Six magical Irish tourist spots

Here are six inspirational tourist spots that are ‘off the beaten track’ and involve a little action.

2016 was the best year ever for Irish tourism, surpassing all previous records. 10.5 million people visited the island of Ireland. For 2017, Tourism Ireland aims to grow overseas tourism revenue by 4.5% in 2017 to bring in €5.7 billion to the north and south of the island.

While the major attractions will always draw the big numbers, smaller, inventive tourism entrepreneurs are emerging. Below are six that are leading the way.

Winterfell Tours

Where? Newcastle, Co Down.

Game of Thrones fans can walk in the footsteps of Tyrion Lannister and Jon Snow. Just a 40 minute drive from Belfast, Winterfell Tours offers twenty of the most prominent Game of Thrones film location spots including Winterfell Castle, Robb’s Camp and Walder Frey’s Twins. A must visit for all ‘Thrones’ fans.

Pure Magic tours

Pure Magic

Where? Dollymount, Dublin

A charismatic water sports company in Dollymount, Pure Magic, has a team of instructors dedicated to all things kite surfing and SUP (stand up paddleboard). It’s known for exceptional customer service. There’s also a Pure Magic Lodge on Achill Island for action-packed getaways.

mor active

Mór Active

Where? Killarney

If you’re searching for a deep insight into Ireland’s natural beauty, culture, and traditions, Mór Active is a good call. It offers tailored activity, culture and eco tours. You can see the wonders of Killarney, the Ring of Kerry, Dingle, and the Wild Atlantic Way through the eyes of an expert. Founded in 2007, Mór Active’s glowing TripAdvisor presence sets an example for other Irish tour operators to follow.

Bike park

Bike Park Ireland

Where? Roscrea, Co Tipperary

With the first trail constructed in 2012, Bike Park Ireland soon became the first official mountain bike park in Ireland to offer a day out for cyclists of all skill sets. There are six downhill trails and the uplift service – an ex-army truck with 30 bus seats and a bike trailer – turns uphill transportation into a real adventure.

howth

Shane’s Howth Hikes

Where? Howth, Dublin

Just half an hour from Dublin city centre by car, Howth village provides a welcome escape from city life. Shane’s Howth Hikes tours are as popular with locals as they are with visitors. Customers can book ‘The Howth Heritage Free Walk’ as a starting point, and if they’re keen to explore more, the ‘Howth Safari’ is an inspiring hike.

Boyne boats 1

Boyne Boats Adventure

Where? Drogheda, Co Louth

One in five tourists visit a destination because they have seen it on a TV show. Boyne Boats’ currachs were used in the filming of Game of Thrones. The Boyne Boats adventures include ‘Paddle like an Iron Islander’ and ‘The King’s Tour’. The tour is an hour of rich local heritage as customers learn to paddle like a true warrior. This is one of Ireland’s real hidden gems.

Do you want to start a tourism business?

Interested in setting up a tour or activity company, or finding tips for your existing one? Here are five tips for finding the right price for your tours and activities.

Related Resource

WANT TO START YOUR OWN TOURISM BUSINESS? Make sure you have your business plan right and get the money you need.

 

Article by Lucy Fuggle of TrekkSoft. Images from TrekkSoft, HBO and Shutterstock.

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Brexit guide – test the impact of price changes

The winds of change are blowing. Brexit will have an impact on Irish business. This free sales forecast template can help you forecast your sales. It allows you to vary your pricing and see the impact it will have on your profits.

This useful template has three inter-related resources, each of which is on separate tabs within the document. The tabs are as follows:

  1. Unit sales price template. This allows you to vary your pricing and see the impact. The figures you input into this tab will be reflected in the second tab, which is a sales forecast.
  2. Forecast of sales. This allows you to forecast your sales on a month by month basis over a period of 12 months. Figures you input into that spreadsheet will be picked up in the next spreadsheet, which is the P&L.
  3. P&L template. This will show you a net profit or loss for your business.

“You can easily create a sales forecast but you can test out different scenarios based on the data you input.”

