Problem solver: Passion and drive are main factors leading to creation of a successful business
Businessman Feargal Quinn answers your questions
Q: What do you look for when trying to find a successful business?
A: I am fortunate that I meet lots of business people every year, which gives me a great cross-section of the market. Some are early-stage entrepreneurs while others are more established businesses.
There are certainly a number of common factors that seem to accompany those businesses that go on to be successful.
The passion of the business owner is always evident. They are usually people driven by their business idea with a real sense of energy and determination about them, so I guess that's top of my list.
Next is the execution of their idea. Sometimes I come across great products or services with appalling execution and these never make it on the success ladder.
The simple attention to detail, packaging, branding, distribution plans, etc, are all critical factors in determining whether a business will make it or not.
Ability to communicate with your customer base is probably the other critical success factor I look for.
A business owner must be crystal clear themselves on why their idea or product is truly different in the market and then must become an expert at getting that message out to as wide an audience as possible within their targeted consumer segment.
In summary, it's about the person, the professionalism and the marketing.
Q: Are you in favour of using market research companies to provide insight for business direction?
A: Well, I certainly have used market research companies on a number of occasions throughout my career, but very often I find that you can't beat the information you get by taking some "soundings" yourself.
Spend a day engaging with your own customers out in the field, or on the shop floor and you will be a hell of a lot wiser at the end of that day. Your staff are likely to know more things about the business also and it would be wise to have coffee with several groups of staff and get their opinion.
The best source of information I had in Superquinn for promoting new ideas came from having coffee with a group of customers at one of our branches, where we would discuss how the branch could be improved. A simple process with some incredible feedback that inspired new ideas.
Formal market research can be a good tool if you want to get indicators from large groups of consumers. If you stay close to your own customers (and non-customers), you should get a lot of information on the direction the business needs.
Q: I have a really good business idea, which has had lots of interest in the market place. My problem is to get it into full scale production, I need approximately €100,000, which is money I simply don't have. Can you give me any advice?
A: Sometimes this can be the challenge for business entrepreneurs who have a great idea, but not enough funds to get it to market.
There are several routes worth exploring. Have you had a conversation with your local Enterprise Board or indeed Enterprise Ireland if the product has export potential?
You could think about a private investor and what you might consider when doing this is finding an investor who can also bring expertise to the business in the relevant area.
You could even consider taking the very public route of appearing on 'Dragons Den', pictured left, and making a pitch. It would also be a way of generating lots of publicity.
It's also worth approaching your bank as I am hearing more and more examples of business entrepreneurs getting finance from their banks through traditional lending models.
You will almost certainly have to put up some money yourself or you will find it very hard to get anyone else to invest so you do need to think about how that could be raised.
I can't see too many other sources being interested in investing money if you don't match it with some funds of your own, but that will all depend on the strength of your idea.
Q: I am producing a product which has enjoyed success over the last two years. I am actively considering outsourcing the production to a third party. Do you think this is a smart move?
A: It is great to hear that things are going well in these early years of the business. Many business owners I meet fail to recognise that it is highly unlikely they will be good at everything.
So, start by looking at all the key functions within the business and ask yourself the question: "Where do I and my team really excel?"
Is it the production process, the marketing and branding, the PR and public face of the business, the sales process, the financial aspects, etc?
Don't be surprised if either you don't have time to cover them all, or there are a number of functions that you excel at and others at which you are really not world class.
This exercise should help point you in the direction of outsourcing or not. Clearly, if outsourcing the product means it can be produced cheaper and more efficiently, at the same standard you specify, then that is worth considering.
But there are safeguards you need to put in place if you are outsourcing a product, like confidentiality agreements, non-compete contracts and other steps to protect your product and brand.
The key question for you to ask in this process is "Where are you, as owner, adding value to the business?" If that is not producing the product, then it sounds like you are on the right track, just make sure you put suitable safeguards into place.