Category Archives: Business

Success Grade with Tutor

“We used to give grinds to other students while we were in college,” says Orla, explaining how the idea for their first business venture came about. “Sean graduated before me and found that he was inundated with requests for grinds. At first, he taught the students himself,” she explains, “but after a while he started hiring other tutors to do the work and taking a cut of their earnings.” It was at this point that the two came together and decided that this had the basis of a good business idea.

Taking the leap

Leaving their business consulting positions, they approached the student union bodies in Trinity College, University College Dublin and Dublin City University with the idea. They all agreed to partner with Orla and Sean and provide a service offering grinds to students in need. “It’s often the case that a certain percentage of students in one class need one-on-one attention from a tutor and it can’t be provided,” explains Orla. “Most lecturers are aware of this and happy for students to take grinds as a result. And that’s where we come in.”

The company launched last year, and since then Sean and Orla have branched out into providing grinds for Junior and Leaving Certificate students due to demand. “We decided that we’d set up a separate site for school grinds and started a new company called TutorHQ,” explains Orla. “It officially launched last September and has been doing incredibly well since.”

A unique offering

Challenges the business initially faced included the recruitment of tutors, not only in Dublin but in other parts of the country like Limerick, Cork and Galway. It’s also been a challenge to make students aware of the service and most of their marketing has concentrated on online ads. “Our ultimate aim is to provide a tutor for students, no matter where they are in the country,” Orla says. “But we also have to make students aware that we exist.”

At the moment, the company’s main competitors are grind schools. However, TutorHQ differs in that it offers one-on-one tutoring in the student’s own home. All tutors are vetted by the company and Orla stresses that they only take on those with a Leaving Certificate ‘A’ in the subject or a qualified teacher. What’s more, many of the grind schools do not allow online booking.

“We make it really easy for people to find the very best tutors in a short period of time wherever they are in the country,” adds Orla. “We’re like no other grind school. Our service is unique.”

Two months after it launched, TutorHQ already has over 700 tutors located throughout Ireland. What’s more, it’s being used by hundreds of students. Orla and Sean have now set their sights on the UK and are hoping to expand their business there soon.

Tools to help Start-ups succeed

“We couldn’t have done it so far without the help of AIB,” explains Orla. “Their support and MyBusinessToolkit have been invaluable.”
Out of the five tools in MyBusinessToolkit, the account management tool Sage has proved the most useful to Orla. “It allowed me to see exactly how I was spending money,” she says. She also found Receipt Bank useful. “It’s much easier than filing receipts, in particular when you’re dealing with a lot of them,” she says. “I would highly recommend MyBusinessToolkit for anyone starting a new business. It has been a major factor in our success so far.”

Limited Company Compliant

One of your main priorities as a business owner is to oversee your company’s accounting and tax obligations. A good Accountant is worth their weight in gold, and can take a huge burden off your shoulders. They can take care of your company’s annual returns, payroll, VAT returns, CT returns and statutory annual accounts. It is vital that you choose a dependable Accountant to carry out these tasks as mistakes can be costly.

 

Ensure your company secretary is capable and keep your statutory registers up to date

By law, every Irish company is required to appoint a company secretary. The main duties of a company secretary are to ensure that the company complies with the law, manage the company’s daily administration and any additional duties that company directors may delegate. Whilst there is no qualification requirement for this role, it is important that your company secretary possesses the skillset and knowledge required to keep your company compliant.

The secretary will generally maintain the statutory company registers, which are required to be maintained under the Companies Act. The statutory registers include the register of directors and secretary, members, beneficial owners, transfers, directors and secretary’s interests and debenture holders.

 

Know your dates and put your company on a ‘watch list’

Once your company has been incorporated, it is good practice to add your company to a ‘watch list’.  A watch list will remind you via email that your company’s Annual Return Date is approaching and it will alert you should any changes be made to the company at the Companies Registration Office. Core.ie provides this service free of charge once you register with them.

 

Understand your role as a director

Company directors’ have a wide range of responsibilities which can be quite diverse. Company directors have to comply with the Companies Act 2014 and have duties under Common law. If a director is found to have breached company law, he or she can be liable to penalties that can range from a fine up to €500,000 or a maximum jail sentence of 10 years. There are different categories of offences ranging from 1-4 under the Companies Act.

To avoid such circumstances, company directors should become familiar with the responsibilities and duties of the role. Information can be found on both the CRO and ODCE websites.

 

Know the requirements for company letterheads and websites

One requirement that often gets overlooked is the requirement for Limited companies to list their full legal title on company letterheads. This includes the company name, company number and registered office address. As well as this, the company directors must also be listed by name in the footer. Both forename and surname must be included and the nationality in brackets beside any director who is in not Irish.

