Energia).................. Briody Bedding, Meath > Food & Drink (sponsored by Bord Bia).......................Revive Active, Galway > Services (sponsored by Three)................................. Irish Tax Rebates, Kildare Highly commended.............................................................Kerona Scientific, Dublin > Outstanding Small Business - up to five employees (sponsored by AIB)............................................................................TheTaste.ie, Dublin Highly commended................................................Mezzo Music Academy, Dublin > Innovator of the Year (sponsored by Enterprise Ireland).....................Aalto Bio Reagents, Dublin >S  ustainable Energy (sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) ..............................................Courtown Adventure and Leisure Centre, Wexford Highly commended.............................Starting Small Standing Tall, Limerick > E xporter of the Year (sponsored by DHL).....................................Good4U, Sligo

David Briody, Director, Briody Bedding; Sven Spollen-Behrens, SFA Director; Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair

SERVICES Irish Tax Rebates provides a professional accountancy service to all PAYE employees. A team of accountants and tax advisers offer expert taxation advice, and act in the best interest of all clients, maximising any potential overpayments of tax, and saving clients the need to deal with the complexities of the Revenue system themselves. Irish Tax Rebates enables clients to access its services via a simple online form in a very cost-effective manner.

Martin Brennan, Director, Irish Tax Rebates, said: “From the day that we applied we got notification straight away. And then about four weeks later we were told that we had gotten to the final five. We were delighted with that and since then the SFA have been great to us. Winning is very good accreditation to have as well.”

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SFA National Small Business Awards 2018  Events

MANUFACTURING Meath-based Briody Bedding is one of the largest and most comprehensive bedding and furniture manufacturers in Ireland and produces a diversified line of mattress and foundation products. All products are manufactured in Ireland and distributed to furniture retailers throughout the country on a daily basis. Brands by Briody include Briody Bedding, Spring Air, Therapedic and The Pocket Spring Bed Company.

David Briody, Director, Briody Bedding

David Briody, Director, Briody Bedding, said: “It’s a great achievement for our staff and our management. They work really hard. We’re really delighted to get this award. To be nominated in the first place is a great achievement, but to go on and win the actual award, it gives great credibility going forward for our company.”

FOOD & DRINK Revive Active is a Galway brand that formulates and markets high quality super supplements for the global market. From humble beginnings in 2011, Revive now has six products on the market selling through 1,000 retail outlets in Ireland and 50 in London. Through its online portal it has exported to 42 countries worldwide. In 2017 Revive Active was listed 414th in the top 1,000 fastest growing companies in Europe by the London Financial Times.

Sue O’Neill, Chair, SFA, Heather Humphreys, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Martin Brennan, Irish Tax Rebates, Padraig Sheerin, Head of SME Sales, Three, sponsor of the Services Award

Sue O’Neill, Chair, SFA, Heather Humphreys, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Daithi O’Connor, Revive Active, Ailish Forde, Food & Beverage Strategy and Planning Director, Bord Bia, sponsor of the Food and Drink Award

Daithi O’Connor, MD, Revive Active, said: “Tonight is fantastic; I think the best way for solving problems and learning things is to meet other people who are in business, so you get that opportunity. For us, to be lucky enough to be an award winner gives huge credibility to our company. We’ll be bringing this along with the McCarthy Cup across the Shannon!” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 63

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Events  SFA National Small Business Awards 2018

SUSTAINABLE ENERGY Courtown Adventure and Leisure Centre in the sunny south-east offers a fantastic range of exciting indoor and outdoor adventures for all. Facilities include a 25-metre swimming pool, a learner pool, kids’ slides, a 65m water slide, a fully equipped gym, fitness classes, dual zip wire, climbing walls, laser tag and orienteering. With the beach and seal sanctuary nearby, this non-profit making centre run by professional staff provides a perfect family day out.

Margaret Quinn and Sabina Williams from Courtown Adventure and Leisure Centre

OUTSTANDING SMALL BUSINESS

Margaret Quinn, General Manager, Courtown Adventure and Leisure Centre, said: “The SFA have been fantastic. They inform us about what the latest trends are, how to best run our business and have been really good in dealing with the media, publicity, marketing and dealing with the newspapers. So it has been fantastic.”

EXPORTER OF THE YEAR Good4U is a family-run company that has been producing healthy food and snacks since 2005. Good4U products are on the shelves of some of the world’s largest retail chains in both branded and private label and are available in eight countries across the globe. Good4U products include sprouted seeds, energy balls, super seed snacks and seed pots available in both retail and catering ranges. Its vision is to become the world’s most loved and trusted health food brand.

Led by husband and wife team Keith and Jules Mahon, TheTaste.ie is a digital food, drink and travel magazine. A new format of writing dedicated to Ireland’s growing foodie culture, it has grown to five million readers in just two years. Now the most read food magazine in Ireland, a team of five passionate writers based in Drumcondra achieved intermational recognition in 2016 when it was awarded Best Digital Food Magazine at the Gourmand World Awards.

INNOVATOR OF THE YEAR Featured in this issue’s Small Business Profile, Aalto Bio Reagents is celebrating its 40th year in business. The company manufactures and provides leading-edge biological raw materials to the largest diagnostic and pharmaceutical companies around the world with a particular focus on the tropical disease sector. Its aim is to act as an extension of its customer’s R&D department, working with each individual client to address their specific product needs.

Michelle Butler, Product Development Director, Good4U

Michelle Butler, Product Development Director, Good4U, said: “It was a wonderful marketing opportunity. We learned some very valuable tools at the masterclass event in Athlone and the Business Connect event in the Aviva was brilliant.”

Philip Noone, MD, Aalto Bio Reagents, said: “I very much liked the format of the Business Connect event. I thought it was very inclusive. I thought it was a great idea to have all of the companies showcasing their products, networking there obviously, but also the idea of bringing the groups together and having them talking through a workshop format, I thought worked particularly well this year.”

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SFA National Small Business Awards 2018  Events

EMERGING NEW BUSINESS In addition, the five companies selected as Emerging New Businesses (up to 50 employees and under two years’ old), sponsored by IE Domain Registry were: > Duffy Chartered Engineers Ireland (Louth) is a multidisciplinary chartered engineering consultancy providing civil, structural and traffic engineering services. > Happy Scribe (Dublin) is a transcription-as-a-service platform for the research and media communities. > HEATESE (Meath) is an innovative clean technology company dedicated to reducing carbon emissions and fuel use.

Sue O’Neill, Chair, SFA, Heather Humphreys, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Keith Mahon, The Taste.ie, Catherine Moroney, Head of Business Banking, AIB, sponsor of the Outstanding Small Business Award

> Medlaw Reporting (Dublin) is a medicolegal firm, interfacing between the medical, legal and insurance professions to ensure the efficient provision of medicolegal reporting. > Zoan BioMed (Galway) is a medical device start-up specialising in bone healing and repair.

Keith Mahon, MD, TheTaste.ie, said: “The Business Connect this year was very impressive. It was in the Aviva Stadium and the speakers that were there were amazing. It was a great networking opportunity to hear about all the other different businesses and the challenges they go through – you get an awful lot from that.”

