I am so busy with meetings I can't seem to progress my business
Problem Solver with Feargal Quinn
Q: I produce a product that is targeted at both retailers and the food service sector. I am spending all of my time meeting chefs and store managers as well as buyers from head offices and yet I don't seem to be making progress. I have unlimited production capacity but seem to have lost my way a little bit.
A: The one word missing from your email is 'distributor'. You seem to be trying to do everything yourself. And of course this is always the challenge with an early-stage business in that you don't have enough resources to take on extra staff but yet by not having the extra staff you are holding the business back because you are limited by your own resources. I would recommend a number of changes. Instead of trying to supply 100pc of the market yourself, perhaps decide on working with distributors either for certain geographical regions, or channels. Look at all of the distributors servicing these areas, ask questions in the marketplace as to who is best and form a partnership with at least one who would take a sizeable chunk of the business development role from you.
Your role then has to change from being the one doing the direct selling, to the person who manages the distributor. Set targets for your distributor, attend key account meetings together and have a formal structured meeting with them every eight to 10 weeks so as to review progress.
You haven't mentioned the resources of agencies, such as Bord Bia, who may have a role in helping you. While they can't go out and represent you at meetings, they certainly have a wealth of resources you should be tapping into and in some cases with their Marketing Fellowship Scheme you can have a portion of time from a graduate in your chosen export market allocated to your business. This would be a great resource and it would help you to build up a clear picture of new markets and key customers.
Also, I recommend you prioritise the main aspects of new business first.
Finally, consider some of the great internship schemes that are now operating in the marketplace and get someone else to back you up on day-to-day issues.
Do you have a problem with your small business? Email Feargal at firstname.lastname@example.org