Monthly Archives: September 2017

Start up Business with Lisa Hughes

As a business coach with over two decades of experience and a mentor with the AIB Start-up Academy, Lisa Hughes knows what it takes to make a successful start-up.

We spoke to her to find out how finding your Unique Selling Proposition or USP can make a serious difference to your business.

Get an Outside Perspective

As an entrepreneur herself, Lisa cautions that it’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of running your business and lose sight of what truly makes your product unique. “You can’t see a building in its entirety when you’re inside the building,” she explains. “And when you’re an entrepreneur, who’s living and breathing your business every day, you can easily lose perspective on it. What ends up happening is that the business owner is not looking at the product from their customers’ perspective. They’re looking at it from the inside out.”

“We are all here to serve our customers, to take people’s pain away or add value,” she continues. “Until we get that message baked into our thinking, then sometimes it’s going to feel like we’re pushing a rock up a hill because we’re selling something that perhaps we don’t necessarily want or need. Ultimately, your USP is what your customers value. Not what you value.”

Learn From Customer Behaviour

Know your customer is a familiar business mantra, but finding your USP can require a more wide-ranging approach than traditional market research. “Sometimes if you ask a customer what they like about your product, they will tell you things that they think you want to hear,” Lisa says. “But ultimately, it’s their buying behaviour that tells you what they really do value. Lynne Twist always says, “Look at your chequebook”. Where you send your money is what you really value.”

“If we take the example of Kiki Moon from this year’s Start-up Academy,” she explains. “Keelin had developed this beautiful baby blanket, but what happened is that people started asking if she had it in a bigger size. It completely changed her view from ‘this is a baby product’ into ‘this is a product that everyone can enjoy’. And all of a sudden she had all kinds of market segments opening up.”

While Lisa doesn’t discount the value of market research, she cautions that a holistic approach to examining customer behaviour can pay greater dividends. “Listening to your customers for unprompted things is probably going to give you greater insights,” she says. “If you’re asking your customers specific questions you already have an agenda. Whereas listening to the online conversation around your product can really help you to understand what people really want from it because they will discuss it more naturally.”

 

Things to Consider for the Perfect Business

Finding the right premises can be one of the most difficult tasks for any entrepreneur or business owner. But with some careful planning and preparation, you can take a lot of the stress out of the search. Read on for five things to consider when choosing your business premises.

Size Matters

When considering the size of your premises, it’s usually best to start small. Try to find somewhere that is adequate for your needs right now but that gives you the flexibility to expand depending on your business growth over the next few years. This is preferable to choosing rather larger premises which could prove unwieldy and expensive to run right now. One option to consider is a shared office space. An increasingly popular option for entrepreneurs and small businesses, this could entail you renting a space specifically designed for sharing or coming to an arrangement with another small business to split the costs of a property. Renting a hot desk is another great option when you’re starting out. There are plenty of hot desk spaces around Ireland – including the AIB-backed Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen and PorterShed in Galway.

Location, Location, Location

Your business’s location is important for many reasons and can vary greatly depending on the type of company you run. For example, if you’re a retail business then you’ll need a location with a high degree of customer footfall. But if you’re not customer-facing then you may be able to locate your business in a quieter and less expensive area. You’ll also need to consider your employees. An area that is too remote or lacks adequate transportation links will have difficulty attracting and retaining staff – which could have a long-term impact on your company’s potential for growth. Finally, image is another concern. Consider how the surrounding area will impact on your appeal to customers, clients and potential investors.

Undoubtedly the biggest concern when it comes to choosing your premises will be the financial costs. Firstly, you’ll need to decide whether to rent or buy. Renting is an attractive option if you’re just starting out, as it won’t require a heavy initial outlay. However, if you’re intending to stay in the same location for some time renting may not be the best choice over the long term. And don’t forget, your rent or mortgage will not be the only cost associated with the property – you’ll also need to consider your various overhead costs – including stamp duty, insurance, security and utilities. Before committing to a lease, make you’re completely happy with the terms on offer – including the length of term, statutory rights, and the presence of a break clause.

Legal Obligations

Before committing to any property, you’ll need to assess your legal obligations. This may include gaining planning permission to allow the premises to be used for your particular type of business, and ensuring your building or office complies with health and safety and fire regulations. If your business is open to the public, you will also need to take steps to make your facilities accessible to disabled people. And you’ll also need to consider noise restrictions – in certain areas deliveries or manufacturing activity may only be allowed between specific times – as well as making provision for adequate waste disposal.

Starting the Search

When you’ve decided on the characteristics of your ideal property or space it can be helpful to create a list that clearly outlines your requirements. When writing this specification document, make sure to distinguish between “need-to-haves” and “nice-to-haves” which will give you some flexibility in your search. You can then provide an estate agent acting on your behalf with the spec sheet, which will allow them to provide you with a list of properties that meet your needs. Make sure to check in with the local council or enterprise board too – there may be grants or incentive schemes available in certain areas that you can take advantage of.