Sue O’Neill, Chair, SFA, Heather Humphreys, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation with Emerging New Business winners, Declan Clarke, Zoan BioMed, Patrick Kiely, Heatese, Sean Carroll, Medlaw Reporting, Thomas McGuinness, Duffy Chartered Engineers Ireland, David Curtin, CEO, IE Domain Registry, sponsor of the Emerging New Business category

AWARD SPONSORS The SFA would like to thank this year’s award sponsors:

Philip Noone and Audrey Bradley from Aalto Bio Reagents

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We’re not a department store, but we help retailers bag success. Three’s connectivity helps retailers improve their customer experience with a service that’s fast, reliable and personalised. Discover what Three’s connectivity, support and expertise can do for your business.

Call 1800 200 002 or visit three.ie/business.

Three. Make it count.

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Partner Profile

CELEBRATING SMALL BUSINESS SMALL BUSINESSES ARE AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THE IRISH ECONOMY AND SHOULD BE CELEBRATED, SAYS PADRAIG SHEERIN, HEAD OF SME AT THREE IRELAND, SPONSORS OF THE 2018 SFA NATIONAL SMALL BUSINESS AWARDS. This year, Three Ireland is once again showing strong support for small Irish businesses. Not only is this demonstrated in the services that it provides, but for the sixth consecutive year, the company has sponsored the SFA National Small Business Awards, which celebrate the achievements of small businesses across the country. In terms of services for small businesses, 3Connect is Three Ireland's office telephony service that integrates to customers' mobile phones. It allows users to transfer their business voice telephony service from traditional lines onto a data network, providing unified communications features and fixed mobile convergence as standard. In layman's terms, it allows small businesses to move away from traditional fixed line and on-site telephone systems onto more cloudbased platforms. “Something that helps us stand out, and that we're really proud of, is our customer care offering,” explains Sheerin. “We have teams in Limerick and Dublin that are very passionate about what they do and are very passionate about their customers. We constantly gather and track customer and market feedback to enable us to continuously improve that service to customers.”

Challenging Times

Small businesses today face their fair share of challenges, something that Sheerin witnesses on a day-to-daybasis through his engagement with small business owners. “Wage inflation is an ongoing challenge for small Irish businesses. And then with low unemployment levels, both attracting and keeping the right talent and the right skills is difficult,” he says. “Brexit

Padraig Sheerin, Head of SME, Three Ireland

is another obvious challenge – I think everyone is seeking out clarity in what the future will look like, so that continues to bring a level of uncertainty and a challenge to small businesses in general. These things on top of the general costs of doing business, they're probably the main challenges that Irish businesses are facing.” Yet conversely, he adds, there are opportunities to be exploited also – often arising from these very challenges. Brexit, in particular, offers Irish SMEs an opportunity to grow and improve by seeking out new markets. “I think Brexit has been a catalyst for people just to take a step back and look again at whether they're too heavily dependent on the UK market, or to realise that perhaps this is just another opportunity to add other markets on top of what they're doing already,” says Sheerin.

Bringing Businesses Together

As the SFA says, Ireland is a nation of small businesses. For that reason, it is important that we have events such as the SFA National Small Business Awards, which provide an opportunity to not only showcase the work of these companies, but, as Sheerin explains, to serve as an important function to the businesses themselves. “I think these events provide an opportunity to bring businesses together – to network with their peers or similar companies, or companies that are completely different,” he suggests. “It's an opportunity to get them all into a room to share ideas and opportunities. It's also a really good opportunity to bring large and small firms together to share experience, to share opportunities, and to share ideas.”

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HAVE YOU GOT

BIG IDEAS?

We provide Small Loans for Small Businesses with Big Ideas Visit www.microfinanceireland.ie today or talk to your Local Enterprise Office

Microfinance Ireland (MFI) benefits from a guarantee funded by the European Union under the Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EASI) Programme.

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Access to Finance  Partner Feature

ALTERNATIVE PATHS TO

FINANCE SMALL FIRMS IN IRELAND ARE HEAVILY DEPENDANT ON THE MAINSTREAM BANKS FOR ACCESS TO FINANCE, BUT A NUMBER OF LENDERS ARE PRESENTING BUSINESSES WITH VIABLE ALTERNATIVES.

70 LINKED FINANCE

71

MICROFINANCE IRELAND

72

CLOSE BROTHERS COMMERCIAL FINANCE

While the economy has been improving in recent years, the ease at which Irish businesses can get the necessary funding to grow is worse than it was two years ago and represents the dominant barrier for new businesses. This is according to the findings of a recent survey of over 250 business owners/managers throughout Ireland, carried out by accounting software firm Big Red Cloud. Traditionally, Irish small businesses in need of funding would have been heavily dependent on bank finance, particularly when compared to other European countries. Indeed, this remains the case today, with bank lending still the most popular form of financing for small businesses around the country. While the findings of the Big Red Cloud survey are a concern, the growing number of alternative

financing options available to small firms that have sprung up in recent years is cause for optimism. In the following pages, several alternative avenues of funding are on show – lenders offering viable financing options other than those provided by the mainstream banks. Small businesses are no longer bound to the will of the banks, with lenders such as Linked Finance, Microfinance Ireland and Close Brothers Commercial Finance presenting small firms with the opportunity to gain access to the essential funding that they need to establish themselves and grow. Ultimately, these more flexible funding options will allow smaller firms to thrive and drive the Irish economy, creating jobs and the entrepreneurial spirit and environment of innovation that naturally comes with a healthy small business sector. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 69

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Partner Profile 

Access to Finance

BUSINESS LENDING FOR A DIGITAL AGE LAUNCHED IN MARCH 2013, LINKED FINANCE CONTINUES TO CHANGE THE WAY THAT BUSINESSES GAIN ACCESS TO FUNDING. The technological revolution has touched almost every aspect of our lives, spreading throughout society to alter the very manner in which we live and work. This includes the way in which small businesses gain access to finance, as the growth of peer-to-peer (P2P) lending services exhibits. The idea behind P2P lending is relatively straightforward – using technology to connect businesses in need of funding with online lenders with money to invest. It aims, in essence, to cut out the middleman in business lending, helping borrowers to access funding easily and securely. In Ireland, Linked Finance is at the forefront of this sector, focusing particularly on helping Irish SMEs to access finance. The company was launched in March 2013 and has grown exponentially in the years that followed, with lending on the site effectively doubling each year. As of February 2018, Linked Finance had provided more than 1,300 loans and €46 million in funding to Irish businesses across every county of the country, supporting the creation of more than 2,400 new Irish jobs. It allows businesses to gain access to the funds they need to grow and allows the lenders to make a fair return. "The real power of P2P lending lies in the fact that ordinary people are coming together to get behind homegrown SMEs,” remarks Niall Dorrian, CEO at Linked Finance. “They’re helping to create jobs, support local communities, and at the same time, making healthy returns.” The process of dealing with Linked Finance is exceedingly simple, particularly when one remembers the reams of paperwork that a loan from the traditional financial institutions

Niall Dorrian, CEO, Linked Finance and Marc O’Dwyer, CEO, Big Red Cloud

once entailed. Business owners can apply online at linkedfinance.com. It takes only a couple of minutes, and one can expect a credit decision in a matter of hours. Once approved, loan requests can be listed on the Linked Finance marketplace, where they are funded by a community of thousands of local lenders. Loans are typically funded in a matter of hours, and businesses can access the funds in a matter of days – by no means the weeks or months associated with more traditional means. Simply put, Linked Finance allows ordinary people with savings to connect and lend to creditworthy businesses that wish to borrow. It is taking the technological revolution into

the realm of business lending, making it easier than ever for Irish SMEs to access the funds they need to succeed.

