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BUSINESS IN GOOD COMPANY THE RISE AND RISE OF CO-WORKING SPACES
BETTER BUSINESS Q2 2017
FOUR SERIAL ENTREPRENEURS ON COMING BACK FOR MORE
ER M A
SMALL BUSINESSES TURNING GROWING PAINS INTO GROWING GAINS
IRISH MAGAZINE AWARDS 2016 HE Y F T
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HOW RISING INSURANCE COSTS ARE HITTING SMALL FIRMS
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WELCOME SUMMER 2017
Welcome to Better Business, a magazine dedicated to the small business community.
IN GOOD COMPANY THE RISE AND RISE OF CO-WORKING SPACES
BETTER BUSINESS Q2 2017
FOUR SERIAL ENTREPRENEURS ON COMING BACK FOR MORE
HOW RISING INSURANCE COSTS ARE HITTING SMALL FIRMS
recent SFA Annual Conference and to hear about some of the issues affecting your
IRISH MAGAZINE AWARDS 2016
SMALL BUSINESSES TURNING GROWING PAINS INTO GROWING GAINS
It was great to see so many of you at the
ER M A GA
HE Y F T
businesses, both from the stage and during the
SFA is a trading name of Ibec
networking sessions. From the conversations
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On the cover: Michael Condon, MD of Jones Business Systems pictured at Visual Carlow Cover Photograph: Jason Clarke
I had, it was clear to me that the mood among members is largely positive. This was borne out by the results of the SFA Summer Business Sentiment Survey, which found that 72 per cent of small businesses will invest in their companies over the coming year, 60 per cent will create additional jobs and 61 per cent believe that the business environment is improving. I know, however, that issues of major concern to members remain, and we
Editor: Joseph O’Connor Managing Editor: Mary Connaughton Creative Director: Jane Matthews
examine some of them in this edition of Better Business magazine. We shine a light on the insurance cost crisis, which is a pressing concern for many, and take stock of the various finance options for small business in our access to finance
Designer: Alan McArthur
feature. The policy pages contain updates on Brexit and how to prepare your
Editorial Contributors: Tiernan Cannon,
business. In our sector spotlight we speak to members in the taxi industry on
Orla Connolly, Ellen Flynn, Conor Forrest,
regulation, innovation and competing with the big players.
Valerie Jordan, Louise Kenrick, John Kinsella, Ciara McGuone, Dean Van Nguyen Production Manager: Mary Connaughton Production Executive: Nicole Ennis Account Director: Shane Kelly Sales Director: Paul Clemenson Managing Director: Gerry Tynan Chairman: Diarmaid Lennon Email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Better Business, Ashville Media,
Elsewhere in this edition, we look at the benefits of co-working spaces, speak to serial entrepreneurs about their past, current and future ventures and review the SFA Annual Conference ‘Better than Best’. You will find expert advice on building a brand, first aid in the workplace and top tips from our latest lineup of ‘wise guys’. This edition 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 235,000 businesses in the
Old Stone Building, Blackhall Green,
country, 99 per cent have less than 50 employees (small) and 92 per cent have
Dublin 7. Tel: (01) 432 2200
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
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 omissions. Reproduction by any means in whole or in part without the permission of the publisher is prohibited. © Ashville Media Group 2017. All discounts, promotions and
private sector workforce. The Small Firms Association has been the voice of small business for over 40 years. We are a trusted partner to over 8,500 member companies, spanning every sector and county. We want to make Ireland the most vibrant small business community in the world – an environment that supports entrepreneurship, values small business and rewards risk takers. Better Business is the magazine of the small business community. We welcome your feedback, suggestions and ideas to email@example.com or on Twitter @SFA_Irl.
competitions contained in this magazine are run independently of Better Business. The promoter/advertiser is responsible
Linda Barry Acting Director, Small Firms Association
for honouring the prize. ISSN 2009-9118
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CONTENTS SUMMER 2017
05 12 16
Big News for Small Business News, views and profiles from SFA members and small businesses in Ireland
The Insurance Blues A look at what’s behind the rising cost of insurance and how it’s hitting small firms hard
Big Returns We meet four serial entrepreneurs who couldn’t resist going back for more
Cover Story Three growing businesses share tips on expansion and business planning
Sector Spotlight A look at the future of the taxi industry and the challenges it will bring to small cab companies
Small Business Profile Joan Lucey of Vibes & Scribes talks the urban-rural divide and the future of bricks and mortar retail
Voucher King Gift Voucher Shop founder Michael Dawson talks us through his road to success
In Good Company A look at the growing phenomenon of co-working in Ireland
Arts/Culture Cork Public Museum’s newest exhibition tells the story of the city’s Jewish community
A Day in the Life... of Tristan Wheeler, founder and MD of Shoot Booth
22 30 34
36 38 42
Thirst for Finance We assess the ever-changing small business financing landscape
46 68 72
Trading Places We tracked down restaurateur Alan Fisher who’s getting big in Japan
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FROM TOP LEFT: Sammy Leslie of Castle Leslie, one of three businesses featured in our cover story, page 22 // Entrepreneur Colm Lyon on starting out again despite cashing in, page 16 // Joan Lucey of Corkâ€™s Vibes & Scribes talks the urban-rural divide and the future of bricks and mortar retail, page 34 // Restaurateur Alan Fisher on setting up shop in Tokyo, page 46
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BREXIT ADVISORY SERVICE Helping businesses navigate Brexit
If you are a small business trying to understand Brexit, InterTradeIrelandâ€™s Brexit Advisory Service can help. Our expert team is on hand to help you understand how the changes may affect your business. With our support, you can create a tailored plan for the future. By understanding the realities, youâ€™ll be well equipped for the path ahead. Navigate Brexit with InterTradeIreland.
For more information visit intertradeireland.com/brexit
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GDPR NOT TOP BUSINESS PRIORITY, SAYS SURVEY
For more on how your business can be GDPRready go to page 52.
Dublin BIC’s new co-working space
A survey of 200+ companies conducted by DataSolutions on behalf of the GDPR Awareness Coalition has found that 71 per cent of small and medium sized businesses in Ireland do not view the need to be GDPR compliant by next May as a top business priority despite an increase in awareness. When asked “how high of a priority is GDPR compliance to your company?”, 26 per cent of respondents said it was “not a priority” with a further 45 per cent indicating that it was “only one of a number of priorities.” Fifty-three per cent of companies surveyed indicated that they had yet to begin the compliance process with a tiny minority of 2 per cent indicating that they were GDPR complaint already. “What we’re seeing here is really worrying, said Dr. Dennis Jennings, Chairperson of the GDPR Awareness Coalition. “With only one year to go until the introduction of GDPR, it’s clear that Irish businesses are still struggling to understand the significance of GDPR and the impact it will have on their day-to-day business operations.” The survey was carried out at the TechConnect Live event, which took place in the RDS, Dublin on May 31st.
BIG NEWS FOR SMALL BUSINESS
New Space for Business
Dublin Business Innovation Centre has announced the opening of its new start-up hub and co-working facility, Space@DublinBIC, as an affordable office solution for entrepreneurs, freelancers and start-ups. Situated on the first and second floors of 61 Dawson Street, Space@ DublinBIC has capacity for 200+ people. Reflecting the severe shortage of office space in Dublin city centre, 20 private offices in Space@DublinBIC have already been pre-sold to a number of companies including RecommenderX, Black Shamrock, Travel Tech Labs, Swiftqueue and Travelling Languages. Space@DublinBIC offers clients a dedicated desk for €375 per month or a hotdesk for €200 per month. A five-day hotdesk pass can be secured for €59. Space can also accommodate those outside Dublin with flexible packages. Companies and entrepreneurs will have access to 1GB WiFi, an on-site café, storage facilities and meeting rooms. More information is available at Dublin BIC’s website. For more on co-working check out our feature on page 42.
LOBBYING WIN FOR SFA AND ITS MEMBERS In March, the SFA made a submission to the Department of Social Protection in relation to a proposal for the reimbursement by the employer of social welfare benefits arising from cases of unfair dismissal. The SFA submission highlighted the substantial difficulties that such an amendment to the Social Welfare Act 2016 could have for small businesses. The SFA states that the proposed changes would lead to a disproportionate financial and administrative burden being placed on employers. We are very pleased to report that we have received notification from the department that after due consideration they will not be proceeding with this proposal in its current form. The SFA will continue to monitor developments in this area and will continue to lobby against any proposed legislation which places a disproportionate burden on our members. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 5
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IASIO EXPO BRINGS RECRUITERS AND CANDIDATES TOGETHER
If your company is interested in recruiting staff through IASIO, visit www.iasio.ie for more information.
US START-UPS VIEW DUBLIN AS ATTRACTIVE LOCATION Dublin is the second most preferred location in Europe for US startups. That’s according to research carried out by San Francisco based global venture capital firm Index Ventures, which ranked each European country on a number of factors including salary, cost, corporation tax and availability of senior talent. Dublin ranked first alongside London for ease of set up. Dublin and Berlin were named the cheapest cities to operate in. Dublin and London came out on top for the availability of junior hires with the report noting a deep multilingual talent pool in both cities. Dublin also scored high for the availability of senior hires with the greatest availability in London for senior talent followed by Dublin and Amsterdam. Dublin also received a high grade for its competitive corporation tax at 12.5 per cent.
InterTradeIreland has announced a new advisory service aimed at helping small businesses navigate the challenges of Brexit. Businesses will be able to access a raft of supports through the Brexit Advisory Service, including Brexit Readiness Vouchers, which they can use to fund bespoke advice up the value of €1,000; free Brexit briefing events; information on currency hedging and a unique assesment that focuses on building value, should Brexit lead to cost increases through the introduction of tariffs. For more details go to www.intertradeireland.com/brexit.
In our last issue of Better Business we profiled the work of IASIO, the Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders, which provides direct services to offenders both in the community and in Irish prisons. IASIO’s first Jobs & Opportunities Expo took place in Mountjoy West on May 18th. The event gave employers the opportunity to visit the prison to interview inmates and assess their suitability for a job. Close to 50 prisoners were selected to attend the expo, all of whom had been coached in CV preparation and interview skills by IASIO. A post-event report highlighted the positive outcomes from the expo, with 86 per cent of employers surveyed stating that they were either ‘extremely likely’ or ‘very likely’ to offer employment to candidates they met on the day. The most significant measure of success was the offer of employment to four candidates with several enquiries arising in the following weeks.
Photo: Mark Condren
Brian Murphy, Campus Governor, Mountjoy Prison, David Stanton TD, Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Paddy Richardson, CEO, IASIO
BREXIT ADVISORY SERVICE LAUNCHED
MFI GETS EU SEAL OF APPROVAL
Minister for Small Business Pat Breen has congratulated CEO Garrett Stokes and his team at Microfinance Ireland (MFI) on being one of the first European micro finance providers to be awarded the Certificate Of Compliance with the European Code Of Good Conduct For Microcredit Provision by the European Commission. Commenting, Minister Breen said: “This prestigious award by the European Commission acknowledges the high standard of MFI’s business practices and its stewardship of Government funding and EU guarantees. It also reflects the high standards of corporate governance and financial probity of Irish public bodies in general.” The Government established Microfinance Ireland in late 2012 to provide loan finance to microenterprises unable to access it elsewhere. It has contributed a total of €20 million that will keep it in operation to 2022.
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A fit James Kirwan with his family
A NEW LIFESTYLE MISSION
During the two days you’ll learn to: • Be a FITCEO for yourself and your business • Exercise at the optimum level throughout the day • Eat healthily to achieve normal weight without dieting • Significantly improve your overall physical and mental health Hosted by Kirwan himself, the workshop will feature some top class experts including Ivor Cummins aka ‘The Fat Emperor’. You can sign up now for early bird pricing by contacting jim.kirwan. firstname.lastname@example.org and you’ll receive a complimentary copy of The eXercise Factor eBook.
SFA Chair Sue O’Neill; Barry McCleary, CEO, Megazyme; Ann Healy from KARE; Darren Fortune, MD of Ventac, and Patricia Callan, Former Director, SFA
“Developing a successful business doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your health. You need a sustained healthy lifestyle which you can enjoy for the rest of your life. So don’t put this on the long finger any longer!” That’s according to Jim Kirwan, creator of Get Business Moving and author of The eXercise Factor. This September Kirwan is running a two-day workshop entitled FITCEO – Your New Lifestyle Mission. Supported by Irish Heart Disease Awareness, the event is designed specifically for business owners and executives.
SFA AWARD WINNER SHOWS IT KARES Ventac, the overall winner at the SFA National Small Business Awards 2017, has nominated KARE Wicklow to receive a €5,000 charity bursary. The bursary forms part of the awards prize package, which is donated by Megazyme, the overall award winner in 2013. KARE provides support to people who have an intellectual disability and their families. Darren Fortune, Managing Director of Ventac, said: “We have a strong relationship with KARE and it’s great to be able to give something back to our local community.”
“Confidence among small business owners has increased strongly over the past six months but is still below the levels we saw last year, prior to the Brexit vote.” Linda Barry, SFA Acting Director, commenting on the findings of latest SFA Summer Business Sentiment Survey.
“It’s been a pleasure working with you over these past number of years and I look forward to developing a new relationship with you in my new role.” Patricia Callan, Former SFA Director, on moving on after being appointed Director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland.
“This is a national day for small business and we’re here to shine a light on small businesses so that we remain an integral part of the Irish economy.” SFA Chair Sue O’Neill speaking ahead of the SFA Annual Conference 2017
SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 7
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PHD STUDENT ON CLOUD9 AFTER WINNING UCD AWARD Cloud9, an early-stage big data venture, has won the 2017 UCD School of Computer Science Innovation Sprint Programme, a 1-day initiative designed and delivered by UCD’s technology transfer and enterprise development teams at NovaUCD. Cloud9 is developing a new software service to enable organisations to effectively and efficiently desensitise personal data in-house before uploading it securely to the cloud for processing. The founder of Cloud9 is Vanessa Ayala-Rivera, a PhD student in the Performance Engineering Laboratory at UCD’s School of Computer Science, working under the supervision of Professor Liam Murphy. She is also a UCD member of Lero, the Irish Software Research Centre.
TOP TWEETS “Only 6% of employed people in Ireland engage in life long learning. 15% in Sweden” @pjthealy #SMEgrowth
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
Both @ sueoneillwalsh (Chair @SFA_Irl) & Ian Kehoe (editor @sundaybusiness) called 4 support 4 non-exporting Irish SMEs at the #sfaconf
Geraldine Lavin @GeraldineLavin Fantastic insights from @niamhbriggs15 in her keynote address #sfaconf #betterthanbest
Jason Sherlock @boomjayo
Great day at #sfaconf thanks to our delegates, speakers, exhibitors & sponsors @one4allireland @sundaybusiness
Small Firms Assoc @SFA_Irl Pictured at NovaUCD is UCD PhD student Vanessa Ayala-Rivera, founder, Cloud9, overall winner of the 2017 UCD School of Computer Science Innovation Sprint Programme and Brendan Cremen, UCD Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation.
CRO CHANGE OF ADDRESS The CRO Public Office and the Registry of Friendly Societies has changed address. The CRO/RFS has moved from Parnell Square to Bloom House, Gloucester Place Lower, Dublin 1. The Public Office entrance is on the corner of Sean McDermott Street Lower and Gloucester Place Lower. It will not be possible to deliver documents outside office hours at the Bloom House address. Hand delivered documents (including deliveries by couriers) must be delivered between 9.30 am and 4.30pm Monday to Friday only. The telephone numbers and email addresses will remain the same.
Massive shout out to adjunct professor (and studio neighbour) Brian Dobson for his quality chairing of the stage @sfa_irl #sfaconf
Mental health problems can occur in any individual, regardless of job, gender, age or social background. #TimeToTalk @GreenRibbonIRL
For further details see www.cro.ie/About-CRO/Contact-Us/ Whats-New 8 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS
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INVESTMENT IN SMALL FIRMS ON THE INCREASE The Small Firms Association (SFA) has released new data on the finance and investment priorities of small firms. The SFA’s Summer Business Sentiment Survey was conducted in May 2017, with 742 companies responding from a sample of 2,500. Here’s a glance at the key findings: • 51% of SFA members are growing
Nick Lawlor, Managing Director, New Beginning Financial Services Ltd
New Services at New Beginning
Financial services company New Beginning has announced that it has expanded its financial services offering to include an employee financial wellness programme for employers. Employee productivity research and extensive employee attitude surveys have identified a growing trend amongst employers to address increasing employee financial stresses in their workplaces. Employers now understand that improving each employee’s working experience and taking the financial stresses out of their everyday lives will improve their working performance. Research shows that four hours per week per employee is lost to employees dealing with their personal financial concerns. Additionally, 80 per cent of employees are not happy with their employer’s efforts when it comes to helping them manage their personal finances. With this in mind, New Beginning has developed a unique employee financial wellness programme that is designed to educate and empower employees on the various financial and legal issues that employees encounter. Designed in such a way as to be informative, engaging and progressive, New Beginning is now working with employers to not only fix financial issues of the past but to help them to secure and plan for their financial futures too.
• 72% intend to invest in their business over the coming year (up from 65% six months ago) • Priorities for investment include brand development (21%), staff (19%), IT (18%), and market diversification (11%) • After investment, paying down debts emerged as the top financial priority for SFA members at 25% • 21% of SFA members are focused on saving
More information is available at www.employeefinancialwellness.ie.
Venue Profile: Visual Centre for Contemporary Art
Visual is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary art spaces situated in the heart of Carlow Town. Opened in 2009, the centre is a €18 million joint project of the Carlow local authorities. Designed by British architect Terry Pawson on a site donated by Carlow College, the centre houses a 335-seat theatre and the largest white-cube gallery space in the country. In June, Visual kindly afforded Better Business areas of the centre to photograph Michael Condon for our cover story. For more details on Visual Centre for Contemporary Art visit www.visualcarlow.ie.
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AALTO BIO ANNOUNCES EXPANSION OF TROPICAL DISEASE PORTFOLIO SFA Award winner Aalto Bio has announced the expansion of its tropical disease product offering with the launch of West Nile Virus native and recombinant proteins for diagnostic testing. West Nile Virus has re-emerged in recent years with the US experiencing one of its worst epidemics in 2012 causing 286 deaths. In that same year, the largest ever outbreak in Italy was recorded and a new strain of the virus was detected. This new addition to Aalto Bio’s already comprehensive tropical disease portfolio, enables the company to supply its clients with a more comprehensive suite of products for tropical disease diagnostic testing.
