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We'll make future bright f or small firms so vital to our economy

THE Taoiseach recently officially launched the fifth Better Business Show which is taking place across Ireland until May 10.

The Better Business Show is presented by the Small Firms Association (SFA) in partnership with a number of Ireland's market leading companies, including eircom.

Over the years, the shows have been a phenomenal success, with more than 17,000 small businesses having attended previous events.

This year, the show is providing 'bright ideas' to SMEs to help them sustain and grow their businesses.

The idea is to enable small businesses to network effectively, meet experts, get up-to-date information, advice and assistance and is a concrete example of industry assisting and promoting small business across Ireland. Most people aren't aware that small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the Irish economy, with almost 200,000 small firms in the country and 12,000 new businesses being set up every year, despite the challenging economic climate.

Employing more than half of the entire private sector workforce, with more than half a million people (655,000 to be precise), SMEs are having a tough time in the current climate and are having to do a lot more with a lot less.

They have to manage costs very carefully; deal with increased competition; manage finance and keep up with technology to drive their productivity and performance -- in many ways it's not for the faint-hearted.

The Better Business Show provides, free of charge, advice and assistance to these small businesses across a range of issues.



Dedicated

And Eircom is part of the initiative because, as Ireland's largest telecommunications provider, we provide fixed broadband and mobile services to these companies.

We know that they prefer to have all these needs met from a single provider with dedicated support and advice and we also know, from talking to our customers, that they don't want high-level platitudes. They want practical help in running and growing their business, to help them to deliver relevant, straightforward and cost- effective communications to their customers.

Most people have heard buzz words like 'cloud computing' and 'search engine optimisation'.

In reality, what exercises most small business owners is how to get their business online in a way that can actually result in sales.

The shocking statistic is that 40pc of Irish SMEs don't even have a company website.

I say shocking because of the fact that businesses online have a huge advantage in attracting consumers, who may not otherwise even know their company exists.

In addition, an overwhelming majority of small companies in Ireland have an information-only website, but don't sell online.



GOAL



They're unaware that moving to an e-commerce site opens up a whole new world of sales for them -- and is not as difficult as they might think.

Our goal is to help them with the basics.

Creating an online presence is easy, but they also need to register the website name (their domain name), pick a hosting partner and drive traffic through their site.

At the end of the day, what good is a great website, if no-one can find you online?

People are increasingly accessing the internet on the move, so your site must be accessible to customers and potential customers from their smart phones and tablets.

Over the next couple of weeks, the Better Business show will be travelling the country, providing practical ideas, all easily implementable and all very hands on, log on to www.betterbusiness.ie for more information. Isn't that what small businesses want?

Carolan Lennon is chief marketing officer at eircom


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