Why borrow through Linked Finance • You get a same-day credit decision • You can borrow up to €250,000 • No early repayment penalties • A friendly, no-hassle approach • It can help you promote your business • You can win new customers as part of the process

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Partner Profile 

Access to Finance

FINANCING SMALL BUSINESS GARRETT STOKES, CEO OF MICROFINANCE IRELAND (MFI), TELLS BETTER BUSINESS ABOUT THE SERVICES HIS ORGANISATION OFFERS TO MICROENTERPRISES, AS WELL AS TRENDS WITHIN THE SECTOR. “We do not compete with the banks,” explains Microfinance Ireland (MFI) CEO Garrett Stokes. “We are here to help small businesses who are struggling to get loans through traditional lending channels, such as the banks.” As a not-for-profit lender, Microfinance Ireland offers two services – business loan facilities and business mentoring. It lends up to €25,000 to microenterprises that are either setting up or expanding their operations. These loans can be for working capital or business investment purposes, and are for a period of up to five years. All successful applications can avail of mentoring services to enhance their skills in a range of business disciplines, such as finance or marketing. Start-ups can avail of up to three

mentoring sessions, paid for by MFI and provided through the local enterprise office network. “As the economy has improved, we have seen an increased desire for people to get into business for themselves,” asserts Stokes. “We have seen strong ongoing demand for our services. The microenterprise sector, and in particular start-ups, is a difficult sector for banks to lend to, due to the lack of security, legacy debt issues, lack of experience and a range of other factors.” Last year saw application volumes to MFI rise by around 10 per cent. A record number of 400 loans, totalling €5.5 million, were approved in 2017, supporting the creation and sustainment of over 1,100 jobs. This brings the number

Garrett Stokes, CEO, Microfinance Ireland

of new jobs supported by MFI since its establishment five years ago to 3,952 – through €22.6m in approved loans. The recent announcement that MFI has signed an agreement with the European Investment Bank under the European Commission's EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) will ensure that MFI's work will continue into the future. The agreement will support MFI in providing an additional €30m in loans to micro-borrowers over the next five years. It adds to Stokes' optimism about the lending landscape for microbusinesses. “While Brexit will continue to be an issue until its impacts become clearer, I believe 2018 should be very positive for microenterprise lending,” he says. “From the sources of our applications, we can see the economic recovery moving from Dublin and the other larger populations across the country, and as consumer sentiment continues to improve, the viability of microenterprises becomes more robust and the ability to borrow [becomes] easier.” MFI operates within a maximum turnaround time of ten days, but Stokes claims that if all the necessary documentation is in place to allow for assessment, the process can take as little as five days, from receiving the application to the loan funds being lodged in the applicant's account. “We particularly focus on financially vulnerable sectors, such as young entrepreneurs, females, migrants, unemployed and seniors,” says Stokes. “No idea or business is too small for us. Once we can establish the viability of the business, sufficient cashflow, and the strength of the promoter, we are happy to support.”

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Partner Profile 

Access to Finance

ON HAND TO SUPPORT SMES CLOSE BROTHERS COMMERCIAL FINANCE PROVIDES FAST DECISIONS, FLEXIBLE FUNDING AND SIMPLE ACCESS TO WORKING CAPITAL FOR SMES, WRITES ADRIAN MADDEN, HEAD OF SALES IRELAND. Ten years ago, Close Brothers Commercial Finance opened its doors on the cusp of the global banking crisis and recession that followed. While mainstream banks reined in their appetite for business lending, Close Brothers Commercial Finance was on hand to support SMEs by making sure they had the funding they needed to run their businesses successfully. Close Brothers Commercial Finance is part of Close Brothers Group plc, a FTSE250 leading UK merchant banking group. It offers alternative funding solutions – specifically asset finance, which includes hire purchase, refinancing, finance or operating lease, and sale and HP back. The asset finance side of the business has more than doubled over the last three years. Asset finance allows SMEs to purchase or refinance capital equipment for transport, engineering machinery, construction and plant, fitouts and IT equipment by spreading the cost over an agreed period. It is ideal for SMEs that have a capital expenditure/investment plan, providing them with a simple and flexible option. Invoice finance is another option, which provides fast access to cash tied up in outstanding customer invoices. This type of funding is more flexible than an overdraft or a loan, and can grow as the business does. The marketleading invoice finance system offered by Close Brothers works alongside the SME’s financial accounting software, is self-reconciling and can release up to 90 per cent of the value of invoices as soon as they have been raised. The Close Brothers Business Barometer, a quarterly survey of over 900 SMEs across Ireland and the UK, reports that 50 per cent of those using

Adrian Madden, Head of Sales Ireland, Close Brothers Commercial Finance invoice finance across Ireland do so because it grows in line with company turnover, while the other half says it was recommended as the best option by their financial adviser. Asset based lending (ABL) is a product that can offer higher levels of funding for larger companies with a funding requirement from €2.8m to €49m. ABL combines an invoice finance facility with additional funding provided against assets such as stock, property or plant and machinery. This type of finance is commonly used for facilitating strategic plans such as a complete refinancing, an acquisition or a merger, but it can also provide additional working capital as required to finance growth. Alternative finance is growing in popularity, with many financial advisers now recommending it. More than one in

five companies across Ireland, surveyed by the Business Barometer, are planning to seek capital for business investment this year. Products such as asset finance, invoice finance and ABL offer versatile ways to fund this investment. Close Brothers continues to be a leading provider of asset, invoice finance and ABL across Ireland, providing fast decisions, flexible funding and simple access to increased working capital for SMEs. Our team of specialists have extensive experience within a variety of sectors, offering local decision-making and bespoke packages for businesses from our offices in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Belfast. For more information, visit www.closecommercialfinance.ie or call +353 1 699 4260.

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When Darren opened The Organic Supermarket in Blackrock, he Initially received bank support to get started, but with the business growing, he needed additional bank funding and was turned down. Refusing to give up on what he knew was a viable business, he approached the Credit Review OfďŹ ce to appeal the decision

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15/03/2018 15:18


Partner Profile

BRIDGING THE GAP CONSUMER HABITS HAVE CHANGED IN TERMS OF HOW PEOPLE SHOP AND PAY FOR GOODS AND SERVICES, BUT SMALL BUSINESSES ARE STRUGGLING TO MEET THESE NEEDS, WRITES MAEVE DORMAN, VP OF MERCHANT OPERATIONS FOR EUROPE, THE MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA, PAYPAL. The increasing popularity of online shopping, coupled with the continuous growth of mobile devices, has transformed the way in which people buy products, pay for services and transfer money. With competition rife and survival at stake, it is vital that small businesses bridge the gap between what customers want and what they, as sellers, are providing. Viewing this as a time of opportunity, in which the customer experience becomes the focus and is capitalised upon, could see small Irish businesses increase their sales potential and reach global markets.

