Developing a business strategy

Planning to grow? Below are nine points that will help you build a successful business strategy. 
1: When business planning, be alert to changes in your market or in customer behaviours. Many businesses fail because they bury their heads in the sand and don’t read the signs until it is too late.
2: Remember that marketing is an essential part of strategy formulation. It’s about creating value in response to customer demand.
3: Ensure you rely on good data and analysis to inform the strategic direction you take. A reliance on merely historic (usually financial) and other internal data will not provide the necessary insight to plan ahead. You need richer sources of data and market insight.
4: You don’t have to commit to a big research budget to get that all-important external insight. Simple processes, like customer surveys with the incentive of a prize, can be hugely valuable.
5: Involve your staff in the process of gathering information and opinions to inform future strategy. Remember that many winning strategies start with insights from staff members.
6: Communicate your strategy to your staff in a manner that they will understand. Keep it simple and tangible. Ensure you update them on implementation milestones.
7: Consider how you will communicate your strategy externally, particularly to allay any unfounded fears. For instance, if a business plans to expand into a new market and you or a senior manager will be in charge of that expansion, you need to ensure your existing customers understand what you’re trying to do and get assurances that servicing won’t be affected.
8: Your mission statement needs to be widely understood. Don’t fall into the trap of just sticking it on the wall and ticking the box that a new strategy is now in place.
9: Remember that strategies evolve and need a degree of flexibility. They should

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Ten brilliant Irish business ideas

The Irish are an entrepreneurial bunch. Below are ten business ideas that originated in Ireland and changed the world.
It’s difficult coming up with an original business idea. Today, it seems most startups are trying to provide a different version of something else using an app or a piece of software. Back in the day, when people were made of sterner stuff, and computers were non-existent, people had ideas and made things that shaped the world forever. 
Below are ten ideas, conceived in Ireland, that went on to leave an indelible mark on human history. 

The rasher
Perhaps the tastiest invention of all time? It was invented by Henry Denny, a Waterford butcher, in 1820. 
The hypodermic syringe
In 1844, Francis Rynd, a Dublin doctor, performed the world’s first subcutaneous injection with his homemade hypodermic syringe. 

The modern stamp
The perforated stamp was invented by an Irish printer, Henry Archer in the 1840s. 
Artificial fertiliser
Artificial fertiliser was invented in 1817 by James Murray, an Irish doctor with a keen interest in chemistry. Dr Murray also invented Milk of Magnesia. 
The modern stethoscope
The binaural stethoscope was invented in 1850 by the Irish doctor Arthur Leared. 
The steam turbine
The steam turbine was invented by Charles Parsons who lived at Birr Castle in the 1880s. The steam turbine is what drives power stations and the modern distribution of electricity. Where would the electrical appliance industry have been without the steam turbine, or the computer industry or the digital age? 

The submarine
John Philip Holland changed the face of warfare by inventing the first commercial submarine in the late 1880s. 
The defibrillator
Professor Frank Pantridge was a physician and cardiologist from Northern Ireland who changed medicine and paramedics forever by inventing the portable defibrillator. In 1965 he installed his first version in a Belfast ambulance.
John Joly was an Irish physicist, who developed radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer. 

Colour photography
John Joly

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How to write a great business strategy

All businesses need a strategy. Here’s how to write a great one.
The word ‘strategy’ is much used and abused. It has its origins in ancient Greek military terminology, which provides clues about its true meaning – leading and guiding. In a business context, it can be taken to mean how best a business can fulfil its purpose, and achieve its vision and objectives. 
Strategy is about determining a destination and how best to get to there. It’s also about being able to switch course because of changing economic, competitive or other circumstances. Strategy is about the long term, how you may or may not effect changes, and your appetite for risk. It’s not about day-to-day operational tasks, although they may be driven, sometimes unconsciously, by your strategy.

Well-performing small businesses have a clear sense of purpose. They put the focus on their customers and are often first to market with new offers and services. These are good indicators of a strong strategy.
Increasingly, small businesses are being required to commit their strategy to paper, for a variety of purposes, such as raising finance or securing a grant. That’s a good move as it often gives a busy entrepreneur, with a strategy that is sophisticated yet not written down, the incentive to create a long-term game plan.
DOWLOAD: A Business Model Canvas for simple business planning.

