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GROWTH STRATEGIES

From tiny acorns…

We have spoken recently about growing your business internationally and the options which are currently available to assist with this process. Something which we didn’t focus on was general growth and the strategies that must be in place in order to achieve the growth you desire for your business and which it deserves. Business is something which is always in flux, always changing and always on the movie so it is vital to ensure that your business is consistently moving with the times and growing as much as possible along the way. The most fool proof way to ensure that your business grows and progresses it to plan ahead and to have a growth strategy in place.

A growth strategy is essential and will inform all areas of your business from acting as the cornerstone of your marketing plan to your day to day business activities your growth strategy will be a guiding roadmap that will inform all aspects of your business. Your growth strategy should include information about the current market, your current and prospective customers, the products or services you offer and your overall goals for where you would like to see the business grow to. The growth strategy is an essential business tool as it ensures that things are not left solely to chance, which is a dangerous status to be in in business. If you are not sure where to start with a growth strategy here are some handy starting points.

The first thing to consider when contemplating a growth strategy for your business is market research. It is essential to know your product and service and know the market you currently serve. The next step for many is often referred to as cross-selling, and involves either selling more of your existing products to existing customers, or selling what can be referred to as ‘add-ons’ to your current products or services. This is one of the easiest and most popular strategies to put in place as it does not involve developing something new. Rather, this strategy involves building upon what is already in place. The difficulty with this strategy lies in informing all existing customers that you offer these additional products or services and generating interest in this way.

The alternative to this strategy involves essentially pigeon-holing yourself and your customers, which might seem counterproductive but has seen benefits in the past. Studies show that customers tend to stick with suppliers they understand and trust for each individual product or service and are more likely to continue on with suppliers who give a specific service. The other side of this involves choosing a specific section of the market to focus on, which whilst restrictive can pay off when done well.

The final method to consider for your growth strategy will be to ascertain what new markets you would like to enter. Occasionally, opportunities may arise for you to sell your existing products to a new market and this should be considered within a growth strategy if viable for your business.

In this modern age there are many means of distribution of products and ideas so it is essential to factor distribution and marketing into your growth plan. With this ideas as your starting point, you should hopefully be well on your way to growing your business.

Should you require any further assistance or business advice please don’t hesitate to contact us here at DCA Accountants.

 

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DCA PARTNERSDECLAN DOLAN & EAMONN GARVEY

THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT

Whether we are business owners, home owners, parents or employees in this fast-paced world one thing unites us all, we are all incredibly busy. How often a week do we hear the term “I just didn’t have time for that” from friends, colleagues and loved ones? We have spoken in the past about maintaining a successful work: life balance in order to have a happier and more satisfying life. Today we will be talking about something that is critical in your working life, no matter how busy, ensuring that your company has a strong customer focus. Being customer-focused is something which all employers and business owners should ensure that they make time in their busy schedules for, the benefits far outweigh the time cost.

Running a business is time-consuming and often stressful and as our to-do lists grow and grow it is easy to become essentially blind to the smaller details as we focus on the bigger picture and all the tasks that lie ahead. Maintaining a customer focus is a collection of small details that can easily take your business to the next level. If your clients aren’t happy, your business will not be happy in the long run. Customer service is not limited to retail environments or to select departments, and should be an important role for every single employee in your company. Everyone a client comes into contact with should be well versed in providing excellent customer service.

Whether or not your business is obviously centred on customer service, customer service is certain to play a massive role. The essence of customer service lies in the importance of understanding the needs of your customers or clientele and knowing what you and your company can do to meet those needs. Some of the most crucial ways of providing excellent customer service are also the simplest and least time consuming such as ensuring positive and rewarding personal connections with your clients. This might certainly mean an extra couple of minutes of meeting or phone call time but will also send your customers and clients the message that your company cares for them as more than just a number. Other ways in which your company can go the extra mile in terms of customer service include ensuring your service or product has a certain ease of use which will not cause undue irritation to clients and customers, and ensuring that payment methods for suppliers have clearly laid out terms and ease of use.

To conclude, providing excellent customer service is one of the less time-consuming ways of ensuring the longevity of your business and should be implemented by every member of staff. Customers and clients who feel that your company has gone the extra mile for them are more likely to remain loyal, and that loyalty in a world of competitive business will be the reward for time spent whilst excellent customer reviews and word of mouth may assist in drawing in a new client base.

