18 great business tools that save money

Cost effective and often free, here’s a list of great digital tools to help run your business.
Most small businesses don’t have the money to run their own IT department or a digital marketing division. If you are starting, running or growing a small business, you can still run the important ‘back end’ stuff for next to nothing. It just takes a little know how.
1: First step, buy a smartphone. It may seem obvious but this will be an essential business tool.
2: If you need a website, install WordPress. If you don’t want to do it yourself, don’t spend too much on a site. You can get a very good company website for less than you think.
3: If you want to sell online use services like Trafficattic or Shopify.
4: You don’t need a bulky email server cluttering up your office. Use Gmail from Google. Also, make sure your office accesses the Internet via Wi-Fi (using a password), it’ll be less hassle in the long run. Also, less nasty wires.
5: Why buy brand new computers when there are many high quality used laptops for sale? They will work very well, just make sure they are Wi-Fi enabled.
6: If you don’t want to pay for lots of software try Jolicloud OS. It’s an operating system that connects low cost computers to the cloud.
7: You can save a small fortune by using free online invoicing and free online accounting software from a great Irish company like Bullet.

8: You don’t need to buy hard disks to store your company data, just go online and into the cloud with Dropbox. Here you can store everything at an affordable price.
9: If you don’t want to pay Microsoft for its software you can use Google Docs or, for spread sheets, OpenOffice.
10: If you need a great project management tool, why

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/great-business-ideas-save-money/ on

‘It’s how you prepare for threats that counts’

Trinity College Dublin runs a programme for SME owners and managers who want to grow their export markets. 
The Trinity International Growth Programme, which was designed by the university’s business school, features classes, case study sessions, seminars, guest talks, workshops and a mentored project.
SMEs with export potential can apply. The course is open to companies – with a turnover greater than €500,000 and up to €25 million, with 10 to 50 employees – that are developing new products or entering new markets.

Professor Michael Flynn, director of the programme, says the first programme is now complete, and interested SME owners can apply for the next one, starting in 2017.
“The first programme was a great success,” says Prof. Flynn. “It was very focused and allowed participants to step back and see what was going on in their businesses.
“There’s an old saying – ‘Business owners are often too busy working in their businesses and don’t spend enough time working on their business’. This programme focuses on helping business owners develop concrete strategies for growth.”
“Always remember, a threat can also be an opportunity”
What are the typical difficulties Irish companies face when they start exporting?
“The challenges are often in the approach. What this programme offers SME owners is the chance to step back from the business and re-calculate – it’s time for them to look at what they do in a more strategic and analytical way. It’s also a very hands-on course, where business performance coaches will spend time with the owners at their place of work. The programme runs for six days over a period of three months.”
The Brexit threat
What does Prof. Flynn think will happen to Irish exports should Britain vote to leave the EU? 
“No one knows exactly what will happen and what the situation will be. Most leading economists believe the short to medium

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Three Irish firms on starting and growing

Three Irish firms chart their journey from the early stages to the moments they realised their businesses had become successful.

Starting a new business is exciting, but alarmingly very few companies manage to survive the first three years. 

ThinkBusiness spoke to three firms from Cork and Kerry that started small but managed to scale. 

Supports for new businesses

Loughbeg Farm began selling homemade jams, chutneys, and ice cream at farmers’ markets before starting to make gluten free bread in 2014. Within a year, it was selling its gluten-free bread and tea bracks in over 100 SuperValus across Ireland, and subsequently appeared on RTÉs Dragon’s Den where it secured investments from Alison Cowzer and Eamon Quinn. 

Company founder Walter Ryan-Purcell had previously worked in the industrial composting and renewable energy industries before finding himself unemployed. “There is so much help available to start-ups in Ireland,” he says. “I was able to get on the Back to Work Scheme, which allows you to keep your unemployment benefit while you are getting yourself off the ground, as well as grant aid for yourself and your employees.

“SuperValu’s Food Academy programme was also an incredible leg-up. Not only did we get excellent tuition from the retail experts, but it was wonderful to meet up with like-minded entrepreneurs.”

Overcoming challenges

Cork’s INTEGREAT was founded by Gerry O’Connor in 2011, providing joinery design and interior fit-outs to high-end contractors and designers. Having worked in the UK for eight years, Gerry went to work as a production manager in his native Cork with a joinery manufacturer, before the economic downturn cost him his job. Like Walter at Loughbeg Farm, Gerry decided to turn his unemployment into an opportunity to start a business.  

Today his client list boasts some powerful UK brands including Selfridges and Sheraton Park Lane. However, it hasn’t always been easy for the budding entrepreneur. “Our business is service based and operating remotely, and we found the lack of adequate broadband to be a real threat to our success,” he explains. 

