Business in the Future
By Beatrice Whelan, Social Media & Content Specialist at Sage
The results of the Sage Business Index present a detailed picture of what it is like to do business in Ireland.
The survey results show that Ireland is in a better place than many European economies. 41% of businesses in Ireland are more confident about their prospects than six months prior to the survey. Confidence in Ireland has clearly been affected by the Eurozone crisis, with 82% of businesses saying it has had an impact.
On a more positive note, Irish businesses recognize that there are a range of factors which make Ireland an attractive place to do business. 63% of respondents cited the access to Ireland’s skilled workforce as one of the most favourable aspects to doing business here. 43% also chose Ireland’s favourable tax regime and 41% Ireland’s business culture and entrepreneurial spirit.
This infographic summarises the results of the Business Index Survey and you can download the entire report here.
By Carmelisa Dunne, Corporate Business Development Manager at Sage
There is no question that the global downturn has presented businesses with the toughest economic conditions for several generations. However, innovative businesses which are quick to react, adapt and find creative ways to accelerate out of the downturn, will not only survive the crisis, but will thrive in the long-run. Instead of sitting back and waiting for the global recession to subside, companies should look ‘inwards’ and set in place the correct tools and procedures for the business to take advantage of the upturn when it comes.
At Sage we are now seeing our customers using the Sage 200 integrated with Sage CRM to seamlessly co-ordinate their whole business: from customer-facing systems, such as sales and service, through back-office processes, including accounting and project management; to activities such as retail/wholesale, construction and manufacturing. As processes flow into one another, staff collaborate more closely, and managers have an instant, accurate view of the whole company. Importantly, integrating back-office functions with customer-facing systems means that they have one view of their business so all aspects of their organisation can focus on delivering the service that helps retain customer loyalty.
One example is the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. The chamber upgraded from Sage 50 to Sage 200 and integrated Sage CRM. In an economic climate where member organisations struggle to recruit, the Dublin Chamber has done well to hold its numbers, a feat achieved by concentrating on membership retention. Sage CRM has played a significant role in this and helped achieve a two per cent improvement in the first year. The strategy is to engage with members before they receive a renewal invoice, a process made easier by an inactivity report module that was built into Sage CRM. For the first time the Chamber has access to information on members who are no longer taking advantage of its services.
“By giving us a snapshot of inactive companies it’s definitely helping with retention,” said Michelle Berry, Financial Manager at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce.
By Beatrice Whelan, Social Media & Content Specialist at Sage
Glenisk are a great example of a well run family business and a great Irish food brand. Glenisk were organic long before it became ‘fashionable’ and their commitment to organic and building the reputation of the food they produce is an extremely important lesson for the food industry in Ireland. I interviewed Vincent Cleary, MD of Glenisk about running a family business, sustainability and going organic.
BW: Tell us about Glenisk. How many members of the family are involved in the business?
VC: Glenisk is an award winning family business, based in Killeigh, Co Offaly, producing a range of organic milk and yogurts and goats milk and yogurt. The company is owned and managed by five members of the Cleary Family. Last year, we celebrated 25 years in business and our company has grown significantly in recent years: from a single paid employee in 1987, we now employ 55 people and work with a further 50 small family farms around Ireland to source milk for our products. Our aim is to make delicious and healthy dairy products in the most sustainable way possible. For us, sustainability covers a broad spectrum, from championing organic agriculture, using renewable energy, sourcing recyclable packaging, and using innovative systems to reduce and eliminate waste.
BW: What advice would you give to other people thinking of starting a family business?
VC: The advice is the same for anyone starting a business, whether it’s with family or not: create something you feel passionate about, strive for excellence and continuously evolve and improve. Naturally, you will want to feel confident that a market exists for your product or service, but a little faith goes a long way. When Glenisk first made the decision to convert to organic, it was an enormous leap because there was very little supply of organic milk and virtually no customer demand. It meant a long process convincing farmers to convert to organic, persuading retailers to sell the products and helping customers understand the benefits. But we believed in the product and the potential for organics.
BW: What are the business challenges that are unique to a family business?
VC: Glenisk is a second generation family business; my father Jack Cleary set up Glenisk in the mid 1980s, and I and my siblings took over the business a decade later. It presents specific challenges in that it’s simply not always possible for five individuals to agree! However, over time, the structure has evolved; each family member has their own specific area of responsibility and expertise. And while disagreements might arise from time to time, ultimately we are all united in a common vision for Glenisk.
