Quality Design: Manufacturing Collaboration for Impressive Teamwork

If you are a believer in the philosophy that many hands make light work, teamwork should be right up there on your list of priorities.

Collaboration is often a successful ingredient in getting results within your business and this will the show itself in producing better results through impressive teamwork.

Here is a look at some of the ways that you can boost the quality aspect of your manufacturing process by pulling everyone together and working successfully as a team.

Success you can measure

Team performance is measured in a number of ways and manufacturing companies such as midlake.com are one of a good number of organizations who understand the importance of collaboration throughout the manufacturing process.

Encourage workers within a team to look out for each other whilst still striving individually to produce the highest level of output. Also avoid assigning blame to a single worker when there is a breakdown in the line of production.

You should measure success in terms of a team performance and then look to reward accordingly when the group achieves targets through their strong alliance, even if they are working on specific tasks with the group.

Learn from the past

Another positive way to create a good level of teamwork is to study peers and previously successful projects.

It often inspires employees to learn from those that have been there before them and how they previously attained success and reached their targets. It can also be a great idea to bring in previous leaders or inspirational figures who have moved on to other achievements, as a way of motivating your current team to reach these same peaks.

Balancing rewards

When it comes to manufacturing, there is often a thin line between suppressing creativity and trying to reduce costly errors in the production line.

You need to devise a system that tries to avoid the negative aspects that comes from punishing failure and concentrate on rewarding a successful uplift in output, without avoiding any safety issues that need addressing.

This is indeed a tricky balancing act to get right. But if you aim to find a suitable middle ground that incentivizes employees but keeps their performance within strict safety levels, your business should prosper.

Process and product are equally important

It is essential that you don’t let the pursuit of maximum output outweigh the need for safety at any time.

Make sure that workers are fully drilled on the need for rigorous safety procedures and that they have access to all the documents and training needed for them to be compliant in this respect.

This is particularly vital when a new worker is introduced into the team. When this happens, they have the potential to raise the risk profile and may end up endangering their own safety and that of their co-workers.

Process and product are of equal importance and for everyone’s safety and re-assurance, this is a message that has to be understood and acted upon at all times.

It also has to be instilled into any new team member, so they truly get the sense from day one, that they are joining a business and a group of workers who believe in the importance of teamwork.

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Linked Finance; Curious Wines expands

Michael Kane is a friend of Smallbusinesscan. He and his brother are looking to raise 30K through Linked Finance. They are already at 75%. You should have a look.

Cork wine company Curious Wines run by brothers Mike Kane and Matt Kane, one of the first wine companies in Ireland to use the web and social media to get business, are innovating again. The brothers are expanding their business by opening a wine warehouse and retail space in Naas, just off the M7 as a foothold into the greater South Dublin area. However, rather than relying on the banks to finance the expansion, it was apparent they had the necessary funding right at their finger-tips – through their own customers.

No more cajoling

“We needed an additional €30,000 of financing but instead of jumping through hoops by having to educate, prod and cajole a bank manager, we went to the people who understand and believe in our business: our customers, our friends.” stated MD Michael Kane.

Curious Wines are one of many businesses in Ireland using new forms of financing, based on peer-to-peer lending or crowd-funding. Here they’re using LinkedFinance, where individuals get to bid “micro” loans at rates that suit them. When enough people bid the loan becomes an auction, with the loan fulfilled at the lowest rates bid. Where Curious have struck gold again is in offering the loan to their customers first.

“We’ve never seen such an enthusiastic response to a loan on our platform.” commented Marc Rafferty of LinkedFinance. “Normally we would experience 20-30% loan fulfilment in the first week of a loan being offered. With Curious it was 75%, and at rates we haven’t seen before.”

Rafferty continued: “Curious Wines has embraced Linked Finance as a way to raise finance to expand their Irish business in the ultimate fashion. By engaging with their own customers, they have driven the speed of the fulfilment, and driven down the rate at which people are prepared to invest in them. Not only are they receiving the finance they need to grow, they’re turning their current customers into lenders and advocates for their business and they’ve also publicised their wine business to the thousands of lenders supporting Irish SMEs on LinkedFinance.com. Now that’s what we call a real alternative to the banks!” continued Rafferty.

The loan auction ends on Tuesday 24th June and details can be read here: https://www.linkedfinance.com/business-loans/investment/borrower/loan?id=1564

Would you get €30,000 from your bank in a week?

