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Problem Solver: Scaling up a business needs skills and a funding boost to make it work



Senator Feargal Quinn in 2008.Pic Tom Burke

Senator Feargal Quinn in 2008.Pic Tom Burke

Senator Feargal Quinn in 2008.Pic Tom Burke

Q: My business is two years old and demand for my product is strong in the market place. I'm taking steps to scale up the business and was just looking for any additional advice you might have?

A: People sometimes see scaling up as something that involves only the physical aspects of the business, including staff and equipment.

These are important aspects, but there are many other topics which you also need to take care of at this crucial time.

Start with yourself and look at your own ability to cope with this fast-growing business. Do you have all the skills required, and do you need to upskill in some way? Look at those on your management team and see if there are areas of expertise which are weak and consider if you need to bring in external expertise into the business, either in the form of permanent senior staff, or consultants with specialist skills on a temporary basis?

Funding can very often be a challenge at times of scaling up, so you also need to get good advice in this area and have contingency plans in place for this aspect. Once you have completed the scaling up process, one could think that was the end of the process, but in fact your sales process only begins at that stage and you have to look at how robust the sales and marketing functions within your business are, as these areas will now come under intense pressure to fill the new capacity that you have.

Developing prospects lists, having a highly skilled sales and marketing team/person and generally fine-tuning the sales process are all important aspects.

Rewriting your business plan should also be another aspect of your scaling up, as this will give you a roadmap for the next three to five years.

Q: I have started a small catering company for parties and events. I am struggling to get volume and I am looking for advice?

A: I would certainly advise that you talk to your Local Enterprise Office which should be able to assign a mentor to you, or perhaps recommend some programmes such as the 'Start Your Own Business' programme which will give you a deep understanding of the business aspects.

Party catering is very much reliant on referrals from other customers. Many catering companies tell me that every event they do they get at least one new customer from that event.

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Your challenge is getting your business off the ground. To help to get these initial customers you need to inspire them with what you can create for them.

You also need to build a good social media presence on platforms like Facebook or Instagram. Digital media is great in that you can target specific areas and specific consumer types, so do spend a small budget each week to grow your reach there.

Separately, you need to print menus with some great images of the finished food and then start distributing these through your community. Many parties take place in pubs and local halls that don't have their own food facilities, and would be happy to have your menu to give it to those who are booking the venue. Perhaps your local off-licence would also be happy to display your menus and hand them out to perspective customers.

In summary, your phase one priority is going to be all about creating awareness and anything that you can do in your local catchment area.

I met a catering company recently that told me that as part as their targeting of communion and confirmations, each year approximately eight weeks in advance of these events happening, they go up outside the local schools when the parents are collecting kids and give out menus in a discreet and polite manner and engage with any parents. That's a good example of what I'm talking about.

Send your business questions to himself@feargalquinn.ie

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