By Jim Coyle, Product Test Manager at Sage
Everyone likes to be in receipt of tax credits because the more you are entitled to (and claim for, obviously) the less tax you pay to Irish Revenue. Since 1997, a Research and Development (R&D) tax credit has been available to all companies in Ireland, who undertake research and development activities within the E.U.
Various governments have continued to support this initiative because they want to create the conditions for high end technology companies to succeed, and even more so in the current economic times because the IT industry (for example) has remained remarkably resilient during these turbulent few years.
But as with individuals, companies will miss out unless they claim these credits. Let’s face it – no one is going to do it for you, not unless you pay an external company for this service, and that cost may be prohibitive.
So, what to do? Well first off, does your company qualify for this tax credit? If your R&D activities tick 1-5 below, then the answer is yes and you really should sit straighter in your chair because last time I checked this tax relief was running at a healthy 25% (with 2003 as a baseline).
R&D Qualifying Activities
- Systematic, investigative or experimental activities
- In a field of science or technology
- One or more of the following categories of research and development:
Basic research (are you doing this for the sake of increasing your knowledge?)
Applied research (are you doing this to solve a problem?), or
- Seek to achieve scientific or technological advancement, and
- Involve the resolution of scientific or technological uncertainty.
By Amanda at Sage HR Advice
The business landscape was changed forever with the advent of social media. Using platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, companies of all sizes have revolutionised their ability to reach their existing and potential customers.
Not only this, but traditional recruitment channels are starting to be overtaken by the use of savvy social networking strategies to identify individuals with specific skill sets.
So social media is brilliant and every business should embrace it, right?
Not so fast. While there are some fantastic advantages to social media in the workplace, there are also disadvantages, which can potentially damage your business and its reputation.
There have been some high profile examples of employees uploading malicious, libellous or commercially sensitive tweets or updates, which has often got them dismissed. However, the damage to their employers has already been done, as countless people have read their posts and formed an opinion about the companies that they represented.
A Matter Of Trust
So what’s the solution? Ban everyone except managers and the social media team from using this technology at work? You could do, but you’d need to think carefully about the message you’re sending to your employees. If your staff think that you don’t trust them, then their morale could be severely damaged, and that’s a real problem.
By Beatrice Whelan, Social Media and Content Specialist at Sage
We spoke to Terry Clune, founder of Connectireland about their recent initiative to bring investment to Ireland.
Hi Terry, your most recent project is ConnectIreland which was launched in March 2012. What is Connect Ireland?
ConnectIreland is a crowdsourcing inspired initiative asking individuals to use their contacts, family, friends and business connections, to identify and make introductions between ConnectIreland and overseas companies who are considering international expansion. Any individual who introduces a company that subsequently invests in Ireland and creates new jobs will receive a minimum reward from the Irish Government. For each job created the introducer will receive of €1,500 per job, up to a maximum of 100 jobs.
How many people have registered on the site to date?
Almost 15,000 people worldwide have visited the website and over 5,000 people have liked our inspirational YouTube video featuring Irish-American Lord of the Dance Michael Flatley, Hollywood veteran Martin Sheen and emerging young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan. We have received interest from all over the world, but in particular from North American which has traditionally been a good investor in Ireland and its people. Since our launch date on March 8th ConnectIreland has over 40 high end potential investors in its pipeline as a result of introductions made by people in Ireland and overseas. ConnectIreland is also using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to inform audiences worldwide about the initiative but also to communicate good news stories about Ireland.
By Sinéad Hayes, Sales & Marketing Manager with Advent
Over the past number of years, many SME’s put their energy into staying alive, keeping the business ticking over so that the payroll could be met at the end of the month. It was really a case of “all hands on deck” as people were being asked to do the tasks of a few people. Working hours were cut, so tasks had to be done in less time. Each month brought new challenges, but the ultimate goal was to stay standing.
I think that we have reached a point where this has changed. Many businesses are looking at new and exciting opportunities to grow their businesses. From speaking to some of our customers, the glass is definitely now half full. It seems that we have rolled up our sleeves and have come out the other end stronger and more purposeful.