Matthew Kane, Curious Wines’ Operations Manager who will run the Naas location: “We’re blown away that in just a week we’re at 75% of our €30,000 loan without pushing it that hard. We sent an email to our newsletter list and put up a few tweets and our friends and supporters spread the news via word of mouth. It’s a total endorsement of what we’re doing by our own customers.”

Curious Wines are of the view that new direct to public financing models are a future that SMEs need to consider.

Michael Kane MD: “Despite all the fancy advertising saying banks are lending money, they’re still far too conservative, we would urge many SMEs that are looking for financing to investigate LinkedFinance as an options. These could be the credit unions, the community coop banks of the 21st century”

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Business support; Microfinance Ireland

Crowd funding

I was at the Innovation 2.0 conference and at the entrepreneur’s day as part of the world conference on entrepreneurship. Two great conferences. There was a common theme (Drucker has always said that entepreneurship and innovation are two sides of the same coin) and that was crowd funding. In Ireland we have Linked Finance, Fundit, nTrai, iFund, Moneycrowd and Cofunder. I am sure that I forgetting some and please let me know if I have and we will include you.

Micro finance

Another form of finance is Microfinace Ireland. With its spanking new CEO Michael Johnson, an old friend of Smallbusinesscan. They manage the  Microenterprise Loan Fund. It is targeted at start-up or growing microenterprises across all industry sectors. We work with businesses based in the Republic of Ireland, with less than 10 employees and a turnover of less than €2m. Providing unsecured business loans of €2,000 to €25,000 for commercially viable proposals that have been declined bank credit.

They will also consider co-funding bank proposals. Microenterprises that have experienced both formal and informal declines from their bank are eligible to apply for a loan with us. The interest rate on our loans is 8.8% APR fixed and repayments are by monthly direct debit. Loans are generally for 3 years for working capital facilities. Loans up to 5 years may be considered if it involves financing of capital expenditure such as equipment, machinery or vehicles. The business can be trading as a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company. You can apply here

And you are not alone. Adare farm, Kitchen incubators Kerry, Big Adventures Island and Castemine farm are examples of successful applicants

If you need help with your application, let us know, we be happy to help.


Using the power of our growing community, we have negotiated a range of discounts and special offers on vital business services you need to run and grow your business.
Visit Our Webstore

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How to Enter a Foreign Market

Entering a foreign market can be one of the most exciting stages in the development of your business. Selling your product to a foreign market will mean many fresh challenges as well the opportunity to significantly grow your business. Operating in a foreign country can also diversify your business so that you are no longer exposed to the risk of a single market.

Researching Potential Markets

Before you commit to a foreign market it is important that you research it carefully. It is critical that you look at how the legal system, culture and religious beliefs may impact your business. Many products that are successful in their domestic market struggle in foreign markets due to differences in taste and culture. For example, when KFC entered the Chinese market it had to radically change its menu to meet the local culinary tastes. The Chinese KFC menu includes items that few Americans would recognize including egg tarts, shrimp burgers and soy milk drinks. It has even changed its menu to meet certain regional tastes in the country. By adapting to local tastes KFC has grown the number of its restaurants in China to more than 3,000.

Creating A Plan

The next step should be to create an export plan. This plan will help you to identify the potential risks, barriers to entry as well as opportunities that exist in that market. This plan should include a list of your major competitors and potential partners in this market. You should also establish how you intend to market and distribute your products.

Selling Your Products

Identify how you are going to sell your product in the market that you are entering. One of the most common approaches is to use local sales representatives or distributors. Sales representative typically work on commission and use the sales literature and marketing materials that you provide. Foreign distributor purchase the goods directly from you at a significant discount and then resell them for a profit. Alternatively, you may want to sell directly to end users either through establishing your own retail locations or online.

Franchising And Joint Ventures

Franchising and joint ventures are common approaches to entering a foreign market. When you franchise, you provide local businesses with limited intellectual property rights to your products. You also provide processes that must be followed by your franchisees. Joint ventures involve teaming up with a local business. The two businesses share joint management and control of the new business. This enables to you to share costs as well as benefit from the local business knowledge of their market.

Determining Pricing

Pricing can vary significantly depending on the market you are operating in. One of the most straightforward pricing models is the cost-plus approach. This involves basing your pricing on the cost of goods plus the costs associated with importing the product into the foreign market. While this approach is relatively simple, it has the disadvantage of potentially setting prices which are uncompetitive in the local market. In markets where your product is unique and there is high demand you may be able to price higher than in your domestic market. Another option is to attempt to undercut the local pricing in order to gain market share as quickly as possible.

