Business Innovation for SMEs

Gail MCEvoyinnovation

Following on from earlier blogs on SMEs,family business , exporting and entrepreneurship which can be viewed at the following attached link this latest blog is around innovation .

Thanks to the contributors to this blog namely Gail McEvoy CPA of McEvoy Accountants and recently appointed board member of IFAC.

IFAC is the worldwide organisation for the accountancy profession and comprises 173 members and associates across 129 countries.

Also thanks to John Mackey of Bibby Financial Services Ireland Ltd.

99% of all enterprises in Ireland are Irish owned SMEs which employ 70% of all people working in the state. Latest reports show that more than half of the people working in Ireland – some 56% work for indigenous companies which do not export anything at all .

More than 90% of people in Ireland work for a company that employs fewer than 10 people.

A lot of SME owners are already innovative and are constantly brainstorming to improve their business and processes and doing SWOT analysis regularly. From working with SME owners in the business advisory piece sometimes it is trying to implement the ideas that becomes the challenging part .

How do you create an innovative environment in your SME?

While I can’t prescribe how to make your SME innovative, these tips can help you breed a culture that contains innovation in its DNA:


1. Innovation only comes by invitation. Invite people to bring forth their new ideas. True innovation takes place when people are free to raise ideas, take ownership of them, and then implement them. If people are required to ask permission for every step they take, they will stop asking permission.

2. Innovation is not a solo sport, it requires a group of players with skills specific to the effort. While an idea may come from one individual, it’s the cross-functional creativity, trust, and collaboration that bring innovation to life.

3. Encourage everyone to put their ideas to test fast, fail fast, and then reiterate. If people wait for perfection before they put the idea to work, the effort will lose steam before it ever gets off the ground. Implementation of ideas is as important as the idea itself .

4. Value the lessons taken from failure as much as your successes, and apply those lessons toward each new attempt. This makes it safe for everyone to innovate. The idea is not to encourage failure but to foster innovation that leads to winning success as rapidly as possible. A lot of SME owners have taken their knocks in the ups and downs of business which makes entrepreneurs more resilient .

5. Ensure this behaviour gets modelled at every level, from the very top down to individual contributor. That means the senior management must be actively involved, not just mandating the change.

6. Consult with your CPA and build innovation into your business plans for 2014/15 and look at doing things differently so you have a USP in your business. Do a review with your CPA and discuss your goals for your business and build them into your business plan and cashflows .

Cormac Fitzgerald FCPA

Entrepreneurship Report Published


The Report of the Entrepreneurship Forum was published January 23rd. The Forum was established as part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs 2013. Two thirds of all new jobs come from start-up businesses in the first five years of their existence. 69 recommendations have been put forward by the Forum. It is chaired by Kinsale based entrepreneur Sean O Sullivan of SOS Ventures.

These recommendations occur across four dimensions:culture, community,competency and capacity.

Included in the Report’s recommendations are:

Changes to law to support employee stock option programmes
• A national education strategy for entrepreneurship at all levels of the education system
• A mentoring network driven by entrepreneurs and tax incentives for investment in enterprise

How to unlock creative confidence:

Is your workplace divided into “creatives” versus practical people? If so, some inspiration from David Kelley, founder of IDEO. What matters to him is unlocking the creative potential of people and organizations to innovate routinely and let ideas fly. David Kelley suggests, creativity is not the domain of only a chosen few.

Telling stories from his legendary design career and his own life, he offers ways to build the confidence to create, to innovate (From The Design Studio session at TED2012.)


Thinking outside the box – Innovation for SMEs

Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new or existing requirements. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available. An excellent example of innovation would be the “sliced pan”, slicing bread was innovative as it was doing something different, adding a process that had a significant impact.

How do we as SME owners and Entrepreneurs become more innovative?

Innovation has to be the Ethos of the business, the ideal. It forms part of the values culture of the business, how the business operates and its conduct in relationships. Innovation must form part of your overall strategy. Examine your current strategic plan and see if innovation is at the cornerstone.