If you require any assistance with business or financial issues or just require business advice or guidance please don’t hesitate to contact us at DCA Accountants where it is our job to make your job run smoothly.

 

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DCA PARTNERSDECLAN DOLAN & EAMONN GARVEY

WHO YOU GONNA CALL? …BANKRUPTCY BUSTERS!

Bankruptcy is not a word that fills anyone with a sense of glee, but sometimes it is the only option for both you and your business during hard times. As is often said in business, there certainly comes a time when it is best to cut your losses and move on. For many, this involves the necessity of filing for bankruptcy until such a time as your finances are once again in order. In the past, becoming bankrupt has often been a very stressful and arduous time. Fortunately, new reforms are set to be introduced which could change this process and make it a lot easier and about as pain free as it is possible for this task to be.

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that there will be reforms introduced which will reduce the period that an individual is bankrupt for from three years to one year. These reforms would require an amendment in the Personal Insolvency Act of 2015, a change which the Taoiseach is said to be strongly in favour of.

 

This amendment would bring Irish insolvency and bankruptcy procedures into line with those currently in practise in the UK and Northern Ireland. TD Willie Penrose has been a major driving force behind this proposed change stating that in his believe it is better that these people be allowed to return to making economic contributions after one year rather than being outside of the business world for three. Penrose states that these people could be entrepreneurs ready to re-enter the business world, but they cannot.

 

CEO of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, David Hall has largely welcomed these proposed changes stating that:

“This development will be of huge benefit to those debtors who are seeking a fresh start and want to rid themselves of debt.”

 

Certainly, these changes will somewhat change the face of business in Ireland and allow more opportunity for change and the ability to move on at a faster pace from a period of business which may have been unsustainable for a great many reasons. As we have seen in the UK and Northern Ireland models of dealing with bankruptcy, this has not caused a great many extra financial issues and should be a good fit for the Irish system.

 

Whilst these new rules will make the process of applying for bankruptcy in Ireland somewhat less painful, it is advisable to seek professional assistance when doing so. Should you require any professional advice or guidance in a matter such as this please do not hesitate to contact us at DCA Accountants where we will be happy to assist and to guide you in the best direction for you and the brighter future of your business.

DIFFICULTIES IN VALUING A BUSINESS

Valuing a business can be one of the most challenging issues faced by business owners and analysts alike. Valuing is a difficult and incredibly complex task, but one that is utterly essential. On occasion, traditional modes of valuation simply do not suit the business type. These techniques often assume a certain level of stability and an imagined risk profile which may not be applicable, and without being adapted, this can result in critical errors in valuation.

In the early stages of your business it can often be a struggle to value the business in an accurate way. This is also often a stage in which it can be difficult to predict the risks associated with the business. In this instance three things must be predicted which can be challenging to do in changing financial times: how will the market you are entering grow and change? What is the likelihood of your business surviving and what risks will be associated with the venture in the longer term?

Analysts can often be more concerned with the general economic growth, rather than the growth of the individual company and this may be something you will have to take into account in your own calculations. For ease: we have collected some of the most common forgotten issues that may become a problem in your valuation and risk assessment, in the hope that you may be able to avoid these pitfalls.

Originality/Diversity: A good thing to bear in mind when valuing your business is that businesses which offer an original/single product or service are subject to a higher risk level than those which offer a well-known or a great many products and services.

Clientele: It is important to take into account your current and projected clientele when valuing and assessing your business. For example, if your business is one which has relatively few clients, then your risk factors will be much higher as the results of losing one of your clients will be much more detrimental to your business than one which has a wide range of clients.

Projected Lifespan: Your Company’s projected lifespan is often difficult to assess but it is important to take into account the changing business world you are entering and whether or not it is likely that your product or service may soon become outdated.

Location: Location is not only a factor in setting up your business, but also in valuing it and assessing its growth capabilities for the future.

Assets/Liabilities: When valuing your business it can be easy to forget to factor in current and projected assets and liabilities. When included, these can paint a more in depth picture of the current and projected value of your company.

Expectations: It is vital to remember that valuations are essentially expectations by nature, and they can be used as a blueprint for the planning and maintenance of your business.

There are always unforeseen circumstances both negative and positive that will affect your business and these cannot be predicted. As such, your valuation is a blueprint for you to build upon rather than a strict prediction.

If there is any way at all we can be of benefit to you in the start-up, maintenance or valuation of your business please don’t hesitate to contact us at DCA Accountants.