DCU COMMENDED FOR SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESS Dublin City University Business School has been awarded Small Business Charter status by the Chartered Association of Business Schools. The Small Business Charter recognises world-class business schools that play an effective role in supporting small businesses, student entrepreneurship and economic development. DCU is the only university in Ireland to receive the accreditation. Commenting on the award, Professor Brian MacCraith, President of DCU, said: “Dublin City University has built a strong reputation as Ireland’s university of enterprise through our close collaboration with industry and continued emphasis on fostering skillsets in students that can adapt to and answer 21st century questions.”
ANALYTICS – JUST GO FOR IT! TANIYA SRIVASTAV, ANALYTICS CONSULTANT WITH KNOWLVERS CONSULTING, HAS ADVICE FOR SMALL BUSINESSES CONSIDERING INVESTING IN ANALYTICS. ‘The proof of the pudding is in the eating’ – we see, hear or read about something but don’t necessarily trust it unless we experience it. This is also the case with analytics. The true value can only be realised when you have experienced its results. As smaller companies have limited budgets, they are often hesitant to invest in analytics without being very certain of the impact. My advice would be to start small and take one step at a time. So how can this be done? • Take Advice: Consult an analytics expert
on what can be done with the data available in your company. They can assess the data and suggest next steps. • Test it: Try a ‘proof of concept’ model
with your chosen analytics partner. You will be shown the value and business impact on a data sample, which will act as proof for the future value of deploying analytics in your business. • Be Selective: Start an analytics project
with a smaller business scope. • Go Simple: Analytics is a vast sea of
solutions, start at the shallow end and you will find easy but highly impactful solutions. These will provide the basis for more advanced solutions in the future. The power of analytics is there to be harnessed by everyone, no matter how big or small a company is. Just go for it!
Taniya Srivastav, Knowlvers Consulting
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Feature Insurance Costs
Blues THE RISING COST OF INSURANCE HAS HIT SMALL FIRMS HARD OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS. AND THERE’S NO SIGN OF A LET UP. BETTER BUSINESS CAUGHT UP WITH SOME INDUSTRY EXPERTS TO FIND OUT WHAT’S GONE WRONG AND HOW TO FIX THINGS.
nsurance is a necessary evil for most small companies. A product that they are required to buy each year and hope that they never have to use. Making that annual purchase has become an even more bitter pill to swallow for the majority of companies over recent years as the costs of insurances have spiralled through the roof. Insurance costs have been increasing steadily for a number of years now. However, over the past 18 months, the situation has become significantly worse. Take motor premiums for example, which have not just burst through the roof, but pretty much blown every slate off in the process. A recent survey of members carried out by the Small Firms Association, found that 96 per cent of motor premiums have gone up in the past year. Not only that, but the average rate of increase was 35 per cent. According to then SFA Director, Patricia Callan: “The increases cannot even be directly linked to claims on the policy, as the average increase among companies with no claims in the past five years is just one percentage point lower at 34 per cent. Ireland is facing an insurance costs crisis, one which can no longer be ignored. Insurance costs have been increasing for a number of years.” According to John Brennan, Director of Dublin-based brokerage O’Leary Insurances,
companies operating in the leisure, hospitality and retail trade have been impacted biggest by recent price hikes. Businesses that operate with a distribution arm and/or a motor fleet also continue to experience significant increased costs yearon-year, he says. “In 2015 and 2016, it would be a reasonable statement to suggest that insurance costs for certain business types in Ireland have been some of the highest paid in Europe,” explains Brennan. “Most notably, those operating with increased exposures with regards to manual labour, footfall and motor/road risks have bore the brunt of the rising costs.” The rising cost of insurance is troubling
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“THERE IS CERTAINLY MERIT IN REVIEWING THE LEVEL OF AWARDS IN THE REPUBLIC OF IRELAND AND BENCHMARKING THESE AGAINST COMPARABLE DEMOGRAPHICS AND ECONOMIES.”
business owners. SFA members have rated insurance costs second only to wage inflation in terms of their business cost concerns. Businesses typically just have to take price hikes on the chin and pay up. The problem is that this means firms are forced to make cutbacks in other areas of the business. SFA reseach has identified that around onethird of small businesses have had to make cutbacks in important areas of their business in order to afford their rising insurance premiums. A further 5 per cent have identified their business survival as at risk on account of the current insurance cost crisis. In terms of motor premium hikes, one in five firms say they have been forced to reduce the number of vehicles in their
fleet. Worryingly, a further 20 per cent have reduced their level of cover, leaving their businesses at greater risk in the case of accidents.
What’s Causing the Increase? Brennan sees an obvious problem. He says: “It is a widely publicised statement that the generous level of awards for personal injuries has created a ‘compensation culture’. A whiplash claimant in the UK will receive an average payout of €5,000, whereas in Ireland the average payout is €15,000. There are no Irish business owners that would deny an employee or member of the public their right to compensation following an accident that resulted in a
serious injury. It must be noted that it can be difficult to distinguish between a genuine and a spurious claim. However, the current system and level of awards lends itself to potential opportunism.”
Solving the Problem To help small firms out in terms of spiralling insurance costs, the SFA has called for the Government to take action on a number of fronts, notably: • Introduce a new methodology for the Book of Quantum. The SFA says: “The revised Book of Quantum cannot merely reflect the level of awards that have been made in recent years, but must SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 13
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Feature Insurance Costs
Tales From The Trenches incorporate an assessment of what would be an appropriate and fair award for specific injuries. The judiciary must use the Book of Quantum consistently when deciding court awards.” • Move to a ‘care not cash’ approach. The SFA says: “The Irish system should move towards a ‘care not cash’ approach to soft tissue injuries, replacing financial damages payouts for these injuries with the provision of rehabilitation until the claimant has recovered. This would provide support to those genuinely injured claimants but discourage fraudulent claims as there is no cash payment at stake.” • Increase competition in the insurance market. The SFA says: “More competition is needed in the motor insurance market to stabilise premiums. There are over 1,000 insurers throughout the EU that could write Irish insurance. The stated reason for refusing Irish business is that they will not underwrite risks which they cannot quantify, as is the case in Ireland because of the inconsistency of court awards and decisions such as the Setanta ruling, which effectively forced the prudent insurers to pick up the cost of a failed insurer who was recklessly trading.” • Combat fraud. The SFA says: “Insurance fraud is currently estimated to cost over €200 million per year, with €100m relating specifically to motor insurance fraud. Tougher sanctions including custodial sentences must be imposed on fraudsters. The problem of uninsured drivers must be addressed.” • Review the powers of the Injuries Board. The SFA says: “We strongly support the Injuries Board. A review of the functioning of the board is needed to identify any reforms required to make it fully effective. For example, claimants should be required to attend medical examinations organised by the Injuries Board and should be penalised if they reject the Injuries Board award but do not receive a higher award in court.”
Turlough Kinane, Thermodial Dublin-based Thermodial is celebrating its 30th year in business this year. The firm is involved in the maintenance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning, electrical and water services. The firm employs 45 people and the type of work it does dictates that it needs an extensive fleet of vehicles. Therefore, even a small rise in insurance costs will hit its bottom line hard. Managing Director Turlough Kinane says the firm’s insurance costs have risen by 12 per cent this year versus last year. That’s even though their claims experience has been very modest in that time. According to Kinane: “Our renewal is due in July and we know that our premiums won’t be going down. I’m very conscious of it, so we’re having to prepare in advance. Unfortunately that means that money is not going into other areas, like maintenance and into training for our staff. Any rise in premiums will compromise something else in the business. Some of our contracts are for two years, so we can’t pass any costs on.” When it comes to what he would like to see happen in order to bring premiums down, Kinane adds: “Investment in road infrastructure would help. The better the infrastructure we have, the less likely we’d be to have an accident. That might help.” Helen Ryan, Lukers Shannonbridge If you’ve ever spent time in the Shannonbridge area, chances are you’ll have visited the popular Lukers pub and restaurant in the town. The business continues to trade successfully, but spiralling insurance costs aren’t helping. According to owner Helen Ryan: “We were with a brokerage for years and had made no claims. You’re probably talking 25 plus years. We’d been insured by the same firm for around ten years, but then they decided they weren’t insuring pubs any more. Nobody in Ireland or England was willing to do it. I was at my wit’s end. Eventually we got on to Campion Insurance and they came up with a figure. Our insurance more than doubled. I would have expected an increase, but not by that much. However, we had to take it as we can’t trade without cover. The Government need to look at the market and see how they can help bring competition back into play.”
Respite in Sight Brennan agrees that the powers of the Injuries Board should be reviewed and strengthened where possible. He says: “There is certainly merit in reviewing the level of awards in the Republic of Ireland and benchmarking these against comparable demographics and economies.” However, he predicts that costs will soon start to fall, as soon as insurance companies return to profit. “The insurance market is cyclical in its nature and a review of the previous cycles will demonstrate that costs will reduce naturally as insurance companies return to profit,” he explains. “In our opinion, business owners need to take control of the management of their annual insurance costs with the assistance of their insurance advisors. They should approach their annual renewals in the same fashion as they would approach a sales pitch to a client and highlight all of the positive steps that they have taken to mitigate risk.” When it comes to advice for small
firms seeking to renegotiate their policies, Brennan recommends that where a business has a poor claims record, they need to demonstrate that the company has implemented the necessary improvements to avoid repeat occurrence. “There are insurance schemes and facilities for almost all business sectors and we would suggest that these act as a good starting point,” he says. “The insurance market in Ireland will improve and our best advice would be for business owners to be pro-active when it comes to managing their annual insurance costs. By doing so, they should be positioned to secure the most competitive cost base possible. There are some insurers that can assist the payment process and offer premium finance facilities at 0 per cent over a 10 or 12 month period. Businesses should take note of any proposals for premium financing insofar as there is generally a cost attaching to such facilities (between 4 per cent and 7 per cent).”
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Feature Serial Entrepreneurs
FOR MOST o-called serial entrepreneurs are a rare breed. They will have expertly built and ENTREPRENEURS THE subsequently sold a great business idea, usually at a hefty profit, only to find END GAME LIES WITH themselves once again in the ring with a new venture. In contrast with other entrepreneurs, it’s the thrill of bringing a unique and innovative idea to fruition BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL that holds them in the game, rather than the lure of comfort and success. COMPANY. HOWEVER, Recognised for their daring entrepreneurial spirit and contribution to the wider economy, these trailblazers have often navigated several successful exits from THERE ARE SOME WHO, one company before transitioning to another. Negotiating with competitors HAVING ACHIEVED and watching market value fluctuations is all part of the process of deciding SUCCESS AND SOLD UP, when and how is the right time to exit; making room for the next big venture. CAN’T RESIST COMING BACK FOR MORE. ORLA CONNOLLY CAUGHT UP WITH FOUR SERIAL ENTREPRENEURS TO TALK TIMING EXITS AND SEEKING NEW OPPORTUNITIES.
MARY MCKENNA LEARNING POOL
In 2006, following a lengthy public sector career and several years as a Silicon Valley dotcommer, technology entrepreneur and angel investor Mary McKenna co-founded Derry-based e-learning company, Learning Pool. After growing the company to one million learners, McKenna successfully exited the business in 2014 in pursuit of other projects. “Working in a mature business was less interesting for me,”
explains McKenna. “Now I’m driven by helping other Irish people start and grow new companies.” McKenna believes there is a wealth of support for start-ups in Ireland, however, in her view, the business landscape is a distant way off the ecosystems that exist in the Bay Area, London, Tel Aviv or Berlin. “If you want to start a business in a place where support is easily and readily available and where an established, friendly and helpful start-up community already exists, then Ireland offers a great environment,” she says. “However, it’s hard to start a tech start-up in a quiet backwater.
Ireland is still very Dublin or Corkcentric and it would appear that it’s tricky island-wide to scale the majority of our high potential start-ups beyond the magic £1m/€1m turnover figure.” In her more recent role as an angel investor, McKenna advises young startups to spend ample time perfecting their business model and questioning customer need for the service they’re hoping to provide. After that, she notes that good business is about maximising networking opportunities. “Everything in business is about people,” she asserts. “Network like mad because every opportunity is attached
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COLM LYON FIRE
In 2000, Colm Lyon left his position as Head of Central IT at Ulster Bank to set up financial technology company Realex. Dealing chiefly with online payments between companies and their customers, Lyon’s time at the helm of Realex spanned 15 years as the company grew to a staff of 170 people, processing payments for 12,500 businesses worldwide. Lyon exited the company in 2015, selling to US giant Global Payments for €115 million. Lyon’s decision to exit Realex stemmed from his belief that Global Payments could allow the company to enhance its already strong customer offering, which made the company a more attractive option to buyers. “Realex has a decent technology, an online gateway that enables retailers get paid from selling online,” explains Lyon. “Since the deal it has been rolled out to Spain, to Canada and to America.” Lyon believes that this growth could have been reached organically without selling but at a lower impact and in a longer timeframe. “So its ability to scale and continue on a very attractive growth rate was really secured by becoming part of a large financial institution.” With the sale of Realex completed, Lyon jumped straight into the launch of his latest venture, Fire, an app which allows companies to open a digital bank account operating in both sterling and euro in real time. With the impending ramifications of Brexit, it is hoped that the technology will help small firms manage financial services relating to changes in legislation and consumer habits. “We’re just shy of a thousand businesses now using the service all the time and the feedback from them is basically ‘please give us more functions’ and ‘please give us more data services’ because the reaction to the product is just so strong, particularly from the SME market in the UK and Ireland.” Describing entrepreneurship in Ireland as in a healthy state, Lyon is encouraged by the range of opportunities on offer for start-ups. However, while incubation programmes can be a useful platform for a fledgling business, Lyon warns against allowing them to strip the original core characteristics of a company. “One thing that I would say to start-ups is, when you go through those incubation programmes, don’t lose your originality, don’t be cloned. Don’t make all start-ups look the same because they’re not.”
to a person or group. There’s no getting beyond that if you don’t know anyone.” When exiting a business successfully McKenna notes that honesty is key. Due to high level of crossover from different industries, she warns any entrepreneur who hopes to re-enter a given sector to retain the value of a good reputation. As for when to exit a business, McKenna feels there is no one universal answer. “It really does depend on the business and the market you’re in,” she says. “The textbook answer, I guess, is when the valuation is attractive to the sellers but there’s still plenty of space for the buyers to add value.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 17
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Feature Serial Entrepreneurs
JERRY KENNELLY TWEAK.COM
Over a ten year period between 1996 and 2006, serial entrepreneur Jerry Kennelly founded two companies, Stockdisc and Stockbyte, that specialised in providing high quality stock images for its customer base. By the time Kennelly sold the companies to Getty Images in April 2006 for $135 million, between them they had become the largest producers of stock photography in the world. In 2011 Kennelly returned to the business world with his latest company tweak.com, an online design service for large scale online printers across the globe. “It was always part of the plan,” explains Kennelly regarding his quick return. “We hadn’t expected to sell, so this is what we would have done if we hadn’t sold and we just kept going with the plan. Work is good therapy and there was still challenges out there in the speculative intellectual property space in which I had built some expertise.” For Kennelly, the question of when to exit a business is easily answered – when the valuation of the company is at its peak. He says: “It’s just getting an external value of what your business is worth at a particular time and trying to assess if that value is going to increase or decrease. Sometimes you are not in control of those cards and that’s the position we were in.” Recognising that all factors affecting the valuation of a business are not under the owner’s control is a significant part of the process, according to Kennelly. “Our customers at the time were getting images and we reckoned that they were overvalued by the stock market,” he says, “which meant that we were overvalued, which meant it was time to get out as fast as we could.” Negotiating the sale of a business often involves dealing with a direct competitor of your company. With sellers generally in the most vulnerable position, Kennelly advises retaining some level of control over the process. “Relationships within the business, with suppliers and with customers are put at risk,” he says. “You’ve got to try to maintain a veil of secrecy along that process and you’ve got to take the risk with a lot of sensitive information with regard to your operations getting into the public domain.”
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BERNIE KINSELLA WHEELS COURIERS, WORLDBOX
Bernie Kinsella has spent the majority of her career immersed in the transport sector. Her first company, Wheels Couriers, was originally established as a motorbike/pushbike courier service at a time when lack of email made such operations imperative to most businesses. Yet, as technology advanced and became part and parcel of doing business, Kinsella had to pivot. “We were a big part of commerce and we were just predominantly motorbikes,” she explains. “But as email came into place we had to quickly adapt the business and we became a delivery distribution business with a number of vans and trucks on the road.” In 2000, the company’s successful flex model made it an attractive business opportunity for An Post, and while she would continue to run the daily operations of Wheels Couriers, Kinsella decided to sell. During the sale Kinsella examined what would happen to the company as a subsidiary of An Post. “There was so much more than the revenue from the sale,” she recalls. “It opened up lots of opportunities to grow the business. It opened up other sales channels. It introduced us to new customers. We also had the opportunity to use the resources they had like compliance, legal, IT, stuff that as a small business you can’t really afford.” When An Post began to sell a number of subsidiaries in 2008 Kinsella and her two partners recognised an opportunity to buy back the business, which had undergone strong growth in the previous eight years. When starting any business
Kinsella believes sales should be the core focus. “On one hand I think we have a fantastic culture here. We have a ‘you can do it’ culture,” she says. “But at the same time there has to be a business case for everything. You have to figure out pretty quickly where you are going to get the sales from because no matter what, it’s all about sales.” By identifying the pain points in your business model, Kinsella believes a company can offer customers a niche service, such as the one she offers with her latest venture worldBOX. “In my experience the only way to build a brand with a new business is to look at all of the pain points and see how you can build around them. The one area in the transport sector that didn’t seem to be served very well was international deliveries.” Focusing chiefly on international shipping for the consumer market, worldBOX came about when Kinsella realised the difficulties involved in international shipping, including sourcing a box, the inconvenient hours of delivery offices and the confusion in cost of shipping internationally. As worldBOX removes the pain of international shipping, Kinsella is venturing further into the consumer market as her latest collaboration with An Post, Return Pal, which is set to be released in late June, will offer a paper free solution to returning commercial goods.
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Founder, Island Bridge Brand Development
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TIPS ON HOW TO BUILD A BRAND THAT CONNECTS WITH CUSTOMERS
KNOW WHAT YOU DO BEST Unless your product or service is an exact copy of another, there’s usually something about what you do or how you do it that you can do better than anyone else. Maybe it’s a different ingredient, or a step in your customer care. If this difference matters, and delivers a real benefit to customers, then you’re likely to have a solid basis on which to build your brand.
KNOW HOW CUSTOMERS BUY Customers purchase different things in different ways, so it’s important to understand how your best customers like to buy from you. Perhaps your offering is more easily bought by license or by instalment. There’s no point in selling only in the way that suits you; you must see it from the other side of the shop counter too, and understand how your customer likes to buy, so that you can begin to bridge that gap.
KNOW WHO YOU DO IT BEST FOR Although your point of difference matters, it’s unlikely that every customer values it equally. There’s no use in attracting customers who don’t appreciate what it is you do best. They’re much less likely to buy, and if they do, much more likely to be disgruntled. You need to target your best customers only, those who most need, want and value what you have to offer, and are willing to engage and able to buy.
KNOW HOW CUSTOMERS RESEARCH Just as they purchase different products or services in various ways, customers make decisions on what to buy differently too. It could be that your customer is happy to take a recommendation from a radio show or prefers to research online from someone just like them. Understanding the steps your customer takes before reaching a decision, means that you can begin to provide them with the information they need at exactly the time and place they need it.
KNOW WHY CUSTOMERS BUY Once you’ve identified those best customers in your market, you need to understand what it is about what you do best that fixes the real problem they face, and prompts them to buy from you only. Maybe your product or service enables a guilt-free purchase or provides peace of mind that others don’t. Knowing why customers buy enables you to reach your customers in a way that makes most sense to them.
KNOW WHAT RESOURCES CUSTOMERS USE When you know how customers research and how they buy, you can identify the resources they use to help them purchase what’s just right for them. Maybe your customer prefers to read something in the newspaper before visiting your store, or likes to sample something before buying it. Once you know the resources they require, you can provide just the right combination of building blocks to bridge the gap between you and your customers.
BRAND AS A BRIDGE
Hitting The Bullseye. When you’ve identified those customers who most
need, want and value what you have to offer, and are willing to engage, and able to pay for it, it’s a good idea to draw up a profile of your ideal or Bullseye Customer, and use this to enable you to focus on the heart of your market.
WHEN WE UNDERSTAND HOW OUR BRAND RELATIONSHIP WORKS, WE’RE MUCH MORE LIKELY TO BECOME THE NATURAL CHOICE OF OUR BEST CUSTOMERS.
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BUSINESS COVER STORY
The real challenge for a lot of small businesses is not the start-up phase but being able to grow and scale the company profitably and at the right pace. They will often need to experiment with different business models and navigate a myriad of challenges in order to turn growing pains into growing gains. Better Business met with three small businesses to talk expansion, business planning and the benefits of building a strong partnership with their bank.
MICHAEL CONDON | JONES BUSINESS SYSTEMS
KILLIAN O’FLYNN | HEAD OF SME BANKING
Permanent TSB lends to small business owners across Ireland, so I am delighted to introduce this series of articles offering practical advice to entrepreneurs. We particularly value the collaboration, authenticity and commerciality demonstrated by the three businesses who share their experiences. Permanent TSB always welcomes business owners with detailed business plans and offers a range of lending options to satisfy their borrowing needs. W: www.permanenttsb.ie/ business-banking
Consider a small family-run company based in Carlow that set up in the 1980s specialising in cash registers and you might expect the business to be non-operational today. Quite the opposite for Jones Business Systems, which has become a master at adapting, diversifying and succeeding during changing times. From its early days of selling the ‘brick’ 088 mobile phones to now providing managed IT services, remotely monitoring client networks, the company, which describes itself as office and stationery suppliers, has come a long way since its humble beginnings. “We’re right through from paperclip to computer networking,” says the man at the helm, CEO Michael Condon. He’s been there from the start and is part of the family’s second generation to have moved into senior positions at the company. Having started out in a servicing role, then moving into sales, like any good succession plan would have it, Condon experienced various positions in the company before leading today’s team of 50 staff. He explains how diversifying the business, adapting to new technologies and making small acquisitions have been key to success. “Our industry is widely considered to be in decline due to digitisation – there’s less paper and ink products. So we have to make sure that we diversify into new areas such as IT. That’s one of the strengths of our company: we’re not just an office stationery supplier, we’re right across the board in terms of being a one-stop-shop, whether it’s paper or ink you want, or high-level IT support.” According to Condon, Jones Business Systems, which has made six acquisitions since 2006, will continue to adapt and diversify in order to stay relevant. “I would imagine that in ten years’ time, we probably won’t recognise what we’re doing then versus what we do now,” he notes. To enable the company to continue on the acquisition trail, Jones Business Systems will undoubtedly rely on Permanent TSB, the bank it has worked with since the early 1990s. It’s a relationship that has strengthened over time. “They’re part of our growth story,” says Condon. “Whether it was investing in our premises or looking for working capital, we’ve had a good relationship. We’ve always found them very supportive and good banking partners. We were delighted when, recently, we won a very competitive tender to supply office supplies to the Permanent TSB branch network. It’s a good news story that the people we started banking with are now our biggest individual customer.” Condon’s advice for any small business approaching a bank for support is to be transparent. “It’s very important to build a relationship with whoever it is you’re dealing with in the bank and be as open as you can,” he advises. “Obviously give them the usual stuff that’s expected – financial data, management accounts – but it’s important to make sure they fully understand where you’re going with an expansion plan or new venture. Make sure you paint a picture for them and that they fully understand your story.” W: www.officestuff.ie T: +353 (59) 913 2595 E: email@example.com
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COVER STORY BUSINESS
“I would imagine that in ten years’ time, we probably won’t recognise what we’re doing then versus what we do now.”
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
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BUSINESS COVER STORY
SAMMY LESLIE | CASTLE LESLIE
you ng to hear from
TIPS FOR BETTER BUSINESS PLANNING IN ASSOCIATION WITH PERMANENT TSB
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PLAN FOR YOUR BUSINESS. Your business plan is for your business, and while your bank may seek it when applying for finance, your business plan should concentrate on your goals and objectives for your business, and more!
PLAN ON PAPER. Successful entrepreneurs are good at turning ideas into opportunities. Realising the true value of ideas starts with a business plan that brings your business to life. POWER YOUR PLAN WITH DATA. Data is the most powerful asset in your business plan. Enrich it with information on your financial accounts, cashflow projections, funding requirements.
PREPARE TO SHARE. Individual perspectives on business opportunities and growth can be overlooked in business plans. Share your vision with your bank for your business and plans.
Business plans can be a necessary evil. They require time and a lot of planning. But their reward can pay off multiple times what you put into them. It’s something Sammy Leslie of Castle Leslie, Co Monaghan, can testify to. Leslie has been the driving force behind developing Castle Leslie into an iconic estate and one of Ireland’s leading country retreats. And she started with a tea room and a business plan. “The business celebrates 25 years trading this year, but the family history reaches back 1,000 years to these lands,” explains Leslie. “We started with a tea room, which was funded with a grant of 5,000 Irish punts from the Enterprise Board, and I needed to match it. Struggling to raise the money, I decided to sell my father’s car while he was on holiday!” That car sale went a long way. The tearooms proved to be a success and they paved the way for an awardwinning hotel, wedding venue, world-class equestrian centre, self-catering cottages, spa and restaurants. Using the business plan to guide the way forward allowed Leslie to hone her business idea and to plan for the long-term. “At each juncture, I knew the key to succeeding was planning,” she says. “I was once told that everything is built three times; once in your head, once on paper and once in reality. If you don’t have the paper version, then making the plan happen is much harder.” Having a solid business plan also stood to Leslie when she sought finance. “It meant that when I needed support to build out my vision, I was prepared,” she says. Helping Leslie achieve that vision is Permanent TSB. “We bank with Permanent TSB for the service and dedication of the staff in our local branch. They get the vision of the estate and the strength in the business. Together we are driving success for each other.” So what advice does Leslie have for small businesses looking to succeed and grow? “They need to be prepared,” she asserts. “Embarking on your business idea without a business plan is like deciding to climb Everest without a map; exciting but often fatal.” W: www.castleleslie.com T: +353 (47) 88 100 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
KNOW YOUR MARKET. Banks want to see that you clearly understand your market. Your business plan should detail who your competitors are, how you can compete, and drive home what differentiates you from the rest.
RESEARCH YOUR PLAN. There are excellent resources available from your bank and government agencies on building your business plan. If you don’t know where to start, start with your bank for advice.
SHIRLEY WALSH | SME BUSINESS MANAGER
Shirley works with small and family-run businesses across the north-east area. Together with our local branches, Shirley is delivering lending solutions to customers like Castle Leslie every day. “We are unique because we still retain the face-toface banking relationship with the customer, be it in our local branch or in the customer’s place of business.” Contact Shirley today to find out how Permanent TSB can help your business. E: email@example.com T: 087 2315 314
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“If you don’t have the paper version, then making the plan happen is much harder.”
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
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BUSINESS COVER STORY
waiting to hear
TIPS FOR BETTER BUSINESS GROWTH
“Apart from the recession, we’ve managed to make money every year.”
IN ASSOCIATION WITH PERMANENT TSB
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DECIDE HOW TO EXPAND. Your expansion can be through new products, new channels, new sectors or new customers. Consider which method is right for you.
FUNDING YOUR EXPANSION. Once you know how you want to expand, consider how you will fund it. Bank finance can support expansion and work alongside business generated capital. Seek advice from your lender. PLAN FOR GROWTH. When you know how you’re expanding, put it on paper. Plot out the details of your growth, along with your sales plan and marketing plan (if required). BE LOGICAL ON LOGISTICS. Consider how expansion will affect your dayto-day operations. Will you need extra space? Will you need additional staff ? Review your operations to ensure readiness. TRADING STATUS. How your business trades today may not be effective post expansion. Talk to your local enterprise office or professional advisor on what is the most effective company structure.
EXPANDING HAS NO LIMITS. The ability for your business to expand and grow is limitless. Your bank or finance partner wants you to succeed; work with them on the long-term ambition for your business.
ENDA AND ANDREW SMITH | AKTA CLEANING SUPPLIES Choosing to expand is a significant step for any small business. For Dublin-based family firm Akta Cleaning Supplies the writing was on the wall last year when general manager Andrew Smith returned from a holiday abroad. As a small company of seven staff that supplies and distributes hygiene products, storage is key for keeping up with demand, and it’s a challenge that Andrew was faced with any time he was away from the business. “Before I went on holidays I stuffed the place with stock to make it easier for the guys while I was gone,” he recalls. “When I came back they explained how great it was to have so much stock close at hand enabling them to get orders out straight away.” It prompted Andrew to consider purchasing a new commercial unit to facilitate extra stock. “It got us thinking, and then a unit where we are in Park West became available,” he says. Having extra space is not only convenient, it will give Akta Cleaning stronger purchasing power when sourcing its products, as Andrew explains. “Rather than taking in five or six pallets, I’ll be looking to take in 20 at a time, and get them at a better price.” Akta Cleaning, which was set up by Andrew’s parents Enda and Margaret Smith back in 1986, is a long-standing customer of Permanent TSB, having banked there since 1992. For the family, they knew who to turn to when looking for finance to purchase the facility. “It all moved gradually but very easily,” explains Andrew of the loan process. “Permanent TSB were great to be honest, between Ronan Fairbrother and Seán Duffy at the O’Connell St branch, they were very accessible.” Now that Akta Cleaning has secured its new premises, what’s on the horizon for the family business and, at 71 years of age, is there any sign of Andrew’s father Enda packing it in? “It’s just a case of trying to increase business,” says Andrew. “Apart from the recession, we’ve managed to make money every year. So, just to continue what we’re doing. As for Dad, he enjoys coming in, it’s good for him and good for his health. He’s a very fit man, so he’s still able for plenty.” W: www.aktacleaning.ie T: +353 (1) 630 1970 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
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RONAN FAIRBROTHER | SME BUSINESS MANAGER
Ronan works with customers across a variety of sectors throughout the Dublin area, supporting business owners to plan and expand their business. Customers like Akta Cleaning Supplies choose Permanent TSB for the partnership approach adopted with all business customers. “Akta Cleaning Supplies are an ideal example of the vibrant and fast expanding customer that Permanent TSB support through our range of dedicated lending and daily banking products for SMEs”. Contact Ronan today to find out how Permanent TSB can help your business E: email@example.com T: 087 9116 619
Where contact is made through email, please do not disclose personal or sensitive information. permanent tsb plc is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.
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IN ASSOCIATION WITH
Advice Wise Guys
IN BUSINESS AND THRIVING - SIX INDUSTRY EXPERTS SHARE ONE SECRET OF THEIR SUCCESS
Financial Services Ted Dwyer Founder, City Life
Ben Dunne, a fellow Cork man who founded Dunnes Stores in 1944, had an interesting way of looking at problems. He said that problems create opportunities, and that the converse was equally true. The most important changes that we have instigated at City Life over the last 46 years have come from solving serious business problems. If you have a problem in your business, maybe this is your opportunity to make an important transformational change.
How do we define success?
Recruitment Hilarie Geary CEO, Executive Connections Ltd
Recruitment is all about people. The people we employ are critical to our success. Employing an engaged workforce is high on my agenda and ensuring we employ a knowledgeable and skilled workforce is testament to our business. I believe the harder you work the faster you learn. I continuously invest in our people, driving their capability in delighting our customers. A common goal and a clear strategy actively driven through a strong value system gives each of our people a very clear purpose each day.
Food and Drink Padraig McEneaney CEO, Celtic Pure Ltd
Put an emphasis on developing and fostering good business relationships. I have always understood the importance of building trust with customers. The team and I have built good business relationships internationally into Europe and the Middle East, which have enabled Celtic Pure to grow and invest €7 million in international expansion in 2017. Here in Ireland, we’ve fostered great working relationships with the FAI as their official water supplier, and with the GAA through our sponsorship with Monaghan GAA.
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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“The best revenge is massive success.” Frank Sinatra
Financial Solutions Dave Byrne Managing Director, Dualtron
‘You can count on Dualtron’ is our company motto. Key to this is hiring the best people possible and training them well on our solutions as well as our culture. No other investment we make is more important. Investing in talented employees builds loyalty, productivity, teamwork and retention. Having the right people doing the right job at the right time helps us help our banking, hospitality and retail customers run their businesses better.
If you are a business leader
(December 12th, 1915 – May 14th, 1998) was one of the most popular entertainers of the 20th century, forging a hugely successful career as an award-winning singer and actor.
Manufacturing Brendan Newsome
MD, Wire Ropes Ltd My raison d’être over a lifetime in business has been to retain a hands-on approach to fundamental issues affecting our customers and the shareholders. The top priorities given to our customers include the supply of quality products; a guarantee of supply; reasonable prices; and an excellent service. For the shareholders, it is important that focus is retained on ensuring a return on investment. In today’s business world competiveness remains the bible of survival. It is right to be positive, but necessary to be realistic.
Design Emer Roberts
Emer Roberts Design
Loving what you do is half the battle in getting to where you want to be and consistency is key in driving that passion. In my field of art and design, originality and authenticity take centre stage. The practicalities of unravelling and implementing your ideas come hand in hand. Staying true to your vision and viewing every hiccup and happy accident as part of the process will strengthen the outcome.
and you feel you have some words of wisdom to share with the small business community please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sector Spotlight ï€ª Taxis
THE TAXI INDUSTRY HAS BEEN IN A STATE OF CHANGE OVER THE PAST DECADE, OWING LARGELY TO DEVELOPMENTS IN NEW TECHNOLOGY. SMALL LOCAL CAB COMPANIES ARE DETERMINED NOT TO GET LEFT BEHIND, WRITES TIERNAN CANNON.
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here can be no doubt that the taxi industry has been undergoing massive change in recent years. The emergence of taxi apps such as Uber and Hailo – or mytaxi as it is now known following its recent merger with the German firm – illustrates the way technology is reshaping the traditional workings of the sector and changing how operators interact with their customers. These apps took off a little slower in Ireland than in other countries – Uber, for example, was valued at around $17 billion just four years after being founded in the US – but now such companies have become household names here. With towns and cities becoming ever smarter, employing big data and Internet of Things (IoT) applications to improve many aspects of daily life, they are destined to gain a stronger foothold in the industry, and the taxi companies that fail to embrace new technologies will undoubtedly get left behind. What then does this mean for the smaller, native players? Vinny Kearns, founder and CEO of Dublin-based taxi firm, Xpert Taxis, doesn’t seem particularly concerned about his new competitors. “There will always be competition, and this will exist at different levels,” he reasons. “McDonalds serves food but doesn’t compete with top restaurant names. Xpert specialises in the corporate market.” Working within a niche market such as corporate taxi services, Kearns believes his company can stay relevant and experience less impact caused by the new entrants. “We continue to exist and grow – albeit in the Irish market,” he says. “We create Irish jobs, pay Irish taxes and spend our money locally, helping our economy, and we’re proud to do so.” Noel Ebbs, Managing Director of Lynk Taxis, shares Kearns’ rationale when it comes to the emergence of new global taxi companies, identifying the advantages they present to the smaller players. “What they’re doing is they’re consolidating,” he explains. “As a company director, that helps me to focus my attention. On the one hand it’s more difficult because you’re playing against very serious companies, but on the other hand it makes things simpler because you’re only competing with half a dozen, rather than 20 or 25.”
Xpert taxi drivers
“THE AVERAGE AGE OF A DRIVER NOW IS AROUND 55 YEARS OLD. THAT IS REALLY OLD WHEN YOU COMPARE IT TO OUR EUROPEAN COUNTERPARTS, WHICH IN SOME CASES IS 20 YEARS YOUNGER.” Embracing Tech The success of taxi firms in this day and age relies heavily on their investment in and utilisation of technology. Taxi apps, for example, are increasing in popularity, and though phone calls still account for a significant percentage of bookings made with taxi firms, the usage of apps has been on the increase, and is likely to continue its upward trajectory. This trend began a number of years ago, and forced taxi firms to adapt to a new consumer environment, as Lynk’s Noel Ebbs explains. “In around 2010, we started to migrate our customers from the traditional phone to web-based booking systems and app-based booking systems. Approximately 45 per cent of our business now is done electronically.” Forty-five per cent represents quite a significant number of bookings when considering the figures quoted by other companies. Vinny Kearns from Xpert Taxis, for example, claims that reservations made through his app account for just 5 per cent of bookings. Eric O’Brien, Managing Director of Waterford-based Rapid Cabs, meanwhile, says his company’s app bookings account for around 15 per cent, while Dublin-based National Radio Cabs (NRC) Managing Director Liam Brady cites 20 per cent. Despite these broadly varied figures, each company predicts a shift in consumer habits and that the popularity of their apps will increase over the coming years. While taxi apps are still somewhat in their infancy, it is difficult to imagine a future where they do not play a central role to how people use taxis. Technology advancements within the taxi industry extend beyond the booking process. Xpert Taxis, for instance, has invested heavily in technology that aims to save energy and keep costs down. Kearns explains: “Working with third party developers and Three Mobile, we built a robust system that uses technology to reduce idle mileage and, in turn, reduce our carbon footprint.” Lynk, too, is looking at new ways in which technology can improve its service. “We need to be able to predict what [volume of customers] drivers are going to have and where we’re going to have them – what volumes of bookings we can take in those areas and how we can manage those bookings,” explains Noel Ebbs. “We have all these algorithms working in the background that calculate those movements for us. This allows us then to accurately predict demand in an area. This is based on data that we’ve been collecting since about 2010. It’s amazing how the patterns repeat themselves, almost to the day annually.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 31
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Sector Spotlight Taxis Noel Ebb, CEO, Lynk Taxis
Eric O’Brien and the Rapid Cab App
Going Electric The systems that allow taxi firms to run efficiently and communicate with their customers are vital, but the fate of the sector also rests with the vehicle industry itself. More fuel efficient cars will play a substantial role within the auto industry in the future, and this will inevitably have implications for the taxi business. Electric cars represent a tiny percentage of the cars on the road in Ireland today. In 2015, they made up just 0.23 per cent of new car sales, with 562 vehicles sold. However, those numbers are slowly increasing, and will certainly need to rise if the Irish Government is to achieve its energy targets. Nonetheless, the taxi industry is watching closely. Both NCR and Xpert Taxis have invested in electric vehicles, but not to any substantial level – reflective, indeed, of wider consumer trends. NCR currently has two electric taxis on the road. “We’ve had them a few years now,” says Liam Brady. “They were a trial project in conjunction with the ESB. The drivers find them great; however, the demand for them isn’t as we would have expected.” Xpert too currently operates a number of electric cars. However, as Vinny Kearns suggests, the company would hope to expand its electric potential in the future. “Electric cars will be the future of transport. We are currently operating electric vehicles and plan to roll out greater pilot schemes as vehicle ranges between charges improve,” he says. Meanwhile, Noel Ebbs at Lynk has been monitoring the progress of electric vehicles in recent years. He believes they have yet to reach a sufficient standard suitable for the taxi industry. “I can put my hand on my heart and say that I cannot see a car that
Driverless Cars: A Threat or an Opportunity? It’s all but a certainty that autonomous vehicles will be widely used in Ireland at some stage over the next two to three decades. Clearly tech companies stand to gain from these advancements, but will the introduction of driverless cars be an opportunity for the taxi industry or threaten the very survival of the sector as we know it? Bob Nixon, cofounder of taxi technology company iCabbi, certainly believes taxi firms should be considering their options. “Taxi companies should be joining together now to form strong groups with massive potential buying power,” he says. “They should be getting a seat at the tables where all of the key strategic discussions are being held on autonomous vehicles and they should be mapping out how a world where people don’t own their own cars may look. “I believe that as a taxi company owner if you’re not thinking about it then you’ll be left behind as it’s all about timing.”
is adequate – and we’ve tested numbers of them over the years,” he says. “The most amount of mileage we could get out of any electric cars in a day was 100km. That’s just not enough, so what we use in that area is hybrids. They work pretty well for us.”
Insurance Costs The threat of global taxi apps and the pressure for firms to keep up with technology clearly represent challenges to smaller taxi firms. However, perhaps the biggest challenge facing the industry right now is insurance. “We’ve
heard of quotes of €10,000 to €13,000 for guys trying to start driving,” says Eric O’Brien of Rapid Cabs. “It’s something that has to be looked at and has to be dealt with, sooner rather than later. It could be the biggest demise for the industry.” These exhorbitant rates are naturally deterring would-be drivers from joining the industry, which has in turn led to a sharp increase in the average age of a taxi driver in Ireland. This is something Liam Brady of Lynk insists needs to be tackled. “The average age of a driver now is around 55 years old,” he says. “That is really old when you compare it to our European counterparts, which in some cases is 20 years younger. That in itself is a problem. A guy of 65 or 70 years old is not working as hard as a guy at 25 or 30. Certainly I don’t work as hard as when I was 30 years old!” Brady says the insurance costs are by far the biggest barrier to entering the trade. “The problem is there are only two main insurers in Ireland – I think we need another player in the market,” he suggests. “We also need drivers experienced in other industries to carry bonuses from industry to industry. So a guy who has been driving a bus for 20 years should be able to carry his no claims bonus into the taxi. Commercial drivers should be able to carry their experiences and their bonuses from industry to industry, but right now they’re not.” Evidently, there are challenges ahead for the Irish taxi industry. However, many of the firms operating within it have been proactive and nimble enough to keep up with wider global trends and with the competition of massive global players. Undoubtedly change is afoot, but the sector has thus far responded well and the small taxi company is going nowhere for the forseeable future.
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Small Business Profile Vibes & Scribes
JOAN LUCEY, OWNER AND MD OF CORK CITY’S VIBES & SCRIBES BOOKSTORE AND CRAFT SUPPLIES SHOP, TALKS THE URBANRURAL DIVIDE, GOING ONLINE AND THE FUTURE OF BRICKS AND MORTAR RETAIL. About ten years ago, the writing was on the wall for books and, in particular, the traditional book trade. And though many bookshops have shuttered, fallen victim to the cut-price behemoths online and consumers’ changing lifestyles, some continue to thrive. Cork’s Vibes & Scribes is a case in point. Its owner, Joan Lucey, credits a unique and diverse range as one of the key factors of the shop’s success: “We specialise in a lot of areas,” she says. “For instance, we do a lot of second-hand which sells well for us; we do a special price; we do lots of arts, architecture, design, children, mind, body, spirit – so we have our specialist areas.” To help bolster sales, Vibes & Scribes also diversified its product range a few years back. “We wanted to change products slightly so we thought we’d put art, architecture and design books with art supplies, and from there it grew into more art supplies: millinery, dress-making, knitting, crochet and then things like jewellery-making, candle-making – you name it, we supply it.” Lucey now has three shops in Cork city: two book shops and an arts and crafts
supplies shop, or about 14,000 sq ft of retail space. The changing face of the retail industry means that traditional stores must provide more than transactions. Vibes & Scribes has a book club and chooses a book of the month, and it hosts a range of in-store events to engage with its customers – last week it was a millinery workshop and demo. “We do a wide range of events. The idea is connecting with the customer, giving them an extra service that they’re not going to get online,” explains Lucey. “You’re teaching them how to use the product so hopefully they’ll use it again and you’re building loyalty. The events are popular, people like them. You can get new customers from it as well. “Book customers have a tendency to be quite loyal and they like their bookshops: it’s a place of leisure; they’re coming to enjoy themselves. They’re not coming because they have to buy a book, they’re coming because they want to buy a book. They come to an environment that they enjoy.” Lucey says to get the book customer you also have to be very price-conscious. Saying that, she has also seen an unexpected
increase in book sales recently. “We have found that there has been growth in the past year, year and a half, which I didn’t expect to ever see again in the book trade. “One thing that we’ve noticed is that grandparents are buying more books for their grandchildren. They are worried that the children are all the time on their phones, on their computer. There is definitely an
effort being made to encourage children to read. There’s a real fear that they won’t know how to read a book.” In terms of challenges for her business, Lucey says the recent Bus Éireann strike, which stalled buses for three weeks this spring, has taken its toll on her business. She
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Vibes & Scribes
Small Business Profile
We are getting a bit of an overflow from Dublin. But I’m up in Dublin regularly and I see such prosperity and it’s so busy. I’m sure people in Dublin, people in the Government based there and the decision-makers forget what it’s like for the rest of the country, especially for small towns.” Keeping up with digital developments is the other difficulty Lucey encounters as a small business owner. She says that people’s ‘always-engaged’ lifestyles mean she’s not only competing for online sales, but that she’s also increasingly competing with screens for people’s time. Vibes & Scribes opened an e-store about two years ago and is currently working on opening a US site. Though online sales represent only a small percentage of the business’ overall sales, it’s a growth area. “It is very important of course but, again, it’s challenging because if you’re an independent small business you probably don’t have the same resources. It’s very hard to compete with Amazon and you wouldn’t consider putting books online – you just couldn’t compete. We’re happy with the online growth and we’re expanding, but it is a challenge.” Over the next few years, Lucey hopes the online side of the business will increase, and says she’d like to start seeing the dividends for all the investment that Joan Lucey, owner and MD, Vibes & Scribes
SFA FACT Did you know? In 2016, An Post selected Vibes & Scribes Bridge Street premises to be featured on a range of stamps focusing on unique and original Irish shop fronts. Lucey credits the building’s architectural interest and her artistic staff’s colourful window display with this stamp of approval.
says trade is considerably down on last year, largely due to the strike: “Having a month of people not coming into town not only kills your business for the month, but people develop new habits. Also in retail, you’re competing with online; you’re competing with shopping centres.”
A Clear Divide Lucey acknowledges the rural-urban divide as a key issue for Ireland. “That’s our biggest challenge, and also the challenge is that there hasn’t been the same levels of prosperity and growth in rural Ireland that there has been in Dublin. In Cork we’re better off than most.
has gone into online. But she’s also positive about Vibes & Scribes’ physical presence in Cork: “People worry about the future of these bricks and mortar businesses, but I think people do want a shopping experience and we give them that.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 35
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Feature Access to Finance
THE SMALL BUSINESS FINANCING LANDSCAPE IS CONTINUALLY CHANGING, WITH MORE OPTIONS AVAILABLE TO BUSINESS OWNERS THAN EVER BEFORE. BETTER BUSINESS ROUNDS UP WHAT’S ON OFFER.
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Access to Finance
Rewind as little as 15 years and small firms in Ireland had a severely limited choice of options when it came to raising finance. Typically, the first move for any business owner or manager looking for cash would have been to don their best suit and seek out a meeting with their bank manager. Fast forward to the present day and small firms have arguably never had it better when it comes to financing options. As well as bank lending, angel, asset financing, venture capital, equity investors, crowd funding, peer-to-peer lending and state supports are just some of the finance vehicles that small firms can avail of. The increasing number of options is very much a welcome development for Irish firms. According to Gerry McMunn, a certified financial planner, and owner of Sligo-based financial consultancy firm Wealth Options Ltd, financial sophistication in Ireland is definitely developing. “In previous years lending to small firms was primarily bank-based,” he says. “The bank/senior debt option still remains the first port of call, however, firms are becoming more aware of sources such as crowdfunding and peer-to-peer financing. In addition, state or semi-state advice and help from Enterprise Ireland/IDA is being sought regarding finance and firms are actively investigating potential grants where they apply.” The most recent figures from the CSO date back to 2014 and show that small firms were still showing a strong preference for bank finance. While 20 per cent of micro-sized enterprises applied for bank finance, the rate rose to 35 per cent for small-sized enterprises and increased again to 40 per cent for medium sized enterprises. Relatively few SMEs looked for finance from non-bank sources – less than 5 per cent. But all the signs are that this trend has changed over the past few years, according to McMunn. “There has been a clear reduction in requests for working capital facilities in recent times. Traditionally these requests would have been seen by way of overdraft and/or invoice finance. Profits are being retained and used to fund growth with the underlying sentiment being caution. The effect is slower growth but more stability and an aversion to taking on debt pertains due to past experiences and
stories heard generally. I read the other day that 80 per cent of UK small firms are in this space. Leasing finance has grown in recent years as this is deemed more straightforward to secure and can be sourced on an asset by asset basis.”
P2P Set To Grow The funding environment has changed more in the last ten years than it did in the previous one hundred, according to McMunn. He says that firms need to decide what their priority is in terms of their funding needs. For example, do they need the money as soon as possible? Alternatively, the rate could be the most important thing or minimising the need to provide security could be number one. Once they have decided what their priorities are then speak to your accountants and advisers, do your research and move forward from there, he says. McMunn cites peer-to-peer (P2P) lending as a funding mechanism to watch. “If the UK experience is anything to go by then this sector is poised for significant growth. In an environment of low deposit rates, investors will seek out new opportunities,” he says. P2P lending has been growing in popularity around the world and is really starting to take off in Ireland. Also known as crowdfunding, P2P is the practice of matching individuals (or businesses) to lenders via online platforms. The practice started around a decade ago and is now seen as an attractive alternative to traditional lending, with firms like Linked Finance and Grid Finance making it possible to borrow between €5,000 and €250,000, at a fixed rate of interest (typically between 8.5 per cent and 15 per cent), for a term of up to three years.
SFA FACT Did you know? Finance matters according to the latest SFA Summer Business Sentiment Survey, which found that 72 per cent of small firms intend to invest in their business over the coming year.
The loan gets repaid by the firm in monthly instalments and it’s possible to get set up on one of these platforms in a matter of minutes. For small firms, doors are also opening to other new types of funding. McMunn says: “The Strategic Banking Corporation (state bank senior debt provider), the Credit Guarantee Scheme (where the government may provide a senior debt provider with a 75 per cent guarantee for the amount provided) and Microfinance Ireland (Government’s micro enterprise loan fund) are three statebacked options which companies may not be commonly aware of.”
Split the Risk? One might assume that utilising several of the available funding options to break up a fundraising round is a viable option, but McMunn cautions against this. “Spreading your funding options and developing relationships down multiple channels allows you increased options if you require further finance,” he says. “However, lenders will normally require security and most lenders will not want to see that multiple entities have security over assets within the company, as it reduces any one lender’s control in a distressed situation.” He adds: “In addition, it opens any one lender up to their hand being forced via the enforcement action of another. Sourcing all finance from one lender over time develops trust and can make decisions on increased funding, especially through more challenging times, more likely to be agreed.” When it comes to his top advice for any company seeking to raise money in the current climate, McMunn cites a familiar old adage: “Fail to prepare... prepare to fail”. He says: “A solid properly-prepared business plan is a must. Nothing beats extensive research, detailed financial analysis and realistic projections. Write it down. “The other tip I would give is to fully understand your funding requirements. By that I mean – know fully if it’s for short, medium or longer term. Is it for cashflow, stock, staff recruitment, capital expenditure? You want to avoid trying to make a short-term funding option fit a long-term requirement and vice versa.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 37
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Interview Michael Dawson
HE’S AN ENTREPRENEURIAL VETERAN AND MIGHT NOT BE FINISHED YET. MICHAEL DAWSON, FOUNDER OF THE GIFT VOUCHER SHOP, TALKS US THROUGH HIS ROAD TO SUCCESS AND WHY IT PAYS TO SHOW APPRECIATION.
re entrepreneurs born or made? In the case of Michael Dawson, it would appear he was born that way – from running the school shop, to selling sandwiches in petrol queues during a fuel shortage as a child. When he left school he went into youth work and then spent a number of years as national youth organiser with Fianna Fáil, until Italia ’90 presented an opportunity. “There was a lot of people giving out about the price of tickets and having to travel all the way to Italy; it was beyond most people’s reach to get to Italy so I thought ‘what if someone took Italy to Ireland?’ I rang Jim Aiken, the big concert promoter, and I said, ‘here’s an idea for you.’ Jim said he was heading off to Italy for the matches himself so he wasn’t going to be around. So I started to look at organising screenings of the matches myself and before long I was committed to doing this monstrous event, which was an outstanding success that I made a fortune on. So I said, ‘ah here, I’ll have to give up this whole politics lark, and move into business’.” Successful entrepreneurs usually share a quality of resilience and Dawson had to have it in spades following his next move, one he describes as his “PhD in business” – the first of several. He organised a series of drive-in movies in the Phoenix Park but, in typical Irish fashion, the weather didn’t comply. “That year it just rained and rained and rained so I lost a fortune on it. But I was committed to the business at that stage and like any good entrepreneur, you shake yourself down and start back up again.”
Dawson’s next venture was a lottery product which took him to the United States for six years, a time when the Celtic Tiger was roaring back home. “I was very often feeling sorry for myself that I was off in the States developing this business when everyone back home was making money for doing very little: investing in property, buying sites and becoming property developers. In hindsight, I was probably very lucky that I was out of all that because had I been involved, I’d probably be up to my eyes in it and still paying off the debt now.” The lottery product never really took off, and Dawson returned from the States around the turn of the millennium. The idea for One4all hit when he was tasked with some Christmas shopping. “My late wife asked me to buy a
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Michael Dawson pictured at the launch of the Junior Entrepreneur Programme 2017
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Interview Michael Dawson
voucher for my mother for Christmas. But “We don’t believe that it’s going to cause us unfortunately, it was for Jurys Hotel which was any great problem. Our sales right now in the on the southside and we lived on the northside, UK are buoyant and strong and they haven’t so it meant in order to buy a simple Jurys seen any sort of a dip. If both economies falter a voucher I had to travel from Malahide over to little bit because of Brexit, we will see it.” Ballsbridge. November came and went and I Dawson is on the board of the EY never got it, and December’s first, second and Entrepreneur of the Year Alumni who recently third week came and went and I still hadn’t got conducted a survey on its near-500 alumni’s the voucher for my mother. So the only thing attitude to Brexit. “In the survey about 90 per I was asked to do for Christmas, I failed to do. cent of our businesses in the North of Ireland Dawson My mother didn’t get a voucher for Jurys; she have said they believed Brexit would have a on Dawson got a local restaurant voucher from Malahide. negative impact on their business and 75 per But she did spark an idea.” cent in the Republic of Ireland said it would We put Dawson There had to be a better model for the have a negative effect. Forty per cent believe on the spot and voucher business, he thought – “even in the that Brexit has already had an impact on asked him to to describe himself as best of shops - you went in to get a voucher and their business. But Danny [McCoy, of Ibec] a businessman. Fair you were given a till receipt stapled on to an old was saying the other day that 62 per cent of and courageous were card, and if you lost it, that was the end of it.” the alumni said that Brexit presents positive the words of the Though Dawson’s lottery product hadn’t opportunities, too.” day. “I’d like to think taken off, it had given him an insight into Keeping his employees happy and motivated that I’m extremely fair in business,” he networks and the importance of connectivity. is one of Dawson’s key concerns. He’s spoken says. “It’s important He began to talk to retailers and asked if they’d about it at the last two SFA annual conferences, to be fair to your pay if he was to sell vouchers for them. He and it’s something he does at One4all without suppliers, fair to your spoke to An Post about using their computer the assistance of a HR department. customers, being system, and they got on board. “There’s a huge shift in what young people fair to your staff. I’d also say courageous. One4all’s revenue is commission-based. want from their work. They want a much better Having the courage Vouchers are sold and when they’re cashed – work-life balance. They want to be thanked to do things. I don’t and only when they are cashed – whatever store – the number of people who simply want necessarily spend they are cashed in pays a commission. In the to be thanked on a regular basis, just to see too much time at the meantime, funds are safeguarded by law and some sort of appreciation, and it doesn’t really beginning thinking about failure.” under EU regulation. One4all has no access happen; it’s not the culture of Irish companies to them – at any given time there’s in excess of to do it. If you’re going to be smart and you €100 million in funds on deposit. If a voucher want to retain the calibre of the people that you hasn’t been redeemed after 18 months, One4all need, well then you have to dig deep and you charges a management fee of €1.45 per month. If have to look beyond waving the big cheques a voucher is lost, it can be replaced due to electronic tracking. in front of staff; you’ve got to show staff that they’re going to be Vouchers are redeemable in thousands of retailers across Ireland. appreciated.” Sales come through four different channels: the post office, online, a In terms of competing with the multinationals for staff, Dawson corporate channel, and the Post Point outlets in convenience stores. believes that small businesses have a lot to offer. “That culture of The post office is still the biggest channel, growing in double-digit ‘Googlising’ everything and your free all-you-can-eat breakfast and figures for the sixth year in a row. Corporate sales boomed when the lunch, they’re beginning to get a little tired. After you’ve eaten all Government increased the small benefits relief from €250 to €500. you can and drank as much coffee as you can, you realise you’re Online sales are growing around 55 per cent year on year again, doing the same thing, day in, day out. There’s only so much scope faster than any other channel. for promotion; it’s dog-eat-dog. Working for smaller firms can be One4all is now the biggest gift card supplier in the UK. Right far more attractive because you have the opportunity for promotion, now it’s doing around twice as much business in the UK as in you’ve an opportunity for your voice to be heard if the company is Ireland. Eventually Dawson believes it should be able to do around being run right. It’s up to us in small firms to grasp what an open eight times the volume that it does here. It’s also the biggest voucher door is right now. This is what people want so if we recognise this, in Malta, a site Dawson said was set up as an international testing well then we’ll be ending up with the best of staff, and we’re well ground and to show Royal Mail that it would work internationally. able to hold our heads up against the multinationals.” In terms of Brexit, Dawson is fairly optimistic. “It’s not going The entrepreneur is neither too fazed about what the future holds to affect us too much. We did get our e-money licence through for One4all or for himself. “As the majority shareholder, the final the Financial Services Regulator in the UK and we transported decision will always be with An Post. Whether they decide to buy us that back across to Ireland. It’s not clear yet exactly what is going out in the future or look at selling us to a third party company, that to happen there but we’ll be making an application to the Central day is going to come. I have loads more ideas to inflict on the world Bank in Ireland to get a licence for Ireland separately just to cover as soon as that day comes. I’m like a greyhound waiting to get back ourselves in the event that we can’t transport that out of the EU. out of the traps again.” 40 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS
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GIVING SMALL FIRMS CREDIT DESPITE RECENT SURVEYS SHOWING STEADY GROWTH AMONG MANY SMALL FIRMS IN IRELAND, CHALLENGES REMAIN TO ENSURE BUSINESSES ARE ACCESSING THE PROPER FUNDING TO EXPAND. THE CREDIT REVIEW OFFICE IS THERE TO HELP. Research shows that over 88 per cent of Irish SMEs invested in their businesses last year, well ahead of the EU average of 60 per cent. According to the Central Bank, figures for new lending by Irish banks are up 10 per cent in the last year, and most businesses will get the credit they seek to grow and develop. However, there are challenges to overcome in ensuring businesses get proper funding for growth. Some tips for potential borrowers are set out below, based on the feedback the Credit Review Office receives from callers to its helpline and the appeals it reviews: • Ensure you have made a formal
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application that has been considered by the bank’s credit department. Applications can be made in person at a branch, over the phone or online. Always check that you have made a formal application, not just an enquiry – that means the credit department will review your request and that you can appeal if they refuse. • Check you have provided all the information requested. The bank typically has 15 days to respond to an application, but the clock is switched off if the bank is awaiting additional information from you. • Reduce perceived risk by providing clear, concise and relevant information
about the business, with realistic projections showing an ability to repay. • Ensure the bank is not the only risk taker and that you are putting your own stake into the business as well. • While lending is all about future cashflows – as this is how you will repay the debt – risk can be reduced where there is strong collateral or security. If you feel you have addressed all the bank’s concerns and you are refused, you can appeal the decision. For more information, contact the Credit Review Office at 1850-211789, or visit the website www.creditreview.ie.
Feature ï€ª Co-working
GOOD COMPANY IN
CO-WORKING IS A GROWING PHENOMENON IN IRELAND AND ACROSS THE WORLD, BUT WHAT ARE THE KEY ADVANTAGES OF OPERATING IN THESE SPACES, AND WHAT KIND OF BUSINESSES DO THEY ATTRACT? TIERNAN CANNON FINDS OUT MORE.
When we think of co-working, we often conjure up images of colourful office walls with bean bags, beer taps and office dogs. This notion of a laid-back and youthful environment might ring true for a lot of new co-working spaces popping up in Ireland, however the concept and goal of these hubs is something much more serious. The growing popularity of co-working here is testament to that. The phenomenon has been gathering pace in recent years and you can hardly look at the Sunday business pages these days
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knew that the rents were undervalued. So initially it was just a real estate play where I knew I was getting space at very good value. There were large amounts of space that companies weren’t willing to rent and landlords couldn’t find tenants for. But I knew there were lots of people being let go; a lot of people that were dissatisfied in their work because they were getting cuts, and as a result there were a lot of people going out on their own to do their own thing.” Spotting an opportunity, McGinley reasoned that if he were to take a large piece of space, divide it up into the appropriate sizes for smaller operators, and fit it out with the appropriate amenities, micro businesses and start-ups would begin to fill the space. “It was only after we started our fourth, fifth and sixth buildings that I figured out that we had something here,” he says. “We now needed to package it into a brand and start to put a plan around scaling the business.”
Iconic Offices, Dublin
without reading about the launch of the latest co-working office. While Ireland was a bit slower off the mark than many of its contemporaries in Europe and Stateside, the idea of co-working is no longer as alien as it once was, and its popularity is set to rise further in the coming years. The changing way we view the world of work and a need to be more flexible in our professional lives have played their part. An acute shortage of office space available in cities like Dublin is also a catalyst, something Joe McGinley identified whilst Ireland was still firmly in the grips of recession. McGinley is the Chief Executive of Iconic Offices, which currently operates 16 co-working spaces throughout Dublin, with a seventeenth on the way shortly and a number of additional buildings set to open before the year’s end. The company is evidently proving to be a success, but its origins lie in its founder’s eye for real estate, more than anything else. “The business just evolved organically – a bit of a cliché, isn’t it?” asks McGinley. “What happened was, I knew there was a disparity between office rents at that time – that was deep in the recession – I
The benefits to co-working spaces, particularly when considering small firms and start-ups, are plain to see. Among them is the ability to cut out additional overheads from a business’s monthly costs. In co-working spaces, companies generally pay a fixed monthly rate which allows them access to the space and its amenities. The likes of electricity, heating and WiFi will be included in one fee. Furthermore, a business need not be bound by a contract. Most co-working spaces offer short-term leases, providing businesses with some room and flexibility, should they require it. New Work Junction in Kilkenny, for example, works on a month-to-month basis, which many start-ups find reassuring. “One of the biggest advantages that we have here is that we operate on a monthly rental fee,” says Tom Cuddihy, Office Administrator at New Work Junction. “So [the businesses] aren’t tied into a long-term lease or anything like that. They’re not caught into a three-year contract. Plus, everything is already laid on for them. Obviously fast WiFi is the big thing, and their desk space or office – you have a good variety of rent packages per month.” While the vast majority of spaces have inevitably sprung up in the capital, recent years have seen co-working offices emerge outside Dublin. Big business is getting in on the act too, sponsoring innovation hubs in places like Galway, Skibbereen and Dingle. Cuddihy believes that Kilkenny, in particular, is the perfect kind of place to do business in a collaborative way. “There’s a whole artistic and creative vibe about Kilkenny. It’s a real festival kind of city,” he says. “Moreover, the living costs and the rent costs would be about half of what they are in Dublin.”
Space for Innovation While businesses operating in co-working spaces can clearly benefit from a cost point of view, the advantages extend far beyond that. The spaces can have a positive impact on productivity. At its very core, co-working is based upon the ideals of collaboration and the cross-pollination of ideas. It allows business owners and workers the opportunity to interact with people working within fields that they would otherwise not come into contact with, which can lend itself to moments of inspiration and innovation. “You’re in a working environment that is relaxed and has the feel of being an office without the formality, in the sense that workers SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 43
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An Insider’s View A number of companies based in co-working spaces share their thoughts on the benefits the spaces provide to their businesses. The SOSRead Service – confidential reading service “The other members of New Work Junction gave us tonnes of support and advice while we developed our business there. It’s great to have such a diverse and friendly range of professionals to throw questions at and get impartial advice in return.”
DC Cahalane and Dave Ronayne, co-founders of the Republic of Work
do their own thing but can interact – there’s a lot of collaboration that goes on between different members,” says Cuddihy. “Somebody might be a graphic designer and help somebody that’s trying to develop an app, or you could have a web designer helping somebody to set up their website. They all interact with each other without anything being formally agreed upon, which is really nice.” This spirit of collaboration is something that DC Cahalane, CEO of newly established Cork-based Republic of Work, also believes is core to the co-working culture. “Here businesses are able to meet with all different types of business people and support one another with growing or transforming their businesses,” he says. “They get valuable advice on how to grow and expand their company. It’s more of a community, and people network seamlessly here. Our goal is to help our member businesses innovate, grow and take their businesses to a new level of professional success.” Cahalane, who opened Republic of Work with his business partner Dave Ronayne, suggests that the diverse mix of businesses and business people that populate coworking spaces encourages fresh ideas and perspectives that wouldn’t be usual to businesses based within a traditional office setting. “We have everything from solopreneurs to corporate multinationals working in the space; we have app developers, recruiters, customer experience companies, bloggers, charities who support the homeless in Cork, accountants, banks,
office interior designers,” he says. “In general we’re very focused on companies at any stage who are very innovative and who are transforming their industries and changing how we live.” That’s one of the interesting aspects to co-working spaces: they’re not exclusive to companies just getting off the ground. Small firms – and indeed, multinationals – stand to gain from having a presence in these hubs. “[Existing businesses] can harness a level of flexible working that just isn’t available in their own work spaces,” Cahalane suggests. “Compared to all the additional costs of having your own office, Republic of Work provides world class facilities for enterprises at a fraction of the cost.” So with all these supposed benefits to companies, is the future of business set to be based within co-working spaces? McGinley, Cuddihy and Cahalane all seem to think it will play a major part. McGinley views the growth of his Iconic Offices as an indicator of the rise of the co-working phenomenon in Ireland for the foreseeable future, while Cuddihy believes that the cost-savings available to companies that set up in co-working spaces will drive a continued interest in the movement. Cahalane too believes the area will continue to grow. “I think we’re on a path where for the next few years, the number of spaces will probably double each year,” he says. “There’s a lot of spaces popping up around Ireland, which is great to see as it’s a brilliant business resource.”
Yeco – touch software for professional music production “Self employed and small businesses can benefit greatly from sharing expertise and ideas with one another in a coworking space. You also get the social experience more akin to working in a larger organisation and a clean separation between work and home life.” Innogy – energy company “While establishing the business in Ireland, renting an office space in a shared office environment seemed like the logical option. It has provided the business with a base to implement its growth strategy with all the benefits and services of a larger office environment.” Captivate Presentations – specialist presentation agency “Going into a work environment like New Work Junction allows you the freedom of home working with the added bonus of meeting many new people working in many different sectors, sharing a laugh or a joke.” abcr – special chemical company “We see the benefits to working in a co-working space everyday – friendly chats, as well as business talks, happen here everyday, keeping your motivation levels and spirits well up!”
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Business-focused advice and insights
The full benefits of SFA membership plus essential insights from Ibec sectors SFA+ membership options: SFA+ Food and Drink SFA+ Property SFA+ Technology SFA+ Medtech
Connecting members in a thriving community
Essential sectoral insights
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Find out more and sign up online at www.sfa.ie/joinusnow or call 01 605 1664
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Management training tailored to small firms 26/05/2017 14:57
Interview Trading Places
CONOR FORREST TRACKED DOWN ALAN FISHER, FOUNDER OF TOKYO’S KYOJIN NO STEWHOUSE, WHICH IS INSPIRING A PASSION IN JAPANESE PEOPLE FOR IRISH FOOD AND CULTURE.
Nestled on the corner of two narrow side streets in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward, Kyojin no Stewhouse (The Giant’s Stewhouse) offers locals the chance to experience authentic Irish culture and cuisine. Dundalk man and former soldier with the Irish Defence Forces Alan Fisher is the brains behind the operation. Fisher returned home from serving in Kosovo in 2003, having saved as much as he could with the goal of returning to college in mind. By 2007 he had graduated with a degree in business from Dundalk Institute of Technology, and earned a Master’s in Marketing from Dublin City
University in 2008. But his future would lie beyond Ireland’s borders. “At that time, I remember thinking to myself how I’d really like to get some ‘stand out’ experience. To take on a challenge and do something that would help differentiate my CV a little bit,” he recalls. “Back then, FÁS was still running the Overseas Graduate Programme, whereby they would introduce Irish graduates to companies in Asia, primarily Japan and China. I saw this and went for it, I did a few interviews in Dublin and was offered a position with a Japanese IT company called Fujisoft. I flew to Japan on September 22nd 2008.” A chance to enhance his CV drew Fisher to Japan, where he worked with Fujisoft for six-and-a-half years, but love kept him there – he married his Japanese girlfriend in April 2014. Having said goodbye to the 30 friends and family members who travelled to Japan for the wedding, he recalls a sudden feeling of being ‘trapped’, wondering if life as a salaryman with Fujisoft was all that lay ahead of him. Deciding that he didn’t fancy that version of reality, he agreed to stay on with the firm for six months when his contract
ended in June 2014, but began making plans to forge his own path. That manifested itself in Kyojin no Stewhouse, which opened its doors to the public in February 2015. “Starting my own business was always something I hoped to do, and that August I’d made the decision to go for it,” he says. “I’m proud to say that I’m from Ireland, and I love sharing our culture. So, the core idea and mission for the business is to introduce and inspire a passion in people here in Japan for Irish food and culture.”
Challenges Starting any business can be a tricky assignment, perhaps more so if you’re 10,000km from home. A thorough business plan was the first port of call, which took six months to complete, researching the various options in relation to establishing the company, securing government approval to operate within the hospitality industry, budget, renovation, procurement and many other hurdles, each amplified by language differences. “I didn’t want a lack of due diligence to be my downfall,” Fisher notes. “My wife, who runs her own jewellery
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over here,” he says. “That’s something I really hope to change though, because we have such a wide variety of delicious foods to choose from back home.” Thankfully, the restaurant’s profile has been raised by appearances on several television programmes over the past two years, including a prime time Saturday night show hosted by Arashi, one of the country’s biggest pop groups. “I can only speculate the actual reach of that TV show, but it was fantastic in helping get our name out there,” says Fisher. “Even though the appearance was not directly linked to our food, we’ve still had customers from all over Japan, the bottom island of Kyushu to the top island of Hokkaido, stop by whenever they have a chance to visit Tokyo.”
Alan Fisher, founder of Kyojin no Stewhouse
SFA FACT Did you know? Japan’s unique culture, which bloomed during the Edo period, involves food, business customs and social behaviours that are quite different to those of Ireland. However, Fisher believes that the flexibility of Irish emigrants can overcome any difficulties. “We have a long history of emigration, Irish people have travelled the world accepting and integrating with other cultures for hundreds of years,” he says. “This flexibility is ingrained in our culture and it comes across whenever I hear a voice from home walk through our doors.
business, was a fantastic resource. Her knowledge and experience was and continues to be very helpful.” Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is educating Japanese people about Ireland and our cuisine. Fisher explains that Ireland and quality cuisine aren’t always associated with each other in the mind of the average Japanese person, who often confuse Ireland with either Iceland or the UK. “When it comes to European food, Ireland wouldn’t really be on the average Japanese person’s radar. We tend to take a back seat to Italian or French restaurants which are so abundant
Fisher describes the past two years as something of a ‘beta test’ for the restaurant, and there’s no doubt that a lot of hard work has gone into the Stewhouse, which has turned a modest profit and built solid customer relationships each year. But he keeps one eye on the future and where things might progress. In line with his mission of sharing Ireland’s culture, a year ago, on the train home from work, he began to pen his first fantasy novel focusing on the era of Ireland’s legendary Fianna warriors, the first publication at the heart of his HUG (Help Us Grow) strategy. Fisher hopes to release a book (in English and Japanese) every year as part of the upcoming Kyojin Publishing company, with the proceeds earmarked for the future growth and expansion of Kyojin no Stewhouse. It’s a lesson in being a master of your own fate, and how your only limit can be your imagination. “If you feel stuck or trapped in what you’re doing, like I did, then have a think on what your options are and ask ‘why not?’,” Fisher advises. “If the reasons you come up with are truly valid, move on. But if there is a way... then just go do it. Due diligence, head down and work hard – hopefully the rest will take care of itself.” For more information, visit www.kyojin-stewhouse.com SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 47
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Business Books Extract
IN HIS NEW BOOK EVERYDAY INNOVATION, HUGH HENRY EXPLORES HOW WINNING IDEAS CAN BE PROPERLY MANAGED FOR THE COMMERCIAL BENEFIT OF A BUSINESS. IN THE FOLLOWING EXTRACT, HE LOOKS AT WHERE THESE he innovation model that my colleagues and I at Bord na Móna have IDEAS ORIGINATE operated for the past six years is an open innovation process, initiated through ideas generated from employees, external sources and AND THE PROCESS collaborations with third parties such as universities and government INVOLVED IN agencies. Ideas are captured, managed and prioritised in line with the company’s strategic objectives as well as meeting existing and future TURNING THEM market needs. INTO SUCCESSFUL ‘Winning’ ideas are then managed through a stage and gate process, a risk management tool that critiques, evaluates and develops an idea from discovery to potential commercial PROJECTS. development. Following completion of essential tasks and deliverables within each stage,
the project is reviewed at strategically placed gates or review points. The gates are quality control mechanisms between stages that can open to allow a project to move forward into the next stage or conversely can close to kill the project, thereby allowing the leveraging of resources into potentially higher value projects.
Where do ideas come from? Generally, ideas from employees are incremental ideas involving doing something better or the avoidance of waste. Ideation sessions are an efficient means by which to generate ideas. In our case, we calculated that in the region of 15 per cent of the ideas in our ‘ideas bank’ came from ideation sessions. However, ideation is best used for a defined problem as opposed to a large ‘brainstorming’ session where there often is a lack of focus. Ideas from entrepreneurs outside the business are generally disruptive or radical ideas and involve doing something new. The entrepreneur’s expectation is that your business will provide their innovation with a route to market and they are willing to share the proceeds with you in order to achieve this. Be open to this: a business can save a lot of time and money by licensing as opposed to reinventing the wheel! Ideas from other businesses or third-level institutions can be very useful as third level research institutions generally have the resources to do research where the outcome is less 48 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS
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certain – for example, higher risk or radical innovation. Most institutions now operate a Technology Transfer Office (which sounds as if it only applies to technology products, but this is not the case). It is well worth your time taking a trip around the relevant third level research institutions, getting to know what they are or have been working on and investigating whether your business can provide a route to market for any of their output. Direct business to business (B2B) ideas sourcing by licencing, partnering or M&A is another route. The internet is truly an open innovation ideas generation tool and is generally a good means of attracting a lot of ideas from the general public (crowd-sourcing), without having to resort to expensive advertising or holding time-consuming meetings. Ideas from this source are generally disruptive or radical but suggestions on how to improve the current market offering also can be acquired, especially from consumers.
How do ideas become projects? Irrespective of the source of an idea, a standardised ideas form on the proposal should be completed. The form should provide sufficient information to enable the evaluator(s) to provide some assessment of the following: • Has the idea a fighting chance of making money? • Is the idea broadly technically feasible? • Is there a market for the product/service if successfully developed? • Is the idea aligned with the company vision/strategy? The main function of this (admittedly) coarse filter is to separate the dross from ideas that deserve to be considered further. Admittedly, this is a subjective call and sometimes real gems of projects can be missed but, by identifying criteria to assess the raw idea, you can introduce an element of objectivity into the process. If the idea passes this test, it moves to a scoring exercise where the innovation team puts an arbitrary score on the idea using a standard scoring matrix. The review or stage-gate model for innovation management is a project management technique (first developed by Dr Robert G. Cooper, a world expert in
Author Dr Hubert Henry
Dr Hubert Henry has been Director of Innovation and R&D at Bord na Mona since June 2008. His remit in this role is to consolidate innovation management, with the primary objective of developing and embedding a co-ordinated R&D and business innovation approach across the company. Dr Henry holds a B.Sc. (Hons) primary degree, a Ph.D post graduate degree, a post graduate Diploma in Business Finance and is a chartered scientist.
on the information available at the time, including the business case, risk analysis, and availability of necessary resources such as money or people. To progress through the gate to the next phase, the gatekeeper must be convinced that there is merit in the project doing so. It is essentially a systematic approach to innovation management that prevents resources being allocated to a project until certain criteria are first proven. In simple terms, it is a ‘fail quickly and cheaply’ insurance system. At each review stage from 1 to 5, the level of detail increases and the gatekeeper’s level of confidence in their prediction of success or failure of the innovation gets stronger. At the final stage, the project enters a new product development (NPD) phase en route to commercialisation.
product innovation, in 2001) in which an initiative or project is divided into stages or phases, separated by gates or hurdles. At each gate, the continuation of the process is decided by a manager or a steering committee (often called gatekeepers). The decision to continue a project is based
Everyday Innovation: A Practical Guide to Establishing and Operating an Innovation Management System in Your Business by Hugh Henry is published by Oak Tree Press and is available from good bookshops and SuccessStore.com. Dr Henry was one of the speakers at this year’s SFA annual conference. For coverage of the event go to page 54.
About the Author
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SFA Policy Brexit
WHILE MUCH UNCERTAINTY REMAINS ABOUT THE DETAILS OF BREXIT, THE SFA IS URGING ACTION TO BE TAKEN NOW – AT FIRM LEVEL, NATIONAL LEVEL AND EU LEVEL. 50 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS
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Brexit and Your Business To assist you at firm level, the SFA has prepared a Brexit guide for small business. It contains analysis of Ireland’s Brexit exposure and insights into the opportunities and risks for the main sectors of the economy. It provides details of the ten main impact areas for Irish businesses: currency; supply chain; contracts; finance and funding; workforce; technology; regulation; tax; market; and operating structures. It is important for each small business to assign senior management responsibility to assessing the impact on their own business, and developing contingency plans for likely impacts. The guide provides a Brexit toolkit for your business, outlining ‘no regret’ courses of action to manage Brexit as well as ‘do now’ and ‘plan and be ready’ steps under each of the ten impact areas. The toolkit is available at www.sfa.ie/brexit.
Meeting with EU Chief Negotiator In mid-May, Linda Barry, SFA Acting Director, met with Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Negotiator on Brexit, and two members of his task force. The SFA emphasised the need for negotiations on the future EU-UK trading arrangements to start as soon as possible, to reduce the level of uncertainty that is currently hampering business planning. Barnier showed good knowledge and understanding of the Irish issues relating to Brexit, including the details of the Good Friday Agreement, the Common Travel Area and the deep economic ties between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. He indicated that he wants to find a solution that would protect the key Irish interests but emphasised that he faces a number of difficulties. He encouraged the SFA and its members to come forward with relevant data and with creative solutions to overcome some of the most challenging issues. Barnier committed to further meetings with SFA in Dublin and Brussels as the process unfolds.
Actions Needed from Government Although Government has been steadfast in making the case for Ireland at diplomatic level, there have been few concrete measures at home. Government must now move from the analysis phase to action by introducing tangible Brexit support measures for businesses. The SFA has been actively lobbying the Government and politicians across the spectrum on behalf of members. The SFA is a member of the Enterprise Forum on Brexit and Global Challenges, chaired by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. In May, an SFA delegation appeared before the Seanad Special Select Committee on Brexit. In all of these fora, the SFA is calling for financial support schemes targeting the exporting sectors to be made available as a matter of urgency. Crucially, these must be extended beyond existing Enterprise Ireland clients; otherwise there are many small, exporting firms that will be left behind by not matching inflexible criteria. Other practical supports that would assist the small business community include: specially-designed low cost finance; a new export finance offering; a major public awareness campaign on the importance of buying Irish and shopping local; and the extension of the Trading Online Voucher Scheme to help all small companies to take advantage of online sales opportunities. So far, such concrete measures with real impact on businesses have been lacking in the Irish response.
SFA OPPOSES INCREASE IN EMPLOYER LEVY The SFA has rejected the proposed increase in the National Training Fund levy by 0.1 per cent per year over the next three years. The levy is paid as part of employer PRSI. In essence, the proposal of the Minister of Education and Skills and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform would increase the current employer contribution to the National Training Fund (collected as part of employer PRSI) from 0.7 per cent to 1 per cent over the next three years. This additional revenue will contribute towards the funding of Higher Education (HE) and Further Education and Training (FET). The SFA recognises that the HE and FET sectors in Ireland face a funding crisis that threatens Ireland’s competitiveness and prosperity. However, it rejects the proposed increase in the NTF levy as it is an additional cost to business at a time when competitiveness is critical. It also disproportionately impacts high headcount businesses, which can often be low-margin. Alternative sources of employer contributions are available, for example from greater than expected corporate tax receipts. The SFA’s submission on the issue also proposed improvements to the operation of the National Training Fund, primarily the rebalancing of the fund towards in-employment training from training for the unemployed. These and other proposals have the potential to make the current fund more effective and allow employers to reap more direct benefits. Crucially, the SFA states that all of the above measures would be temporary patches and do not address the funding crisis facing HE and FET. In order to tackle this crisis, as is urgently needed, the major issues of adequate State and student contributions must be addressed, despite the political sensitivities.
“CRUCIALLY, THE SFA STATES THAT ALL OF THE ABOVE MEASURES WOULD BE TEMPORARY PATCHES AND DO NOT ADDRESS THE FUNDING CRISIS FACING HE AND FET. ” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 51
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IS YOUR BUSINESS
GDPR Ready? SFA EXECUTIVE CIARA MCGUONE HAS TIPS FOR BUSINESSES ON HELPING THEM PREPARE FOR NEW DATA PROTECTION MEASURES COMING INTO EFFECT NEXT YEAR.
The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a groundbreaking piece of data protection legislation that will come into force on May 25th 2018. The GDPR will impact significantly on every business as it introduces severe financial penalties for non-compliance. Now is the time to get your house in order and prepare your business for these new data protection obligations. We have set out below some recommendations that will assist your business to be GDPR ready:
Spread awareness within your organisation
The GDPR provides for fines of up to €20 million or 4 per cent of annual global turnover and permits individuals to sue for both material and non-material damage. Key employees and decision makers across your business must, therefore, be aware of and trained on the GDPR so that they can consider how to ensure compliance and appropriately allocate resources.
Conduct a data protection audit
Employers should review all personal data they hold and ensure that any data held has been fairly obtained with the employee’s consent, is stored securely and is held for no longer than is necessary.
Commissioner of a data security breach within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach. If there is a high risk to the rights of the data, subjects must also be promptly informed.
Ciara McGuone, SFA Executive
Review your data protection notices
The GDPR re-emphasises the importance of data protection notices and sets out the information that a business must provide when first collecting personal data. When preparing notices, businesses must set out information in a clear, concise and easily accessible manner.
Review your data protection policies
The GDPR provides that a data access request must be responded to within one month of receipt of the request. This is a reduction on the 40-day period provided for by current data protection legislation. In addition, documents must now be provided free of charge unless the request is “manifestly unfounded or excessive”, in which case a reasonable fee may be charged.
Review your data access request procedures
The GDPR requires organisations to notify the Data Protection
Consider appointing a Data Protection Officer (DPO)
It will be up to each business to decide whether they need to appoint a Data Protection Officer or whether this role can be delegated to an employee within the business. The GDPR does set out that a DPO must be appointed if an organisation:
• Carries out regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale • Carries large scale processing of special categories of data • Is a public authority From the above, it is clear that there are significant changes under GDPR that require consideration and advance preparation. It is important that companies start to make preparations for the GDPR as soon as possible and review their current and envisaged plans taking into account the upcoming changes to the legislation. For further information or advice, SFA members can contact Ciara McGuone on 016051668 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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BEING SENSIBLE WITH
SFA EXECUTIVE CIARA MCGUONE OUTLINES HOW EMPLOYERS CAN MITIGATE POTENTIAL RISKS THAT MAY ARISE FROM EMPLOYEES BEING ACTIVE ON SOCIAL MEDIA AS PART OF THEIR COMPANY ROLE.
The world of social media is constantly evolving. Today, many company roles are devoted to engaging with customers and stakeholders across various social media platforms. While employers want to make the most of the opportunities offered by social media, it is important that they also consider how to minimise any potential negative exposure for the company. From the outset, a businesss must decide what parameters it wishes to set regarding social media and that these are clearly communicated to all employees. The following are five key points that a company may wish to consider when managing social media in the workplace:
acceptable use. The most essential piece in any such policy requires placing an onus on employees who use social media as part of their role to act responsibly and in the best interests of the company. Within the space of minutes, an image can go viral and a company can become an international news story for all the wrong reasons.
2. Designated Owner
For any particular team, the buck should stop with one designated employee who stands over the decision to post or engage in social media activity. This will ensure that the company is posting appropriate, consistent and quality material.
3. The Internet Does Not Forget
Negative comments posted online can cause lasting reputational damage to a business. The future impact on an organisation of negative social media is important, particularly as most people entering into a new business relationship will first and foremost search the internet for recommendations and reviews. Be clear to employees that should you encounter a negative social media comment posted by them, whether on their private or work social media, you will investigate the matter and the findings of an investigation could result in an employee being dismissed for gross misconduct.
Employees should be regularly reminded of their obligations regarding their social media activity and ensure the company keeps up to date in this constantly developing area. By offering training and support to employees whose role it is to use social media, employers can mitigate any potential risks that may arise in the cyber sphere. In advance of sharing account passwords, employees should clearly know the rules and best practice of social media use.
5. Embrace Opportunities
When used correctly, social media can be an extremely useful tool for any business. It can be used to network with business contacts, engage with potential customers and even access potential new recruits. Social media is also growing in importance in the learning and development sphere. Employees now have access to a wide range of information and articles from leading experts, allowing them to connect with other groups of employees within the same discipline to keep up to date with best practice. Social media has irrevocably changed the competitive landscape for companies, but with that comes a need for best practice and fair usage. Each employer will have different expectations of their employeeâ€™s social media usage, however the above points can be used to frame a discussion on workplace practices.
1. Social Media Policy
It is important that an employer puts in place a clear social media policy in order to set out the companyâ€™s expectations regarding social media and what is considered SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 53
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Karen Blake, DeCare Dental Insurance Ireland and Siobhán Kennedy, No Boundaries Communications
Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair, Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor and Niamh Briggs, international rugby player
BETTER THAN BEST
THIS YEAR’S SFA ANNUAL CONFERENCE FOCUSED ON HOW SMALL BUSINESSES CAN STAY HUNGRY AND STRIVE FOR CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT.
RTÉ’s Bryan Dobson, conference moderator
The SFA Annual Conference, sponsored by One4all, took place on Wednesday May 24th. The event saw more than 250 entrepreneurs, owner-managers, policy makers and media gather together in the RDS, Dublin. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘better than best’, with a mix of keynote addresses and panel discussions focused on how small businesses can stay hungry year after year and strive for continuous improvement. The conference was moderated by Bryan Dobson, RTÉ broadcaster and the first session of the day provided an ‘innovation booster’ for delegates. Hugh Henry, Head of Innovation and R&D, Bord na Móna, focused on everyday innovation for small firms which is all about having an open mind. Hugh discussed the innovation cycle and emphasised how the most important part of innovation is the people and how collaboration is key for growth. Gillian Maxwell, Director of Tiger Retail Ireland, continued the innovation theme focusing on her story of bringing the Tiger
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Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair; Michael Dawson, Group CEO, One4all; Bob Gray, Design Director, Red&Grey
Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair; Ian Kehoe, Editor, Sunday Business Post and Ciara Conlon, EQuita Group
franchise to Ireland. She described how Tiger turns functional purchases into emotive buys. She outlined the company values, the importance of putting people at the heart of the business and recommended hiring people who are smarter than you. Bernie Kinsella from Worldbox and Bob Gray from Red&Grey joined Hugh and Gillian for the first panel discussion. Bernie shared her entrepreneurial journey from Wheels Couriers to Worldbox and how they needed to adapt their mindset and business model from the B2B to B2C market. Bob highlighted how his business dealt with the downturn by taking a collaborative approach and discussed innovative projects he has undertaken, including building the Wild Atlantic Way brand. The second session of the conference focused on the economy and the business environment. SFA Chair Sue O’Neill opened the discussion by calling for sensible pro-business actions from Government including:
Minister Mitchell O’Connor catching up on the latest issue of Better Business, pictured with Shane Kelly, Account Director, Better Business, Sue O’Neill, SFA Chair and Joseph O’Connor, Editor, Better Business
1. An end to discrimination against the self-employed in the tax system by increasing the self-employed Earned Income Tax Credit to the same level as the PAYE tax credit 2. Introducing a workable employee share option scheme to help small firms attract talent 3. Investment in infrastructure at a level that reflects our growing population and economic ambitions Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor told the audience that she is focused on reducing the legislative burden on small businesses and spoke about events during her first year in office, including Brexit, a fall in unemployment and the creation of 20,000+ new businesses. The next speaker was Ian Kehoe, Editor of the Sunday Business Post, who addressed Trump, Brexit, populism and the consequences for Irish business. He noted that uncertainty does not make for good, rational decision-making and that businesses need to be SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 55
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BUSINESS BYTES ROUNDUP SFA Business Bytes events take place on the second Wednesday of the month between October and May. Events are free of charge and offer small businesses access to expert information and advice plus an opportunity to network with their peers. At the beginning of the event we feature three member companies who have the opportunity to deliver a 90 second pitch on their business to the audience. The series is supported by Bord Gáis Energy. Over the course of the 2016-2017 season, 460 people attended events covering the following topics: • Controlling your business costs • The top ten HR/employment law questions from small businesses • Data protection – is your business ready for 2018? • The employer conundrum: retaining and motivating employees • A face in the crowd: identify and attract your best customers • Sales pipeline management and closing techniques • Essential Brexit guide for small firms • Personal financial management for business owners If there is any area of interest for your business that you would like to see covered in the Business Bytes series kicking off again in Autumn 2017, please contact email@example.com.
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY E3 Dublin - 29 June, Enterprise Ireland, Dublin
The Entrepreneurship Export Exchange E3 conferences aim to connect local small businesses that are interested in exporting with representatives from cities and states in the USA. At the Dublin event, seminar topics will include preparing your business to expand into new markets, developing market opportunities, and legal and tax implications of international business. Find out more: e3conferences.com SFA National Small Business Awards 2018
Applications for the 2018 Awards will open in early September 2017. Register you interest in the awards now at www.sfa.ie/awards and you will be notified when entries open.
Delegates in the RDS Concert Hall
nimble, calculated and self-focused in today’s environment. He called for inward investment for indigenous small firms, the same way that multinationals are supported. Danny McCoy, CEO of Ibec, discussed the strength and substance behind the Irish economic model and the impact Brexit may have on Irish business. Dave Byrne, MD of Dualton, joined Ian Kehoe on the next panel, sharing his business story on resilience and how he always looks for the upside and keeps punching. The third and final theme discussed was productive people. Fiona Kenefick from the Human Capital Practice at Deloitte spoke about the employee experience: culture, engagement and beyond. She presented results of Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, Rewriting the Rules for the Digital Age. She emphasised that flexibility, movement and agility are necessary in today’s teams. The report coined the term ‘simply irresistible organisation’, which is a company that offers meaningful work, supportive management, a positive environment, growth opportunities and trust. Ciara Conlon, Productivity Coach at EQuita Group, focused on the productive team, arguing that happiness is the new productivity. She highlighted how teamwork should be cohesive, flow and have a common purpose. Purpose, goals, roles, structures and boundaries can help a team and individuals to be productive. Michael Dawson, Group CEO of One4all, joined Fiona and Ciara for the final panel discussion. Michael shared details on the culture of his company, how he instills enthusiasm and leadership in his staff, learns from his mistakes and how he rewards staff through incentives. Keynote speaker of the conference was Niamh Briggs, captain of the Ireland Women’s Rugby team. Niamh inspired listeners on what keeps her motivated, how the fun is in the journey to get to the top, and how she is driven to be the best in the world and staying there.
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Marketing – PART OF MARKETING AS USUAL
YOUR BUSINESS DOESN’T NEED A DIGITAL MARKETING STRATEGY, IT JUST NEEDS A MARKETING STRATEGY, WRITES SFA EXECUTIVE LOUISE KENRICK.
how they live and how they want to be contacted by your brand. Technology has created new communication channels through which you can reach your target customer. These technologies have changed customer behaviours but people are still driven by the same desires and needs, which is important to remember when trying to engage with them. Louise Kenrick, SFA Executive
Some marketers argue that having a digital marketing strategy is outdated, that digital marketing as a term is becoming irrelevant and redundant. There is just marketing – most of which is now digital. Our lives, and thus our customers’ lives are digital. We need to make the shift to marketing in a digital world. Digital should not be a separate function but should be fully integrated into a company’s overall marketing strategy and should permeate the whole business. It is now part of marketing ‘as usual’. Below are five tips to help you integrate digital seamlessly into your marketing:
Consider digital channels as part of the whole marketing mix alongside traditional channels such as print, outdoor, radio etc. Select channels which compliment each other so you can engage your customers in a holistic way.
Be selective in your choices, start with your audience not the channels – don’t get distracted by every shiny, new technology that comes along. Put your customer at the heart of everything, work on understanding them,
Be consistent – aim to develop a cohesive multi-platform brand image so you speak with the same tone of voice across all channels. This helps your business to build brand awareness, aids audience recall of your brand and can improve authenticity.
While digital is just another medium it does require specific skills. If your business doesn’t currently have these skills in-house you can hire digital natives, upskill your existing employees or consider if outsourcing is right for your company.
Focus on your end goal. With digital technologies there is a temptation to look only at the short-term rather than long-term – don’t get caught up in the tactics. Your end goal is likely to be conversion; persuading your customers to buy through whichever communication channel you select. All your marketing activity should be measured against this goal. If you would like to discuss marketing opportunities for your business contact Louise Kenrick, SFA Executive on 01 605 1664 or firstname.lastname@example.org. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 57
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EFFICIENCY MANAGEMENT AS PART OF A REGULAR SERIES FROM BORD GÁIS ENERGY, WE FEATURE SMALL BUSINESS CUSTOMERS AND THEIR BUSINESS SUCCESSES. IN THIS EDITION, IT’S JUSTIN MCCARTHY, GENERAL MANAGER OF MARYBOROUGH HOTEL AND SPA, CORK. How did you get started in the industry?
I got started almost 30 years ago, straight after I left school. I went to a training hotel, enrolled in the trainee management development programme and spent the next decade learning the industry from the ground up. Then, almost 20 years ago, I joined the Maryborough Hotel and I’ve been here ever since, where I’ve been the general manager for 17 years. Most of my working life has been spent here.
What’s different about Maryborough Hotel?
It’s privately owned and individually operated, which is very rare nowadays. This comes with its challenges, but we have grown the business to double in size since we started 20 years ago. We’ve been through a boom and a bust, with each bringing their own challenges. Times were quite difficult for four or five years, a lot of the words used to describe that period of time have negative connotations – reduce, restrict, cut. It was often a tough environment to manage in, but we came out of it as better people.
How important is it for you to monitor costs?
Managing costs is absolutely crucial. You’ve got to keep a very close eye, and have systems and procedures in place which allow you to monitor and manage everything. It’s so important to have regular meetings, so you can stay on top of it without your costs getting away from you. It’s equally important to have interventions in place which allow you to monitor how you actually manage those costs too. This way you can accurately assess your success or failure, whatever the case.
How important is energy efficiency?
We look at energy usage on a weekly basis. With a hotel of this size – 90 bedrooms, three pools, and multiple meeting and function rooms – our annual energy costs are quite significant, so it’s really important for us to be as cost-effective as possible and to keep energy costs closely monitored. Being more energy efficient not only involves making big changes, but small changes too.
In your business, how do you ensure that?
Justin McCarthy, General Manager at the Maryborough Hotel All the lighting within the hotel is energy efficient, that’s been a recent change in the past couple of make energy savings by showing us the years. We also have a management energy efficiency obligation scheme, system for all the heating systems – whereby Bord Gáis Energy customers radiators and air conditioner units. are rewarded for making energy savings. They’re all computerised, so we can So, we actually get paid to make savings. time everything to come on and off It really is a double-positive. With Bord at certain times at the press of a Gáis Energy, we really have seen the button. It’s important to make the benefits and we see our relationship little changes too. It all adds up. continuing long into the future.
How has Bord Gáis Energy helped you with this? They’ve been very helpful in managing our costs and bringing in various measures for better energy efficiency. Most importantly, they told us how to
To find out more about Maryborough Hotel and the work they do, visit www.bgebusinesshub.ie. Visit www.businessenergy.ie or call 1850 211 907 to find out about the products and services Bord Gáis Energy provides.
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ADVISING ON BREXIT INTERTRADEIRELAND HAS LAUNCHED A NEW BREXIT ADVISORY SERVICE TO HELP COMPANIES OVERCOME THE POTENTIAL CHALLENGES AHEAD. Cross-border trade and business development body InterTradeIreland has launched a new Brexit advisory service, comprising a range of business supports to help companies navigate the challenges of Brexit, which has the potential to change how companies trade outside their home market. The service was recently unveiled by Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and provides regularly updated information as Brexit progresses, and offers small businesses bespoke support. This includes access to free specialist advice through a Brexit Readiness Voucher initiative, as well as access to information on possible World Trade Organisation tariffs for various organisations’ products. Brexit advisory events are also being held across the country as the InterTradeIreland team continues to empower small businesses while making them aware of additional support available. Minister Mitchell O’Connor, commenting at the launch of the Brexit Advisory Service, said: “I understand the uncertainty that our SMEs and, in particular, those who have benefited from cross-border trade have in relation to the potential impacts of Brexit. I am committed to supporting Irish businesses in this period of heightened uncertainty and welcome the launch of this dedicated support service by InterTradeIreland.” Thomas Hunter McGowan, InterTradeIreland CEO, added: “InterTradeIreland has already hosted five Brexit briefing events across the island since November 2016, supporting around 300 businesses with tailored advice. Feedback from these events has helped to shape the Brexit Advisory Service, which has been specifically tailored to the needs of SMEs. “While there are current uncertainties,
it’s important that businesses are aware of how much they can do now to realise their growth ambitions as Ireland’s new trading relationships with the UK emerges. Vitally, we are encouraging companies to continue pursuing an export growth strategy, as businesses that export are three times more likely to be growing.”
Pictured launching the Brexit Advisory Service were Thomas Hunter McGowan, CEO, InterTradeIreland; Aidan Gough, Director of Strategy & Policy, InterTradeIreland; Margaret Hearty, Director of Business Services and Programmes, InterTradeIreland and Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
A dedicated Brexit Advisory Service mini-site details the supports available, including Brexit Readiness Vouchers, which organisations can use to fund bespoke advice up to the value of €1,000; free Brexit briefing events; information on currency hedging, and how production and distribution budgets may be impacted. In addition, InterTradeIreland has developed a comprehensive database of all goods traded cross-border on the island of Ireland, covering thousands of individual product categories, and information on what the possible tariffs could be on these products if certain customs duties were to be introduced. Hunter McGowan concluded: “Recent research conducted by InterTradeIreland revealed that 98 per cent of companies have no plan in place to deal with the consequences of Brexit, with 91 per cent of crossborder traders having no experience of dealing with tariffs. Over half of
businesses engaged in cross-border sales said they were concerned about currency exchange rate fluctuations. “Brexit is approaching and now is the time for companies to look at how they can ensure that they are in the best position to deal with any impacts. Reviewing and improving current business practices and looking at each element of operations can be the most useful tool when planning for this unknown yet imminent future. While the effects of Brexit may not be fully clear at this point, at InterTradeIreland we are leveraging our network of contacts and putting our expertise in place to ensure that we are in prime position to advise and advocate for SMEs across Ireland.” To find out more about InterTradeIreland’s Brexit Advisory Service, visit www.intertradeireland.com/brexit
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FUTURE OF THE PORT WITH A RANGE OF ONGOING PROJECTS IN DEVELOPMENT AND CONTINUED HIGH LEVELS OF ANNUAL GROWTH, DUBLIN PORT IS LOOKING AHEAD TO A BRIGHT FUTURE. Dublin Port has commenced work on a range of projects as part of a tenyear €600 million capital investment programme. The programme is broken up into three main elements, consisting of the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR) Project, the development of Dublin Inland Port at a 44-hectare site beside Dublin Airport, and a project to redevelop the port's internal road, pedestrian and cycle networks, including the construction of a new 4km cycle and pedestrian greenway along the northern perimeter of the port overlooking the Tolka Estuary. This capital investment programme is ambitious, as Eamonn O'Reilly, Chief Executive of Dublin Port Company points out. “The ABR Project is the largest single project in the long history of Dublin Port and it comprises the building and rebuilding of 3,000m of quay walls,” he says. “Work on quay wall construction has commenced and the
“DUBLIN PORT’S VOLUMES ARE A TREMENDOUS BAROMETER FOR WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE ECONOMY, AND THE MAIN CHARACTERISTIC WE SEE IS THAT ANNUAL VOLUMES GROW AT A LARGE AND SUSTAINED COMPOUND RATE.”
Eamonn O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Dublin Port Company
capital dredging programme to deepen the port will start in October this year and be completed by March 2022.” The development of the port is laid out in the Dublin Port Masterplan, a detailed document which sets out a number of 'bite-sized' projects that Dublin Port Company will seek to complete within the bounds of reasonable financial risk. In January of this year, Dublin Port launched a first review of the Masterplan, which included a public consultation that received close to 80 thoughtful and detailed submissions in response to the port's revised ideas of how it would develop in the future. The growth of Dublin Port is of benefit to, not only the company itself, but also to the wider Irish economy. The volumes of goods and tourists that pass through the port are significant, and an increase in these figures will aid the economy at large. “Dublin Port’s volumes are a tremendous barometer for what is happening in the economy, and the main characteristic we see is that annual volumes grow at a large and sustained compound rate,” points out O'Reilly. “On the tourist side, Dublin Port is bigger than Shannon Airport
and not too far behind Cork Airport in terms of passenger numbers. Last year we had two million passengers including 1.8 million on ferries.” O'Reilly points to a 2014 study in Barcelona, which estimated that the economic impact of 2.5 million cruise passengers to be €796 million, from which the contribution to Catalonia’s GDP was €413 million. “We estimate that the number of cruise visitors to Dublin could increase to about 600,000 by 2040. Based on Barcelona’s 2014 estimates, this could contribute €100 million to the local economy,” suggests O'Reilly. Even in the context of increased global volatility, Dublin Port Company believes that merchandise trade flows in and out of Ireland should continue to expand to 2040, albeit not at the levels of growth that were seen between 1992 and 2002. “Last year we grew by 6.3 per cent. This year we are budgeting for growth of 5 per cent. So far, in the first quarter, we have seen growth of 4.2 per cent,” says O'Reilly. “With unemployment continuing to fall and the economy continuing to grow, I think we will end 2017 in or around our budgeted increase of 5 per cent for the full year.”
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SETTING THE STANDARDS IN SECURITY IN THE WAKE OF THE WORLDWIDE CYBERATTACK WANNACRY, THE NATIONAL STANDARDS AUTHORITY OF IRELAND (NSAI) IS REFERRING SMALL BUSINESSES TO ITS INFORMATION SECURITY MANAGEMENT STANDARD IN ORDER TO GAIN KNOWLEDGE ON HOW TO PROPERLY MANAGE THE SECURITY OF ASSETS. On Friday May 12th 2017, the world woke up to news of a cyber attack, described by experts as ‘unprecedented in scale’. At the time of writing, the WannaCry ransomware worm remains active and has infected more than 230,000 computers in at least 150 countries. The virus, which takes advantage of a security hole in older versions of Microsoft Windows, locks down users’ files and demands $300 to restore them. Microsoft says the disruption caused by WannaCry, not least to the National Health Service in the UK, should serve as a ‘wake-up call’ to those organisations which store data on uncontrolled data storage and fail to keep their software up to date. Although WannaCry’s impact in Ireland has been relatively minor so far, a survey conducted last year by Big Red Cloud reported that 40 per cent of Irish small businesses had been victim of some form of cyber attack, mostly in the form of receiving a virus. One in five had been directly affected by ransomware. NSAI has published a number of management system standards relevant to small businesses, including one for Information Technology. ISO 27001 Information Security Management standard helps organisations manage the security of its assets, such as financial information, intellectual property, employee details or information entrusted to them by third parties.
“Many Irish small firms have a website and are moving towards online transactions,” said Fergal Finn, Business Development Standards Officer in NSAI. “But in my experience, some place the responsibility for online security in the hands of the website architects without analysing their data security or cyber security risk. This is an issue, not only for customer confidence, but also for their staff and other organisations that do business with them.” “ISO 27001 forms the scaffolding required for companies to engage in best practice behaviours,” he added. “They still have to do the hard work, but with a little help from NSAI standards, the time they commit to establishing best practice in cyber security will be time well spent.” Cyber security organisation Smarttech is among a growing list of Irish small businesses that are certified to ISO 27001. The company, which has offices in Cork and Dublin, uses this international business standard as part of a suite of tools to assure customers that their information is secure.
“We operate in a highly sensitive environment where the protection of information is absolutely crucial to the business,” said Raluca Saceanu, Head of Quality at Smarttech. “Being certified to the ISO 27001 standard provides our customers with the assurance that every aspect of their data and information security is protected. It also gives Smarttech that extra bit of competitive advantage as well as improved customer and business partner confidence.” ISO 27001 can be scaled in accordance with the needs of a particular company and is approached like other management system standards, which makes its implementation and certification far more practical. It enables small firms to preserve the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information by applying a risk management process, giving confidence to interested parties that risks are being adequately managed at a time of heightened risk. As the threat from WannaCry slowly recedes, the wider implications of such a widespread and sudden attack and the benefit of implementing appropriate standards will be examined by organisations in the months to come. For more information on ISO 27001 and other management system standards, contact NSAI on 01 807 3800, or visit NSAI.ie/certification SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 61
PROJECT GIORGIO CONOR FORREST TAKES ALFA ROMEO’S NEW GIULIA FOR A SPIN.
lfa Romeo’s Project Giorgio was something of a daunting task – bringing an entirely new platform from concept to tarmac within a timeline of three years. The successful result of that project is the new Giulia, a sporty five-door saloon that combines Alfa’s rich heritage with the driving experience you expect. There’s no denying that they’ve created a head turning beast. There’s a distinct feeling that you’re in a premium car once you sit inside, from the soft dashboard materials and the black and silver Alfa badge on the steering wheel to the comfy leather seats and the touches of carbon fibre scattered throughout. The dashboard is well laid out, with everything within easy reach of the driver. It also looks the part – sporty, sharp lines, the stop-start button located on the steering wheel like a Ferrari, and fabulous aluminium flappy paddles either side of the steering wheel. It’s also quite comfortable for a sports car; the Giulia has decent space front and back, particularly in terms
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Alfa Romeo Giulia Power: 150hp 0-100km/h: 7.1s Max speed: 230km/h CO2 emissions: 109g/km Annual tax: €190 Price: From €39,995
of head and leg room, though there isn’t a lot of storage space to be found. The boot space isn’t fantastic at 480L, and the combination of a high lip and a low lid means that loading bulk items inside can be a little difficult. Nor is it as refined as some of its competitors – quite a lot of outside noise seeps into the cabin, and at one point I thought I’d left the driver’s window cracked.
But does it drive well? The short answer is yes. When you drive an Alfa Romeo, you expect a sense of occasion. And the Giulia handles exactly like you feel it should – agile and responsive. My test model was the 2.2L diesel Super Sport with 180hp (2.2L 150hp diesel, 2.0L 200hp petrol and 2.9L V6 versions are also on offer) that accelerates from 0-100km/h in 7.1s with a top speed of 230km/h. In normal mode it’s quite zippy and fun to drive, but when you shift into Dynamic mode it’s a hell of a lot of fun. You get the feeling of being a race car driver without having to do any of the work; the Giulia is nippy and hugs the corners without a problem, no matter the road. Fuel economy isn’t terrible either depending on how hard you drive – I averaged about 7L/100km (40mpg) over the course of 660km.
It’s not perfect, and I have a few quibbles. The media centre is controlled by a round knob similar to that used by Audi MMI, but it’s not quite as sensitive or userfriendly, and the sat nav looks and feels a bit dated. And, when you lock or unlock the car, you get an auditory indicating warning that’s quite sharp, and you can’t turn it off. Though its entry-level price of €39,995 for the 2.2L 150hp version might seem a little steep, the Giulia measures up well against similarly specc’d competition – the 150bhp 2.0L Audi A4 retails from €41,460, while Jaguar’s 163hp 2.0L diesel XE starts from €40,935. You get the feeling that Alfa Romeo has upped its game with this new edition, particularly on the technical side, but will the public respond? Time will tell, but I’d have one in a heartbeat. SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 63
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tsar Arts Culture
music SHOP the Rosehills, & the
CORK PUBLIC MUSEUM’S NEWEST EXHIBITION TELLS THE STORY OF THE CITY’S JEWISH COMMUNITY, WRITES DEAN VAN NGUYEN.
or over 130 years, the synagogue on Cork’s South Terrace served the city’s Hebrew congregation. That is, until February 2016, when the distinctive narrow building closed its doors for the last time – the symbolic ending of a special ripple in Irish history. Cork was once the home to a thriving Jewish community with families setting up at Hibernian Buildings, or “Jewtown” as it was known locally. But emigration over the years eventually whittled the numbers down. By 2016, the synagogue was no longer serving 10 men over the age of 13 – the minimum number required to make up a Jewish religious quorum. “Every other friend of mine who grew up with me is all over the world and I’m the only one left,” Fred Rosehill told RTÉ’s Nationwide last year. Rosehill served as chairman of the local Hebrew congregation and oversaw the de-consecration and
Fred Rosehill pictured with his local football team. Cork was said to have had two Jewish football clubs in the 1930s.
closure of the synagogue. He passed away last December, age 89. Now, the story of the city’s Jewish community has been memorialised in a new permanent exhibition at Cork Public Museum. Titled ‘The Tsar, the Rosehills and the Music Shop – The Story of Cork’s Jewish Community 1880s to 2016’, it charts how Jews fled persecution from the Imperial Russian territory of Lithuania in the late 19th century and made a new life for themselves in the south-west of Ireland. Of the two million Jews to leave Tsar Alexander II’s Russia in the 1880s, only a tiny number made their way to the seaport town of Cobh. There’s a local legend that their lack of English led the travellers to believe the cry of ‘Cork! Cork!’ was a call for ‘New York’. Another story that may or may not be true asserts that seasickness forced some to abandon plans to reach the US. Whatever the case, they found a home in the city by the Lee.
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SFA FACT Did you know? Many of the new arrivals in Cork in the 1880s became door-to-door peddlers, selling household goods and religious pictures. It earned them the nickname, the ‘Weekly Men’, as their door-to-door rounds took a full week to complete.
Old record cover from Ernest Rosehill’s record shop on Patrick Street, Cork
Plans in Motion
Fred Rosehill pictured with Gerald Goldberg, Lord Mayor of Cork in 1977. Goldberg was a prominent lawyer in the city for decades and the only ever Jewish man to be elected mayor
Photography courtesy of Cork Public Museum
Plans for the exhibition were set in motion last year when Daniel Breen, Cork Public Museum’s Acting Curator, was contacted by Claire Rosehill, Fred’s daughter. It was just weeks before the synagogue’s scheduled closure and both sides were keen that its collection of artefacts, documents and photographs were placed in the museum’s care. “I knew that if the museum did not act fast and commit to creating a Jewish exhibition then this important history and its material culture would be lost to the city forever,” Breen tells me in an email. He later contacted heritage preservation organisation HeritageWorks to help design and create the exhibition. Rather than trying to cover the entire 120 year-old history, it was decided to tell the history of Cork’s Hebrew Congregation through specific families and individuals, such as the Rosehills. Over the following months, the firm put together a display with a focus on understanding and
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“I KNEW THAT IF THE MUSEUM DID NOT ACT FAST AND COMMIT TO CREATING A JEWISH EXHIBITION THEN THIS IMPORTANT HISTORY AND ITS MATERIAL CULTURE WOULD BE LOST TO THE CITY FOREVER.” untangling the complex family trees. “Anyone who visits the museum will see how impressive HeritageWorks have been in presenting this research in a way that can be enjoyed by audiences of all ages and backgrounds,” asserts Breen. ‘The Tsar, the Rosehills and the Music Shop’ opened on May 25th. It includes photos and memorabilia from the life of Fred Rosehill. Speaking ahead of its opening, Aileen O’Connor of HeritageWorks singled out his tremendous contribution to Cork and its Jewish community for special mention. “[He] stayed in his Cork family business when most of his peers emigrated, took on the extraordinary task of keeping the synagogue and community alive, even flying in young Rabbinic students to make up the quorum needed to conduct Jewish faith services,” she said, as reported in the Evening Echo.
Everlasting Light The response to the exhibition has been rapturous. Many of the original Hebrew congregation have been away from Cork for decades, but the initiative has given them motivation to return to the city, remember their ancestors and reminisce about previous lives and experiences. “I think it was best summed up by Chief Rabbi Lent, who attended the launch, when he said that with the exhibition we had created a Ner Tamid [everlasting light] in Cork,” says Breen. “These lights traditionally hung in front of the ark in a Jewish synagogue and were never allowed to dim or go out. Though the original congregation is no more, this exhibition will preserve and
Pictured (seated) in the photograph is Ernest Rosehill. He had been a boy soldier in the Tsar’s army, but absconded in the face of anti-Jewish decrees and arrived here at the turn of the 20th century. He became a piano tuner before opening his own music shop on Patrick Street. He ended up raising his nephew and niece, Harry (12) and May (9) Rosehill in Cork from 1906 after their own father returned to Russia. Harry would later work in Ernest’s music shop, and would also have a son, Fred Rosehill.
illuminate their stories for all.” Cork City Lord Mayor Des Cahill has also added his approval: “I was absolutely blown away by the magnificent artefacts on view,” he said, according to The Irish Examiner. ‘This is a jewel in the crown of the preservation of the heritage of the city.” Their numbers today might be small, but the story of Cork’s Jewish community has been crystallised for all time. This, for all involved, was the meaning of the exhibition – to ensure their spirit doesn’t slip through a crack in history, like water through your fingers.
“It was imperative that this exhibition was created because the history and material culture would have been lost otherwise. This would have been tragic and the museum, in my opinion, would have failed in its duty to preserve all aspects of Cork’s unique heritage, especially the minority experiences,” says Breen. “This exhibition, therefore, aims to tell the congregation’s history, culture and the important influences it had on Cork’s social and cultural life for this and future generations.”
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SMALL BUSINESS BOSSES LEADING THE WAY AS BUSINESSES INVEST MORE AND MORE INTO BENEFITS AND INCENTIVES TO ATTRACT AND RETAIN TOP TALENT, RECENT RESEARCH CONDUCTED BY ONE4ALL REWARDS PROVIDES POSITIVE NEWS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES IN IRELAND. Recent studies commissioned by One4all have found that 39 per cent of Irish employees would like to work for a small business, with a further 29 per cent stating they’d most like to work for a start-up. Furthermore, 45 per cent of respondents stated that they would be more motivated to work longer hours for a small business, suggesting that the intimate, familial atmosphere of a small firm is more likely to breed loyalty and passion amongst its workforce. Seventy per cent of Irish employees agree that small firms and start-ups have the best office culture, with
just 30 per cent preferring the cultures of enterprise or global companies. There’s good news for Ireland’s bosses too. Over half of Irish workers (54 per cent) think their boss is doing a good job, while just 12 per cent would rate their boss’s performance as poor. Over 62 per cent of Irish employees say that they get on well with their bosses, and 59 per cent say that they can approach their boss with any issue they are having in work. In terms of Irish leaders’ skills, the most desired attribute was communication, with 60 per cent of respondents saying
it is important. Fairness, honesty, encouragement and experience rounded out the top five list. When asked about skills that their boss possesses, 29 per cent admitted that their boss lacked good communication skills, highlighting a key area for development. One4all Rewards provides rewards and incentives solutions for businesses throughout Ireland and the UK. Get in touch on 01 870 8181 or visit one4allrewards.ie to order tax-free gift cards for your staff.
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Travel Brussels Panoramic view of Brussels
Saint Catherine’s Church
BUSINESS BRUSSELS A UNESCO HERITAGE SITE IN THE CITY CENTRE, THE WORLD’S BEST BREWERY AND COUNTLESS EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS ARE JUST SOME ADVANTAGES TO DOING BUSINESS IN BRUSSELS, WRITES ELLEN FLYNN.
Acting as the European capital to over 500 million people, Brussels is not short on amenities and diversions for the business traveller. Whether you’re seeking a venue for a conference, a trade deal, or looking to develop a presence in mainland Europe, positioning yourself among international and European institutions brings many advantages. The gastronomy, wide variety of hotels, eateries and cultural pursuits are an added bonus too. It’s a quick and easy flight to Brussels, taking less than two hours with three different airlines flying direct from Dublin. Once there, the metro, train, bus and tram system make it quick and efficient to get into and around the city, and in a show of impressive European infrastructure, one ticket will do you for all four modes of public transport. A day long ‘jump’ ticket proves popular for busy days and can be purchased via a MOBIB card or paper ticket, for €4.30 and €4.50 respectively. Once business is done, there’s not many better places to rest your head than in the luxurious Steigenberger Wiltcher’s hotel. Located on the bustling Avenue Louise, the hotel oozes grandeur with its blend of traditional and contemporary decor, and its proximity to the myriad of restaurants,
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Comic strip mural painting, Brussels Waffles samples on the street of Brussels
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FLIGHTS: Don’t be fooled by Ryanair’s Dublin to Brussels Charleroi route – it’s still an hour’s drive to the capital. The airline, along with Aer Lingus, flies direct into Zaventem, which is just 12km outside the city.
Mussels, Le Zinneke
shops, museums and art galleries offers welcome diversion for guests with demanding schedules. Boasting over 260 rooms and opulent suites, the hotel provides guests with the ultimate respite and a base in which to conduct business. Amenities such as the spa and wellness centre, meeting and function rooms, and no less than six different restaurants and bars, place this hotel firmly at the top of the ratings in Brussels. If you’re more inclined to separate business from pleasure for the duration of your trip, it comes as no surprise that Brussels is well equipped with many different spaces perfect for business meetings and events at various levels of spec. There will be any number of venues within an arm’s reach of your hotel, but if you’d like your event to have both flexible facilities and stylish design, make a reservation at The Egg. With several different rooms accommodating between two and 999 guests, including a terrace, a lecture hall and a unique upside down library, The Egg is one of Brussels’ finest venues for seminars and conferences. Conveniently found in the city centre, it is easily accessed by public transport including train and metro. It’s a truth universally acknowledged
that business should never be conducted on an empty stomach, and Belgian cuisine won’t disappoint food lovers. The local fare is seasonal, hearty and can be tough on the waistline, and unrivalled if you follow a simple rule: eat where the Belgians eat. To get the best moules frites (or at least an extremely wide variety), head over to Le Zinneke in northern Brussels. Worth the slight detour, the restaurant boasts a whopping 69 mussel recipes, and prides itself on the delivery of classic Belgian dishes with fresh new twists. The polished interior is decorated with numerous curiosities on the walls and even a replica of Brussels’ famous tinkling statue, while the quaint terrace out back is a lovely option for those who prefer to dine al fresco. After dinner, if you have a thirst and want to continue your business during the twilight hours, head over to the smart and sleek ale house Moeder Lambic, where ‘beer is the answer’. With an excellent choice of bottles and some of the best brews on tap, this bar is well worth a visit. The interior decor is relaxed with numerous wooden booths perfect for an end of day tête-à-tête, while you sample some of the 400 beers on offer and a great selection of delicious nibbles that satisfy snack cravings long into the night.
HOTELS: If you enjoy doing things by the skin of your teeth, wait to book your hotel until you’re within the cancellation period, between 24 and 48 hours before your check-in, as sometimes hotels will hold the best deals till last.
TRANSPORT: If you’re planning to take any day trips out to Bruges, Antwerp or Ghent during your stay, public transport is still your best bet, with the trains, trams, buses and metro running quickly and efficiently.
MEALS: It’s a matter of opinion as to which country created the first fried potatoes in their current form, but a cone of Belgian frites with a dollop of mayonnaise will satisfy cravings when on the run and are available from street vendors throughout the city.
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HOURS IN BRUSSELS ONE DAY OFF? HERE’S HOW TO SPEND IT 9AM | GRAND PLACE
First thing in the morning take a stroll down to the Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site where, if you visit in the first week of August of an even year, you will see the colourful Tapis de Fleurs. If not, take a stroll around, sample some delicious Belgian waffles for brunch and admire the stunning architecture and anarchistic water feature ‘Manneke Pis’. Bonus points if you can find his female counterpart the ‘Jeanneke Pis’ to the south of the square. 11AM | ATOMIUM
If you’re a fan of museums then a visit to the Atomium is a must. The structure representing an atom has different exhibitions in each pod with escalators bringing you to and fro. With stunning panoramic views from the restaurant in the top pod, it’s a bizarrely unique building to visit when in Brussels. 2PM | SABLON AREA
What’s a trip to Belgium without a nibble of chocolate? The Sablon area is renowned for its famous chocolatiers, and you’ll get less crowds at the stores in this area than around the Grand Place.
Atomium Monument, Brussels
STEIGENBERGER WILTCHER’S This high class hotel offers stylish comfort in glamourous settings. A short walk away from Brussels’ finest attractions, the hotel boasts the best stay in the city. W: www.steigenberger.com T: +32 2 542 4242 E: email@example.com
5PM | CANTILLON
Take this latter part of your day to experience (arguably) the world’s best brewery and the creators of sour beer. Cantillon, which can be found in the city centre, still contains its traditional structure and methods, even letting wild yeast ferment some of its world famous brews up in the attic. 5PM | L’ARCHIDUC
When the day is done, check out some sensational jazz sounds at L’Archiduc. This art deco building is a gem in the heart of Brussels with a long tradition of celebrating jazz music in the city that produced the saxophone.
HOTEL AMIGO A stone’s throw away from Brussels’ financial district, Hotel Amigo provides a stylish and central base from which to explore the city. True to its name, the service is unparralled, understated and friendly. W: www.roccofortehotels.com/ hotels-and-resorts/hotel-amigo T: +32 2 547 4747 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
Flower Carpet, Grand Place
NH COLLECTION BRUSSELS CENTRE Located just minutes away from the Grand Place, the NH Collection Hotel retains some of its 1920s glamour, while offering spacious, comfortable rooms, and suites for business meetings. W: www.nh-collection.com/hotel/ nh-collection-brussels-centre T: +34 91 398 4661 E: email@example.com
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Emergency BUSY CONSIDERING PRESSING ISSUES SUCH AS BREXIT AND THE BOTTOM LINE, FEW SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS ARE EXPECTING, OR PREPARED FOR, AN EMERGENCY MEDICAL INCIDENT. ASK YOURSELF, SHOULD A MAJOR ACCIDENT OCCUR ON YOUR PREMISES, HOW WOULD STAFF RESPOND?
> Small business, major incident!
According to Irish business group Ibec, all businesses, regardless of size or industry, should have a designated first aider. While larger industries tend to be proactive in this area, unfortunately, smaller companies have not latched on to the practice, often not engaging in first aid training until after a serious incident occurs. This can lead to staff becoming overwhelmed, reacting more slowly and less confidently, resulting in a poor outcome for either a customer or fellow staff member in distress.
> Training First
One obvious benefit to having staff trained in first aid is the security that comes with the knowledge that, should an emergency incident take place on your premises, a staff member is trained to handle the situation. However, benefits of first aid training expand beyond that. According to one Ibec first aid trainer, having a well organised plan demonstrates to employees and customers that you take their safety seriously. For customers, seeing a list of qualified first aiders on the wall beside a well maintained first aid kit and possibly a defibrillator, impresses upon them the idea that this organisation is a professional one, not only when it comes to safety, but in all aspects of business.
> The Details
A workplace first aid course is typically run over three days at a cost of â‚Ź350 for SFA members. The course covers patient assessment, bleeding control, CPR and defibrillator use, medical emergencies and burns, with a written and practical exam at the end. It is important to note, however, that first aiders should not only be initially trained, but participate in refresher courses regularly to maintain their ability to manage an emergency incident. For information on upcoming training and development programmes, including first aid training, visit www.ibectraining.ie.
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Profile A Day in the Life
SNAPSHOT SHOOT BOOTH’S MOBILE PHOTO SERVICE INVOLVES MORE THAN STANDING IN FRONT OF A CAMERA AND GETTING YOUR PHOTO TAKEN, AS WE DISCOVER WHEN WE DELVE INTO A WORKING DAY OF FOUNDER TRISTAN WHEELER. 8AM I start off my day with a coffee and check our social media and email to see what enquiries have come in overnight. As a supplier of professional photo booths for events, a high percentage of our sales come from weddings and private parties, most of which are organised outside working hours. I also take a look at our cloud-based accounts so I can get an instant overview of the business. I’m always very focused on paying our creditors on time and look for that same commitment from our clients, but, as any small business will attest, it requires constant monitoring. 9AM The vast majority of our work takes place over the weekend so at the beginning of the week I work with our team to go through notes from our events. When you’re loading booths into hotels and venues around Ireland there are always unforeseen circumstances that need to be addressed. I also get general feedback on each event and we run statistics to see how many photographs were taken and prints distributed to guests. 10AM All of our equipment is back in our warehouse on Monday for servicing and maintenance so I generate a work list from the notes compiled by staff. Later in the week, this process is reversed with a logistics plan developed for loading up the vans with our equipment. 12PM I spend about an hour a day on emails and administration, and on a Monday it’s payroll. We use Sage One for this, but with the nature of our business, most of our staff are casual part-time so it must be manually calculated each week. 1PM If possible, I try to get away from my desk for lunch. If I have it in the office I will undoubtedly end up replying to emails while I eat. 2PM We’re very lucky to count most of the leading experiential marketing agencies as clients so I generally spend a couple of hours talking through concepts with account managers. When people first hear about Photo Booth, many have a very simple idea of what it’s all about; you stand in front of a camera in a booth, it takes photos and then prints them out. I’m happy to report that it’s a lot more varied! Thanks to our large fleet of equipment, hardware and software, which includes full oval booths, open style booths and pods, giant selfie mirrors, small vintage booths and hashtag printers, we can create unique and fun activations. Among the booths we supply are GIF booths and boomerang booths, which create short animated videos that can be emailed directly to users for social media. 5PM I spend time researching international suppliers to keep up to speed on new products and services. 7PM In the evening I like to pop into events using our services in order to catch up with clients and to see our photo booths in action. It’s good for me to stay connected and I always come away revitalised with new ideas!
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