Wednesday, November 10, 2010

SME's are the future of the Irish Economy

The future of the Irish Economy is up for a lot of debate.  Many of the official policies of "Ireland Inc" as it is so called, focus on tapping into our great population of entrepreneurs and asking them to take all the risk, growing their businesses out of their comfort zone so that they can provide us with more jobs.

Ireland is the second highest country in Europe for business start-ups per capita - second only to our Polish cousins (GEM Report Ireland, 2008).  You may have already seen Ronan Lyons yesterday mentioning that Ireland is one of the least difficult places to set up a business - perhaps this has something to do with our entrepreneurial nation.  Another valid reason would be the infectious nature of business start-ups - if you know a self employed person, you are more likely to think of setting up a business yourself at some point in your life.  At the moment we have a lot of "necessity entrepreneurship" in Ireland - people starting up a business because they have to keep the wolf from the door.  At the same time, a lot of people are starting a business because they see a redundancy package as an opportunity.  They always wanted to be self-employed, and now they have been given a metaphorical kick in the arse to go and do so.  Before now, life (in the Celtic Tiger era) was just too damn comfy/easy to actually go out and Just Do It. 

A lot is written and spoken about at government level about the importance of helping Ireland's entrepreneurs grow as big as possible, for obvious reasons.  They want more jobs, more exports, more value for the Irish Economy.  And it's all they can shout about.  Increasing the pressure on our surviving businesses seems to me like a knee-jerk reaction to our current state of affairs rather than a well thought out one.  If we take a step back and think about this for a moment, and actually talk to the entrepreneurs themselves we might find ourselves with other options. Perhaps less risky, more cautious, reasonable options. 

Did you hear Stephen Pearce on The Last Word with Matt Cooper last Friday?  Listen back here - he spoke about the pressures he was under, trying to keep the business afloat back in 2007, 2008.  He got away from actually creating pottery - his true passion - but more importantly - his true skill set.  Stephen was under financial pressure to pay massive wage bills so was making decisions about what to "create" which were directly linked to his financial needs.  He mentioned having to make more of a particular product, not because he wanted to but because he had to.  He felt the numbers were driving the business, rather than creativity or craftsmanship - 2 reasons which inspired him to start up in the first place.  Stephen's business did extremely well - he came across grateful for the business he received from the fans of his pottery all over Ireland and beyond.  Yet at the same time he had to let his staff go and close his workshops 2 years ago, when the financial crisis hit. 

What is the lesson here?

Stephen was an entrepreneur but he had his limits.  Don't get me wrong, I know it's clear that he doesn't consider himself a businessman first and foremost, he is a potter and craftsman who runs a business, but he is an entrepreneur, and we have to be able to tap into all sorts of entrepreneurial types if we are to get ourselves out of this economic mess.  Stephen knows his own limitations now and he is going to start up his business again, grow it to a size he is happy with, and comfortable running.  If Stephen stays small, or even "Medium Sized" he will still be creating jobs, adding value to the economy and exporting (he spoke of British chains in Dundrum already signing him up for Christmas).  Surely it would be in our best interests as a country to look for more of these, less risky businesses, rather than pumping grant aid and financial assistance into businesses that might or might not work - why put our eggs into just a few small baskets, is what I'm asking?

Stephen's story is a public one, now that he has been on the national airwaves talking about it.  I have countless other examples that I simply cannot name for confidentiality reasons, but the underlying theme from all these entrepreneurs is that they do not want to take on the huge responsibility of so many people's wages.  They are real people, with real families, they understand the pressures of family life and it breaks their hearts to have to let people go in a downturn - or any time, for that matter.  Why should we put that on their shoulders, when they have the maturity and wisdom to know that they are not the best positioned person to lead such huge teams? 

I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that Less is More.  Surely if we had a substantial increase in the number of businesses with 10-20 employees rather than just one or two big success stories, we would be creating pockets of little economic stability all over the country?  Think of the spin offs. 

Ireland's entrepreneurs are great in number and in capability.  Let's trust their instincts.  Let's not force them bigger than they believe they have the capacity to be.  It will be more lucrative in the long run. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fun Irish Festive Business

Those fun guys at Funky Christmas Jumpers have just launched their 2010 range of silliness for the season that's coming over the snowcapped hilltop... 

Lots of fun over at - I got this one last year but you can even get CARDIS this time around!

