Question: With the business climate deteriorating, I want to ensure that I am running my business to optimum efficiency. Have you any advice?
Adrian Gundy, senior executive for innovation, Centre for Competitiveness (CforC), replies:
In the current economic climate, innovation is more important than ever as it can result in significant efficiency gains as well as new markets and new revenue streams. There is the temptation in a difficult business environment to cut spending on innovation. However, this is often counterproductive. Innovation means finding new and better ways of doing things to support business improvement and growth. A process of ongoing, planned innovation is vital.
Know your own business. The first step to becoming more innovative is to gain a picture of your current business performance in order to understand your strengths and weaknesses. This will allow you to prioritise the areas of your business on which your efforts should be focused.
There are a number of ways of benchmarking your business performance. The most widely used business improvement and planning tool in Europe is the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Excellence Model. Thousands of businesses across Europe use the EFQM Excellence Model to continually monitor and improve their business in a planned and strategic way. The benefits of using the tool are well accepted and I would encourage businesses of all shapes and sizes to take advantage of its potential.
Know your business environment. It is also vital that you scan the business landscape for innovation opportunities — know your marketplace, know your customers and continually monitor both. If you know your customers and the marketplace better than your competitors, the likelihood is that you will become aware of opportunities to develop new products or services, or to expand your products or services before they do. Create an innovation culture.
It is those businesses that develop innovation policies and strategies and integrate them into their organisation's strategy that become the most innovative. They then empower and educate their people so that innovation becomes second nature.
Question: I need to pull together a comprehensive and detailed business plan which will persuade investors that my company is a good bet. Help!
Liam Nellis, chief executive with InterTradeIreland, replies:
The business plan is the most important document for a company seeking to attract investment. It should demonstrate what the business opportunity is, the amount of funds required to deliver the business plan, and a management team capable of implementing it.
Investors read numerous business plans from a wide range of sources so their first impression of your business plan will determine whether they take their interest any further.
The Business Cube (a business planning guide which InterTradeIreland has recently licensed) reveals how to put together an attractive plan for potential investors.
It is a simple, intuitive tool which outlines the key information components investors look for.
You can access the Business Cube on www.seedcorncompetition.com . The Seedcorn Business Competition, run under the EquityNetwork programme, can help young, high growth enterprises get investor ready. Why not check out the website to see if it would benefit your company?
EquityNetwork also offers a free and independent expert equity advisory service by providing relevant signposting and practical advice and assistance, including masterclasses on making the best pitch to a VC or a Business Angel, networking events and a one-to-one advisory service.
For more information on how InterTradeIreland's range of programmes, publications and advisory support can help your business, click on www.intertradeireland.com or tel 028 3083 4100.