Feargal Quinn: 'You should be looking at other markets. Don't sit back and wait'
Query: I Run a manufacturing business and with all the talk of Brexit I am really worried about 2019. Several of my key customers are UK based. Is there any advice you can give me?
Answer: It its confusing to say the least and the reality is that no one can be certain about what is going to happen next. There is however some very good advice which you should be taking and you should also be immediately engaging with any of the agencies that are providing some of the many supports which are available at the moment, for example Enterprise Ireland etc.
You certainly should take the practical step of talking with your existing UK customers. They will be equally concerned and will be able to give you some indication of what their plans are and how committed they are to you supplying them.
To be prudent you should also be looking at other markets outside the UK. Don't make any assumptions that your product will be the correct fit for other territories just because it is working in the UK. There is plenty of support and tools available to assist you with this so don't feel that you have to do this journey alone. Agencies like Enterprise Ireland have offices in all global territories and will be able to direct you on the ground in these new countries. I was listening to a company on the radio that had 60pc of its business going into the UK and it was describing a new market it had opened up in Holland. Had it not been for Brexit it wouldn't have even explored this, so there can be positives. It might also be time to look at the management structure of your business and if export is going to be an even more critical part of your growth, then it may be time to employ someone either on a consultancy basis, or as a salaried staff member to work on export markets. Could it be a case of appointing new distributors in additional markets who would work for you on the ground?
While nobody knows the answer exactly, it is important you don't sit back and wait and that you are proactive about new initiatives. Do make sure you lean on the various State agency supports.
Query: I am a very experienced chef and I run a restaurant in a regional town, and despite all of my best marketing attempts I can't make the business viable. Ideally, I don't want to close but I am grasping at straws. Can you inspire me?
Answer: I have come across this situation before. Obviously the people who enjoy your food are supporting you, but very often in regional areas there simply are not enough people dining out frequently enough to support your business.
It is all down to population density. I have no doubt if you were in a city centre location you would probably be booming. Rather than view this as a single business entity, why don't you view it as a series of 'micro business units'. The restaurant is one 'business unit', and now the challenge is to identify other units that would each bring in a revenue and profit stream.
While any one on its own mightn't be enough to support you, the combined total of all would keep you in business. Some examples might be if you were to run cookery classes once per month. Could you generate enough interest and revenue from this to fill 10 or 12 spaces at approximately €100 per head? Could you produce a product that could be sold through local shops and speciality retailers within a 30km radius and would you make enough profit from this to justify doing it?
You could even think about running a catering business from your kitchen, or even taking a stall at a local market on a weekly basis and selling some great bread or other products.
You have got to view the restaurant as simply your 'shop window'. It would be a shame after creating this great reputation, if you had to walk away from it. Keep fighting back and diversify your ideas.
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