Strategy types

It’s important to realise that there are different types of strategies and different processes for strategy development which are adopted by different types of businesses, large and small. Renowned academic and strategy guru Henry Mintzberg is credited with coming up with these six broad definitions:

Planned: strategies that are formulated centrally (usually by ‘head office’)
Imposed: strategies either dictated by a parent company, or by economic or other circumstances
Opportunistic: deliberate strategies to respond to opportunities as they arise

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The business end of Budget 2017

What were the main business related results of Budget 2017? How did this budget affect SMEs and farmers?
The eleven key takeaways, for SMEs and farmers, are:
1: There was a continued strong commitment was made to the 12.5% corporation tax rate.
2: The ‘Start Your Own Business Relief’ was extended for a further two years to the end of 2018.
3: Foreign Travellers Relief – ‘SARP’ and ‘FED’ extended to 2020 and the minimum number of travel days is reduced to 30.
4: A new SME-focused share based remuneration scheme to be introduced in Budget 2018.
5: Farmers being able to opt out of income averaging for the 2016 tax year was announced.
6: Farm Restructuring Relief was extended to the end of 2019.
7: The flat-rate addition for farmers is being increased from 5.2% to 5.4% from 1 January 2017.
8: The Minister confirmed that an independent review of the Corporate Tax code is to take place. The report and recommendations are due by the end of Q2 2017.
9: The 9% VAT rate for the hospitality and tourism sector is retained.
10: Savings – a 2% DIRT reduction from January 1, 2017 followed by three further 2% reductions out to 2020.
11: For startups and SMEs, the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) rate was cut from 20% to 10% up to just one million euros.
For full details visit Budget 2017.

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Think pensions with ThinkBusiness

There has never been a better time to start a pension. If you plan to retire well, it’s never too early (or late) to think about a pension.
There are different types of pensions. A pension is the most tax efficient way you can save money. Also, if you are an employer, you are legally obliged to allow staff access to a standard PRSA arrangement. Your first port of call when investing in a pension is to talk to a bank or to an authorised pension adviser. Below is a quick guide to the types of pensions available to you.  

Personal retirement savings account (PRSA)
Certain financial providers, including banks, building societies, insurance companies, and authorised investment firms, provide PRSAs. The money paid into a PRSA is invested in pooled investment funds, which are provided by unit trusts and some life assurance companies.
Anyone may open a PRSA, irrespective of whether they are working or not. However, only people who are self-employed, or who are employees not covered under an occupational pension scheme, may claim tax relief on contributions made to a PRSA.
Generally, the benefits under a PRSA may be taken between the ages of 60 to 75.  Access before the age of 60 is allowed in the event of ill health or certain other limited circumstances. If the PRSA owner dies, the PRSA fund forms part of the owner’s estate and is administered in accordance with the provisions of the owner’s will.
On retirement, the PRSA owner may withdraw up to 25% of the fund in cash, up to a maximum of €200,000 in cash. The remainder of the benefits are payable as follows:

The balance of the fund may be left in the PRSA (which becomes a “vested” PRSA) and used to make future withdrawals. These withdrawals will be subject to income tax and USC.
Alternatively, the fund

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Avoid a business plan disaster

Business planning isn’t easy and there are certain things you should avoid when writing your plan. 
First up, here’s a brilliant, free business plan template you can work on. And below are the business plan mistakes you should avoid.
Not enough research
This is a killer for many small businesses and is easy to avoid. If you put the work in beforehand and are honest and accurate, then your business plan will be more impressive. Nobody wants to read a vague plan.
Poor writing and presentation
If you aren’t a great writer, find someone who is and let them write the plan.
An incomplete plan
If you miss out on any of the key sections, it will affect your chances of generating interest in your business. Likewise, if you include too many technical details, you will lose the reader’s interest.

Unrealistic aspirations
Don’t kid yourself about what your business is capable of. Know your market, pricing and competitors, and base your projections from there. Don’t assume that risk does not apply to your business.
Cutting and pasting from other plans
This is a cardinal sin, and surprisingly frequent among new business owners. Don’t just copy what a high-performing competitor has done. Take the time to identify what makes your business special, and go from there.
No customisation
Your business plan, particularly your executive summary, will need to be modified, depending on your audience. If you don’t make any changes, you will come across as lazy and uninspired, and will dissuade potential investors.
A dead document
Your business plan should develop alongside your business. Your business plan shouldn’t be gathering dust at any stage. Keep it up to date.
READ: How to get that loan application over the line.

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Farming in Ireland – a 2016 forecast

Irish farmers face many challenges and some opportunities. The Department of Agriculture has published its annual review and outlook for the rest of 2016.
The main Irish farming sectors will face many challenges for the rest of the year along with some opportunities. Below is a snapshot of what is covered in a full forecast published by the Department of Agriculture.
While this year will remain challenging for dairy farmers, the Department predicts, “the medium term outlook for dairy markets continues to be very bright, with growing global demand among fast-growing developing countries”.
More protein-focused diets are also expected to support prices in the years ahead.
For the rest of 2016, an EU oversupply of milk will continue to put pressure on milk prices.
Following price rises in the first half of 2016, the second half of the year is predicted to be harder for beef producer prices. On the export side, shipments to Spain and Italy are showing signs of recovery.
RELATED: Irish farmers can save money by banking online.
Sheep meat production in the EU is set to remain stable. New Zealand and Australian exports will tighten. The forecast is for an increase in global prices, suggests the Department.