Foreign Language Website

When you enter a foreign market, you will need to develop a new website for that country. This is particularly important if the market that you are entering speaks a different language to your domestic market. Having a new website will allow you to target the marketing messaging, store locations, contact information and product details to that market. Having a foreign language website created is not complicated, compared to some of the other challenges of entering a new market. One good option is to use a global translation service, (for example, Simple Translation), which specializes in translating websites from one language to another.

Entering a foreign market will often involve a sharp learning curve. You may be required to adapt your current processes and systems for the new market. But the benefits of selling into a foreign market invariably justify these challenges. Businesses that enter foreign markets typically become better diversified and more robust organizations with greater potential for rapid growth.

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The 10 Basics of Export Marketing for Small Business

Expanding your company by targeting overseas sales is a fantastic way of developing a business. However, export success certainly won’t happen overnight and there are many potential hazards out there that need to be overcome before success is achieved.

Marketing your business, product or service is crucial to your success. Prior to launching anything internationally, you need to sit down and plan, plan and plan some more.

So here are 10 essential points to effective export marketing that should hopefully help you on your way.

1. Create an Export Marketing Plan

Remember those days when you were launching your company and you sat down and spent hours writing out a business plan? Well you need to do that again but this time to plan out just how you’re going to be successful at launching into export. You need to work out where you are going to aim your product, when this important development of your business is going to take place and how much you should budget for it.  Keep hold of this and continually refer back to it.

2. Do your export homework

You have an idea just where you are going to launch your product but you now need to find out as much as possible about that country or region. Learn about the population, their habits and what possible challenges lay ahead. There is a wealth of free information available online now that exporters can use to get quickly up to speed on all the key areas that might impact their export offering.

3. Competition analysis

It’s important that you find out who your likely competitors are going to be. Find out what they are currently doing, how they are doing it and how you can do it better (hopefully) and conduct a SWOT analysis. If you are going to be selling toothpaste into Indonesia, would you really do so without understanding who already does so and how much they actually sell? Scrutinise competitors’ approaches; take what is good and leave what is bad.

4. Make sure you overcome any cultural differences

The country you are going to be exporting to is likely to have cultural differences and you must find out about these. It’s so easy to make expensive blunders that could have been avoided if research had been carried out. This is particularly important with your advertising material with everything from your logo to the name of your product being potential hazards. A US toothpaste manufacturer once sold into an area of South East Asia where the locals saw black teeth as beautiful! Obviously they didn’t sell too many tubes.

5. The importance of language

From the emails you send to your foreign clients to the language used in your marketing material, there’s plenty you need to learn if you want to be a successful exporter. Don’t include words that may be innocent in your own country but have a totally different meaning in the country you want to trade with. Make sure you use a linguist or a professional from the target country who can advise you on your language as well as your website copy, brochures, manuals, etc.

6. Where is the best place to put your message across?

Once your marketing material has been created where should you place it to get the best results? It could be via a search engine, in the local press or on social media. Again you need to find out what works best in the country you are exporting to. Not every country will have the same channels for marketing and advertising. In some West African nations, the tribal chief might actually be your best marketing channel!

7. An online presence

If you haven’t already got a website then get one!  If you do have one then you need to make sure it can aid your export drive not hinder it.  Make sure your site is towards the top of search engines and get the site translated so your potential new customers can fully understand the message you’re trying to put across. As well as translating the contents, look at the usability of your website. For example in some languages they read right to left – how would this impact your site’s effectiveness?

8. How do you want them to contact you?

Those potential new customers have found your website and understand it too. So what do you want them to do next? Decide if you want them to email you or telephone you. If you do want them to call you make sure you have staff who can successfully take that call. There is no point marketing your service to Germany and then not being able to deal with a phone call or email in German. Think through how these foreign prospects can be dealt with.

9. Ensure you can receive payment

Your new customer wants to buy your product online but is that possible? Make sure that your site can take foreign payments. Ensure you closely look at the local payment methods people use. Online credit card payments are distrusted in Germany so what would the alternative be? Check competitors’ sites and see what they are using.

10. Don’t forget to test

As you’ll see there’s a lot to learn if this export drive you desire is going to work. Have a trial run, start off small and apply what you’ve learnt. Take a small dip in the export waters, learn from any mistakes you make and then start to grow the export side of your business. Test, test, test and improve…..continuously.

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Asia Trade Forum and UCD Smurfit Business School Team Up For Mentoring Partnership

The Asia Trade Forum of the Irish Exporters Association and Smurfit Business School has entered into a mentoring partnership where students will work on a group project with a member company to complete a new market entry strategy.  In response to the rapidly growing markets in Asia, a country from that region will be chosen. Other international markets may also be considered.