This culture cannot be switched on and off it must be encouraged and nurtured amongst all team members. As with all things in business this comes from the top down, as leader you must encourage your team to share observations and ideas and not to be afraid. Everyone needs to be on board with this, they need to have a “why not” attitude to ideas and new processes, to be constantly looking to improve and innovate. Some ideas to get that innovative attitude started;

• SWOT testing on a regular basis to include breaking down the existing processes taking a microscope to them looking for weaknesses and potential add-ons.
• Look at an “ideal scenario” – asking if money were not an issue what would we do?
• Include an “innovation” item on the agenda to every team meeting, encouraging all participation. This brainstorming with your team will help develop and encourage an open door approach to new ideas and new processes.
• Encourage everyone to be more observant of the competition, this will form the basis for new ideas. Also watch what businesses aligned to your own are doing, asking can we do something similar?
• Make it interesting, offer a prize to the individual whose ideas are implemented and also a special prize to whoever submits “the ridiculous” suggestion, this will encourage an open door approach to every idea.
• Look at what your customers would like, what would make their lives simpler? Asking clients/customers for ideas and suggestions. It might pay to reward these too.
• Market research can be very useful, asking the general public will give an unbiased perspective.
To stand out and to survive we need to innovate and we cannot do this alone. We need everyone on board and keeping an open mind is the key. Being fearless, not afraid of change is the attitude that will nurture and encourage an innovative attitude.

Gail McEvoy

10 Dublin Road, Drogheda, Co. Louth

Tel: +353 (41) 98 10 160

Tips to give you the best start to the year that will help nurture an innovative culture in your business this year.

John Mackey, Bibby Financial Services Ireland

Bibby Financial Services logo - JPG

Conduct a review of 2013 and the cost of credit. Review what worked well over the past year for the business and what did not – did extending credit terms to customers or taking advantage of economies of scale reap the benefits it hoped to? What were the financial implications and were they worthwhile? Learn from mistakes -by looking at the successes and failures over the past year you will be in a far better position to plan effectively for 2014.

Encourage strategy – Many SMEs fail to see the importance of strategising and planning for the year ahead, including contingency planning, crucial in the current environment. The business will need to start by reviewing their objectives, or in many cases, construct for the first time. You need to prioritise everything you want to achieve in the coming year and work out the financial requirements involved in doing so; the business may be over or indeed under estimating what they can afford to do.

Seek new ways of financing – Be open to considering new and alternative ways to finance the business as traditional methods may not always suit the current circumstances.

New Technology – Explore and embrace new forms of technology in your everyday business systems that will bring efficiencies to the business and in some cases cut costs.

Consider new opportunities – Take the time to research new business opportunities. With clear minds after the business break, a brainstorming session with your internal teams may inspire ideas that could help move the business forward through developing new products and services, new customers and new markets. Educate yourself on the various finance options available– what worked or was available last year may not be the same for the year ahead. Look beyond the traditional finance options to more readily available alternative funding solutions which can provide additional benefits to traditional financing – Invoice finance for example, guarantees SMEs working business to business and billing in arrears a flexible and on-going supply of working capital

Explore potential for exporting – Irish exports remain the backbone of our economy and increasing numbers of our SMEs are reaping the rewards of their export activity. Yet entering overseas markets is still a minefield for many businesses. Variances in legal practices, lacking on the ground assistance, language barriers, foreign currency management and fluctuating exchange rates are key difficulties that Irish businesses face when considering exporting abroad. However, comprehensive credit management facilities with multi-lingual and culture experienced credit control teams can help SMEs overcome these issues and allow them to export with confidence that their cash flow requirements will be met and customer payments chased and collected on their behalf.


Take control – Get a detailed view of the debtor days in the last year – is late payment an issue for the entire ledger or is there a number of repeat offenders who are causing problems? Every customer is vital to an SME, but some late payers could be causing more problems than they are worth – it is vital the business separate the wheat from the chaff, both for the current term and for the long term. Work with your CPA accountant to develop watertight debtor management systems, including their issuing regular statements and reminder invoices and calling customers if payment is late.

Harness people power – Assess staffing levels for the coming year and ensure staff holidays or peak season demand is accounted for – will extra staff be needed for these periods? How much over time from current staff will be required? At what cost? Or perhaps skills gaps within your workforce are holding them back?

Manage the cash – No matter how well inspired, prepared and organised, good cash flow is the lifeblood of any business. Make sure you take a pro-active approach to managing cash flow and aren’t waiting until it is too late to deal with problems. There are support mechanisms out there ready and willing to help and their doors are wide open for business.