This template should be used in conjunction with our free and Business Plan Template to give an overall view of your business and its performance.

Remember, prepare for change, don’t wait to react to it.

YOU MAY ALSO FIND INTERESTING: Help is at hand for Irish companies who want to export to markets other than the UK. Find out more.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/brexit-changes-to-sales-profits/ on
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How to manage an overdraft

An overdraft is a very useful thing to have. Here’s how to manage one.

Used correctly, an overdraft is a very useful tool for businesses of all sizes. Here’s how to manage one.

An overdraft is a credit arrangement with a bank allowing a customer to write cheques or make payments from the current account up to an agreed limit. It is a form of working capital finance.

An overdraft facility fee is often charged, along with interest on the amount of the (debit) balance on the current account, at an agreed rate.

Key steps

  1. Managing your overdraft properly puts you in control. This means that you need up-to-date information. Ensure that you have registered your current account online with your bank. This way, you will be able to easily track the money going into, and out, of your account.
  2. Understand the charges and fees which may be applied to your overdraft. There are typical fees, such as:
    Facility fee – This is a once-off fee for setting up your overdraft.
    Renewal fee – This is only charged if you renew your overdraft at the end of the agreed term. 
    Referral fee – This is a fee the bank charges for each transaction made on your current account, when you are over your agreed overdraft limit.
    Surcharge interest – This is extra interest that the bank will charge on top of the standard interest for the overdraft, if you exceed your agreed overdraft limit.
  3. Avoid paying by cheque as much as possible. Where possible, use online payments facilities instead. In most cases, it’s a lot cheaper to use online facilities,
  4. Ask your customers to pay you electronically instead of paying you by cheque. This will save you money and ensures you gain quicker access to your funds and potentially avoid the need for an overdraft (or at the least reduce the level of overdraft facility required).
  5. Never use an overdraft as a long-term borrowing facility. The interest rate for an overdraft is generally higher than for term lending, for example, so you should consider, carefully, the alternative ways of funding your business. Alternatives to an overdraft could include:
  • Injecting more cash into the business
  • Improved management of your debtor book
  • Seeking increased terms from suppliers
  • Other bank finance, including invoice discounting, asset finance and a term loan

TOP TIPS

Plan ahead: Keep your cashflow projections up-to-date and understand how your business’s financial needs may change in the period ahead. Stress-test your cashflow. For example, if your debtors take an extra 30 days to pay or if your creditors want payment up front, how will this affect your cashflow

Be cautious: Be realistic about how quickly you expect your customers to pay you. It’s better to expect slow payment and receive the cash more quickly. If you think that you will probably need access to more funding than your current overdraft limit, talk to your bank immediately.

Be proactive: If you do not have an overdraft, or if your existing overdraft limit is too low, contact your bank to discuss a suitable limit, on a temporary or permanent basis, based on the working capital needs of your business. Early contact will help you to avoid any potential embarrassment later, not to mention any additional charges, should an overdraft limit be breached.

 

YOU MAY ALSO FIND THIS INTERESTING: What you need when applying for a bank loan.

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Six of the best cinemas in Ireland

The International Union of Cinemas says that Ireland has the most cinema goers of any country in the EU. Below are six of the best cinemas in the land.

 

Lighthouse Cinema

Located in the Market Square in Smithfield, the Lighthouse cinema is regarded as one of the coolest places to catch a movie in Dublin. The Lighthouse distinguishes itself from its competitors by offering punters a mixture of Hollywood blockbusters, old classics and art-house films. A stone’s throw from the achingly cool Stoneybatter, the cinema is surrounded by a wealth of hip pubs and restaurants.

eye cinema galway

Eye Cinema

Galway’s locally-owned Eye bills itself as “the cinema that Galway deserves but has never had”. It sets itself apart from the big cinema chains by giving customers a choice of both mainstream film as well as more arthouse offerings. Visitors get the full multiplex experience with multiple screens, cafés, bars and an ice cream parlour. However, its Eye’s commitment to culture (as well as independent cinema it also host live events with musicians, poets, and comedians) that makes Eye the best in the West.