Consumer-Friendly

Customer experience has never been more important with the demand for mobile-friendly websites at an all-time high and increasing numbers of people shopping on-the-go. Having a website that is easy to navigate, and offers a quick and simple checkout process

with a range of secure payment options, is key. For example, PayPal helps to streamline the checkout stage by reducing the amount of clicks required and enabling the user to pay without having to zoom and fill in details on a small screen. Nowadays, customers demand more; they want to enjoy the shopping process whilst also feeling valued and engaged. By innovating the customer experience, and adopting payment methods that consumers are using, Irish businesses can deliver an improved and positive service. In turn, the customer is more likely to spend more and return in the future, thus increasing sales and generating customer loyalty.

A Global Reach

Establishing and developing a mobileenabled website that facilitates online shopping and processes payments seamlessly is not only beneficial for

Maeve Dorman, Vice-President of Merchant Operations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, PayPal

customers on home soil, it also allows businesses to reach and provide for potential customers in other countries. This is something that PayPal can help to facilitate. Our PassPort service is one which supports small businesses in expanding their reach and offers practical guidance on customs, international shipping and currency exchange. Just look at MicksGarage.com as an example of a company that fully grasped the online opportunity. Founded in 2003 by two brothers from Mayo, MicksGarage.com has grown to be one of Ireland and the UK’s largest car parts and accessories online retailers, delivering 10 million products to over 70 countries worldwide. We have been lucky enough to work closely with them throughout their exciting journey. Utilising PayPal not only brings confidence, convenience and security to shoppers, due to the trust and high-quality experience that people associate with the logo, it also creates a favourable experience for sellers. As well as the business receiving payments instantly, they will also be more protected against fraudulent transactions. Furthermore, offering PayPal as a payment option creates an incredible and unique opportunity for businesses. With over 227 million customers in more than 200 markets, it opens up the possibility of expanding and growing sales across the world. The fact is consumer habits have changed and if Irish businesses fail to meet these needs, in terms of online and payment enablement, their future could be under threat. Bridging the gap between demand and supply has never been more vital, or profitable.

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Partner Profile

COUNTDOWN TO GDPR PROTECT YOUR DIGITAL DATA WITH INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS, ADVISES NSAI’S HEAD OF BUSINESS EXCELLENCE, FERGAL O’BYRNE. As technology becomes more prevalent in our lives, we are often so reliant on innovative features, automatic software updates and ease of use that we don’t stop to think about what this means for our privacy and security. The ability to switch on lights or even boil the kettle using just our voices may prove irresistible to some, but when this internet-connected technology is not protected, we may be inadvertently exposing ourselves and our loved ones. The same is true for businesses that store customers’ personal records and commercially sensitive information. Detailed customer data enables them to provide us with the products and services that we expect. But where such data contains personal, financial or medical information, companies have both a moral and legal obligation to keep it safe from cyber criminals. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into force in May, that

Transpoco is among the many companies to have acquired ISO 27001 certification

obligation has taken on a new urgency. That’s where international standards from the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) come in. Hundreds of Irish organisations have already decided to implement a strong information security management system by getting certified to ISO 27001. ISO 27001 is designed to bring benefits to any type of business and is applicable to all users, including small and medium sized organisations. “ISO 27001 forms the scaffolding required for companies to engage in best practice behaviours,” says NSAI’s Head of Business Excellence, Fergal O’Byrne. “They still have to do the hard work but, with a little help from NSAI, the time they commit to establishing best practice in cybersecurity will be time well spent.” Among the businesses that have already made the journey is Transpoco, a provider of fleet telematics solutions

that helps companies manage vehicles, guaranteeing the highest safety standards. The Glasnevinbased business began life as a GPS tracking provider, before expanding its capability to provide complete cloud fleet management solutions. Today, it is widening its focus further to connected vehicles and automotive OEM technology research – and that requires the most robust information security practices. “Companies can no longer overlook information security in the big data era and should have processes in place to prevent data from being accessed, corrupted, lost or stolen,” says Rebeca Luna, Transpoco’s Information Security Manager. “We know this from our long experience with vehicle data. The ISO 27001 certification helps us in making our processes better and shows our adherence to a recognised standard. In addition to our existing ISO 9001 certification, it is an extra step for us to further demonstrate this commitment and reassure that information is protected, in full alignment with the GDPR requirements coming into effect in May.” With more and more of us willingly ready to compromise our privacy and security in exchange for what we regard as more valuable access to state-of-theart technology, the onus is on businesses to ensure that this data is secure. While the real test will come in May with the introduction of the GDPR, companies like Transpoco can be confident that they are putting their best foot forward. NSAI’s Business Excellence team is available to answer any queries relating to Management Systems Certifications. For more information, visit www.nsai.ie/ management-systems.

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Lifestyle  Motoring

ARTEON

Unveiled Arteon. VOLKSWAGEN’S UNOFFICIAL CC REPLACEMENT HAS ARRIVED IN THE FORM OF THE ARTEON, A FIVEDOOR COUPE WITH MAJOR ASPIRATIONS. CONOR FORREST GETS BEHIND THE WHEEL TO DISCOVER MORE.

The name itself brings some mysterious or mythological being to mind – an ancient Greek god, or perhaps Hercules’ dog. It’s actually a rather distinct-looking five-door coupe made by Volkswagen, sitting just above the Passat in their current line-up (formerly occupied by the CC). First things first – the elephant in the room. The Arteon could be described as a Passat-and-a-half, but it’s quite a bit more expensive than its little brother. My mid-spec Elegance model with a couple of extras (think sunroof, tech upgrades, winter pack) costs a sizeable €52,497. Even the entry-level version will set you back a cool €41,495. So is it worth it? To be honest, it’s a little hard to justify the price-tag, but you do get quite the bang for your buck. If it’s comfort and proper quality you’re after, the Arteon delivers in spades. Regardless of the surface, the body soaks up the punishment. Steering is perfectly balanced, more so than any other car I’ve driven in recent months. Driving dynamics are impressive and there’s never a hint that it can’t cope even on wet and windy roads, though it’s more of a motorway cruiser than a weekend thrillseeker. Despite its size (5cm longer than the Passat), it’s easy to park, and it’s well-insulated to boot. Standard spec includes a multi-function steering wheel, digital instrument clusters, handy 12V and 230V outlets, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a variety of safety features including predictive cruise – a nifty piece of tech that uses GPS and radar to maintain distance from the car in front

