Wednesday 20 February 2019

Problem Solver: Reduce your client's fears over young company by highlighting experience

Send your small business questions to himself@feargalquinn.ie

Feargal Quinn

Q I am 25 and started a design and printing company last year. While the business is still small-scale, it is successful. I am in negotiations on a mid-sized contract that would be game-changing for my business. I want to understand how to increase my chances of securing this.

A Put yourself into the shoes of the person offering this contract. Think about what they will be looking for and what their concerns might be. This will allow you to position your business accordingly and offer the reassurance required that might not otherwise exist with a new company and a new owner.

With your business comes energy, a fresh approach and enthusiasm. That can also bring with it perceptions of inexperience, inability to cope with volumes and, most importantly, the fear that you will let down the customer through that inexperience.

When you identify possible concerns the client might have, then put steps into place that will neutralise these. An example might be that the client may be concerned that you won't have the experience of a more established company. You could, as part of your pitch, get someone who is retired from the industry and put them on a voluntary advisory board, which is commonplace in many young companies now.

It is also good to legislate for things that might go wrong. If you have an equipment breakdown, what is the contingency plan for this? This might include subcontracting the work in the rare event of that happening.

The other concern might be the financial stability of such a young business. You could take your financial adviser to any meetings you have, so the client gets a clear sense that you are surrounded by an experienced team and the business is well-financed.

As a word of caution, just make sure the business is capable of taking such a large order on board. The last thing you want to do is overstretch things so much out of enthusiasm, and then find that the business can't actually deliver.

I really hope you get this new business. Do let me know how it all ends up.

Q What are your views on the level of support the supermarkets now appear to be giving to Irish producers, which looks like it is at an all-time high?

A There was never a better time to be a food producer in Ireland. All of the retailers are fighting to be the first to support new emerging produces. There are lots of different programmes which involve upskilling and helping the producers to trade more successfully with that retailer.

There is nothing new about this, and Superquinn were the pioneers when most other retailers didn't have a good interest. We genuinely tried to help early-stage producers in the market and worked with them as their journey evolved.

The positive about what has happened in the market place now, with all of the retailers vying to be the champion of new emerging producers, is that there are far more opportunities than there would have been two decades ago. The majority of the food retailers now have systems and supports in place to help emerging food producers.

Can I perhaps throw out a challenge? All of the programmes and supports that are in place are good, but seem to focus on getting the producer onto the shelf. I don't see any programmes offering bursaries or grants. I don't read about any retailers having a 10-day payment system for new emerging producers for the first year. I am not aware of any retailer who has solved the challenging area of distribution for small producers.

In the words of a famous political slogan many years ago: "A lot done - more to do."

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