Belfast Telegraph

Giving businesses a boost to help their expansion

By Lisa McCaul

Small business is both straightforward and complicated - on the one hand there is the pressure to come up with an idea or concept, to work out how to bring that to market, operational challenges to overcome and plenty of thought on how make a product or service attractive to existing and potential customers.

On the other hand it is quite simple - if you have more money going out than you have coming in, your business won't be sustainable for too long. Yet they're obviously linked. So how can businesses strike a balance?

That's where Ulster Bank Boost comes into play. Through events, advice and mentoring, we are aiming to bring in the subject matter experts that will help Northern Ireland business tackle complexity in a frank, honest and concise way - allowing owners and directors to learn and connect without taking too much time away from what they do best.

Recent research we undertook with small businesses across Northern Ireland has provided us with valuable insight into the wants and needs of the sector, who, after all, are going to boost economic growth in the years to come. What I found particularly interesting was the seeming opportunity there is around export.

Many smaller firms aren't yet taking an active part in exporting their products, with just 7% of those surveyed said that they are currently selling outside of the UK and Ireland. Yet technology means that it has never been simpler to have an online presence, reach new markets, or even just to reconnect with suppliers or industry colleagues who might be able to open doors. What might be possible if we could double that figure? Isn't it worth finding out?

Many of the factors that businesses identified in the research as the biggest boosts to their business are macro-issues like tax, political infrastructure or competition in the sector. And while no one organisation can change those factors by themselves, small business can and should become more nimble in their understanding of the rules, regulations and benefits - deploying fresh thinking to tackle existing challenges, rather than necessarily waiting for those challenges to change.

Tom Griffith and Emma Gribben and our other speakers at our official launch at The Mac last week spoke of this issue, as well as outlining the pace at which small businesses need to be able to cope with innovation. Boost provides a head start. We're a future-focused bank that's concentrating on adapting to the needs of our customers and I'm determined that Boost will be a practical, effective way to help them get the ideas and advice that they need to grow and expand sustainably.

  • Lisa McCaul, business growth enabler at Ulster Bank

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