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Motoring  Lifestyle

Volkswagen Arteon Elegance Engine: 2.0TDI Power: 150bhp 0-100km/h: 9.4s Top speed: 222km/h CO2 emissions: 116g/km Annual tax: €200 Price: €52,497 (as tested)

but also slows you down as you approach bends or turn-offs on your sat nav route. It’s quite good-looking too, building on Volkswagen’s strides with the Passat and delivering a sleeker, more stylish and sculpted machine that stands out on the road among a sea of bland shapes. There’s plenty of power delivered from the 150bhp 2.0TDi, a responsive (and somewhat noisy) block that delivered 0-100km/h in 9.4 seconds via the smooth seven-speed DSG gearbox in my test model, with plenty of torque mid-range for overtaking. There’s a balance between performance and economy – even with a heavy foot I managed 5.4L/100km (52mpg) over the course of a week. There are other options too – 150hp and 190hp petrol and diesel versions, as well as the range-topping 240hp TDi that’s only available in R-Line spec and starts at €56,250 for those who

don’t need to worry about trips to refuel. A V6 would be quite nice. Inside, the Arteon is familiar to anyone who’s owned a Passat, which is both good for ease of use and bad as the likes of Audi and BMW offer a more premium design. Still, it’s perfectly set up for the driver – everything within easy reach, a comfortable driving position even if you’re tall and long of leg, while the handy headup display means you don’t need to take your eyes off the road. The media centre is intuitive and responsive, the digital instrument panel can be tweaked to display information ranging from speed to your compass direction, the seats are figurehugging and reminiscent of armchairs, and there’s plenty of space too. The Arteon’s position is probably its most pressing problem. While the entry-level version is cheaper than five-door coupe

competitors like the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe, the Audi A5 Sportback or Mercedes’ CLS, for those who still enjoy a spot of badge snobbery, the likes of BMW or Audi may win out, particularly when comparing interiors or driving dynamics. Nor is it a huge jump from the Passat – one with the same powertrain as the Arteon I test drove will cost €39,250 in its top spec. And yet I’ve been strangely captivated by the Arteon. As a replacement (unofficial, of course) for the CC, it’s a welcome step up for VW. There’s more space than its rivals and it comes out on top for safety – five stars in the Euro NCAP tests and an impressive range of safety tech. Volkswagen’s best looking vehicle, it’s a beautiful car with a real presence on the road for less money than an A5. And it’s always nice to see something new that isn’t a crossover. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 77

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Arts  Culture

A

SCENES OF

GRAPHIC nature

STREET ART IS BECOMING A MORE PROMINENT FORM OF ARTISTIC AND POLITICAL EXPRESSION IN DUBLIN, WHICH HAS ALREADY LED TO SOME TENSION BETWEEN ARTISTS AND OFFICIALS. DEAN VAN NGUYEN REPORTS.

mprinting artwork on public spaces has been happening since the first societies dragged themselves up from hunting and gathering. Consider its modern day form to be our version of cave art – where vital social messages are laid out in interesting, visceral ways that cut to the bone. Street art and graffiti offers a guerrilla method of making public statements about the political and societal fabric that the artists live and operate within. Banksy is the most obvious person to point to as someone who has harnessed the art

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Culture  Arts

“IT BOILS DOWN TO DOING THINGS YOUR OWN WAY BECAUSE YOU FIRMLY BELIEVE IN THE CULTURE YOU ARE PUSHING, AS OPPOSED TO SOMEONE JUST TRYING TO CASH IN ON WHAT THEY CONSIDER A TREND. STORMZY EPITOMISED THIS APPROACH FOR US.” Stormzy visited the Subset mural of him in Smithfield, Dublin in March 2017

The following year, that same wall became a canvas for Gearoid O’Dea’s artwork commemorating three women who each played an important role in the Easter Rising: Countess Markievicz, Margaret Pearse and Grace Gifford-Plunkett. The summer of 2016 saw Irish street artist Maser’s Repeal the 8th mural appear on the front of the Project Arts Centre. The red and white image featuring a large heart has since become a symbol of Irish pro-choice activism. And last year, a giant mural of UK grime star Stormzy was painted in Smithfield, though for perhaps less political purposes. As Subset, the collective behind the work said at the time, “We chose to use Stormzy as the concept for the production due to the fact we all think he is a complete boyo.” The man himself took to Twitter to show his gratitude and approval.

In The Shadows

Joseph O’Connor

form’s full power. But while his work gets compiled into books and sells for fortunes, those at the other end of the scale often see their work dismissed as unruly and an eyesore. Sometimes their political points upset certain audiences. But occasionally you have to court a little controversy to make truly impactful work, right? Street art has become more prominent in Dublin in recent years. Appearing on the side of a building on the corner of Dame Street and George’s Street, Joe Caslin’s mural of two men embracing became one of the most iconic, lasting images of the Marriage Equality Referendum in 2015.

I reached out to Subset hoping for an interview. In typically shadowy, underground fashion, the collective only agreed to answer questions via email and did not reveal which individual was behind the account. Communicating through the digital porthole, Subset – which itself created a Repeal-themed piece that featured an image of Pope Francis – revealed its satisfaction at the recent wave of inventiveness. “Outdoor Artwork – we prefer not to place artists in boxes by labelling their work as ‘Street Art’ or ‘Graffiti’ – in Ireland has gone from strength to strength over the course of the past five to ten years,” Subset writes. “The standard of the output and the quality of the concepts is continuously evolving and improving. For a relatively small community of artists we are slowly

but surely making a global name for ourselves and our country. There is an incredibly long road ahead but hopefully we can continue to make waves and pave the way for our future creatives. Ireland has the potential to be a cultural juggernaut within three years.” The collective reveals it was inspired to create the Stormzy piece after feeling its movement was closely aligned with the UK grime scene. “Take the record labels, which essentially are the same as marketing agencies,” writes Subset. “When grime first started the artists were told by the labels that the genre had no longevity and that they needed to be more hip-hop orientated. And if they want to sell records, they need the labels to sell the records for them. We can relate. “Usually when an entity like agency or label don’t understand the culture they are trying to capitalise on they just put it in the box they think it will sell best in. Our culture doesn’t fit in a box because it is continuously evolving. Basically it boils down to doing things your own way because you firmly believe in the culture you are pushing, as opposed to someone just trying to cash in on what they consider a trend. Stormzy epitomised this approach for us.”

Problems This growth in street art’s prominence has led to some clashes with authorities. In November, some six months after the Stormzy mural first appeared, it was reported that Dublin City Council was threatening to remove the mural as Subset failed to obtain planning permission for the project. In response, Subset told TheJournal.ie that it didn’t file the paperwork simply because it couldn’t afford the cost. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 79

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Arts  Culture

A Repeal-themed piece by Subset featuring an image of Pope Francis

Additionally, a Subset mural of a woman painted on the side of a building on Castlewood Avenue in Rathmines led to a warning letter from the council insisting that it be removed. In response, Subset painted over half of the piece to demonstrate how comparitavely drab the wall looks as a blank canvas. At the Stormzy piece, Subset added the image of a man in white overalls painting over the original mural, as well as including an ironic plaque describing the “Grey Wall” as a “standout piece in Dublin City Council’s continuing series on the transience and meaninglessness of art. The drab, lifeless scene drains the colour from its surroundings, giving a stark warning about the threat of bureaucracy to imagination. A powerful statement to Smithfield’s growing creative community about the fragility of art.” The original artwork has now been totally painted over.

Maser’s Repeal the 8th mural didn’t last nearly as long. The Project Arts Centre painted over it after quickly receiving a warning notice from the council stating that the work was in violation of planning law.

