Smaller companies can sometimes feel powerless amid political turmoil, marketplace volatility and disruptive innovation.
But sometimes, being small is powerful and makes it possible to take destiny in your own hands — and carve out a calmer future.
The fortunes of big global companies regularly grab the headlines — with news of mergers and acquisitions, multi-million pound contracts, or jobs coming and going. But it's actually small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that represent the backbone of the economy. They account for 99 out of every 100 businesses across Ireland and the rest of Europe .
Small often means micro too, as 90% have fewer than 10 employees. So, it's no wonder if some SMEs feel overwhelmed by massive challenges in a fast-changing business world.
However, while many factors may be beyond your control, you can take action in key areas and tilt the balance back in your favour. Here are five challenges faced by SMEs in Ireland — and some ideas on how to address them.
Challenge #1: How to win back time
Are you short of time? Running a small business often means taking on multiple roles, from financial management to marketing, stock ordering to sales. But it's important to free up as many hours as you can, to spend more time with customers. It's these relationships that will make your business distinct, strengthen loyalty and give you the edge.
So, any chance to avoid spending hours trapped in a back office, slaving over accounting spreadsheets is well worth pursuing. With online dashboards such as Elavon Connect, you can really take control of all your payment activities and see exactly how your business is performing, using your phone or tablet.
Challenge #2: How to get fast access to cash
How's your cashflow? Getting access to credit is the biggest worry facing Irish SMEs and start-ups, according to findings published in the Irish Examiner . Meanwhile, separate research has uncovered issues around how funds flow into a business — with younger consumers preferring to use cards, but older consumers distrusting technology and card payments . What's more, a number of traditional, cash-only businesses will only convert if their customers demand card acceptance and if costs are worth it.
However, it's possible for SMEs to boost liquidity and answer security concerns by choosing the right payments partner. Then it's possible to get same-day settlement on transactions, provide reassuring security, and accept all payment types including contactless, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay.
Challenge #3: How to become more mobile
There are two strands to this. Firstly, mobile users need to be able to access your products and services easily. The share of transactions completed on smartphones in Europe is rocketing at 21% year-on-year and looks set to soar past the number of desktop transactions . Easy ordering and interactions are a must, so check your website is mobile friendly.
Secondly, customers will also be expecting you to take their card payments securely on the move — whether you're engaging with them at a trade show, an artisan street market, or on a home visit. Elavon can make all of this possible.
Challenge #4: How to market wisely using social media
Most SMEs understand the power of social media marketing. But it's easy to waste a small fortune boosting posts or paying for pay-per-click if you're missing the target.
Working out what search words and terms your customers are actually searching for, using tools like Google Ads Keyword Planner can help make sure you incorporate them into your campaigns.
Getting help from a local marketing specialist may help too. But don't overlook the fact that someone within your team may be a social-media ninja at home — and have untapped talent in crafting just the kinds of posts your company needs.
Challenge #5: How to scale without growing pains
Are you thinking of growing your business — or starting another one? It's a boom time for new businesses. In fact, 2018 was a record-breaking year with over 22,000 new company start-ups in Ireland . But building a business brings a host of hassles, of course.
The best way to grow without all the pain is to let technology do much of the heavy lifting for you — by automating and streamlining much of the admin. Choose a payments partner that will work with you to design a payments solution that will grow in line with your business. You’ll be amazed by how many general business management tools there are built in with your payments solution, such as staff rotas, stock management and performance reports.
Play to your strengths
One great advantage of being a smaller business is that you can make decisions and adopt new technology quickly. This can make you nimble and agile, so you can roll with every challenge and take every opportunity. Go, SMEs of Europe!
 'Survey highlights biggest challenge facing start-ups and SMEs in Ireland' - Irish Examiner (March 12, 2018)
 'Holiday Mobile Sales Around the World' - Criteo (November 7, 2018)
 '62 New Irish Companies formed every day in 2018' - Business World (January 30, 2019)