Tuesday 20 March 2018

Problem solver: Go for more business in Britain, not less

Feargal Quinn
Feargal Quinn

Feargal Quinn

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?

A: Definitely not! From the additional information you have provided in your email, you make it quite clear that your product is unique and well valued by your UK customers. You are currently pricing the product in sterling and sometimes quoting prices 12 months ahead of time and I will address these further down.

I would suggest you adopt a number of different strategies. First of all, visualise your Ireland and UK business as a seesaw. Right now you need to add additional business to the Irish side so that the seesaw balances in favour of Ireland - so you end up doing more business in euro currency. Are there new customers you can secure in Ireland? Is there more product you can sell to your existing customers?

Next, you need to review your UK pricing model and take into account the sterling changes. Your customers already know that the currency has altered and it will be no surprise that you will be adjusting prices. I am not going to fool you and tell you it will be easy to get price increases but you need to start the process. If they value your product and clearly they do, and there are few competitors doing what you are doing, you stand a good chance of getting this price increase through.

From now on, any prices you quote cannot be guaranteed for longer than three months if your UK customers want these prices to be given in sterling. You can of course quote euro and let the customer take the risk on currency changes.

Perhaps I could even be so bold to suggest that there might be new business you could secure in the UK once your pricing model has been adjusted.

You seem to be in a privileged position in that you have a unique product that is sought after in that market. I would be advocating that you seek more UK business just try and keep the balance in favour of euro business transactions.

Q: My husband and I run a business together. We also have a young family and find that the pressure is getting very intense and sometimes appears to be a 24/7 cycle. Is there a magic solution?

A: What you are describing is relatively commonplace and I have met several business owners in the last year who are in the same place as you.

The biggest challenge in this situation is usually to separate work from business. If business conversations continue over the dinner table when relaxing with the family, while well-intentioned, this can wear people down.

The first thing you need to do, if not already in place, is to hold a structured weekly management meeting within business hours. This meeting should have structure, an agenda and action points arising from it. Once you run this for a while you will find it an invaluable energy-booster for the business and it will cut out the need for late evening conversations as you will have given the business the structure that it requires to move forward.

Another thing worth considering is the issue of resources. You both seem to be under a lot of pressure. Assuming the business is performing reasonably well, has the point come where you need to bring in some additional help either on the home front or perhaps on an administration backup role within the business?

It doesn't have to be a full-time resource but rather somebody who will take the surplus workload and allow you both to step the pace back a little. Sometimes when the pace gets this crazy you have to look at alternative solutions and while investment in the short-term might cause some financial pain, the benefits it will bring will be enormous.

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