DELEGATION IN BUSINESS

Delegation is defined as being “the act of giving control, authority, a job, a duty, etc., to another person.” You could be forgiven for thinking that delegation is just another buzz word used in management meetings or team building exercises but the truth is that whether your business is small and just now finding its feet or an enormous multinational corporation, delegation is an absolutely essential part of all aspects of business from the ground up. It has been noted that delegation is not a task, but an on-going process that becomes an integral part of a successful business.

 

We all know the saying “if you want something done right, do it yourself” and we are all guilty of reneging on delegating when we find ourselves frustrated or in a time crunch. Whilst this is a perfectly acceptable and sometimes expected practise, continually refusing to delegate can have serious professional and personal repercussions including exhaustion, low morale depression and burnout. It is essential to employ more long-term thinking practises. The process of delegation can also be beneficial in avoiding the pitfalls of micromanagement wherein your employees may not feel valued or trusted to carry out certain tasks. Delegation is not easy, but sometimes the most fulfilling and worthwhile things are difficult at first. Here we have collected some of the most important things to bear in mind, to help you engage in effective delegation in your workplace.

 

Plan ahead:
Long-term thinking is essential in all aspects of business, but particularly when it comes to delegation. It is important to know in advance what it is you want to achieve and be able to express this to your colleagues.

 

Know when to delegate:
Whether you are in a managerial or a more secondary role, the most important aspect of delegation is to know what tasks you can delegate and to whom. There will always be some tasks which should be completed only by you and it is important to identify what these are in order to separate them from all other tasks. Once you have identified your own most critical tasks, you can then make a note of those you feel could be completed by others – and if applicable assign those tasks as necessary. This frees up your own time to be used more wisely and also shows a level of trust in your employees/colleagues which they might not have felt previously.

Know which tasks suit which employees:
The next important step in effective delegation is deciding which person will be the right fit for the job. This can be as simple as assigning a sales job to a sales oriented employee, or simply matching an employee’s skillset or personality to the job at hand. Don’t be afraid to offer further training to employees who will require it before taking on a task.

 

Be specific:
This is perhaps one of the biggest keys to effective delegation, and also where many people go wrong. The worst thing you can do when delegating is to be vague, as this leaves your employee unsure of what their role is, causing undue stress to both them and yourself when you invariably fall into the “if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself” trap. The key here is to identify the task clearly, know what results you want to achieve here and ensure that the person to whom you are delegating is well aware of the expected outcome. Communication is the key to effective delegation and a successful business.

 

Deadlines:
Deadlines must be discussed when delegating so that the individual taking on the task is well aware of the parameters within which they are expected to complete the task. At this point, agreeing on methods of communication and “checking in” on the project should also be agreed. Setting a defined deadline can avoid problems further down the road.

 

Accountability:
This is the hardest part of the delegation process. All involved must know who is accountable should there be a problem from the outset, as well as what will be expected of them with this task. Accountability cannot be passed on, it can only be shared. Ensuring accountability means that your employees/colleagues will stay

 

Feedback:
Offering feedback on how the process/project has gone boosts staff morale and also ensures that all involved know their strengths and what aspects they can work on for the benefit of future projects.

The process of delegation is a difficult one to begin, but will become easier each time as your employees/colleagues become better equipped and experienced at dealing with certain similar tasks in the future. You will soon find yourself wondering why you didn’t start this process sooner as your business becomes a more defined and organised organism.

NEW COMPANIES ACT OF 2014

From June 1st 2015, the Companies Act of 2014 will come into effect. This new Act will replace the existing Companies act, which was in place from 1963-2013. This is the largest reform of Irish Business Law that we have seen in decades. Its purpose is to make running a business in Ireland easier. This new Act will carry on some of the features of its predecessor and will have a number of new features including:

  • All company directors must be over 18.
  • Existing private companies must choose their new company type: a private company limited by shares or as a Designated Activity Company (DCA).
  • A new company type will be created; a private company limited by shares can be registered with the CRO (Companies Registration Office). This company can be a single director company.
  • Private limited companies will be entitled to have a single director but all companies must retain the office of the company secretary.
  • All company directors who are subject to a foreign disqualification must file an appropriate form with the CRO.
  • There will be changes to the registration procedures, and required methods of notifying the CRO.
  • External companies will no longer be able to register a place of business.
  • As of June 1st 2015, all existing external companies registered as a place of business will be deleted.
  • A company will no longer be required to have an annual general physical meeting, instead an annual general written meeting will now suffice.
  • The existing duties of directors are translated into eight principle duties, which will apply to all directors.
  • Reintroduction of the requirement that directors provide compliance statements.
  • Some holding companies will be exempt from the obligation to prepare audited group financial statements where they and their subsidiaries do not exceed certain thresholds.