Lawful Recent incidents have inspired politicians to assert that Dublin City Council needs clear policy for street art. “We now need to look at what the current legislation is and what definitions we will adopt,” Labour councilor Rebecca Moynihan told Dublin Inquirer recently. Street art currently falls under the Planning and Development Acts, 2001-2015. It’s up to the council’s planning department to enforce the rules for artworks that don’t have planning permission. Speaking to Dublin Inquirer, Moynihan asserted her belief that the City Arts Office should get involved by developing a clear policy towards

Subset

“WE ARE STILL LARGELY BOUND BY CONVENTIONAL THOUGHT AND THE STATUS QUO, BUT WE ARE DEFINITELY CLOSE TO REMOVING THOSE SHACKLES.”

street art. That may help bring a greater consistency to what is and isn’t allowed. Regardless of whether they’re operating within or outside the law is unlikely to temper the creativity of many of the artists, though. Subset, it seems, will be around regardless of where the debate goes. The collective writes: “To quote Gregory Curtis from a section of his book The Cave Painters, ‘Cave art is the art that humans produced when there were no traditions or rules of representation to tell them how art and culture must be produced’. This is the tack we are trying to take with our productions. We say trying as we are not quite there yet, we are still largely bound by conventional thought and the status quo, but we are definitely close to removing those shackles. And that is why large format outdoor artwork is so important. It can be a catalyst for free thought and everything that comes with it.”

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Affinity scheme

Events and networking opportunities

HR and employment law advice

So, why should you join the SFA?

Business advice and support services

Access to Government

Learn more about us at www.sfa.ie/joinusnow Otherwise email info@sfa.ie or telephone (01) 605 1664 www.linkedin.com/company/small-firms-association

@SFA_Irl

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What’s on your

You’re not alone When it comes to coping www.turn2me.org

Forums, group support, 1to1 counselling, iphone enabled Turn2me Advert half page.indd 2

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23/11/2011 15:07:58

15/03/2018 12:22


Partner Profile

IN GOOD HEALTH THE WEALTH OF A BUSINESS DEPENDS ON THE HEALTH OF ITS WORKERS, AND SO BUILDING HEALTH AND WELLBEING INTO AN ORGANISATION’S CULTURE IS VITAL TO ITS SUCCESS, WRITES DAVID CASEY, WELLNESS & HEALTH PROMOTION MANAGER AT DECARE DENTAL. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a healthy workplace as one in which workers and managers collaborate to use continual improvement processes to protect and promote the health, safety and wellbeing of all workers. To create a healthy workplace, an enterprise must consider where actions can best take place and the most effective processes by which employers and workers can take action. According to the WHO, four key areas can be influenced in the workplace: the physical environment, the psychosocial environment, personal health resources, and enterprise community involvement. The physical environment refers to the structure, air, machinery, furniture, products, chemicals, materials and production processes in the workplace. This environment is where health and wellbeing programmes traditionally started, with the introduction of health

and safety polices, acts and legislation. The psychosocial environment includes organisational culture – attitudes, values, beliefs and daily practices in the enterprise that impact upon the mental and physical wellbeing of employees. Personal health resources include health services, information, resources, and a supportive culture which motivates efforts to improve or maintain healthy personal lifestyles. Organisations should monitor and support health. Employers in Ireland are focusing on a variety of mechanisms to deliver information, such as ‘lunch and learn’ events, which cover a variety of topics, such as diet and nutrition. Community involvement includes activities in which a workplace might engage, or in which expertise and resources might be provided in order to support the social and physical wellbeing of the community in which a business operates. Employers can also assist with funding of care for employees and their families through benefit schemes such as health, dental and other benefits. Globally, rising levels of noncommunicable disease (NCDs), such as certain cancers, heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes type 2 account for approximately 70 per cent of all deaths. Modifiable behaviours, David Casey, such as tobacco use, Wellness & Health Promotion physical inactivity, Manager, DeCare Dental unhealthy diet and the

harmful use of alcohol, all increase the risk of NCDs. Employers are beginning to recognise the linkages and common preventable risk factors when planning their employee wellness programme. For example, dietary habits influence the development of dental disease. Tobacco use has been estimated to account for over 90 per cent of mouth cancers. Employers are taking a holistic approach to wellness and are beginning to understand that one size does not fit all. The benefits of embedding a wellbeing programme into a business's culture is clear. Results show reduced staff sickness, reduced absences and turnover, increased productivity and employee satisfaction and lower levels of stress, leading to improved mental health. There are fewer accidents and injuries. Health and wellbeing at work forms established communication networks. It provides worker cohesion. Occupational health provides an established structure. Protecting the health of workers is beneficial for the economy and society in general. Culture and style of management has a big impact on health outcomes for employees. Companies of all sizes should have a top-down approach, with an organisational commitment to improving the health of the workforce. Responsible companies are involving employees in decision-making processes in order to develop a work culture that is based on partnership. Ideally all workplaces should incorporate the four areas from the WHO model into company policies and work practices, which will in turn enhance employee health and wellbeing and empower healthy choices. For further information visit www.decaredental.ie.

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Financial Wellness  Health

Lessons in Financial Wellness

FINANCIAL STRAIN CAN BE A GREAT SOURCE OF STRESS TO ANY EMPLOYEE, YET WITH A LITTLE EDUCATION ON HOW TO STRUCTURE FINANCES APPROPRIATELY IT CAN EASILY BE AVOIDED. > Plan Ahead

Ensuring that staff perform to the best of their ability is in every employer’s interest, and that can involve taking an interest in their employees’ personal finance affairs. The ability for workers to plan ahead can ensure that they are not taken by surprise when it comes to personal financial strain. “The stresses that the lack of financial planning of an employee’s money creates tends to creep up on them,” warns Nick Lawlor, MD of Employee Financial Wellness, a fee-based education programme which aims to educate employees about overcoming personal finance challenges. Lawlor cites rainy days funds, mortgage deposits, education funds, illness protections, debt management and retirement savings as the most common financial strains cited by clients who are seeking his service.

> The Employer’s Role

Employers can play a significant role in helping their workers with their financial affairs – and that doesn’t always mean increasing wages. As Lawlor suggests, employees who are experiencing financial stress tend to be disengaged, distracted and, in more extreme circumstances, often absent from work. “I would suggest running some topical seminars on site, and backing these up with a day or two of on-site clinics,” says Lawlor. Taking such steps also helps develop a loyal and rewarded workforce, improve the atmosphere, the productivity and, ultimately, the profits.

> Make It Fun

Issues concerning financial planning can often appear daunting or dull in the eyes of employees. There might be a temptation to put off such conversations, however, by addressing these topics in a more fun and easy-going way, it is possible to face difficult questions and scenarios in a more calm and measured manner. “One of the highlights of running a programme like this is to be able to turn what tends to be considered a stuffy and boring topic into sessions that employees really engage with,” says Lawlor. “We try to make financial planning education as fun and as interactive as possible. It might seem boring to talk about tax, but when you simply change the title of a seminar to ‘How to Beat the Taxman’, the attendance numbers go through the roof!” W: www.employeefinancialwellness.ie SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 83

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Travel  Belfast

Deanes Restaurant

The Crown Bar

Rita’s Cocktail Bar

AWAY ON

BUSINESS BELFAST NORTHERN IRELAND IS EXPERIENCING BOOM-TIME VISITOR NUMBERS AGAIN AND, DESPITE THE THREAT OF BREXIT, BELFAST IS IN CONFIDENT MOOD. ELLEN FLYNN DISCOVERS WHY THE CITY REMAINS ON THE RADAR OF TRAVELLERS FROM NEAR AND FAR.