But what now? Do we just put the business into fifth gear and carry on as before? Many indigenous businesses have taken the opportunity to make changes, adapt to new market conditions and re-invent themselves so that when they do press the accelerator, they know they will be moving in the right direction.
I am unsure if I would be classed as generation Y or even borderline generation Z but in life I took to the online world like a duck to water. I dread having to post something through snail mail or fill in a form in pen instead of online. I have more friends on Facebook than I know postal addresses for and originally met several online. I would cite the smart phone as one of the great inventions of our time. When it comes to shopping, unless something must be customised or is of a high value, I have no need or time to try on things or browse racks and shelves. I will want to buy online instead. I will have looked up online reviews and recommendations and will know what I am looking for. I get the distinct impression I am not alone. With this in mind I often wonder why so many businesses restrict themselves to business hours?
A website with an integrated secure payment gateway should no longer be a long term goal for any company. It is something that is vital in order to compete and thrive in the online world. The online world does not sleep. Online shopping facilitates the spontaneous impulsive purchase, the moment where a prospect wants and needs to access or order something right now. Such a website allows me to order something on the weekend or the evening knowing my purchase will be on its way soon. If I am ordering something outside of business hours it is more than likely I will not have the time or the inclination to have to contact the company during business hours so if a company has no website or one that does not facilitate buying online I will move on to the next option.
It is one thing to use search engine optimisation to get your website to appear high up on internet searches but if you cannot facilitate a prospect through to a sale on that website you may often be missing out. A quality web shop allows your company to keep working even when you are not. It means you can do business and gain revenue and orders 24/7.
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For a lot of people technology has always been the enemy of the environment. Dediserve is a small Irish company that has been created with the eco-friendly agenda in mind. Dediserve are a company who provide cloud computing solutions, like those discussed in our recent blog.
The 2-year-old company is based in Dublin, and offers hosting services to their customers, which enables them to eliminate the requirement for hardware as well as reducing their electricity use. The product is eco-friendly since it calls for a smaller amount of servers to host the identical quantity of users when compared to a devoted server farm.
Director of Dediserve Aidan McCarron states that whilst price is the key inspiration for businesses to make use of the service of a server in the cloud, they are enticed by the eco-friendly elements as well.
“Several new studies have been released claiming that the aggregate emissions of all web servers around the world will contain as much carbon as the entire airline industry by 2020,” says McCarron. “Virtual servers consume less than 5 per cent of the power of a physical server while giving you the exact same functionality, which means you can run 20 virtual servers off the same power as one physical server. This reduces your power consumption massively.”
Using just one Dediserve server rack is currently the same as 25 conventional server racks. Mr McCarron claims that the eco-friendly agenda is a huge driver when it comes to exactly how business is being carried out. It would appear that his customers agree.
Cloud computing is a new technology available to businesses used to achieve reductions in hardware costs, as well as being able to provide true redundant software services, such as accounts software.
Check out Sage’s in the cloud software for sole traders or Accountants in Practice – www.sageone.ie
Today, Leaving Cert students are contemplating their results, and anticipating their course offers to soon follow. Competition for courses this year will be high again however, as there was no real change after last year’s record number of applications, with more and more students choosing third level education, both as a way to increase their chance of getting that all important right job, (or for some, simply a job at all), but also as a way of delaying their inevitable entrance into that job market, with the hope that the market will have improved by the time they’ve finished their education.
But with so many of these highly qualified students entering the market in the next five to ten years, what are some of the ways that students today can differentiate themselves from the herd of Diplomas, Bachelors, Masters and Doctors so that potential employees can snatch them up?
We here at Sage are a market leading supplier of business software and services, with over 40,000 customers in Ireland alone. For the second year now, we are offering transition year Secondary School students the opportunity to gain a qualification and certification in Sage Accounts software.
The Sage@Schools programme has bonuses for both teachers and students, as teachers gain a new qualification in teaching the software, and the students gain a certificate in Sage’s Accounts software which will help set them apart in the river of CV applications.
The jobs market may be uncertain for those Leaving Cert students celebrating tonight, and indeed, for those who will take the exams in the next few years. But one thing that remains certain in the jobs market is that employers will always seek to hire the most experienced and qualified candidates to fill their roles. In fact, this may even be more true when business is difficult.
For more information on Sage@Schools click here
Or for those of you who want to put your knowledge to a real test, take our train your business brain quiz