Company websites are another location where a company’s details must be displayed. This includes the company name, number and place of registration. This must be located on the website’s homepage or must be on an alternative web page that is to linked to from the homepage which is easily accessible.

If you have a database of customers or potential customers, it is important that you are aware of your requirements under Data Protection legislation.

 

Keep minutes of meetings and have an AGM

Keeping minutes of directors’ meetings is a requirement under the Companies Act and is prudent to ensure key decisions and matters are noted and dealt with. The Annual General Meeting (AGM) is a meeting of shareholders (and directors) of a company where they have the opportunity to ask questions and get information about the company. Whilst this is no longer a legal requirement for most companies, it is a good idea to ensure this takes place. It is usually the duty of the secretary to call the AGM and give 21 days’ notice to the members.

Season for Sprouts

When it comes to sprouts, the Weldon brothers have a lot of pedigree. They’ve been growing them for decades. “The farm has been in the family for around four generations,” Anthony says. “It was traditionally vegetable and cereal growing, but it’s only in the last few decades we decided to concentrate on sprouts specifically.”

“They’re obviously originally from Brussels, but sprouts would have been grown in Ireland from the early part of the last century,” he explains. “My grandfather grew them and he was a young man in the 1916 Rising.”

Brussels sprouts will certainly be making an appearance in the Weldons’ Christmas spread. “I would eat them three times a week,” Anthony says. “The traditional way is to cook the sprouts in the same way as bacon and cabbage, with the sprouts done in the bacon water.”

And younger generations are finding new ways to spice up the sprout with creative cookery. “Just yesterday, my nephew made up a sprout salad with maple syrup and beetroot and it was absolutely delicious,” Enda explains. “Everyone was filling their plates.”

Along with daring new recipes, modern growing techniques and varieties have contributed to a serious uptake in the humble sprout’s reputation. “We plant them a lot earlier than we did traditionally, and we grow them now on a slower regime,” Enda explains. “That way, they use all the natural trace elements that are in the ground.”

“The varieties we have now are a lot sweeter,” Anthony says. “I think that’s what put people off them years ago. They were used as a threat, ‘We’ll give you sprouts if you don’t behave yourself!’ but I think that’s changing now. Thankfully for us,” he laughs.

Preparing for the Christmas Rush

December is definitely the busiest season for the Weldons – with around 50% of their production geared towards the Christmas rush. “The actual volumes that go through in Christmas week are easily twenty times what goes through in a normal week,” Anthony says. “In a normal week, one harvesting machine will suffice but on Christmas week, we need three.”

“We’re coming into the mad season now,” Enda says. “It’s very different from normal operations during the year because we have to take on a lot more people and train them. And we put the show in operation ‘round the clock for about 8 or 9 days. We harvest, size grade, quality grade, pack, and deliver all within around 24 hours. You have to be able to get it done when the crunch comes at Christmas.”

A Unique Challenge

And the sprout itself is a tricky customer, as Anthony explains, “It’s probably the most difficult brassica (plants belonging to the mustard family) to grow. The sprouts themselves are fully exposed to the elements at all times. “

This year, a lack of sunlight during the summer has contributed to a sprout shortage across Europe. “We had a reasonably good growing summer,” Anthony explains, “but because we had a lack of sunshine, the crops have tended to grow higher to (reach the) light this year. And as a result, we’ve had a smaller sprout size.”

Security Breaches

Similar to any other risks that a business may face, when seeking to prevent cybersecurity breaches, the first step should include quantifying the risk. In the cybersecurity context, this will include identifying certain elements of a business’s system that are particularly exposed. This will range from the vulnerability of the company’s online web presence to the possibility of physical access (on-site) to a networked platform. Risk assessments should be carried out on a regular basis so that new threats can be identified and the business remains aware of current trends in cyber threats.

 

Software Security Measures. Having identified areas of risk, tailored security measures should be put in place to address these concerns. The company’s IT environment should include effective firewalls and antivirus software to deal with threats. It should also ensure that software used in the business is kept up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates.

On-Site Security Measures. The most effective software solutions will often be rendered useless where a breach of cybersecurity occurs through a breach of the company’s system from within. Sensitive computer systems should include effective access control restrictions, server rooms should be secured at all times and disposal of IT equipment should be handled securely by competent staff.

 

Service Providers. A cybersecurity breach in a third party, providing services to a business can be just as damaging as a breach in the business itself. Unfortunately, the business is likely to have even less control in this scenario; therefore, it is essential that all relevant contracts clearly delineate responsibility between the parties. On the occurrence of a cybersecurity breach, when time is critical, protracted negotiations on liability should always be avoided. Contracts with software providers should also be reviewed to ensure that maintenance services and bug patches apply to earlier versions of the software that may still be in use, and that any software updates are made available to the company on release.