The Belfast Wheel

St. George’s Market

Recently recognised as a “must visit destination” by travel bible Lonely Planet, Belfast has truly put its troubles in the past, and is looking confidently towards the future. Tempting weekenders with the impressive aluminium clad Titanic museum, in addition to a panoply of new fine restaurants and bars, it makes for a wonderful weekend destination, and an even better day trip for those travelling on business. A quick jaunt up the M1 motorway will have you pulling into central Belfast in just under two hours from Dublin. But if you’re looking to get a spot of work done before your arrival, the train is the way to go. Travelling direct from Dublin Connolly, Irish Rail will have you there in the same amount of time as the car, albeit for slightly less than the cost of petrol. An extra €30 or so will have you seated in first class, though the speed of the WiFi doesn’t change all that much depending on your cabin. If you need to spend a night or two in Belfast, shoot from the hip and stay in the uber stylish Bullitt Hotel. Boasting a

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Belfast  Travel

g for Travellin Business

GETTING THE BEST DEAL

1

FLIGHTS From the UK you’ll land into Belfast within an hour of taking to the air, but from anywhere in Ireland do yourself a favour and hop on the train. With excellent WiFi on board, you won’t notice the countryside streaming past you.

2 Belfast City Hall

trimmed down service, what the Bullitt doesn’t offer in opulence, it makes up for in laid back style. With an eclectic calendar of events taking place in both bar and conference rooms, with scintillating menus to boot, you won’t be stuck for something to while away your evening hours. If it’s early to bed and early to rise, then you’ll be provided with an excellent night’s sleep in warm, contemporary rooms. Named with a hint of irony, you’ll be put up in the more than spacious The Wee One or The Tiny One. If swan folded towels and trousers presses are your thing, stay away, because this hotel offers a cool simplicity that charms its clientele. The Bullitt is also well equipped to play host to any event or function you might have to host during your stay, offering technical specifications that cater for both large and intimate parties. The suitably named Good Room has a flexible seating arrangement giving you a made-to-measure experience, while the range of food offered, though simple, will be more than enough

to dispel any brain fog developed from your board meeting. Adding somewhat to the recent vibrancy of Belfast is the expansion of Deanes Restaurant on Howard Street to include fresh, new fine dining venue EIPIC, which created 30 new jobs in 2014. The menu includes plenty of clever cooking using locally sourced ingredients, favouring those with a penchant for seafood. A delectable lunch menu comes in at around £30 per person. With the stoves manned by the talented Danni Barry and the venue managed by Michael Deane, this place is definitely one to add to your itinerary. For an evening tipple, The Crown remains the jewel of the city’s watering holes, famed for catering to both sides of the sectarian struggle that permeated much of the latter half of the last century. If you want to head somewhere without a clamour of tourists eagerly eyeing up your cosy booth, make your way to the trendy Cathedral quarter where you’ll find numerous bars and pubs to see off the evening hours in style.

HOTEL The Bullitt really is the place to be, but don’t let the Europa shrink too far from your thoughts. Known for some time as ‘the most bombed hotel in Europe’, the Europa is best known for keeping its doors open throughout the height of the Troubles.

3

TRANSPORT The city is small enough to walk the breadth of in 30 minutes at a meandering pace, but if you’re desperate for a sit down, the Metro Bus will get you where you need to go. If you’re looking for something a little more high end, classic black cabs (with a tour or not) will take you from A to B in comfort.

4

MEALS To save on your evening meal out, head over to Queens and avail of one of the many delicious pre-theatre menus available from a multitude of restaurants.

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Travel  Belfast

STAY

HOURS IN BELFAST ONE DAY OFF? HERE’S HOW TO SPEND IT 9AM | ST. GEORGE’S MARKET

For something other than the usual hotel fare for your breakfast, head to St. George’s Market, a traditional Victorian market dating back to around 1890. Famous for its unique food stalls and finest fresh produce, you’ll be starting the day with your best foot forward, and your hands grasping a snack, or two, or three.

Titanic Mueseum

BULLITT HOTEL For a fringed experience without compromising on its service, the Bullitt Hotel is the way to go. W: bullitthotel.com T: +44 (0)28 9590 0600 E: info@bullitthotel.com

11AM | TITANIC MUSEUM

5PM | BLACK CAB TOUR

It’s difficult to plan a trip to Belfast without making a stop at the eye-catching tribute to the RMS Titanic. Having opened its doors in 2012, the Titanic Belfast contains a number of excellent interpretive and interactive galleries about the most famous ship in history.

Not all taxi drivers in Belfast are of equal measure, with those behind the wheel of the black cab tours offering the best service of all. Known as the real star of the tourism scene here, it’s well worth your time to hear a personal perspective of the city’s turbulent recent history.

2PM | NAPOLEON’S NOSE

10PM | RITA’S COCKTAIL BAR

If the weather allows, head for a bracing walk up Cavehill. Feast your eyes on panoramic views of the city from the top. And on a clear day, keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the Isle of Man.

A little known hidden gem in the heart of the Cathedral quarter is saucy cocktail bar Rita’s. With a mouthwatering menu and retro surroundings, it’s a great spot to continue any chat into the early hours.

EUROPA HOTEL Famed for its erstwhile presence during Belfast’s trouble period, the Europa is one of the most famous hotels in Europe. W: www.hastingshotels.com/europa-belfast T: +44 (0)28 9027 1066 E: guest@eur.hastingshotels.com

Rita’s Cocktail Bar

MERCHANT HOTEL The Merchant Hotel, located in the heart of Belfast’s Cathedral quarter, offers excellent service and features some unique art deco interior design. W: www.themerchanthotel.com T: +44 (0)28 9023 4888 E: info@themerchanthotel.com

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Beer  Lifestyle

Better

beer

CRAFT

BREWERY SPOTLIGHT: YELLOWBELLY BEER

B

eers from Wexfordbased YellowBelly Beer seem to be appearing on more and more supermarket and off-licence shelves these days, and with its unique comic book-style branding, they are hard to miss. “Marketing at YellowBelly Beer is anything but mainstream, instead focusing on disruptive marketing strategies and relationship building with consumers,” Seamus Redmond, Marketing Manager, tells us. “This is clearly demonstrated by YellowBelly Beer’s comic book series, video game, viral videos and collaborations with some of the world’s leading breweries.” The marketing strategy is headed up by Redmond and Creative Director Paul Reck who have been with the brewery since it was set up in 2015 at Simon Lambert & Sons brewpub. “It has been Paul’s artwork across labels and branding that has been instrumental to customers picking up YellowBelly Beer products for the first time and sticking with the evolving storyline for the past three years,” adds Redmond. This year, YellowBelly Beer will collaborate with London-based Five Miles Brewing Company, one of the UK’s leading breweries. The collaboration will cross promote the brands to new UK and Irish beer consumers, aimed at boosting export sales for both breweries. New to YellowBelly Beer? Try its Post Ahopalypse Session IPA made with Mandarina Bavaria hops for a fruity aroma and tangerine flavours.