Phoenix Cinema Dingle

This family-run cinema is just another reason to love Dingle; an adult ticket to its nightly evening showing is only €8 while a matinee ticket will set you back €5.50. The 150 seat cinema also has its ‘Art Film’ night on Tuesdays, with tea and biscuits thrown in for good measure. A good option following a day exploring the Wild Atlantic Way or one of the town’s other attractions.

Century Cinemas

Another family run business, Century has been bringing cinema to Letterkenny for over 75 years. It has all the trappings of a multiplex with eight screens, stadium seating, and 3D movies. However, it also broadcasts live theatre and dance productions. In 2013 it opened its very own ice skating rink, Century Ice, so there’s no shortage of things to do in this enterprising venue.

best cinemas in ireland

IFI

Home of the Irish Film Institute, Temple Bar’s IFI is the go-to cinema for Dublin film buffs who want to get their fix of the latest in cutting-edge movie making. Its Georgian building gives visitors a cosy cinema-going experience, while its bar and café give people a place to hang out before sampling what’s on offer on the big screen.

Movie Junction

Cork’s Movie Junction is Ireland’s only dedicated drive in cinema, open seven nights a week. Visitors pick up snacks at the drive-thru kiosk, pull up in the parking bay, tune into the Movie Junction FM frequency on the car radio, then sit back and enjoy the latest blockbuster. Pizzas and chips can be ordered and delivered to your car door, and canopies keep your windscreen clear when it rains. A little slice of American culture in County Cork.

What’s your favourite cinema? Let us know on our Facebook page.

READ: The film sector is big business. If you want to open a cinema find the right finance.

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Data leaks, disasters and what to do

Data leaks are damaging. It’s never too late to put ten basic security practices in place.

52% of firms* in Ireland have no comprehensive strategy when it comes to preventing digital crime or data leaks.

Sensitive data leaks are the stuff of nightmares for business owners (and public representatives). What can you do when the horrible happens? 

darragh doyle

When it comes to sharing information, social media strategist Darragh Doyle says business owners should have very clear social media policies in place.

“Along with the policies and a nondisclosure agreement, employers should make it very clear that company information is never published in social groups,” says Doyle. 

Nightmare scenario

And what do you do if customer data or other sensitive data makes its way into the ‘wrong’ hands? 

“You have to own the problem,” says Doyle. “You have to find out how the issue occurred, where did it leak from, and then seek to address the fallout.”

Can someone press the big red button? 

“You also need to know the administrators of your social media groups and trust them. The question is, ‘Can someone hit the big red button?’” asks Doyle. 

Data dumps

It’s also important to keep company devices free from sensitive data. “Employees should be asked to do a data wipe, every day if necessary,” advises Doyle. 

“For example, they may have downloaded a database for a meeting to view it on screen. They should erase sensitive documents. It’s like having a clean desk policy but for smart devices and laptops.” 

The top ten things to do

*Grant Thornton suggested in a 2016 report that only 16% of Irish firms believe that cyber-crime is a credible threat.

The cost of cyber-crime to the Irish economy is estimated at €630m annually.

Here is a list of 10 useful tips that will help protect your business from cybercrime.

