Don't blow opportunity of a lifetime with buyer through lack of preparation
Problem Solver: Send your small business questions to email@example.com
Q: I am meeting a buyer of one of the Irish non-food retailers. It could be a huge breakthrough in scaling-up my product, can you give me any advice?
A: It is great to get this opportunity, but you need to be aware that very often these meetings can be a once in a lifetime occurrence.
You may already have waited some time to get this meeting and certainly, if it doesn't go well, you won't be getting another one anytime soon. That means you have to be prepared to a very high level. Start by visiting this retailer's shops so you have a full understanding of how they trade and particularly the dynamics within your product's category. The buyer will expect you to have a deep understanding of this and expect you to be able to make suggestions as to how it could be improved.
As part of this process, you need to identify the gap for your product. There needs to be a compelling reason why the buyer will list your product. Remember, that in order for the buyer to list your product, they will have to delist someone else's.
This is a big deal and no buyer really wants to do it unless there is a compelling reason to do so. Make sure that you understand the commercial demands that will be made by this retailer so that you can have done all your calculations and set aside the required margin expectations, supply chain costs, etc. If necessary, talk to another supplier of this retailer who might be willing to share information.
It is a good idea to prepare a short presentation that lasts no more than five or six minutes. Send it to the buyer in advance of the meeting and let them choose whether they want to read it ahead of time or allow you to present it at the meeting.
Make sure you arrive to the meeting early, bring along product samples and have a plan as to how you will support the product if you succeed in securing a listing. This is a highly competitive space and, as I emphasised in the opening paragraph, you have to be well prepared in order to enhance your chance of success.
Q: I run a medium-sized contract cleaning business servicing mainly offices in Dublin. I am worried about Brexit and wonder what additional steps I should take.
A: Your question is one that every single business is asking right now. The reality is that until the very last moment, it is probable that the outcome is not going to be clear. The government has instigated a series of roadshows around the country with all of the key State agencies involved. They are sharing some practical advice and tips.
The one piece of advice I am giving all businesses is to use Brexit as an opportunity to strengthen your business in general and to some degree anticipate turbulence in the marketplace.
For a business like yours, even if there was a lot of disruption in the market, the impact on your customers could be delayed and it could be a while before any negative impact is felt on services. You should take no chances and plan now a robust and accelerated strategy for 2019. Put workstreams into place to add new business, which would compensate for anything you might lose. Develop a roadmap for profit improvement and set out a series of actions that must be taken to improve the bottom line over the next 12 months.
Look at some form of diversification into a category close to yours. I see many of the contract cleaning companies now provide security services.
In summary, what I am proposing is a complete re-energising of your business which would see it becoming leaner, faster and more focused. Brexit or no Brexit, that can't be a bad thing. We could all sit around with a crystal ball, but the reality is nobody can be sure. However, you can take control of your own destiny and potentially limit the impact of anything that happens in the marketplace.