This time I think I'll go for the elf costume!!!  Photo pinched from their own website...coz it's bril...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's Only Money, SOS

I was shocked to read another article today in the Irish Independent. It makes for very serious reading, I quote:

"The property industry is already reeling from the suicides of at least 29 developers which the Irish Property Council (IPC), an organisation that has campaigned for reform of Ireland's debt laws, says can be directly linked to the recession."  Article here.

Is that not appalling?

My God I feel awful about this.  Yes, we the public are upset with the economic situation. Yes, we the public are upset with the way these things were handled by banks and by the government and by property developers: the greed, the profiteering, the one-up man ship, the desire to keep up with the Joneses next door. 

But for goodness sake people, it's only money.  Let the banks sing for it, they took the gamble.  Let developers declare bankruptcy and survive on a lot less per day. Families will still love, friends - most of them - will still play golf.  This is a dark time in the economy but it's not worth a life.  Yes some people should be imprisoned but we as a nation cannot make life so bad for the culprits that we drive them to suicide.  We just cannot. 

And so soon after National Suicide Prevention Week.  Click here for more info on SOS.  Suicide or Survive. 

God bless the families of the 29 men who saw no other option. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Small Rant about Banks, Mortgages and The Code

Did you see this today?   Article from the Irish Independent about how the banks are making a proposal to the Financial Regulator about the existing Mortgage Code.  The code is there to protect mortgage owners, and in the bank's opinion, it protects them too much!!  I'm so mad right now. 

Basically, the banks want to propose a new code, which wouldn't allow mortgage holders to play the system as much as they might at the moment.  They suspect that people who can afford to make their repayments are defaulting in order to (a) hold onto their tracker mortgage, and/or (b) not get their house repossessed.  Does that make sense to you?  Surely if you are worried about getting your house repossessed you cannot afford to make your repayments?  I'm confused, lads. 

If you sign up for a mortgage, you are taking a gamble. Should you fix? What if the rate goes down and you miss the opportunity to pay less?  If it goes up you're singing.  I call that a gamble.  You're second guessing what could happen in the future.   If you go for a variable, you take a gamble that it might go down an interest rates along with corresponding repayment amount fluctuations will go in your favour.  But like any gamble, it might not - it might go up, you might be screwed. 

A tracker is no different.  You pay over the odds, agree a rate to pay your bank over and above the standard ECB rate, and you track the ECB rate for the duration of your mortgage: happy out.  If the ECB goes up, you're in a spot of bother, if it goes down, you're OK.  If it stays the same - as it is rumoured to do, until at least the end of 2011 - you're OK.  If you can make the repayments and haven't lost your job/received a massive pay cut, that is. 

What the banks are proposing, is that the protection that the Mortgage Code affords mortgage holders, be diluted.  Right now, if you are in arrears and make a deal with a bank to give a different repayment scheme a go, you are protected (for a year) from the bank approaching you for repossession.  The banks are concerned that people are going to take advantage of this rule and continue breaking each new agreement after 51 weeks or so, and continue to protect themselves for a further year.

What the frick is wrong with that???  I ask you!!  The banks have taken advantage of every rule they possibly can in order to stay afloat, over the last 2 years especially. They have been doing it in fact for years.  Big companies play the system & get away with it, and when a small company tries to do it they get screwed.  We own the banks now for fcuk sake, they cannot possibly get away with trying to screw us some more.  We are their saviours for Christ's sake!

In my humble opinion, just because the tracker rates are not in their favour right now does not mean they can go and reverse the binding agreement they have with us.  Tough shit lads, you're long overdue a right rollicking.  If the tables were reversed you can bet your butt they wouldn't be off chasing us going "Oh I'm terribly sorry, we seem to be making an unfairly large amount of money off you at the moment, please have some back with our compliments." You bet your sweet ass they wouldn't.  Tough shit lads, stop trying to screw the people who are already fcuking bailing you out, from every conceivable angle.  Fcuk the lot of you.  BANKERS. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How to Find a Distributor

Heard about a great new service today specifically for food businesses.  Finding a good distributor for food businesses is extremely challenging, it all depends on the perishable nature of your food product - what's the shelf life, does it need to be refrigerated - all sorts of things.

Bord Bia have put some fab information online for food producers - information for distributing products all over Ireland and into the UK - great stuff.

Take a look over here.

Thank you Bord Bia for more excellent supports...alsmost as good as the Vantage website!