  • Secure your computers: Firstly, install anti-spyware and anti-virus software and always make sure that your firewall is activated. Additionally, Windows has a standard firewall on all of its computers. Access it from your control panel and confirm it’s switched on. This will help reduce your susceptibility to malware.
  • Secure your wireless network: Verify that your wireless network is not available to the public. Verify that your internet access is password protected and restrict usage to employees and guest visitors.
  • Encrypt your data: Encrypt, encrypt, encrypt. This cannot be emphasised enough. Encryption allows you to encode your information so that only authorised personnel can access it. Use encryption for any sensitive files or data that you own.
  • Avoid clicking unsafe links: The old saying “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is” rings true here. Exercise caution when it comes to advertisements online, install ad-blocking software or, better yet, simply ignore them.
  • Use strong passwords: Perhaps the most obvious safety precaution, you should implement a strong alphanumeric password policy that consists of numbers, lowercase letters, uppercase letters and special characters with the password requiring a minimum of 12 characters.
  • Review statements regularly: A relatively simple action, review your monthly financial statements and check for any irregularities. If you spot anything suspicious, contact your bank immediately.
  • Keep systems updated: To combat any new threats that may emerge, keep your anti-virus software and Windows systems up-to-date. Advise staff to update their systems on a regular basis. If this approach is not suitable, automate how your updates are installed and roll it out across the whole business.
  • Social media housekeeping: Make sure there is adequate security surrounding who has access to the company’s social media accounts. Ensure that only authorised personnel have access to social media accounts and the log-in details.
  • Use multiple email accounts: Use a separate e-mail for financial dealings, another for social networks and one for general queries and so on. In the scenario that a hacker manages to gain access to one of these, all of the sensitive information isn’t compromised. In the same vein, use different passwords for each address.
  • Don’t store your credit card information online: Yes we know it’s a nuisance but having to input your card information for every transaction can save you a lot of hassle in the long term. If a hacker does manage to bypass your security they may also have access to your card details. Don’t take the risk. Alternatively, only use a prepaid card online.

If you find yourself the victim of a cyber-attack please contact The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation on +353 1 666 3776 as well as the Data Protection Office and your Internet Service Provider.

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Do you have what it takes to be in business?

Do you have what it takes to be in business? Whether you are starting, running or growing, take this and test your fitness.

Local Enterprise Office
First, contact your Local Enterprise Office and check out all the resources on the website. You can also register your business with the CRO.

TOP DOWNLOAD: A brilliant business plan template.

Business finance
If you need money to start and grow your business be prepared. Have a business plan before you approach a lender. You may also qualify for a grant.
Here’s a great guide to raising finance.

First steps – start your business plan
Before you start, flesh out your idea using the lean startup Business Model Canvas.
For investment you need a solid business plan. Writing a business plan can seem daunting so here’s a brilliant, easy-to-use, free business plan template for the Irish market.
Your marketing plan
Your marketing plan is an important part of your business plan. It shows potential investors that you know how important sales are to the survival of your business. Download it here. 

Your cashflow planner
Cashflow is the lifeblood of any business. This free template will help you through the tough times as well as the good times.
Don’t forget, financiers and investors will want to see cashflow plans. A cashflow plan can be the difference between getting an overdraft, or a term loan, and not getting one.
Read more: Raising money – a definitive guide.

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/starting-a-business-ireland/ on thinkbusiness

How to grow your business at the right pace

It is possible to grow your business too quickly, it’s called overtrading and it can be dangerous.
Managing growth can be tricky, requiring a careful balancing between meeting customers’ orders on the one hand, and not over-stretching the resources and ability of the business to meet these orders on the other.
This constant balancing act is at the heart of a key risk for many businesses – the risk of overtrading – or the ability of a business to safely finance customer orders, before these orders are paid for by customers, without running out of the cash that the business needs day-to-day.
It’s often a particular dilemma for start-up and high growth businesses – finding the cash to fund business expansion, before being paid by your new customers. Even long-established businesses can be affected by over-trading. So all businesses should be aware of the risk and take active steps to prevent it. Luckily, there is a wide range of practical steps and actions that can be taken to manage business growth safely and avoid the risk of overtrading.

Step 1: Listen to your accountant

Your accountant will often be the first to spot the warning signs of overtrading. Listen to advice offered to you, carefully, and then act on it. Do not bury your head in the sand and ignore good advice. Advance planning and taking preventative steps now, could save a lot of trouble later and make the difference between business survival and extinction, especially in the early stages of business growth.

Step 2: Know your cashflow

Cashflow forecasting is an essential tool for any business, either new or well established. Read the ThinkBusiness.ie cashflow guide for more information. You need up-to-date financial information at your fingertips, to help you assess and plan the impact that any business expansion will have on your

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/how-to-handle-business-growth-spurts/ on
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Five Young Scientists who took on the world

 
Ireland’s ‘Young Scientist’ competition has had many brilliant winners since its start in 1965. Here we look at five previous winners who have set the world on fire.
 
