The former head of Superquinn gives his business advices to readers.
Question: I have a full-time job but run my own catering business at the evenings and weekends. It's been a bit slow to increase sales and I'm looking for advice.
Feargal says: Congratulations on your entrepreneurial spirit. It can't be easy to hold down a job and run a business as well. I have met business entrepreneurs over the last few years in a similar situation and there is a flaw in the model which can be hard to overcome.
While you need to keep your day job until such time that sales grow in your business, very often the fact that you have the day job prevents you from putting the time in to grow the sales to allow you to move full time into your own business.
So there is an apparent conflict which goes around in a continuous circle. Only you can provide the answer.
If your sense is that you could grow your own business significantly if you only had the time, then you need to start stepping away from your job.If you can do this gradually, ie by stepping back to three or four days initially, this would be fantastic as it would allow you the security of full-time work.
If you can't do this phased approach, then you will have no choice but to conduct a serious review of your business to see if it could be viable given time.
Don't forget that, in the right circumstances there is grant assistance to encourage people to start their own businesses and other supports like mentoring to give specific advice.
Look at the grant section of your Local Enterprise Office and it will give you some idea of the type of supports available.
My experience of trying to run a business on a part-time basis is that it is extraordinarily difficult to make it work.
Growing a business needs lots of focus and time.
Your clients will very quickly pick up if you can't dedicate enough of your time to the enterprise.
Question: I am producing a simple piece of technology for the telecommunications industry which is also enjoying some local success and has been recognised in two awards schemes. But I am struggling a bit to raise funds to move the business to the next level.
Feargal says: The good news is there are lots of different supports and for the purpose of this response I will assume that they are all new to you.
Your Local Enterprise Office should be your first point of contact and they have many grant assistance schemes which you may qualify for. In some instances where your business has a potential to have more than ten staff, sales of more than €1m a year and a potential to export, then Enterprise Ireland may classify you as a high potential company and there may be other supports.
Don't forget the conventional route of going to your bank and taking them through your successes and plans. I meet more and more businesses who have secured funding from their bank. If you have been trading for more than two years, there is also LinkedFinance.com which is a crowd funding model or Microfinance Ireland which is government money made available to those companies who might be finding it difficult to get funding from elsewhere.
I have also read recently that several Irish companies have secured funding from the UK-based crowd funding organisation CrowdCube.
You should certainly check out their website as there are a number of good Irish case studies. You should also talk to your accountant about tax-efficient ways that family members or friends can invest in your business under current regulations. There is quite an array of funding sources now for a business like yours, especially when it is showing early signs of success. Explore very option and then choose the one that is most suitable for your business need.
Do you have problems with your small business? Email Feargal at email@example.com