The key focus of each project will be on entry strategies for a particular product / service into a particular international market.

The key outcomes of this ‘live project’ for the students are:

  • To learn successful strategies for entering new markets with a real life Irish company
  • They will receive mentoring from successful business people
  • To enhance their CV and become more employable
  • To hone their presentation skills
  • They will learn how to deliver and present a professional report

The key outcomes for the IEA member company are:

  • To have the opportunity to develop an international market opportunity for their company
  • Give something back to the community.
  • Operating in a mentoring capacity, they will provide students with a live project to enhance their international market entry strategy skills which, not least, will make them eminently more employable in the currently difficult economic environment.
  • They will facilitate creativity and initiative taking by group members.
  • They will work more closely with Smurfit Business School, deepening the relationship over time, potentially provide internships for strong students, and potentially source Smurfit graduates as prospective employees over time.


Hugh C. Kelly, Managing Director, Associated Marketing Ltd. Director, Irish Exporters Association.
Mr Joe Tynan, Tax Partner, PwC. Director, Irish Exporters Association.

Feedback from Last Year’s Projects

The project for us has certainly added value. The market research on the various regions is excellent. In short, they covered all aspects of the project we asked them to. Everything from the perception of Irish beef to possible markets and route to market.

(the group) delivered a very good and well established project and I must say all of the team acted in a very professional and courteous manner throughout & I have given each of them a letter of reference following my time working with them over the last 3 months.

The whole team at SIA are very impressed with the quality and depth of your analysis and recommendations.  The report has been completed to an excellent standard with a real understanding of the industry and our position in the global market. To prove the point we have been in initial discussions with DC Logistics last week to become our partner in Brazil and they were first on your list.

I just wanted to drop you a note, to thank you and the group for the work done on the project. We believe it will be very useful. I would also like to let you know that we were very impressed with Killian’s work as leader on the project.

Project Schedule

Duration of Project: Monday 27 January – Thursday 24 April 2014.

What are Companies expected to do?
Company participants should take ownership of this project. Critically the intellectual property of this project resides with the company. Companies are expected to guide and mentor their groups toward the realisation of a high quality project, keeping in mind the grading criteria. Clarity with regard to brief is a starting point. Sometimes companies may be rigid in terms of their brief. Please provide space for the students to demonstrate creativity and to use their initiative. They may ‘talk theory’ initially, not least as academically they are expected to have a theoretical underpinning to their project. Please empathise, as I’m sure you appreciate that all business transactions have a theoretical underpinning. The presentation and physical copy of the final report has to be to the highest standards, a report and presentation that you yourselves would stand over.

Communication between Company and Students
It is the expectation that companies will communicate with students face –to-face, by phone, Skype, or email for the duration of the project, and be proactive in this regard. This is to avoid a situation where students get lost in their project and would gain from immediate communication and mentoring rather than losing time going down blind allies in their market research.


The contacts details for interested and eligible parties are as follows:

Dr John (Sean) Cassidy, Module Coordinator, UCD Smurfit Business School
Contact Details: Tel: 01-7164831; Mobile: 086 812 0654; Email: john.cassidy@ucd.ie

Ms. Ashley Beston, Manager, Asia Trade Forum, Irish Exporters Association
Contact Details: Tel: +353 1 6424178; Email: AshleyBeston@irishexporters.ie

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Export Ireland Survey

On Wednesday November 13th I had the pleasure to attend a reception to launch the Irish Exporters Association’s “Export Ireland Survey & International Trade Finance Review for 2013”. The reception was hosted by Grant Thornton and they were also sponsors of the publication.

The main objective of the publication is to research and measure the opinions and expectations of companies in Ireland in relation to their export activities. Every year hundreds of companies participate providing their highly valuable input.  The results allow the main stakeholders in the Irish economy to have a better understanding of the state of the Irish export industry and allows the IEA to present the findings to Government and propose actions to be taken to improve export performance.

Irish Export Industry

Speaking to Simon McKeever, CEO of the Irish Exporters Association, he said “Our survey provides an insightful annual temperature check on the challenges and opportunities affecting the Irish Export Industry.  This year the survey shows positive momentum with  increased plans to introduce new products and services over the next 2 years, and a positive trend in the number of sales people recruited over the last 12 months. “ However we cannot afford to be complacent.  Our competitiveness remains an issue for many small businesses. We need to encourage more Irish firms to export, to help them identify opportunities and to win business successfully overseas.  We are grateful for the professional expertise brought to the survey by our economic adviser Philip Halpin and the continued support of our partner Grant Thornton.