Tel: +353 (1) 2974925 | Fax: +353 (1) 436 4598
Email: | Web:
Address: 4th Floor, Heather House, Heather Road, Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland

Thanks for reading !

Cormac Fitzgerald

Cormac Fitzgerald FCPACormac Fitzgerald FCPA is Managing Partner of Fitzgerald & Partners Accountancy Firm and Vice President of CPA Ireland .


Entrepreneurs & SME Toolkit for business-Part One

John Herlihy -Head of Google Ireland

John Herlihy , head of Google Ireland with Eamonn Siggins CEO CPA Ireland and Joe Aherne President CPA Ireland

This month, I have asked some successful entrepreneurs to share their knowledge to help SME start ups and people considering starting their own business .

Each week I will publish a different perspective from some valuable contributors .

I hope you find this useful and thanks to all contributors for taking time to share their intellectual property online .

This link might be useful to you  ( – a link to the CPA Ireland Budget Bulletin )

Cormac Fitzgerald - Fitzgerald & PartnersCormac Fitzgerald FCPA is Managing Partner of Fitzgerald & Partners Accountancy Firm and Vice President of CPA Ireland .


Guest speaker at this year’s Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland’s Annual President’s Dinner was John Herlihy, Vice President of International SMB Sales and Operations and Head of Google in Ireland (L), pictured here with Eamonn Siggins, CEO CPA Ireland and Joe Aherne, CPA Ireland President.

John’s address was very insightful and gave those in attendance much ‘pause for thought’ in terms of the accountant’s role as strategic business advisor in helping our client companies take advantage of the digital opportunity. As the National Digital Strategy for Ireland reveals, digital currently contributes 4.4% to Ireland’s GDP. The digital part of the economy in Ireland is growing at 16% per year – that is more than 10 times the rate of growth of the economy as a whole. This growth is reflected across Europe – The EU Commission Digital Agenda for Europe claims the digital economy is growing at seven times the rate of the rest of the economy.

A Global Engineering firms perspective ……Case study in success

Jorge - PACIVJorge is the Founder, President and CEO of PACIV, a control system engineering firm. PACIV has offices in Puerto Rico, United States and Europe. PACIV provides operational efficiencies for manufacturing processes utilizing instrumentation and control systems to provide process automation. PACIV clients include the largest Biotechnology, Pharmaceutical and Medical Device companies in the world and other multinational clients in related industries. PACIV has over 80 associates world-wide and has sold over $135 Million over the past 14 years. for details .

SME Tips – “First things first”

Twelve years after founding PACIV, a specialized service firm in the area of industrial automation, instrumentation and regulatory compliance, I went back to the university to do an Executive MBA, this after already having done an MBA 12 years before.  For some reason, I felt that the business practices of today where outgrowing my knowledge on them, I felt behind.  I was not only correct, something I confirmed during my first year of courses BUT I was surprised as how little did I know.

In this column and hopefully future ones, I will share with you some of the major learnings of this new renaissance.  Our classes included leadership, strategy, innovation, global markets, controls (accounting), finance, and marketing.  I draw at least three critical learnings from each topic and most importantly, I drew one main learning from the fact that the “alignment” about each of these topics to the others. The glue, called “alignment”  that holds them together independently is critical to be able to derive the most value through their synergies.

On this edition I will start with Strategy.

The three (3) main lessons for me were

(a) you cannot delegate strategy.  Strategy is the #1 responsibility of the CEO, owner, principal partner,

(b) strategy is as much about what you decide to do than about you decide not to do,

(c) strategy is about defining where you are going to play, how you are going to play and with whom you will play.  These are extremely complex matters for any business leader.  At the core of these subjects resides without a doubt the most important learning of the entire course for me, that “who you are” must be very clear to you before you start addressing any of these questions

Defining “who you are” as a company, probably as with us as individuals, has been the most difficult and painful activity to define in the process.  There are many Fortune 500 companies that as of this day do not have clearly stated who they are.  As such, the clients are confused.   Great examples of knowing who they are very obvious to you.  Companies such as IKEA, Coca-Cola, Doctors without Borders, and others are known to many not necessarily because they are international brands but because they are so clear in knowing who they are that they can sustainably and clearly communicate it to their stakeholders.

