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Touted as the driving force behind Ireland’s economic recovery – what do small businesses feel lies ahead in 2011?

In the wake of the official 2011 election date announcement, a group of small businesses have voiced their opinion on what they feel lies ahead this year.  Regularly quoted as the correctional, or at least, developmental force in the Irish economy, small business owners are the people fighting hardest to keep their enterprises operational during these arduous trading conditions. Though many State agency supports are bandied about as entrepreneurial growth mechanisms, in actuality, entrepreneurs’ own tenacity, rigour and vision are key components in the battle to survive.

 

Little tangible support

A survey carried out by small business communications consultancy, Irish Business Intelligence, indicates that entrepreneurs are grappling with basic, day-to-day functioning issues, with little tangible support, owner, Olwen Dawe: ‘The majority of those surveyed were sole traders and small businesses – 94% of them employ less than five people.  It is a real eye-opener, I feel, given the response percentages in the area of supports these small businesses are seeking –  the big demand is State funding (41%) followed by training and consulting (29% and 35% respectively) – individual comments also indicate the need for tools and ‘DIY’ supports to allow for these entrepreneurs to manage leaner businesses’.

 

Juggling responsibilities

IBI’s survey also points to a new thirst for skill development – ‘I would assume this is resulting from a need to juggle much of the business’s responsibilities when funding is tight.  In more buoyant times, specialist knowledge and administration was outsourced to consultants – now small businesses outsource the learning but not the doing.  The responses clearly point to a need for State supports in training, mentoring, funding and small business start-up’.

Though there are several State agencies and many programmes available to entrepreneurs, accessibility, suitability and visibility seem to be the issue for those surveyed, ‘71% are keen to develop their businesses in 2011, which is superb news – there is a definite sense of positivity around.  However, there is a downside, which pertains to an underlying commentary of “they won’t help me”, as in, supports aren’t available for my kind of business.  A few individuals mention a lack of supports for projects with job potential.  In addition to this, there doesn’t appear to be an understanding, on behalf of the Government, that small businesses are spending too – and contributing to growth of other businesses in so-doing’. 

 

Lack of interconnectedness

It certainly begs the question as to whether these State support mechanisms are getting their messaging right, if many SMEs feel they will not be assisted?  ‘I really feel there should be a far more clear and precise messaging out there for SMEs and entrepreneurs – without a doubt there is lack of interconnectedness in the approach of the various organisations – they do great work but there’s no link between their agendas, that small businesses know of, anyway.  2011 and a new government provides great opportunity to really leverage the agenda for small business – after all, they will be huge contributors to Ireland’s recovery’

More from Olwen Dawe over at her blog: www.irishbusinessintelligence.blogspot.com

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