As we put a difficult 2020 behind us and enter a new year, it’s time for small business owners to take stock of where they are, what issues they still face and to make plans to move forward, explains Margaret Hearty, Director of Business Services at InterTradeIreland, as she discusses the top New Year's Resolutions for business success this coming year.
Whether it is dealing with Brexit, being more innovative, raising finance or looking to new markets, InterTradeIreland has a wide range of supports available to help your business get back on track and look to the future. Here are some areas that you may wish to focus on in 2021.
1. Dealing with the post-Brexit trading environment
The Brexit transition period has finally come to a close as the UK exits the EU internal market and customs union with a new trading relationship. While the deal means that no tariffs or quotas will be introduced, the UK will no longer be following the EU’s rules on product standards – so businesses will need to get used to new checks. As part of the Northern Ireland (NI) protocol, NI will stay within the EU’s single market for goods and adhere to EU custom rules.
For business owners who are still unsure of what action they need to take, our dedicated Brexit advisory team has all the key information and advice that companies will need post-deal. In addition we can also help with funding via our Brexit Voucher. Visit our Brexit 2020 website for the latest information and any advice you’ll need on the new trading relationship.
2. Adapt to the ‘new normal’
Covid-19 wreaked havoc on all our lives in 2020, the impact of which means that the world of business may never truly be the same again.
Many firms have been able to adapt their business models to survive and are managing to cope despite the challenges the pandemic brought with it. One way that your business can adapt is through innovation, whether it’s going digital, evaluating your business standard or adapting your company to the ‘new normal’.
If you’re interested in driving your business forward but you’re not sure where to start, InterTradeIreland has developed a series of Innovation and Business Resilience webinars. We’re also offering funding for professional advice to the value of £2,000/€2,250 inc VAT through our Emergency Business Solutions programme. It’s available to cross-border companies to help address the key business challenges related to Covid-19.
3. Growing your online presence
Although Covid-19 brought huge challenges for businesses, online sales have grown exponentially during the pandemic and are bound to continue growing over the next few years.
If you are looking to future proof your business we urge you to take their products and services online if you have not already. For those companies who are already online, it is worth business owners thinking about how to grow their online presence.
InterTradeIreland’s E-Merge programme can offer funded support to develop online sales, marketing and even e–commerce solutions.
4. Raising Finances
It goes without saying that 2020 has been a financially tough year for a lot of companies, and many business owners may now find themselves looking to raise finance to grow their business. Even during these uncertain times investors are out there, and searching for opportunities.
If raising finances is one of your main goals for 2021 then we recommend taking the time to perfect your business plan. After all, you’ll need to show investors what makes your business different and why they should play a part in your success.
At InterTradeIreland our Funding for Growth team can help by assisting you with the required knowledge and skills to secure key sources of finance to grow your business. We also offer early stage companies a range of services such as masterclasses, business workshops and 1-to-1 equity advise to get ‘investor ready’.
5. Increase sales through cross-border trade
A new year brings with it new opportunities and some companies may be looking for ways to increase sales and grow their business. Exporting is one option to consider. Our research shows that businesses who take part in cross-border trade are more productive, create more jobs and have a higher turnover.
In fact, InterTradeIreland’s latest Business Monitor shows that businesses who trade across the border have weathered the storm of the pandemic better than their non-exporting counterparts.
Even in a post-Brexit era, the cross-border market can hold many advantages for businesses across the island. InterTradeIreland has a range of sales and marketing supports to help firms start to develop their cross-border journey, including our Trade Accelerator Voucher, for those businesses at the early stage of assessing the potential of developing a cross-border business plan; business funding through our Acumen and Elevate programmes and our Go-2-Tender programme, which offers free practical online workshops, providing companies with useful advice and tips on how to put together a winning tender proposal, giving firms the edge over the competition.
6. Invest in Innovation
The legacy of Covid-19 on the way we work and live will only become clear once we've moved beyond the grip of the pandemic. However, one thing is certain, businesses that innovate will do better than those that don't.
Companies open to change and doing things differently are always more likely to expand and grow. If you’re interested in driving your business forward but you’re not sure where to start, specialist support can bring added conﬁdence to this process. Not only can this make innovation more effective, but it means you can convert knowledge into commercial reality and increased turnover.
We realise that innovation and product development can often require external skills and technology – a limited resource for small companies – but there is help available. InterTradeIreland has a number of support structures in place for business innovation and growth including our FUSION Programme, which can provide financial support for the specialist expertise you need, with available funding currently up to £56,000/€67,900 available for eligible companies.
Find out more about our innovation supports here.
2021 will bring with it the challenges of a post-Brexit trading environment and the lingering impact of the Covid-19 pandemic but it will also bring opportunities for businesses. So why not take a leap of faith and explore new markets, look for innovative ways of developing products and processes and ultimately take your business to the next level with a little help from InterTradeIreland.