 

With all these changes in mind, what does this new legislation mean for you and your company?

 

The most important thing this means for you and your company is that integral changes to your business, whilst often stressful, must be made and this will be the ideal moment to begin deciding what changes can truly benefit your company.

 

Despite this legislation not coming into effect until June 1st, companies and their directors must now begin to prepare for these changes to come into effect.  At this juncture, it would be wise to begin looking at your company structure and making decisions about what structure and accompanying rules best suit your company.

For example you may want to remove the second “silent” director from the company that never had any involvement in the running of the business.

 

There will be a transition period of 18 months from June 1st to allow companies to act upon the relevant changes. If a private company has not chosen their new company type during this time, it will automatically become a new private limited company with a single-document constitution. This company type does not allow for the future changing of articles contained within its constitution.

 

This new default will naturally not be appropriate for all companies and this is a good moment to begin doing some housekeeping within your company. Taking a closer look at your company now may make all the difference in the future and, as always, DCA Accountants are available to provide any guidance necessary during this period of transition for your company.

IS AN INVESTOR RIGHT FOR YOU?

Having gone to the trouble of finding an investor, you may not want to question your luck. But understanding an investor’s suitability is vital.

Most people don’t like to look gift horses in the mouth. And, having gone through the long process of finding an investor to take your business to the next level, someone offering vital capital seems like quite the horse. However, not all investors are created equal, and tying yourself legally to a bad partner can be a fatal mistake. You need to ask yourself a few questions, therefore, to determine whether an investor is right for you.

 

Can my investor deliver?

It’s bizarre to think that somebody would commit themselves to investing funds that they do not have. Unfortunately, strange things happen in businesses, and we have seen cases where companies have been left waiting for a cheque that never comes. Do your homework on an investor’s past career and investment history to see whether there are any red flags. A prospective investor may be willing to talk about their past enterprises, and accounts filed with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) will let you check them out.

 

Does my investor have realistic expectations?

You’re obviously optimistic about your company’s future, and your prospective investor presumably shares that view. It’s important to make sure, however, that his or her optimism is grounded in reality. Your investor’s expectations in terms of growth and profitability need to be in line with your own – otherwise, you risk being tied to a partner who feels let down, maybe even cheated. In this situation, an investor can become obstructive, and create a pretty toxic working environment.

 

Does my investor’s vision match my own?

People invest in businesses for all sorts of reasons. Some buy in to the strategy of a company, while others see more value in radically realigning the business. Assuming you believe in your business plan, you want to attract the former and be wary of the latter. If an investor is taking a stake in your company where they can dictate or at least influence its direction, you both need to be broadly in agreement about your core business for the foreseeable future, what markets you will target, and products or services you will bring to those markets. Otherwise, you’re signing up to endless disagreements over strategy.

 

Can my investor add value?

An investor doesn’t need to be an expert in the field to help a business. He or she can have contacts in your targeted market, could offer insight to improve your business internally, or even have an idea for a related product or service that you can offer. Offering this added value isn’t essential for an investor – most entrepreneurs are happy for someone to offer capital and take a hands-off approach. However, you should think about areas of your company that an investor’s skills, contacts or knowledge can improve.

 

The right investor isn’t just someone willing to stump up cash – it’s somebody with the capital to actually meet their commitments, a realistic expectation regarding their return, and a shared vision for the business. If they can also use their talents to boost your company beyond the bottom line, then you’ve got a winning formula for a long-term partnership. At DCA, we assist many companies going through the process of finding an investor and sealing a deal – our experience has helped numerous businesspeople in entering appropriate partnerships, and avoiding bad ones. Just contact us if you would like to set up an initial, no-obligation meeting.

 

Eamonn Garvey

Partner

DCA Accountants and Business Advisors

DCA Q&A: CAN I AVAIL OF STATE SUPPORT?

Q: I’ve been slogging away for some time now as a sole trader. Since January, a couple of major clients have gone out of business and I’m left with just a few hundred Euro at the end of each month. Because I’ve been self-employed for most of my working life, I won’t be able to just pack it in and claim Jobseeker’s Benefit. However, are there other supports that could help me in this situation?