The future of the pig sector remains challenging due to many factors. Rising feed and energy costs and threats from African swine fever are not helping matters. Indications are there will be a reduction in supply across the EU for the rest of 2016, says the Department.
The poultry sector remains stable and will continue to be solid for the rest of the year. However, rising feed prices will influence how much poultry farmers produce.
There will be a bigger EU harvest this year with a slight decrease in worldwide production.

Irish mushrooms are under pressure from Polish mushrooms in the key UK market. While the mushroom sector continues

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After Brexit comes the planning

ThinkBusiness spoke with Simon McKeever, CEO of the Irish Exporters’ Association about the first steps to exporting and his thoughts on Brexit.
The first steps to exporting can be daunting for Irish SMEs. It is not simply a case of jumping on a plane and flying to another country to knock on a few doors. You need to be prepared. 

“If I were to give one piece of advice to an SME thinking about exporting, it would be to do their research,” says Simon McKeever, CEO of the Irish Exporters’ Association (IEA). 
“Ask yourself, is there a market for your product in the country you want to enter?” he asks.
“Also, is your company ready to scale? Do you have what it takes to grow, the financial resources, the legal resources and the people?”
You should also examine the target market in very close detail.
“Remember, if you are entering a much bigger market, it will be a lot more competitive,” says McKeever. 
“The UK is a good case in point. While it may have a similar regulatory environment, the British are very price conscious, they are value driven, especially when it comes to food and drink. 
“In the UK they are also straight talkers. If someone gives you a chance, it’s important that you deliver on their expectations.”
This is where organisations like the IEA and Enterprise Ireland can assist Irish SMEs. 
“We can help close the deal. We have market access people in the UK specialising in this area. It’s about practical support, expert knowledge and opening doors.”
For markets further afield, the IEA can also help with visa and export documents.
“Obviously, it’s easier to do business in the UK and Europe, not just from a legal perspective but a geographical standpoint. It’s quicker and cheaper to hop on a plane and fly to England, Portugal or Italy.

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Six reasons to move your business to Ireland

Ireland is the fastest growing economy in Europe, and so there has never been a better time than now to invest here. Here are six of the top reasons why foreign firms should move their business to Ireland. 
1.    Tax
At 12.5%, Ireland’s corporate tax rate is one of the lowest in the world and has been attracting foreign firms to our shores for decades. What you may not know if that Ireland also offers companies a 25% tax credit for qualifying research and development expenditure, and can be set against a company’s corporation tax liability.  
2.    Workforce
Ireland’s educated, young, English-speaking workforce has long made it an attractive location for foreign companies. Ireland’s workforce is one of the most youthful and most highly-educated in Europe, so there’s is plenty of talent to choose from. 
3.    Funding 
Enterprise Ireland has a €10m fund in place specifically to attract international start-ups to Ireland. Projects that meet the criteria and are fully investor ready can apply for support from the €10m fund, while new projects that are not entirely investor ready can apply to join an accelerator programme. 
4.    Mentoring and support
As well as funding, Enterprise Ireland offers a broad range of other supports to companies setting up here. These range from mentoring, incubation programmes, introductions to advisors and more. Ireland’s Local Enterprise Office (LEO) network also provides supports for SMEs looking to start a business in Ireland, including financial aid, training, and networking events held throughout the year. 

5.    Pro-business culture 
Ireland regularly places highly in Forbes’ annual ranking of the best countries in the world to do business in, finishing in first place in 2011. Last year we placed fourth, behind Denmark, New Zealand and Norway. Ireland is Europe’s fastest-growing economy, and Dublin, in particular, has become a hub for financial services, biotech,

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It’s never been a better time to start a business

There has (literally) never been a better time to start a business in Ireland. If you are starting in Ireland, start here. 
Your first port of call should be your Local Enterprise Office. 
Your LEO will be able to give you and bring you through a 10-step guide to starting a business.
You will be able to test your business idea, carry out market research, find out what your requirements are, what kind of money you need and how you can raise the funds. 
Your LEO will also help you with a sales and marketing strategy, your legal structure, your business plan and your risk strategy. 

The money
Every business requires finance, and there are many supports for new firms.
Loans of up to €25,000 are available from MicroFinance Ireland for new businesses or those that want to grow. 
The loans are available to businesses with no more than ten employees that do not meet the conventional risk criteria applied by banks.
Banks, however, also want to support viable businesses. Bank of Ireland has a new Business Start-Up Package that will help with the early stages of setting up a business and remove the cost and complication of trying to do it all yourself. You will also receive a current account with 24 months’ free transaction and maintenance fees. 
Small business owners and farmers can also apply online for a business loan of up to €100,000. It’s easy and fast. 

Get online for free
It’s not often you get something worthy for free but Getting Irish Business Online does exactly what it says on the tin. It will get your business online for free. It’s vital your business can be found online, especially in the early days. 
Unemployed and starting?
If you are out of work and keen to start a business, there are plenty of supports available.
If you’ve been signing on for over 12 months and

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