By Beatrice Whelan, Social Media & Content Specialist at Sage
Ron Immink is a key individual in the Irish business community. He is a business development expert for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, is board advisor to a number of start-ups, a fellow of the Institute of Commercial Management and on the panel of experts in entrepreneurship for the OECD and entrepreneur in residence of the Innovation Academy in University College Dublin. What better person to talk to about business and entrepreneurship in Ireland at the moment.
Hi Ron. You have your finger on the pulse of the Irish small business community, what is the general feeling about Ireland’s Economic Recovery among small businesses, do they feel we have turned a corner?
Yes and no. It really depends on whom you talk to. Retail is tough. Local services is though. Companies with modern business models with an international outlook are doing well. The companies with outdated concepts, focused on the local market are not doing that well. It is not only the recession, the company life cycles are getting shorter (average age of a company is 7 years), technology and global competition are making being and staying in business more and more difficult for everyone.
The good news is that the companies that are currently still standing have become lean and mean fighting machines that are capable of competing in any market. And they should.
What are the main challenges or problems facing small businesses in Ireland today?
Understanding what makes their company unique, finding the niche and grasping and how technology, social media, globalisation and e-commerce are fundamentally changing business models. They need a good grasp of future trends and an international outlook.
I think a more positive tone would make a difference and stop beating ourselves up would help to. It is time to move on. Heard a great quote about the positivity in the USA; America is not a country, it is a mindset. We should adopt the same approach. Ireland is full of potential; our unique mindset, our natural resources (food, waves and wind), our Diaspora, our entrepreneurs and our brand and goodwill as Ireland Inc. On smallbusinesscan we created a thread with reasons to be optimistic about Ireland.
Do you think Ireland is a good place for Entrepreneurs at the moment?
Absolutely. If you look at the entrepreneurial activity with accelerators such as startupbootcamp and dogpatchlab, the very active angel community (the recent angelmeetup had over 150 participants), Paddy’s Websummit, the launch of Sandbox.ie, the active social entrepreneurship community, the Innovation Academy’s plans for student entrepreneurship, Coderdojo, IUEF, leancamp, the feedback from Smartstart, Bizspark about the quality of Irish entrepreneurs, the arrival of Wayra in Ireland, the eco system of progressive USA multinationals, the appointment of an entrepreneur as the head of SFI, Ireland is a very good place for entrepreneurs.
If we would connect all the dots we would have one of the best places to start a business.
What types of small businesses are thriving in Ireland at the moment, is there a particular sector that you see succeeding such as food or IT?
Gaming, food, energy, health, analytics, coding. There are so many big problems that need solving and to quote the new head of the SFI, for the first time scientific discovery is way ahead of the opportunities. And it is not only about the science stuff. Technology is no longer a barrier, but an enabler and most of what you can imagine as an idea is now possible.
You are also CEO at Bookbuzz. Bookbuzz is part of a technology-free slow flow movement – can you explain what that means and tell us more about BookBuzz?
The slow flow is the reference to the use of “old” media such as books and conversation. No technology. No right, no wrong. No e-mails. No phones. No computers. Giving time for debate and discussion. Based on books such as “The Shallows” and “Future Minds” which are passionate please for people to slow down and taking time to think and reflect. Also sits with a lot of the latest thinking on staff engagement and social learning (read “Workplace 2020” or “Employees First, Customers Second”)
In a nutshell Bookbuzz applies book club principles to solving business problems and ensures that the latest business thinking becomes a solid part of your companies DNA and apply the latest thinking to your business.
You don’t have to like books. You don’t have to like reading. We do the loving and reading for you. We pick the book that is relevant, brief you and create a neutral platform to inspire, provoke and develop your team’s thinking and address the business issues. The solutions and ideas come from within the organisation not from a consultant or indeed a book. It is quicker (this sounds counter intuitive but taking some time to discuss and engage pays of off in the longer term), more enjoyable, has higher acceptance levels, is always up to date and results in better execution.
And it engages your staff, saves on training and consultancy, improves your team dynamics, makes real cultural impact and improves your companies survival.
What Book should every small business owner read?
“33 Strategies Of War” , which gives you a comprehensive menu of all the classic strategic options available to you.
“Break From The Pack“, which really hammers the point for constant reinvention and the danger of becoming a commodity.
“Free”; which explains that the ultimate consequence of commoditisation and hyper competition is free (try to build a business model based on that).
“Workplace 2020” which is about future of HR and the growing importance of staff.
“The end of business as usual”, which is about how social media is fundamentally changing the marketplace.
Just started reading “reality is broken” about how gaming is impacting on everything we do.
Trends from the books are the importance of culture, the impact of social media, chaos, future trends, the way we think and how technology will transform everything.
The point is that it is not one book, there are lots of books that business people should read to keep up to date. Bill Lioa is quoted of saying that entrepreneurs that learn have a 7 times higher change of business survival.
I passionately belief that a good book can transform a business.