Problem Solver: From WhatsApp to daily huddle - communication is vital
Q: I HAVE approximately 300 people working in various branches of our business throughout the country. We are struggling with communication and I wondered if you had any advice?
Problem Solver: The advantages of 'central billing' for food suppliers
Q: I am starting to sell a food product into some shops. I have heard something about central billing and I am a bit confused as to whether I need to be applying for this or not.
Keep a laser-like focus on your customers and their needs - it will help you stay relevant
One of the main things I've learned is that it's not just the speed of technological change, but how fast people's expectations and behaviour evolve to match it.
Problem solver: It's crucial to test Irish taste for French flavours
Q: I recently saw a food product in France which I intend to produce and sell in the Irish market place. Where can I go to get support for my project?
Problem solver: Go for more business in Britain, not less
Q: Over 50pc of what our business produces is sold in the UK, and I now feel very exposed with the currency fluctuations. Should I be pulling out of the UK market?
Problem Solver: Integrating into the community is vital for new business
Q: I'm opening a second café in a new town unfamiliar to me. Can you give any advice on how our business can become part of that local community?
Reacting through emotion is a characteristic I'd like to have overcome early
The media industry is fast-paced and constantly changing. It reinvents itself continually, with new trends that need to be embraced and new technology that needs to be harnessed and understood. So, in common with every other business, there's a lot going on. And that's why it's...
Problem Solver: Retailers must avail of alternatives to grants
Q: I'm in the process of opening a new shop. Can you point me in the direction of grant assistance that would be available to help me with the fit-out?
Problem Solver: What do you miss most since leaving supermarket trade?
Q: What do you miss most about not being involved in the supermarket industry any more?
Problem Solver: A good personality can go a long way
Q: I NEVER seem to be able to get the right type of staff into my business and I have made a few mistakes in the past in judging people. Could you give me some tips on interview skills?
Problem Solver: Worker wants me to pay him more to set up on his own
Q: A member of staff who performs a key role within the business has come up with an idea that he wants to be self-employed and continue to do his work for me, while also taking on other clients. I'm happy this will work, but the fees he is proposing are higher than I pay...
How to check if your business is safe from the digital hacking threat
While bringing many benefits, technology also brings with it many threats. With companies gathering more and more information on their customers, there is the increased risk of damage to those individuals should a company suffer a security breach. This information, if...
Problem Solver: Should I cut corners or spend more money on getting professional branding?
Q: I am a bit confused about branding a new product. It appears that I can get cheap designs done online, or pay thousands of euro to a brand company. Will I not get the same result from each?
Problem Solver: How can I get my food product onto the store shelves?
Q: Can you give me any advice on how best to approach store managers and buyers with my new food product?
Problem Solver: What's your line on solving the issue of slow-moving queues?
Q: I was caught up in a lengthy "bag drop" queue at an airport recently and almost missed my flight. No one seemed to be focused on the customers, and I can recall this was one of the areas where Superquinn stood out. What lessons can our airports learn?
Problem Solver: How can we revive a town that was decimated by the recession?
Q: I am a retailer based in a regional town which has been very badly hit by the recession with over 25pc of the retail buildings now closed and unoccupied. Is there any advice that you could give us?
SMEs must get to grips with swings in sterling to safeguard their future
Without sounding too alarmist, many Irish SMEs are leaving themselves exposed to fluctuations in Sterling as the currency plummets in value, which could have the potential to wipe-out profits for many exporting SMEs.
Problem Solver: My managers are struggling to focus on the key issues
Q: Have you any suggestions on how I can get my managers to focus on a number of key issues, which are critical to the business? We are struggling to get consistency with the 22 managers that work in the business.
'I would generally advise against accepting a first offer: there's usually more available'
Not all customers are created equal. Living by the mantra that "the customer is always right" can be a recipe for failure - if you haven't figured out what separates a valuable customer from a non-valuable one.
Problem Solver: I'm aiming to distribute my product to the big retailers
Q: Can you advise me on how best to distribute my product into the supermarket sector?
I'm looking to sell my produce at a farmers' market stall. Can you help me out?
Q: Can you give me any advice on setting up a food stall and selling produce at a farmers' market?
Problem solver: How do I balance my busy career and personal life?
Q: Can you give me any advice on how to get the balance between my senior management role in a large business and my personal life? They all seem to have merged into one 24/7 job?
Problem solver: How can I ensure that my staff aren't stealing from me?
Q: I run a business which involves several members of staff taking cash from customers and our cash controls are poor. Can you give me any advice?
Problem solver: Has a supermarket customer ever annoyed you?
Q: Did you ever get annoyed with a customer during your retail career?
Problem Solver: How can my small business compete with the big operators?
Q: I am a small business and finding it difficult to compete with some of the big international players. Can you give me any advice?
Problem Solver: How did you manage all the managers when you were at Superquinn?
Q: I want to change the structure of my business, particularly how many managers I should have and different levels. How did you decide on the manager structure in Superquinn?