I encourage you to spend the needed time defining “who you are”.  I caution you that if you are an existing business, who you are is probably established already in the minds of your customers so prepare a survey and make sure you listen to who they believe you are.  Without reading the surveys from the client, do your own internal exercise defining who you think you are as a company and then compare.  If there are significant gaps you have a long road ahead – but at least you have identified the root cause of many of your problems.  If the gaps are close, congratulations, you have been sending a clear message even when not knowing it.

The definition of “who you are” was presented by my strategy professor; Cynthia Montgomery (read her new book “The Strategist”) in our class as follows.  Imagine you are in the funeral of your company, it is being “buried” and you go there and ask those present to describe to you what do they think they will miss the most.  Whatever they tell you they will miss, that is who you are.  Plain vanilla.

The best tool to come up with a clear definition of who you are is what I call the “OAS Statement” (Objective-Advantage-Scope).   In an OAS statement, define the following:

  1. What our goal is (specific objective bounded by time) and Goals (inspiration, open-ended, motivational)
  2. Who we serve (customers and segments, where you will serve channel and geography)
  3. What sort of products and/or services
  4. Why they should buy from you  (the drivers of the corporate advantages, the firm’s unique configuration of activities and resources that enable it to realize its competitive advantage)
  5. How we do things differently in delivering that product or service (what the firm does uniquely, differently, and better than competitors)

PACIV OAS statement is as follows:

  1. Be a value-driven company by being a one source provider of instrumentation, control systems and regulatory compliance services for our global clients’ manufacturing sites in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industry by applying our unique combination of technical expertise, turnkey services and commitment culture.
  2. We achieve customer trust through honesty, integrity, and accurate responses to clients’ needs with cost-effective and reliable solutions while being a great company in which to work and a valuable corporate citizen to our communities.

I hope this first task provides you with the needed clarity of mind to tackle the many challenges of the organization (processes, structure and systems), its resources and its clients.  Upon completing it, you will embark with better tools to tackle other complex issues in the journey to achieve the needed alignment and exploit to its maximum the limited resources that we have.

For more information on this subject or any comments or questions, do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards,

Jorge L. Rodriguez | President & CEO


“A Harvard Business School Case Study”

CPA Ireland – Supporting Entrepreneurs .

Finally, CPA Ireland launched its new look website this summer and it has lots of helpful, freely available resources aimed at the Irish business community. You may be familiar with the CPA Ireland’s  excellent report on entrepreneurship, released late last year .

It makes for very interesting reading with some proactive recommendations for much needed support in this area. The CPA Ireland Business App , the CPA Business Tracker is worth checking out and available to download for free directly from the website. It allows businesses to input key finances and automatically calculates financial ratios to measure their company’s performance.

The app is accompanied by some background information on ratio analysis and a brief tutorial clip. Also accessible via the site is a free series of webinars called Taking Charge of Your Business . This initiative involves a series of short twenty minute presentations covering a variety of topics including Cash Flow Management, Recruitment, Marketing, HR and Risk. Similarly, the Institute’s long running initiative the  Simple Facts of Accounting Bulletins, help business owners understand complex accountancy and regulatory issues and how these impact day-to-day business.

The site has a host of articles providing advice in the areas of marketing, social media, technology, business planning and more. Finally, for job seekers, CPA Ireland JobSearch, lists jobs for qualified and part qualified accountants in companies around Ireland. The CPA Ireland JobSeekers function allows employers to browse CVs of potential employees for any vacancies they may have. Lots to see and learn so take a look around.

 Next week we have the perspective of Joe Aherne President CPA Ireland and Chairman of Leading Edge Group

SMEs, Family Business and Entrepreneurship

entrepreneur text 2Small and medium sized enterprise SMEs play an important role in the Irish economy and contribute substantially to income, output and employment.  However, the recent global financial crisis created a particularly tough climate for SMEs with a reduction in demand for goods and services.  SMEs make a huge contribution to GDP and employment. 

The global financial crisis of 2008 however, created new challenges for SMEs.  Findings are mixed as to how effectively businesses have recovered from the crisis and coped with recessionary climates.  The impact of the financial crisis in the economic downturn that it entailed was substantial.  Many companies, SMEs included suffered negative repercussions such as reduced revenue or were even forced to close down.  So SMEs are now operating in a new business environment.  