“Following two frustrating years of slow speed broadband, a new provider to our area improved the service to a manageable level. Faster speed broadband is essential to our future development.”

Sub-standard IT infrastructure wasn’t the only barrier for the start-up, however; the economic climate at the time also presented challenges. “The decimation of the construction industry and the economic recession created its challenges. Potential clients were scarce. We had no marketing experience and often found it difficult to get our message across.”

Knowing you’ve made it

The transition from being a start-up to a successful business is a gradual process, but Gerry can pinpoint one moment in particular that was significant for INTEGREAT. “The key moment for us was in September 2013 when we were asked to head up the contractor’s design team on a high-end retail fit-out on Regent’s Street in London. It involved more time spent in the UK but had the added benefit of our brand being more visible and spreading our network of contacts. It resulted in more business.” 

For Walter and Loughbeg Farm, the critical moment for his company came with a deal from SuperValu. “We suddenly went from supplying a handful of shops to providing every SuperValu in Cork and Kerry. Our turnover grew to over €5,000 per week. It all happened very quickly.”

Steady growth 

For the founders of Cahersiveen’s K&T Bakery, there was no single crucial moment in the story of their business, but rather a constant trend of growth. 

Owners Katarzyna and Tomasz Gwis emigrated from Poland to Ireland in 2006 and worked a variety of jobs until they found themselves out of work in 2014. 

The couple had come from a rich tradition of bakery in Poland, and with time on their hands, they decided to start selling bread and cakes at car boot sales and country markets. 

Sales were so good that they decided to open the K&T Bakery in Cahirsiveen and subsequently opened a restaurant and café in the town. “It’s hard to specify a particular moment when we realised the business had become a success,” says Katie, the former childcare assistant who now employs 15 people. “It was just a gradual process where we started to get a steady group of customers and were supplying our goods to shops in surrounding towns and villages. We just found ourselves getting busier and busier, and customers were coming back for more.”

What’s next?

The three businesses say they will stay focused on what opportunities come next. 

For Loughbeg Farms, the future holds more sales and potential exports. “We plan to continue to build up sales steadily in all SuperValus here in Ireland and very shortly we intend to slice and freeze our bread for sale in the UK and elsewhere.” 

For INTEGREAT, Gerry will keep his eye on new technology and how it can help grow his business. “3D modelling for drawings is something we are still skirting around the edges with. However, if we apply ourselves to build up the necessary skills, it would be an asset to how we produce drawings and allow us to offer this service for special projects at a premium rate.”

Finally for the K&T Bakery, Katie too hopes she can take her products to a wider market. “For now, we would like to stabilise the café and spread our delivery route wider,” she says. “We are taking each day as it comes.”

The three companies featured are 2016 regional winners of The Irish Local Development Network Enterprise Awards. Pictured above are: Katarzyna Gwis of K & T Bakery, (Kerry); Walter Ryan-Purcell of LoughBeg Farm (West Cork);and Gerry O’Connor of Intergreat (East Cork).

Article by Peter Flanagan.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/grow-your-business/ on

Will your business benefit from a digital single market?

The European Commission has taken the first steps towards a Digital Single Market. The idea is to make it easier for small businesses to sell online across Europe. What does this mean for your business?
Ever tried to buy something online from another EU country only to find yourself rerouted, unable to complete the transaction, or told the offer you’re trying to avail of isn’t available in Ireland? You’ve probably been geo-blocked; this is the term used when a person in the EU is blocked from buying goods or services from a company in another EU member state. 
Geo-blocking is not just a hindrance for shoppers, its goes against the principles of the EU single market, and the European Commission has started to take action.  
In a landmark case, Disneyland Paris was forced to offer French and non-French visitors to its website the same discounts and special offers, and the Commission has just agreed on further actions to remove online barriers for shoppers and businesses, creating a ‘Digital Single Market’ for the first time. 
What would a DSM look like?
Easier cross-border e-commerce
Consumer regulations would be harmonised; copyright laws would be modernised, and tax rules would also be simplified. 
More efficient and affordable deliveries
Getting a parcel delivered from abroad can be pricey and serves as a significant disincentive for consumers. The DSM would make deliveries more cost-effective for everyone involved. 
End of price discrimination 
All European customers will be entitled to the same good and services for the same price; no more geo-blocking. 
Improved, pan-European infrastructure 
Digital infrastructure will be enhanced right across the EU, with better coordination between states and even pan-European services and networks. 

Does the DSM go far enough? 
The proposed Digital Single Market does bring with it some risks and concerns. The European eCommerce and & Omni-Channel Trade Association (EMOTA) expressed concern that new obligations on sellers surrounding parcel

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/small-business-ireland-selling-online/ on