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Community matters

Small businesses play a key role in their local community. The good news for these businesses is that there are many ways in which they can establish and maintain good relationships with their neighbours.

One of the most commonly-used phrases of the last 18 months has been ‘we are all in this together’. Encouraging people to think as a community rather than a bunch of individuals is a proven strategy for promoting positive behaviour.

The same principle can be applied to business. Small enterprises are rightly encouraged to think big and look beyond their local market for opportunities, but in many cases success depends on generating loyalty and goodwill over a much smaller area.

Take an interest

Small business owners were networking long before the commercial value of personal relationships was recognised by management consultants. If you have taken the time to get to know other businesses in your area, you have a much better chance of gaining their custom.

It can be hard to find the time to keep in touch with other businesses, but it is worth the effort. Otherwise you might find yourself down the list when they are looking for someone to provide the product or service you sell, so make sure you return calls.

One of the best ways to develop local business relationships is to take an interest in other enterprises, even if it is not immediately obvious how they could become a customer or supplier. Entrepreneurs who are only interested in talking about themselves will make a far less positive impression than someone who seems to be genuinely interested in what other businesses in their area are doing.

Where to start?

There are many ways of meeting larger groups of local businesses even if you don’t have access to chamber of commerce or other business group events. Charity events are an obvious example.

We have spoken before about the merits of sponsoring local events or sports teams. The sums involved don’t need to be sizeable and there might even be options for showing support that don’t involve a financial contribution, such as allowing community enterprises to piggyback on your marketing activity.

A longer term approach might be to support local not for profit organisations as this will have an impact over a longer period of time and potentially reach a wider audience. Many voluntary organisations have seen their funding fall since the start of the pandemic and would welcome the help.

More than Money

The financial rewards of better relations with neighbouring businesses and customers will be obvious to users of cloud based accounting packages such as Big Red Cloud in the form of higher revenue or more repeat business.

But there is also an intangible benefit to being part of a strong community that might only become evident in the toughest times. When disaster strikes in the form of fire or flood, for example, being able to mobilise local support could make the difference between survival and failure.

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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