Problem Solver: I'm seeking out inspiration for my team to focus more on customers at our hotel
Q: I am looking at new customer service initiatives for my hotel. Is there any inspiration you can give me and my team.
What Irish firms need to do next to battle the Brexit headwinds
There is no doubt that the Leave vote by the UK electorate caught many by surprise and has caused turmoil in the markets since. There are all sorts of new risks emerging that businesses now need to tackle, not least the impact of sterling exchange rate fluctuations. What is...
Problem Solver: Getting bang for your buck online, and switching off to be more productive
Q: Can you give me some ideas on how I market my business on a very limited budget?
Help! I've no money left over to promote my new bridal boutique
Q: I am just about to open a bridal boutique in a little village called Greyabbey in Co Down. The village has everything you need for a wedding, from an abbey for the marriage, a florist, country house, etc.
Problem Solver: I'm confused about what VAT rate to charge on my range of products
Q: I don't fully understand why there is VAT on certain products that I sell and yet other items don't contain any VAT. How do I know for certain if I am charging the right VAT rates?
Problem Solver: Any food for thought? I’m looking at the pros and cons of moving into pub grub
Q: I run a good pub in a semi-residential area and have a nice clientele. I am considering adding food to my offer but very unsure if this is the right thing for my business.
Problem Solver: Who's to blame for bad service at my lunchtime café?
Q: I work in the city centre and most days I buy my lunch from the same café. Sadly the service levels are appalling and recently I made the decision to go elsewhere. How can a business allow this to happen?
Problem Solver: How can I motivate my large workforce en masse?
Q: I have reasonably large workforce and I am struggling to do things which motivate them all simultaneously. Some of the branches of the business head off a few times a year for dinners or on nights out but I would love to do something larger which would act as a motivator...
Problem Solver: What do I need to do to attract publicity for my business?
Q: Can you give me any advice on how best to get some free PR for my business as you always seemed to manage to get great coverage when you were in Superquinn.
Problem Solver: The importance - or not - of name-calling customers
Q: What are your views on businesses using a customers surname as part of the thank you message when the customer is paying by card?
Things have changed completely, flipped on their head, in terms of how you work on a team
'I used to think I was going to be the next Willie Carson - and I probably didn't apply myself as much in school as I should have!
Problem Solver: Innovation always a key ingredient in food retail market
Q: What is your view of the food retail sector in Ireland today?
'Working culture is massively important in keeping your people happy and motivated...'
'The number one thing I wish I knew is that you often know the right answer - but are just not listening to it.
Problem Solver: Who takes over? My new manager or 20-year-old son?
Q: I run a successful business with good sales and modest profitability. I am 62 years of age and need some advice on how best to plan my exit from the business. I have a good new, young manager and a 20-year-old son who might have an interest in the business.
Have you any prescriptions for improving my vet service?
Q: I run a successful veterinary business with a number of vets practising from it. I don't want to open any more sites, but rather to improve my current business. Are there any suggestions you have?
Problem Solver: I've an idea brewing to convert my farm buildings
Q: I have a small farm in the midlands and was considering converting some of the farm buildings into a microbrewery as there is no brewery in our local county. I would welcome any advice you could give.
You need to understand what your market will look like in 10 and even 20 years' time...
'Focus, focus, focus. I believe that every organisation needs to concentrate on one aspect of their business to truly succeed.
Problem Solver: Identify a gap in the market and take advice from industry before you make your pitch
Q: I am planning to open a ladies fashion shop and I am trying to decide whether I should go for some of the labelled quality items at a higher price point, or lesser known labels at the lower price end of the...
'There is a joy in building a business that has a positive impact on people's lives...'
'In 2009, I left PwC in Los Angeles to join GOAL in Uganda as a finance manager. Shortly after, I was promoted to financial controller. In 2013, I returned to an Ireland which was still suffering the impact of the financial crisis.
Problem Solver: My young son just isn't credible and hasn't got the respect of our workforce
Q: I am in my 60s and I run a successful business. My son, who is now 27, has been in the business for four years and is simply not credible and doesn't have the respect of the team. What should I do?
Any suggestions for bringing a new food idea to the market?
Q: What should I be considering when bringing a new food product to market?
Problem Solver: My niche product is starting to take off in the US market
Q: I am starting to manufacture a rather specialist product which is showing some popularity in America but I am worried that this is just going to be a niche business. Can you give some advice?
'If at all possible, it's better to be accessible 24/7 to avoid any issues becoming problems...'
'Early on in my career I became overwhelmed and anxious whenever I saw my diary for the coming weeks, having to juggle small boys and lots of travel.
Problem Solver: How can I improve the atmosphere among my staff?
Q: I am concerned about the negative atmosphere that is in my business among the ten staff. Every day is characterised by moaning and negativity and while I work really hard at trying to motivate the team, I could only class two of the ten as positive in their attitude with...