Patrick Collison
Limerick native Patrick Collison won the competition in 2005 at the tender age of 16. With success under his belt and ambition in his heart, he moved to the US and, at the age of 19, sold his first software company, Auctomatic (which he founded with his younger brother John) for €3 million. Not bad for someone who [legally] couldn’t buy a beer in the States at the time. Not content with being two of the youngest self-made Irish millionaires ever, the Collison brothers (main image) then founded Stripe, an online payment company valued at over $9 billion. The brothers are on course not only to change the way people pay for things online but to help more SMEs sell online and usher in the era of global mobile eCommerce.
READ MORE: The winners of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2016.

John Monaghan
The first ever Young Scientist winner hasn’t done too badly for himself either. After winning the inaugural trophy way back in 1965, by building a working model of the human stomach, Kildare native John Monaghan ended up moving to California when the biotech industry was still in its infancy. Here, he founded Avigen Inc. As CEO of his firm, he raised nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in financing, and the NASDAQ-listed company is now a global leader in the US pharmaceutical industry.

Adnan Osmani
Mullingar-born and reared, Adnan Osmani claimed the 2003 title with his project, the XWebs browser, which he subsequently patented. Addy, as he is known to his 120,000 Twitter followers and friends, is a YouTube star with his show Totally Tooling Tips. As well as being a key

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/young-scientist-winners/ on thinkbusiness

Performance management systems explained

Performance management is a system of involving your employees to help you achieve your business’s goals.

It’s as important for an SME to have performance management systems in place, as it is for a larger business. Why? Because the more you involve your employees in delivering your business targets, the more you will meet customer expectations, improve productivity and deliver the bottom line numbers.

This 10-point checklist will help you create a performance management system for your business. 

1: Start at the top

The CEO (owner) needs to champion a performance management system, and all senior managers should be involved in the process.

2: Communicate the benefits

The CEO needs to get the message out about why performance management is being introduced and why it’s of benefit to both the business and the employees.

3: Get employee feedback

Don’t just launch a new system without involving employees in the process. Tell employees how it will work for them. Seek constructive feedback and act on it.

4: Identify clear business objectives

Ensure that the business’s objectives are well-defined. Use financial and non-financial measures, such as customer retention, new business wins or speed of customer response. Next, translate them into individual goals.

5: Set tangible individual goals

Employees should be able to understand what they need to deliver, how their performance will be measured and the skills, behaviours and knowledge that are expected of them. Employees should be provided with written business objectives, a clear job description and the criteria that their performance will be measured.

6: Ensure goals meet the SMART test

The business needs to ensure that goals are specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely (or SMART).  Here’s an example. A manufacturing plant sets a goal of reducing overtime hours of ten hours per week to five hours per week no later than the end of the financial year.

7: Formalise employee feedback

Managers should continuously review an employee’s progress against targets. Review meetings should be formal and should be held quarterly, if there are quarterly targets. Employees should be asked to contribute and asked about how they perceive their strengths and weaknesses.

8: Give constructive feedback

Feedback should be about encouraging employee self-awareness. Managers should provide timely feedback and use specific examples to support the points. Focus on the behaviour, not the individual.

9: Understand underperformance

There are many reasons why employees miss targets. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of skills, miscommunication or inadequate supports. Employees may have personal problems or lack motivation. Managers should encourage employees to share reasons why targets are missed. Together, they should agree what support or changes are needed.

10: Seek professional help

Performance management is a specialist skill. If you feel you have insufficient expertise in-house, get help. The investment of retaining an experienced adviser to help design the system will likely pay off in the long run.

INTERESTING: You can’t do it all alone. This is why mentors make sense.

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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

This post was originally published here - https://www.thinkbusiness.ie/articles/writing-a-business-strategy/ on
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