CORNER

AT BETTER BUSINESS WE LOVE GOOD BEER, WHICH IS WHY WE’VE STARTED A NEW BEER PAGE SHARING INDUSTRY NEWS, SHOWCASING NEW PRODUCTS AND PROFILING THE WORK OF SMALL CRAFT BREWERS ACROSS IRELAND.

STRAWBERRY VANILLA SHAKE IPA BY RASCALS BREWING

First released in April 2017, Rascals Brewing has relaunched its Strawberry Vanilla Shake IPA, a collaboration between the brewery and Idlewild Bar on Dublin’s Fade Street. Unsurprisingly, milkshake beers first became a thing in the US with the concept spreading further afield. Rascals’ IPA starts out with notes of strawberry and vanilla with the citra and mosaic hops really boosting the fruity effect. It comes with a full, thick body thanks to its wheat and oat ingredients. In terms of alcohol content, it weighs in at a sessionable 5 per cent, however it’s probably not the type of beer you’d sit on for a whole night. But for any IPA lovers looking for something a little different with extra body and a fruity kick, this beer is not to be missed. Rathcoole-based Rascals Brewing is among the Irish brewers really pushing the boundaries with its off-centred beers. Some of its other left field brews include an apricot pale ale and a chocolate ginger porter. Strawberry Vanilla Shake IPA is available in 330ml cans at independent off-licences.

yellowbellybeer.ie

ALLTECH EVENT TINGED WITH NEWS OF LYONS’ PASSING

Post Ahopalypse Session IPA by YellowBelly Beer

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There were bittersweet emotions at this year’s Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair at the Convention Centre Dublin as the event’s opening coincided with news of the passing of Alltech founder Dr Pearse Lyons. Internationally, Lyons was best known for his work in the US agriculture industry but more recently, his impact on the local beer and spirit market was felt. Last year, Lyons opened a distillery in his name in the Liberties area of Dublin. As part of the annual Alltech event, the Dublin Craft Beer and Cider Cup competition provides an opportunity to build brand recognition within the industry for smaller craft brewers. This year’s overall winner was M63 Bulldog from the Fűtőház Sörfőzde brewery in Hungary while the Best in Ireland Award went to Boyne Brewhouse in Drogheda for its Imperial Stout. SFA members Blacks Brewery & Distillery and Wicklow Wolf were among the other winners.

The late Dr Pearse Lyons

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Profile  A Day in the Life

THE GREAT ESCAPE

NATALIA ROMANOVA, FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR OF 5 QUESTS ESCAPE ROOMS, TALKS US THROUGH A STANDARD DAY IN THE WORLD OF PUZZLE-MAKING AND PROBLEM-SOLVING.

Running a new business and being a mum, my daily routine is quite different from the typical nine-to-five. 6AM My day starts with 30 minutes of meditation. There is nothing like peaceful energy in the early morning to get you ready for a busy day ahead. 6.45AM I make breakfast and prepare school lunches. 8AM I check my to-do list for the day, which I always try to compile the night before. I browse through emails and social media looking for any news from the escape rooms community worldwide. The idea of immersive escape room designs is very new to Ireland. However, on a global level, particularly in the US and Eastern Europe, escape room conferences and trade shows are running all the time. We were the first to introduce the concept to Dublin, bringing the art of stage design together with modern technology in an escape room setting. My mornings are spent reading the news, talking to escape room suppliers and researching new interactive puzzles. 10AM This is generally a time for responding to customer calls and inquiries. Bookings can be made directly online while inquiries by phone usually come from large groups and companies looking for team-building events. In between, I’m looking after marketing calls, bookkeeping, payroll and other operational tasks. 12PM I go for a quick 30-minute run to get some exercise and fresh air. In bad weather I opt for yoga instead. Afterwards, it’s lunch with a short break. 2-3PM I continue researching and planning new games to add to our existing portfolio, ones which quite literally come to life around you. At present, we are building two new games upstairs. Meeting with the team can involve discussions about what kind of walls should be in a spaceship (“cold to touch” I am told) to programming a magic wand TV controller for our wizard adventure game. Either way, such discussions are always inspiring and fun. 3-4PM It’s time to pick up the children from Natalia Romanova, school. While the homework is being Managing Director, 5 Quests Escape Rooms done, I am planning out the calendar for 5 Quests bookings. 4PM-8PM After 4pm I usually go to the 5 Quests premises in Cornelscourt to run the games. A game master monitors how players are progressing through their game via video monitors, providing them with hints along the way. At weekends, we have part-time students who run the games while I help with any large groups and parties. Running the games enables me to receive a great deal of feedback from players about the puzzles we build. For the more than 1,000 people who came through our doors in the past six months, the dynamics of each team are entirely different, so you are always learning. 9PM I work on my to-do list for tomorrow so that I’m ready for the challenges ahead. I’m always inspired by my favourite quote by Sri Chinmoy: “Do you want to make progress? If so, then take each problem not as a challenging rival, but as an encouraging friend of yours, who is helping you to arrive at your ultimate destination.” WWW.5QUESTS.COM

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Gather with the energy experts. Your competitors are.

18&19 th

th

APRIL

RDS Ireland’s leading companies and experts from the energy sector will be at the SEAI Energy Show 2018. Give your company a competitive edge with seminars, technology demonstrations, electric car test drives and networking opportunities at the must attend event for everyone with an interest in energy and business.

Free BUSINESS ONLY Exhibition | Register now at seai.ie/energyshow @seai_ie #EnergyShow18

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15/03/2018 12:40


| Retirement | Investments | Insurance |

Group Income Protection from Aviva Why Aviva for Group Income Protection? Aviva Life & Pensions Ireland is part of the Aviva Group, which is the 4th largest insurance services provider in Europe. This means that you can rely on our size and strength to be there for you and your employees, when you need us most*.

› A minimum of three members › Cover to age 70 › Income Protection Essentials › Best Doctors® › Early Intervention › Our Rehabilitation Partners Spectrum Health

For more information on our Group offering - talk to your financial broker. *Source: Aviva annual accounts, March 2016.

Aviva your partner for Pension l Income Protection l Life Cover Best Doctors Second Medical Opinion is not a regulated financial service.

Aviva Life & Pensions UK Limited, trading as Aviva Life & Pensions Ireland, is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority in the UK and is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland for conduct of business rules. Aviva Life & Pensions UK Limited, trading as Aviva Life & Pensions Ireland, is also regulated in the UK: by the Prudential Regulation Authority for prudential rules and, to a limited extent, by the Financial Conduct Authority for applicable UK conduct rules. Registered Branch Office in Ireland (No 906464) at One Park Place, Hatch Street, Dublin 2. Tel (01) 898 7950 Web www.aviva.ie Registered in England (3253947) at Wellington Row, York, YO90 1WR.

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Better Business Q1 2018  
Better Business Q1 2018