Thursday 24 October 2019

Problem Solver: Re-examining your approach can help get you back on track

Small Business Advice with Feargal Quinn

Taking stock: It is fully understandable that business-owners hit a difficult patch every now and then
Taking stock: It is fully understandable that business-owners hit a difficult patch every now and then

Q. I am in my 50s and have been running a business for the past 30 years. I find myself lacking motivation and enthusiasm and I am trying to look for new ideas to re-energise myself for 2019. Any thoughts would be welcome.

A. Congratulations on having run the business successfully for the last three decades. That's an accomplishment in itself. It is fully understandable that business-owners hit a difficult patch every now and then. In one sense, you are expected to motivate everyone else - and yet very often there is no one to motivate you.

The good news is that there are certainly things that you can do to increase your motivation levels. There is a relatively new role of life coaches who specialise in working individually with business owners, both in terms of the direction of their business but also, and more importantly, on their personal direction. That is certainly an option to be explored.

I always found it great over the years to travel abroad and to look at others in my own industry. Whether it is attending a conference, or going on a 'busman's holiday' and engaging with some businesses abroad, that can be highly motivational as it can show you what can be achieved.

Another great tip was that when I used to attend conferences overseas, I would befriend as many people from the industry as possible and gather contact details to be followed up at a later stage. Whether it is a follow-up phone call, or indeed a visit to that business, these contacts can be invaluable. Quite honestly any problem that you may encounter, probably has been solved by someone else already.

Also think about attending some third-level courses or programmes. Being thrust into a group of other people and being forced to examine your own business and the way you run it can have a motivating effect.

In all of the courses I have attended over the years I have got partial benefit from the course, but more benefit over the lunch table and through personal contacts with those completing the course with me.

Don't lose hope - we all go through these phases.

Q. I am a strong independent retailer but I am struggling to get sales growth and I feel overwhelmed by sales I am losing to international online retailers and weakening consumer confidence. Should I be trading online, as I have a pretty unique range?

A. You are not alone in these type of comments and we can see even some of the larger retailers struggling with these dilemmas.

The challenge is that the retail landscape is changing rapidly and, in my opinion, there are going to be two outcomes. The physical retailers which continue to deliver an exceptional retail experience will survive and have a strong future. Separately, those who build a strong online presence will also survive. It is the retailers that get caught in the middle who will have no future.

One of the things you have said is that you have a unique or interesting range, which might suggest that venturing online could be a positive thing. If the range of products you have created is not readily available elsewhere, then that could possibly be worth exploring.

Your Local Enterprise Office has a Trading Online voucher scheme which will cover 50pc of the cost of you going online if you are eligible. I also notice Enterprise Ireland has a scheme for larger retailers with significant grants to assist in this area also.

As with all new business decisions, the important thing is that you stand back and take stock of where you are at. Conduct a feasibility study on the online aspect, but also review the physical retail business and see if there is easier potential here to grow and expand this. You have suggested that although you are doing a good job, this physical aspect is coming under pressure and that might be a signal that you need to supplement it with an online presence.

Of course, having an online presence is not as simple as creating a web shop. It needs investment, and a really strong marketing strategy, and you probably won't make any money on it for the first number of years.

Do keep reminding yourself that your unique range is a real asset and that will be the aspect that will help you survive into the future.

Send your small business questions to himself@feargalquinn.ie

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