Friday, February 27, 2009

Good News for Small Business!

You may have spotted this on the news during the week - Brussels are trying to make life easier for people running small businesses. They are hoping to do away with the rule that annual returns have to be made with the Companies Registration Office for every Limited Company operating in Ireland. The new, better, regulations are going to be all over Europe of course, but here's what it means for us...

If you are running a Ltd. Co. and have annual turnover of less than €1,000,000, you will not have to make an annual return to the CRO. At least that is what I understood from RTE...

This process is one of the costs that a company is burdened with, a cost that sometimes makes people decide to run a Sole Trader business rather than an Ltd. from the get go. It can range from €1,000 upwards - a lot of smaller business like to get their trusted accoutant to do it for them, which is where the costs come in. It also takes up quite a bit of time - paperwork of course - so hopefully this ruling will mean that businesses can get back to running efficiently.

Ryanair are doing away with check-in desks to make themselves more effiecient and cost effective - here is what small businesses can do - soon, I hope.

To get the full information, read about the European Commission's proposal on EU Business.

Just to clarify, this "return" is different to the submission of Annaul Accounts to the CRO, which Ltd. Co's don't have to do unless their turnover hits €7,300,000 which is pretty great too... For more information on that one, hit the CRO website.

It's nice to see someone being practical and proactive about reducing small business costs! It's getting easier to start up a Ltd Co...hoorah.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Twit Much?

It's funny, but since so many people are talking about Twitter - on the radio, on the tellybox, in newspapers and in the pub - you would think that everyone knew what it was by now.

I've had to explain it lots of times recently. Me, who only started tweeting at the beginning of January. One of my new year's resolutions that has not failed!! (Ahem - please note - I was still only in the first 40k to follow Mr Stephen Fry, just to put things in perspective...)

When George Hook and Rick O'Shea both tweeted directly at me today, I thought I better start sharing so that other people could get all excited for no reason on a random Wednesday afternoon.

So. Twitter. What the hell is this twitter business?

Well, if you take something like a status update from Facebook, and merge it with the concept of blogging, then you have the mashup of fun that is twitter.

It's defined as "micro-blogging" - in other words, you pop your thoughts online for others to see, you just have an SMS amount of character spaces to do it in!

In sum...
+ + =

Anyhoo, there are lots of people on Twitter these days, average people, big people, small people and famous people. Some of the famous ones are fun to follow, and a little inspirational at times.

I really liked John Cleese's Happy New Year message - or "tweet" - it was: may your new year's flatulence be tuneful and fragrantly innoffensive

You can follow him, here: @JohnCleese

What is following?

Well, it's just the name given to...signing up to hear what other people are saying - like seeing your Friends' status updates on Facebook. You click "Follow" on someone's page, and all of a sudden your own homepage will include everything they say/tweet.

The Hookie Monster has two Twitter accounts, this one gets more action though: @ghook
Rick tweets quite a bit during his broadcasts: @rickoshea

For obvious reasons I love keeping up to date with this marvellous man. He doesn't tweet often, but when he does it's always something groovy. @richardbranson

There are tons of others to follow if you find them interesting. Don't worry that you have to follow everyone who follows you, a lot of strange beings start following you just to get you to follow them back - then they proceed to spam-tweet with so much no attention. Have a look at their page, if it looks dull, don't bother following! A good clue to their spam-potential is that they are literally following thousands, but only have a few followers themselves.

From a business perspective, Twitter is a great way for your customers to get in touch with you, and for you to let them know what's going on with you. I started following @VodafoneIreland and asked them a few questions - which they replied to. It's just good business... I've changed to o2 but that's not the point ;)

Business is all about staying in touch. You can talk to experts like @damienmulley about how to really do all modes of social media well, but at least with Twitter you can dip your own toe in the murky waters and find out for yourself. DIY = not costing a fortune. And at least you'll know what they are talking about when you do start speaking to the experts about these things...

Happy Twittering!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Could you be your own boss?

Enterprise Guru Brian O'Kane has done it again... (cue cheesey lines such as hot off the press and things like finger on the pulse etc. etc...)

Fresh for January he had a new book out, one entitled Could You Be Your Own Boss? which is published by his own house, Oak Tree Press, based in Cork. Brian has written it for people who have never thought of enterprise before. Those for whom self employment was never on the long finger, or niggling at the back of their minds. Now, the recently redundant just might have to turn to themselves for their income.

This little book retails at €7.50 - not bad says you - and he's running workshops around the place to talk about enterprise as an option. It's like a pre-Start Your Own Business course. Well let's face it, a 4-day or 8-night training course is a bit much to sign up for when you're not really sure if it's for you.

I've read the book and it is thankfully written in plain English. None of your jargon here, matey. No I don't have shares in the printing press, I just think it's a groovy little book and it only has about 50 pages so it won't take long to read. Then, if you feel the enterprise flame looking for some air inside you, you can look up more information.