Testing. One of the best ways to reduce the risk of a cybersecurity breach is to undergo testing, such as system penetration testing. Companies can avail of a range of tools from cybersecurity providers that will simulate an attempted system intrusion or a widespread DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack.

 

Company Policies and Training. Putting in place effective policies to handle cybersecurity breaches is essential in mitigating the risk of a breach. This may include a specific cybersecurity policy, as part of a comprehensive IT policy. However, even the best policies are useless if staff are unaware of the content of policies or how they should operate in practice. Educating staff on potential threats and how to report them up the chain can be vital in the early detection and response to a cybersecurity breach.

The Lens of a Dedicated Follower

“Most days I’m so busy that the phone is constantly ringing,” he says. “It’s hard work but I’m not complaining.” Although he has long had a love of photography and always showed an artistic flair, Evan studied Sound Engineering after school. He soon found it was not for him and left after a few months to take up a role as an assistant chef working on Irish Ferries. It was only when he was made redundant in 2011 that he decided to study photography.

A Change of Direction

“Taking pictures was always a hobby for me. It never occurred to me to try to make a living from it,” he says. “But when my friend’s mother suggested that I do a year-long course in photography at Marino College of Further Education, I decided to give it a go. After that, I did work experience with fashion photographer Barry McCall.”

Evan was then offered a place on a fine art photography course in Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology. Although it was a four-year course, Evan found he was being offered work with top clients after just two years and decided to leave. He hasn’t looked back since.

 

Learning on the Job

“I threw myself into it head first,” he laughs. “And in many ways, I learnt on the job. It helped that it was around the time of the changeover to digital from analogue photography.”

However, he emphasises that it’s not just the ability to take a good photograph that makes a good photography business. “You have to have people skills too,” he says. “And be good at marketing yourself. Of course, there is all the admin to manage too. It may sound glamorous – and believe me, it is at times. I travel all the time, work with celebrities and shoot in exotic locations. But it is a lot of hard work and you’ve got to have a good work ethic.”

 

Getting the House in Order

That’s where AIB’s MyBusinessToolkit came into play. Evan discovered the service when he opened a business account with AIB last year and has found it an invaluable tool ever since. “My accountant used to laugh at my accounts,” he says. “Realistically, it’s hard to keep track of finances when you are working all day on the job and you’re tired in the evenings.”

“What’s more, in the first couple of years I had to spend money to update my equipment on a regular basis. I needed a good computer and hired a studio on George’s Street. I used to just spend without thinking about what money was coming into my account, and I used a personal account for business so I mixed the two.”

Conquering the Summits Of Academy

The AIB Start-up Academy is a joint venture between AIB and The Irish Times to help Irish Start-ups succeed by providing quality training from industry experts and excellent networking opportunities. The overall winner of the Academy takes home the top prize, which is worth €200,000.

The eight-week Academy programme is an intensive learning experience, where our candidates will be exposed to practical information in marketing, sales and negotiation, digital and much more. Advice from industry experts and guest speakers with vast entrepreneurial experience ensure that participants are given the best support available for their business.

Trying to get your Start-up off the ground?

Even if you’re not taking part in this year’s competition, there are loads of ways to get involved and help your Start-up. We’re hosting AIB Start-up Academy Summits across the country with free tools and support to help entrepreneurs bring their business to the next level. The Summit offerings range from practical business advice to free professional headshots.

We’ve teamed up with partners Google, Grant Thornton and BCSG with MyBusinessToolkit to offer a host of tips and tools that have all been designed specifically to help Start-ups in attendance. As well as our partner speakers offering best-in-class advice at the Summits, we’ll also have topical panel discussions with well-known industry experts.

The economic viability of your business venture

Here are some reasons not to skip this valuable tool and roadmap:

  • It will define and focus your objective, using appropriate information and analysis.
  • You can use it as a selling tool with lenders, investors, landlords and banks.
  • Your business plan can uncover omissions and/or weaknesses in your planning process.
  • You can use the plan to solicit opinions and advice.

 

Here is a checklist to help you get started:

  1. Write out your basic business concept.
  2. Gather all the data you can on the feasibility and specifics of your business.
  3. Focus and refine your concept.
  4. Outline the specifics using a “what, where, why, how” approach.
  5. Put your plan into a compelling format

Suggested topics you can tailor into your plan:

A Vision Statement: This will be a concise outline of your purpose and goal

The People: Focus on how your experiences will be applicable. Prepare a resume of yourself and each of your key people.

Your Business Profile: Describe exactly how you plan to go about your intended business. Stay focused on the specialized market you intend to serve.

Economic Assessment: Provide an assessment of the competition you can expect in your business.

Cash Flow Assessment: Include a one-year cash flow projection that will incorporate all your capital requirements. Try our cash flow planner to get started this year.