Internationalisation is important for the competitiveness of enterprises of all sizes, particularly for SMEs.  Recent reports show that SMEs make an important contribution to the national GDP and employment.  Governments have implemented a range of policies to support SMEs.  Efforts have been made to support the internalisation of SMEs. SMEs tend to internationalise in markets close to home.

entrepreneur textSMEs rely on traditional funding sources for international activity.  All the evidence reviewed in recent reports for both previous studies and newly conducted research indicate that SMEs are important for economic success, particularly when they become active on the international stage.

Irish SMEs and family businesses are showing continued resilience while looking to address the challenges of the new norm.  There is no doubt that the recession has hit the Irish family business sector harder than their global counterparts.  However, they have adapted their business models and are now looking to the future.  Many SME owners rely on their advisors to help them navigate the maize.

While some ten years ago the challenge was succession, the ability to recruit and retain key people has emerged as a new area now to be tackled.  This is largely in response to strong growth ambitions.  Irish family businesses are now looking to expand and some of this growth will be delivered through exploring international markets.  The need for continued innovation is also cited as a key driver in order to move forward.  It is good to see pro-business initiatives like the CPA Ireland new finance app for business owners allowing them to track the performance of their company across a number of variables.

CPA Ireland Business Tracker App

Family businesses play a significant role in how our economy performs and it is important going forward that these businesses continue to operate at a competitive advantage.  Recent research highlights that family businesses take decisions for the long term and are committed to employment in the local economy. In 2012 according to recent reports over one third of Irish family businesses suffered sales reductions over the twelve months compared to just a fifth for their global counterparts.

Reports also show that in the SME Irish family business sector, over 90% of Irish family businesses surveyed reported to feeling a sense of responsibility in supporting employment in their area.

Eamon Siggins CEO CPA Ireland with President Joe Aherne

Eamon Siggins CEO CPA Ireland with President Joe Aherne

SMEs still struggle when it comes to developing internationally, lack of credit and debt is a major issue hampering the sustainability and growth of many businesses.  However, a significant number of SMEs continue to thrive despite the tough economic conditions.  They are our business heroes.  Their growth and sustainability will be the key to Ireland’s economic recovery and it is vital that they get the support and services that they need according to CPA Ireland President Joe Aherne.

We work with Entrepreneurs, SME business owners in the area of SME business advisory and reports like the CPA Ireland Entrepreneurship report make for some very interesting reading.

The CPA Ireland Entrepreneurship report can be downloaded, free of charge and contains some very useful information.  The second CPA Ireland Entrepreneurship report offers further evidence of that resilience and will hopefully assist the Government and the other stake holders involved in supporting entrepreneurship in making the policy and other decisions required to maintain the improvement in the environment for enterprise and entrepreneurship in Ireland.

There are some very hard working entrepreneurs with great ideas that just need some help and support to take risks which will in turn create employment.

Another pro business resource clients find useful is the CPA Ireland Taking Charge of your Business which is a collection of webinars on very relevant topics again free to SMEs to download .

CPA Ireland has compiled a series of webinars from a panel of experts providing unique insight to business owners. The short twenty minute presentations are free to access and cover a variety of topics including Cash Flow Management, Recruitment, Marketing, HR and Risk.

CPA will continue to add to this resource in 2013.

Seminars may be accessed via the list below:

Items contained in the report for example show that amongst the most encouraging overall findings in the Entrepreneurship report is a broad agreement that the climate for entrepreneurship in Ireland is not only positive, but it has actually improved over the last two years.

There was a feeling that many Irish business people had now recovered from the initial shock of the banking crash and its accompanying economic crisis and are now much more in a mood just to get on with things.  This in turn is feeding in to improvements in the overall climate for entrepreneurship in Ireland.

Hopefully 2014 will see the climate improve for SMEs, family business and entrepreneurship in Ireland and business owners will adopt innovation into their business.

Cormac Fitzgerald - Fitzgerald & PartnersCormac Fitzgerald FCPA is the owner of Fitzgerald and Partners and is Vice President of CPA Ireland

Fitzgerald and Partners are SME Business Advisory, Accountants and Auditors located in Kinsale in Cork