On a much more exciting note, Brian has started blogging! Hoorah for more blogs about Enterprise. Especially the ones written in plain English ;)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Twenty's New Business Idea

It's not bad!

Go, have a read. He's a blogger, he's a writer, but he's also too lazy to go and start this new business, so he's putting his idea out there ;)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Banks

This is just a quick post because I'm swamped! Sorry I have been neglecting this blog lately, it's the silliest time to be letting posts lapse, just when the number of people enquiring about starting a business is on the up and up.

I just wanted to express something very, very important.

The Banks Are Not Saying No

I could just strangle the media. Scaremongering to sell papers, because it's a recession, they need to keep their jobs and so they need to keep selling papers/ad-space online. There are a few voices of reason out there but the majority of news bulletins that the masses listen to/read/watch are all very negative, doom and gloom. As a result, many people are not approaching the bank for a simple overdraft facility to get them up and running, or even a small business loan to get a new premises kitted out. Why? Because - well, what's the point? They'll just say no. Try it. Please. It will be worth it. They are still open - especially for businesses.

I have heard from a lot of positive people who are excited to be finally started that business they were always thinking about (recession = little push they needed), that the banks are saying yes, within reason. If you are not asking for a massive business loan, Branch Managers have the authority to approve applications. That means it doesn't have to go to Credit Committee up in The Big Smoke. I'm talking about something less than €30k here. Statistics (I know, I know) say that on average it costs just under €25k to start a business. When you think about ALL the businesses you could start - from window cleaning to high tech software design - a €25k average is pretty great. If you have even a small redundancy package, approach your bank with a clear, concise business plan and see what they say. What's the worst that could happen? If they say no, you're in exactly the same place as you were before you went in, no big swing. If they say yes...

Good odds. I'd give it a whirl.

So who to go to?

It is vital that if you are thinking about starting a new business, you think about the finances. Approach your bank, the one you already have an existing relationship with. Business is ALL about contacts and relationships, so rather than start an uphill battle with a whole new person/institution - give your old reliable a try.

That said, if they high-ball you with interest rates, fees & charges, go elsewhere. Don't be afraid to shop around and go back to you existing bank, letting them know that you will swap your allegiance to suit your new pinched purse strings.

On a serious note...

If they do say no: ask them why. Don't waste your visit. They might have a very good reason for not supporting you to start a business that they are pretty sure will fail. Nobody wants to see any more of that! If they don't want to risk their money - why should you? Are there things they're not telling you? Why not ask? Perhaps - for example - let's say you want to open a certain type of shop on the corner of a certain street in your village or suburb. The bank says no. Don't take it personally!! Please don't walk away taking nothing from the meeting. Ask, why? What do they know that you don't know? The truth might be that there has been a long string of businesses who tried to start a retail unit there, but they kept failing, time after time, no matter what the product/service. Perhaps it has terrible parking, so there is a low footfall. Perhaps they know of three other similar businesses about to start down the road, and they know that the local market cannot sustain another one?

What I'm trying to say in a rambly way...was...keep all your doors open, talk to all your contacts, learn as much as you can from everyone that just might come in useful... And remember - the BANKS ARE NOT CLOSED!!! Go for it.

This was meant to be a quick one...sheesh!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Business Talk

So John Murray from RTÉ got in touch with Santa and made him put a copy of his book, "Now that's what I call Jargon," in my Christmas stocking. It adds to the ever increasing pile of books on my nightstand/kitchen table/car's glove compartment/desk/bedroom shelves/kitchen shelves/sitting room shelves... So I finally got around to finishing it yesterday morning.

It has a promising starting, taking the mickey out of a decent selection of public figures - CEO's, County Managers, Councillors - and of course the politicians.

Yes, I would have to say the introduction is pretty funny.

Then there are of course chapters, each one covering a different topic. HR, for example. John rambles on for an age in each one, simply giving tons of examples showing how those featured in broadcasting and print media spend a lot of time saying nothing. Really? My gosh, I hadn't noticed!

I was hoping the book would me give some helpful examples of how I could encourage people to express themselves in business plans without using flipping jargon, but no. It's just basically a hundred page rant with countless examples of PR machine incompetence and political crap like "downward trajectory."

If you are starting your business, please express yourself in plain English. I have met with over 20 new start ups since January 5th (I know, I can't believe it either), many of them with excellent business ideas - some even had plans to go with them already! Lots of activity, lots of hope. *glows excitedly*

One, stood out from the rest - it took more than one reading, a bit of self-doubt on my part, " I stupid? I just don't understand..." - because the plan had over 100 pages and by the end of it I still didn't know what the original business idea was. The only phrase from the book that wasn't in the plan was in fact, "downward trajectory" would you believe. The rest were all there.

So the moral of my little tale is that an effective business plan will be written in plain English with no need for subtitles from Ranter Extraordinaire, Mr John Murray.

Don't buy the book folks. Stand in Eason's and squizz through the Introduction. It's quite funny! And makes you think...but that's where the quality ends. Don't waste your Earth Euro.