QUESTION: I’d love to have a go at tendering for public sector contracts, but I don’t know if my company would make the grade. Can your organisation offer any help?
CATRIONA REGAN, operations director of InterTradeIreland, replies:
Yes. InterTradeIreland’s Go-2-Tender programme aims to give SMEs the confidence, knowledge and skills to tender for public sector contracts.
Go-2-Tender offers the reassurance of mentoring support and also attempts, where possible, to bring companies together in joint ventures where scale is required, such as construction.
Many companies make an initial attempt at tendering for public sector contracts and get put off either because they are unfamiliar with the process or because they are not successful with their first attempt.
This programme shows you how to access information on public sector contracts and provides an in-depth explanation of the tendering process.
Most importantly it demonstrates the importance of receiving feedback on submitted tenders without which companies continue to make the same mistakes.
There are often one or two fundamental changes that are the difference between success and failure.
You can bring along a ‘live’ tender to the workshops — or we can try and provide one for you — and there is the option of a half-day’s mentoring to follow.
You will be helped through the process of putting together a response to the tender, receive personal coaching in the skills relating to client contact and critiques of past replies to tenders.
The programme is supported by the two Departments of Finance, Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland and involves a two-day workshop.
The cost is just £99 including VAT, but to be eligible you need to be able to demonstrate a strong commitment to developing cross-border business, dedicated resources to identify and exploit markets in the other part of the island, identifiable cross-border opportunity and the capacity to service new business.
l More information on Go-2-Tender is available from programme manager Jenny Williamson, telephone (028) 3083-4173, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
QUESTION: I have a profitable business that I am considering franchising. Can you give any advice on how to proceed?
MANDY MILLS, business information services manager at Invest NI, replies:
You first need to put together a complete business package, which you will licence to your franchisees.
This should include an operations manual advising on how to set up and run the franchise.
You also need to draw up a contract detailing the level of support you will provide in terms of training, marketing and so on and the fees you will charge.
You then need to market your franchise. For this you should prepare a prospectus which tells potential franchisees what you are offering and what they can expect.
It should include: an explanation of your product or service; what franchise territories you are offering; what the franchise fees are and what financial returns the franchisee might expect.
A good way of marketing your business is through franchising exhibitions.
While franchising can be a very effective way of growing your business, it will take time and effort on your part. You need to assess whether you have the re
sources to develop and market the franchise format, and support your franchisees, while still running your own business.
It’s also important to make sure that you get the right franchisees. They should have the finances needed to invest in the business, and the right management skills and attitude.
A bad franchisee can damage your reputation, hurting all your franchisees and your overall brand.
You can get a lot of information about franchising on the nibusinessinfo.co.uk website and on the British Franchise Association website (www.thebfa.org).
You can also get advice from Invest NI’s Business Information Centre and Enterprise Europe NI team tel: (028) 9069-8135.
QUESTION: I’ve been working on my own since I set up my business but now I need to take on staff. What options do I have?
GRAINNE McCURRY, business improvement services manager replies:
To help you decide the best approach to take, you should first consider why you need to take on staff.
One of the issues you must consider is is it for long-term growth or to handle an increase in workload?
If it is the latter, is the increase temporary or permanent?
Do you need to bring new skills into your business?
Your options include taking on a permanent employee, someone on a fixed term contract, temporary staff provided by an employment agency or a self-employed freelancer.
In all these cases you have the choice of employing the person full-time or part-time.
All these options have pros and cons and present you with varying levels of employer obligations.
For example, if you employ staff directly, whether permanently or on a fixed term contract, you will be responsible for handling tax and employers’ national insurance, you must register as an employer with HM Revenue & Customs (New Employer Helpline 0845 6070143) and you must give your employee a contract of employment.
If you hire staff through an agency your contract will be with the agency and they will handle the payroll relating to the person.
Likewise hiring a self-employed person means you simply pay them as a supplier.
Whichever employment option you choose you must ensure that your working environment meets all health and safety regulations, and that you are properly insured against claims that could be brought by someone working for you.