The passion for having your own business was palpable in the Bush Hotel on Monday night last at the Leitrim County Development Board Self-Employed Forum. Positivity and practical advice were the order of the evening at the event which had Niall Quinn as its keynote speaker.
Niall, Marina Conway from CMD Tender Assist and Fiona Egan from Leitrim all offered practical tips on managing in a recession, getting involved in tendering and being ready for meetings with banks and funders. For the packed audience of self-employed people, a key element to the success of the evening was that all three speakers are also self employed and facing the same highs and lows as the audience.
Niall spoke of his first experience of business in buying Sunderland AFC which at the time was not performing at its best on the football pitch but was still attracting massive crowds. He recognised in the passion of Sunderland’s supporters that where there is a passion for a team/product/service you have the chance to succeed. Niall highlighted that he is currently bucking the trend by returning from a well-paid job in the UK to getting involved in a broadband business QSat in Ireland when most people are doing the opposite. Some of the key messages he emphasised were the need to protect your brand in a recession – “history has shown that those who continued to advertise during a recession are the companies that last when the recession is over” he stated. Similar to Fiona Egan of OTS and Sásta, he stressed the importance of family, friends and networks in doing business and of having to sometimes give a ‘shoulder’ where people are not performing as part of your business team. His final key point is that currently people are buying what they need not what they would like to buy and that as businesses, we need to recognise that in the products and services we spend money promoting.
Fiona Egan shared her experience of financing a business, based on her accountancy experience and more so her experience of trying to raise funds for her current business, Sásta. Some of the key tips from Fiona’s presentation were to use your customers as your market research, continually review the way you do business even from week to week, do monthly cashflow reviews as while budgets will increase – inadequate cashflow will be detrimental to the business. Continuing the positive theme of the evening, Fiona admitted that while there will be bumps on the road, get up and continue on and call in favours from those you have helped.
For some in the room, the third speaker, Marina Conwa was talking on a topic which may have been a mystery to them up to now. Marina spoke about how to get involved in looking for a share of the €15 billion Irish public sector and utilities contract market. Marina probably managed to do the impossible, give a lesson in tendering in the space of a short 30 minute presentation by identifying the thresholds for different tendering, explaining how the tender website eTenders works and is free to sign up and some tips on completing tender documents.
The Self-Employed forum evening is the second in a series of events being organised by the Leitrim County Development Board this year. One of the areas that Leitrim County Development Board focus on is promoting the right environment for new and existing businesses to succeed. The County Development Board, which is based in the offices of Leitrim County Council, brings together economic support agencies such as Leitrim County Council, Enterprise Ireland, Leitrim Development Company, IDA Ireland, County Enterprise Board, VEC and Dept. of Social Protection to work together on initiatives to promote the county and its businesses.
Several of the businesses in attendance took the opportunity to complete a questionnaire on the needs of small business in Leitrim which will be used to feed back to the Economic Development Group. The services provided by the agencies of the Economic Development Group are listed on www.leitrim.ie, the portal site for County Leitrim and the site which is widely searched for information on services in Leitrim and the North West.
The agencies in attendance last Monday night included Leitrim County Council, Dept. of Social Protection, Leitrim Development Company, Leitrim County Enterprise Board and RoLe Skillnet. There was very positive feedback from attendees and Nollaig Whyte from Leitrim County Development Board closed the evening by highlighting that Leitrim County Development Board‘s Leitrim – One Call to Success line 071 9650496 is open for businesses or people thinking of setting up on their own. This service means you can who can get information and referrals to any of the economic support agencies by contacting Leitrim One Call to Success on 071 9650496 or visit www.leitrim.ie.