 

A: You may well be entitled to Jobseeker’s Allowance , but the process of claiming is a bit more complicated because of your status. This payment is given based on your means rather than your PRSI contributions.

 

Jobseeker’s Allowance pays €188 a week, plus €124.80 for each adult dependant and €29.80 for each child. However, any money you make from self-employment is subtracted from this. So, if you’re married with a child, you might be entitled to  €332.60 per week. If you or your spouse is making €100 a week from self-employment, however, this would fall to €232.60 per week. Aside from your self-employed income, investments or property that you own (besides your own residence) will be considered as means.

 

As you can imagine, much depends on how the social welfare office assesses your means. When you apply, you will have to meet with a social welfare inspector to find out about your business. The inspector will be looking to assess the income you may reasonably be expected to get from your business over the next 12 months. Usually, the income from your past 12 months in business will be taken as a guide. However, if you can demonstrate that circumstances have changed – if, for example, your former clients have made concrete moves to shut up shop – this will be taken into account. You will be asked for your receipts and payments or audited accounts for the current and previous year – so, if you’re applying in July, you’ll have to supply details to cover the year to date and 2013. In some cases, you may have to show your audited accounts going back even further.

 

Because estimating your means is so complex, it may take some time to process your claim. However, you can also apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance to cover any immediate needs you have. To get started, you can download the formhere and make an application. If it turns out that you qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance, you can also apply for supplementary supports such as Rent Supplement, a Medical Card, and Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance.

 

At this point, you may well be evaluating the future of your business – is this something that you can revive? Do you have the energy and motivation to do so? There is no shame in shutting down your business if it isn’t working, or taking it in another direction. When you (hopefully) get the immediate financial crush addressed through Jobseeker’s Allowance, you should devote some time to considering the next step in your career.

 

Declan Dolan

Do you have a question for DCA’s experts? Contact us or connect with us on Twitter.

NEW YEAR BUSINESS RESOLUTIONS

What positive business habits should you be seeking to foster in 2014?

 

Everyone has New Year resolutions, whether they state them publicly or keep them private: that is, after all, why you see more joggers out despite the January weather! When you’re running your own business, you almost certainly have a list of changes that you want to make in 2014. But which aspirations should you be prioritising?

 

Pro-Active Cashflow

Far too many businesses only take their cash-flow seriously when a problem has become apparent. By that time, it’s usually too late to fix the situation without upheaval and considerable stress. This year, paying attention to your cash-flow, even when things are going swimmingly, will pay dividends. Take action to address the situation whenever a client is falling behind, even if it’s not causing tangible problems for your business – because you can guarantee that a few clients picking up bad payment habits will.

 

Challenge Your Staff

A new year will doubtless lead your employees to take stock of their lives and careers. Also, now that Ireland has shifted into recovery mode, ambitious people have rising expectations. It costs you nothing to talk with your employees about their medium to long-term goals, and to informally discuss how they could achieve them within your business. If you can hang on to capable, motivated people, your company will benefit in immeasurable ways.

 

Show Customer Appreciation

Like your employees, your key clients will be evaluating things at this time of, and a little love-bombing – provided it’s not over the top – is worthwhile. If you can, try to organise some informal meetings with your customers to get feedback on how they find your products or services. In an open discussion, they may bring up issues that are easily fixable – and nothing helps to cement a business relationship like a problem solved.

 

Learn to Delegate

If you are running a small business, you are always tempted to do everything – from sales to delivery and cash collection, you instinctively feel that you are more capable and invested in tasks than your employees. But there’s a reason why you have a team: you can’t do it all. If you are going to enjoy any work-life balance in 2014 – and have time to work ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ the business – then you need to trust people to get on with their jobs. Some oversight and accountability for targets is helpful, but trying to do everything will frustrate competent employees and run you into the ground.

 

Tap Into Technology

Sheer inertia keeps many businesses from using technology to work more productively. A fear of substantial front-end investment also deters some owner-managers, but many useful business tools require little or no spend to set up. UsingGoogle Docs to collaborate on documents, a tool like Asana to assign tasks and responsibilities or even Skype for instant message conversations when working remotely will save your business a lot of time and be very simple to adopt. So investigate the possibilities of free or cost-effective applications and technology this year.

 

Businesspeople are realistic: 2014 won’t mark a return to the days of easy money. But making these positive changes should help your company improve markedly for the new year.

 

Do you have a question for DCA’s experts? Contact us or connect with us on Twitter.