Q: How did you get the money together to start up your first business? I just don't seem to be able to generate enough income to rent out a shop, get supplies and live?
I am delighted you asked this question. So many people attempt to start a business with little or no money and then run into trouble very quickly.
The reality is you can't start a business without some money set aside. No matter what type of business you are thinking about, there are always hidden costs.
So the first task, before you do anything, is to write up a simple business plan. Many early-stage entrepreneurs panic at the mention of a business plan and neglect this crucial step.
Its purpose is to help you to work out exactly what will be required to get your business off the ground, how much you will need to invest and, most importantly, to clarify if there is a clear market for your business idea. The good news is that there is help at hand to guide you through this process.
Your local Enterprise Board may be able to provide you with a finance mentor, or an expert to advise you on the financial implications of starting up and how to overcome these.
The next step, which is your question, is from where to source the money. You will need some savings of your own or perhaps a loan from your bank, and very often this money can be matched with some of the many grants available from Enterprise Boards or LEADER Companies.
The Government hasrecently provided additional back-up for people who have been turned down by the banks and other lenders, through its new micro- finance service. There are full details on www.microfinanceireland.ie.
Of course, you could always try and get an investor to come on board with you if you have a really good business idea.
That could be a business person in your local community who can spot the potential in your idea, or there are several "angels investor" schemes. Have a look at www.businessangels.ie.
I'm involved with www.llinkedfinance.com, who do something similar.
Don't be put off that you haven't accumulated your own funds yet, but do realise that you have to come up with a plan to raise that money.
That will get you on the first rung of the ladder, which may leave you eligible for grant assistance – and that would really accelerate your plans.
Get yourself a mentor quickly, and create that simple business plan, decide how the funds are to be raised and then hopefully you will be on a very successful business journey. Bon voyage!
Q: I've got a lot of quite young staff many who are keen on the idea of working from home. I've always resisted but my business partner thinks I should be more flexible. What is the answer?
Working from home needs to be clearly planned and comes as part of an overall strategy to increase productivity within the business.
The obvious advantage for the company is that you don't have to provide desks and services every day of the week for all of your staff and the advantage for the employee is they don't have to travel to their workplace.
Realistically its success is dependent on the work environment at home. Simply having someone working from the kitchen table a day or two per week will not yield results.
It is not a good work environment and after a few weeks it can become highly distracting for the staff member.
That's the biggest potential downside for staff working at home in that they can easily lose focus and are open to many distractions unless they are in a dedicated space within their home where their work can be done.
I have a home office but it is completely segregated from the house and once I enter that area I am in work mode.
It could be a huge motivator to be given the opportunity to work from home but I would encourage you to develop guidelines to ensure this and possibly do it initially a day or two a week for those staff who reach the criteria, assess it and roll it out further if you find it is working.
If the home office environment is correct then your productivity should go way up as the staff member will be 100pc focused without any interruptions.
Don't forget you may have to invest some money for providing staff with the appropriate resources they need at home, eg high-speed broadband, etc.
The key reason for you to look at this is to have a more contented workforce that is more productive.
Also, you need to ensure that the work they have to complete is structured and monitored closely as you don't want in six months' time to find that productivity has dropped simply because nobody at senior level is monitoring the output on these home-working days.
The former chairman of Superquinn, Vincent O'Doherty, had a number of international business interests and would very often be outside of Ireland for prolonged periods at a base in the United States.
It always seemed that he was around even when he was based abroad as he would constantly be in contact using modern technology such as Skype, high-speed broadband, etc.
So it is possible now to be based anywhere in the world and produce a productive day's work as if you were at home. The same applies in your situation and I would agree with your business partner that it's certainly worth a try.