Category Archives: Business

A change for the better

In the world of business, change is inevitable.  Nobody would seriously argue with that, especially at a time when IT developments are sweeping through all areas of work and changing how things are done and who does them.  But when change does come, not everybody agrees on what it means.  How you view change depends on [1] in the organisation, and managers and employees usually have very different perspectives. If you’re [2], your focus is on results, and you’ll see the change as the best way to realise them.

They are more aware of the business’ overall goals, the financial state of the company and its position with regard to competitors and market share. When [3] consider introducing change, they ask questions such as, ‘How quickly can it be implemented?’, ‘How will it benefit the company?’, ‘What investment is required?’, ‘How cost effective is the change?’ and ‘How will it affect our customers?’  Since they are usually the advocates of change, managers tend to be more enthusiastic about it. If you’re [4], however, your focus is more on the immediate task of getting the job done.  They seldom have time to consider how their work fits into the overall scheme of things; they don’t share the broader perspective of the company directors.  Because they are often skilled and experienced in their work, or because they are placed on the frontline dealing with customers on a daily basis, they look at change from a personal perspective. The questions [5] ask are, ‘How will this effect the quality of my work?’, ‘

How much time will it take for me to adapt?’, ‘What’s wrong with the way we’ve always done things?’ and, ultimately, ‘What’s in it for me?’  Since employees are the ones who have to put the change into action, they are usually less enthusiastic about it. With such different [6] about change within the organisation, it’s not surprising that innovation often fails.  Planned changes need to be carefully thought out and managed.  If not, morale will suffer as people feel that they are being forced to change against their will.   There will surely be resistance, and some highly valued members of staff may even decide it’s time to leave

A trademark strategy for your business

In today’s modern and fast paced consumer society, the importance of brands cannot be underestimated. Never before has there been such a vast choice of products and services on offer to consumers across the world. When a company devises a new product, part of the creative and marketing process involves constructing a brand or trade mark for that product, writes David Flynn of FRKelly.

A trademark helps to separate similar products sold by competing companies and helps customers to remember a certain product.

Customers who are satisfied with a particular product link the trademark of that product with reliability and quality. This creates trust and means that in the future the customer will make repeat purchases of goods sold under that trademark. What this means for businesses is that trademarks are extremely important marketing tools and can add substantial value to a company and its products. Before adopting and using a new trademark, a company needs to have a clear strategy of how it intends to protect that trademark and prevent others from using it.

 

Searching Strategy

It is all well and good developing a new brand but a company needs to ensure that the trade mark is available and is not being used for a similar product by a competing company. It is crucial to conduct a search of the relevant trademark registers to ensure a third party has not already registered your trademark.

A comprehensive trade mark search requires specialist software as well as an understanding of trade mark law. A simple internet search is not sufficient. A trademark practitioner can review the results of a trademark search and give a good indication of whether a mark is available to use and register.

Business involves risk and while a trademark search is not infallible, it helps a company assess the risk posed by adopting a particular trademark. If a company launches a new product on the market without undertaking a search, there is a real chance somebody else has exclusive rights to use that trademark. This can have serious and severe commercial repercussions for the business such as a total re-brand, the granting of a court injunction to stop using the mark, damages and whole product lines having to be destroyed. A trademark search helps to reduce the risk of this happening.

 

Filing Strategy

Before launching, a business needs to be sure what territories it will be selling its products in. There are different registration systems available to secure trademark rights. For example, it is possible to register your mark on a country-by-country basis by filing national trademark applications, e.g. if you only want to protect your mark in Ireland, then you can register your mark by filing an Irish trademark application.

If you will be exporting to Europe, a very cost effective option of securing EU-wide trade mark rights is by registering your mark as a European Union Trade Mark. This gives you exclusive trademark rights in all 28 EU member states. There is also the option of the International Trade Mark System. This allows a company to protect its trademark in over 98 territories by simply filing one application and selecting the individual countries it wants its International Trade Mark to cover.

The cost depends on the number of territories selected. An International trademark also allows a company to manage their portfolio of marks through one centralized system.

It is also a good idea for a company to register its trademark in the country where their goods are being manufactured. Sometimes a foreign manufacturer contracted to produce branded goods for a particular company will go ahead and register the trademark themselves. This means that the manufacturer holds the trademark rights and could even prevent the company which hired it from using the mark in that country. Therefore, a company should secure its trademark rights before entering a deal with a particular manufacturer or company, especially abroad and in countries which are intellectual property abuse hotspots (such as china).

If a company’s goods are likely to be counterfeited, then it is wise for the business to register its trade marks with customs. Customs will seize any goods it suspects are counterfeit and will seek confirmation from the business owner whether the goods are genuine or fake.

Introduction to coaching

Coaching is a useful tool in today’s challenging world of business and commerce. Companies are downsizing, merging and restructuring and there is far more job transition than before. Sometimes managers are no longer equipped to do their work because their jobs have changed so much. They were originally trained to do one job but that training cannot be applied to the job they are doing today. Coaching is also one of the most powerful tools that a leader has in order to improve the performance of his team.

Coaching is a partnership between an individual or a team and a coach. For the purpose of this article we will refer to an individual but the concepts are exactly the same for a team. First of all the individual identifies his objectives. