Remain Locally Competitive: Tips for Small Businesses

Businesses like Home Depot and Wal-Mart offer convenience and affordability to many consumers. The harsh reality of this is that the Wal-Marts of the country tend to sap business from small local businesses. These smaller entities offer similar inventory but are unable to keep their prices comparatively low for several reasons, mostly due to tax breaks and inferior resources.

There are very few industries whose local small businesses are not threatened by larger competitors, or at least the prospect of them moving into the local community. It’s important for all businesses to prepare for the potential impact.

Heed the tips below to remain locally competitive against big businesses.

Remain Locally Competitive: Prioritize Customer Service

One of the most common criticisms of large companies like Wal-Mart is that their customer support is severely lacking. In a thorough article on Kabbage that touches on this issue, several business leaders stressed the importance of customer service for local small businesses in response to the subpar customer service of larger competitors.

“Many people have found that not only is the quality not always there, but the customer service [of larger competitors] is lacking,” explains Craig C. Powell, CEO of 5 Block Radius. “We know what we do and we love it, and we want to create those feelings for our customers too!”

What Powell and many other prudent CEOs of small businesses are doing is emphasizing customer service, recognizing that quality of customer service is determined by effectiveness, not size.

So while the Wal-Marts may be able to outprice small businesses, consumers who recognize the importance of customer support – which is many – would rather pay a little extra for that, as opposed to saving some on a product.

Maintain a Prominent Internet Presence

With practically everyone on social media now, a business would be foolish not to capture their audience on the Internet. Small local businesses should use their local connections and pride to connect with locals in the area. This can be done in two ways:

  1. Regularly providing interesting content on social media
  2. Showing support for the local community

Both tasks can be easily accomplished with tweets or Facebook posts.

As this Entrepreneur article explains, it’s important for businesses to nurture their social media following because Google ranking regards social media presence as a prominent factor in its algorithm. A small business has a smaller scope than big corporations, but the small businesses are able to better provide a humanized, personal experience to their followers, a fact that they should take full advantage of.

Strive for a Highly Connected and Collaborative Company

A Forbes study found that companies who utilized enterprise collaboration platforms to better connect their company experienced a 12% increase in sales, a 75% decrease in support calls and a 75% decrease in the time required to generate and maintain content.

Indeed, seamless collaboration and communication makes any business more efficient by providing employees with a transparent flow of information that can better aid their tasks and result in a more optimized work environment.

Speaking of collaboration, some small businesses could prepare for an incoming larger corporation by considering a collaboration or merge with another small local business specializing in a similar niche. There are many strategies based on collaboration and connectivity that can excellently prepare a small business for a larger competitor.

Appear Professional

It’s important to remain personal and connected with customers on a more intimate level than that of larger businesses, but small businesses also need to exude a certain level of professionalism reminiscent of these larger corporations. It shows a level of organization that consumers are confident in.

Small businesses should strive to make every aspect of their business professional, from the way they answer the phone to general attire to the design of their business cards or web site.

Focus on a Niche

Superstores like Target or Wal-Mart may be able to cover mostly every industry, but there’s rarely a passion for that niche demonstrated by employees or the general selection. A small business, on the other hand, can choose to focus on a niche to a substantial extent, holding events that would interest this demographic.

Provide Personalized Value

Many big-name stores are great at providing value when it comes to costs; however, small businesses are able to provide personalized value that large business cannot. Providing customized services and a more personal approach can greatly enhance the value a customer feels they are getting. For instance, contracting company Sunshine Contracting offers a learning center and free estimates to provide enhanced value to their customers throughout projects.

Small business can also provide media representative of their passion, such as a YouTube tutorial for the field. For example, a local hardware store could create a video tutorial on how to build a deck chair, which has the chance to go viral and provide advertising that rivals the large competitors. By presenting this tutorial to their audience on social media, they’re providing a valuable resource. They also affirm that they are truly passionate about the subject and should be considered the knowledgeable go-to source in the local area.

The prospect of a Wal-Mart moving into town can be daunting for small local businesses, but the tips above can help them prepare for it by embracing local roots and small business passion. Any quality small business can compete with the likes of Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot with the right strategy.

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Dream Big, Win Big at #IBYE 2015

The Search is on for 93 of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneurs.

Through Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur competition (#IBYE), over 90 people aged between 18 and 30 will win €10,000 – €20,000 to invest in their own businesses in Ireland this year.

That lump sum can buy that new piece of equipment you need; it can pay the salary of a new employee joining the team or it can fund that marketing campaign that will help your business expand into new markets.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, pictured with the 2014 winners of the #IBYE competition. Photo: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, pictured with the 2014 winners of the #IBYE competition. Photo: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland


Last year, Philip Martin used his prize money to buy specialist machinery, helping him to open Ireland’s first tortilla-making factory in Tipperary (Winner: Best Business Idea).

The money also helped Eamon Keane take on highly skilled staff at Xpreso Software in South Dublin (Winner: Best Start Up Business/ Overall Winner). And it came in very handy when Dean Gammell from Westmeath was expanding his group booking software business into the UK (Winner: Best Established Business).

Every Local Enterprise Office (LEO) around the country has €50,000 (each) to invest in three local businesses and start-ups – and with 31 LEOs, that bring the total number of winners to 93. Each local winner will get an injection of cash between €10,000 and €20,000 to put straight into their business.

And that’s just the start!

Up to 500 young entrepreneurs and business owners will also be invited to take part in Business Bootcamps around the country, helping them finely tune their business plans or learn new enterprise skills. One-to-one mentoring and business coaching will also be available, through all 31 LEOs.

To be in with a chance to win, complete the entry form through the IBYE website on-line. But hurry, the deadline to enter this year’s competition is July 31st 2015.

There are some competition terms and conditions (you have to be aged between 18 and 30 for a start and your business idea or existing business must be in Ireland), but if you don’t try, you can’t win!

So, why not ‘Dream Big and Win Big’ at #IBYE 2015!

See more about #IBYE here on YouTube

(#IBYE is completely free to enter and is part of the Action Plan for Jobs 2015. It is supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices

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Enter the 2015 the InterTradeIreland Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition

Northern Ireland entrepreneurs could get a huge cash boost for their business, thanks to a total prize fund of €280,000 being offered by the InterTradeIreland Seedcorn Investor Readiness Competition 2015, which is now open for entries.  For further details visit  The deadline for submissions is 29 May 2015.

More than just a competition

With a cash prize fund of €280,000 up for grabs, Seedcorn provides a great opportunity for early stage and new start companies in Northern Ireland.  However, entrants can get so much more out of the experience, such as invaluable guidance, tips and advice from experts, investors and other entrepreneurs.  They will get guidance on how to improve their business plan and investment pitch as well as how best to demonstrate to investors that their business is worth investing in.

The importance of becoming investor ready

Seedcorn encourages and assists the best start-ups on the island to become investor ready.  The purpose of business plans and slide decks as part of the competition is to make the investment case for a prospective investor – how might their investment today multiply in value in the next 3-5 years?  The Seedcorn process is designed to help great start-ups develop those compelling investment cases.


InterTradeIreland has supported more than 2,150 enterprising companies through the Seedcorn process in previous years, with former finalists going on to secure more than €187m worth of new equity. Past winners from Northern Ireland include Catagen and Sophia Search from Belfast, who were overall winners and Jenarron Therapeutics, Dunmurray; See. Sense, Newtownards and Cirdan Imaging, Lisburn, who were regional winners.

Businesses can enter in one of the two categories; new start or early stage and there are four regions; Northern Ireland, Dublin (City & County), Munster, and Connacht & Leinster (including counties Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan).

The process

Companies submit their application along with a visual representation of the business idea. Shortlisted companies are invited to submit a full business plan and, if successful, are invited to deliver an investment pitch in front of the judging panel comprising of venture capitalists, business angels and some of the island’s leading industry experts and entrepreneurs.

Throughout each stage of the competition, companies will be judged on various criteria including financial performance, company milestones and achievements, future strategy for the business, the management team in place, and indeed the quality of the pitch to the judging panel. Feedback is provided to companies at each stage of the competition process.

Free workshops

InterTradeIreland is hosting a series of free workshops designed to guide those considering entering this year’s competition, including providing advice on preparation of video clips, presentation slide decks and business plans.  Workshops are planned for Belfast on 22 April at Ulster University and NISP and in Derry~Londonderry on 30 April at NISP. More information on the workshops can be found on the InterTradeIreland website

Follow the action

You can follow all the action throughout the 2015 competition by searching for and using #seedcorn and following @iti_seedcorn

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