My thanks to Simon for granting me permission to use content from their publication. It is an excellent survey/review and I would urge any company involved in the export business or considering entering new markets to contact the IEA to discuss the findings in more detail and see how they can be of help.

There are seven main parts to the survey and these are:

  1. Challenges in the marketplace and opportunities facing exporters
  2. Currency issues
  3. Trade Finance and Banking
  4. Payment Issues
  5. Credit Management
  6. Support for Exporters
  7. Grant Thornton Review

The Guest of Honour was Mr Michael Noonan, Minister for Finance, Mr Patrick Burke, Partner Grant Thornton welcomed the guests, Mr Colin Lawlor – President of the Irish Exporters Association spoke on behalf of the IEA and Mr Philip Halpin, Economic Advisor to the IEA presented the findings.

The Report

The publication showed that the “green shoots” are coming alive as we emerge from our deep recession; they also tell us about the challenges our exporters feel as they develop new markets.

Some interesting points to emerge from this excellent report show that:

  • 80% of businesses expect exports to increase in 2014
  • 70% of respondents are targeting new markets
  • 88% plan to introduce new products and services over the next two years
  • 51% of exporters have recruited new sales staff over the past twelve months
  • 45% expect to increase their R&D spend in 2014
  • 95% of respondents export to ensure sustainability of their business
  • 61% see exporting as having helped them understand their home market more

The Irish Exporters Association can be contacted on + 353 1 661 2182 / iea@irishexporters.ie or at www.irishexporters.ie

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Irish Trade Mission to Moscow

Ulster Bank often works with Enterprise Ireland in their efforts to assist Irish companies in the SME sector develop their export business.

We do this in many ways, some recent examples involved speaking at their Funding for Growth seminars, joint hosting of events on doing business is a variety of markets and travelling on Trade Missions with Enterprise Ireland and their clients to key business markets.

Recently Gerry Ennis, Head of Trade Finance at Ulster Bank (pictured here with Minister of State Alan Kelly and Patrick Edmond of Shannon Airport)  attended a trade mission to Moscow , organised by Enterprise Ireland and led by the Minister of State Alan Kelly, and he has provided the following report on the trip:

Two trade missions to Moscow

Two trade missions to Moscow took place at the same time (Aviation and Agriculture) and in excess of 40 people travelled from Ireland. Each mission was fully supported by the Irish Embassy in Moscow.

The Irish Aviation / Transportation mission focused on the growing opportunities for Irish companies in that sector. It was interesting to hear that the aviation industry in Ireland is directly responsible for 26,000 jobs with an estimated further 16,000 jobs supported in the aviation supply chain. This sector contributes in excess of €4bn to Ireland’s GDP. The second group of companies attended an “Innovation in Agriculture” trade mission , these were companies providing product and services to a very dynamic market in Russia.

Irish exports of goods to Russia for the first eight months of 2013 were €434m , up 8.5% on the same period last year. It is interesting to note that our Imports at €109m for the same period this year is only one quarter of our exports.

Russia is not an easy market to crack, having said that many of the companies on these missions have shown that they can sell their product successfully throughout Russia and also to neighbouring countries such as Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland have a fantastic team based in Moscow , led by Gerry McCarthy and ably supported by his colleagues – all of whom were excellent hosts to attendees on the mission. Our Ambassador to Russia, Eoin O’Leary and his team were very involved and supportive of the mission. The Embassy and Enterprise Ireland both have an open door policy when it comes to supporting Irish companies as they seek to develp their business in Russia. Gerry can be seen here in the company of Ambassador O’Leary.

During the trip I attended a dinner hosted by Enterprise Ireland and in excess of 200 people , Irish and Russian were present at a hotel within a stone’s throw of the Kremlin. Ambassador O’Leary hosted an evening reception at the Embassy on another evening. At other times I networked with these companies to explore ways in which we could work together. I also visited the main local banks in the company of Natalia from the local RBS office in an effort to promote Ireland but more importantly to promote the bank in Ireland to these major banking giants. RBS employs close to 300 people in Russia, with offices in Moscow, St Petersburg and Sakhalin.

I would be pleased to talk to any of our readers if we can be of any assistance to you as you seek to explore new business opportunities in Russia or for any emerging market in fact. My main contact details are as follows:

Telephone: +353 1 643 1724
Mobile: + 353  87 7681263
E-Mail: gerry.ennis@ulsterbankcm.com

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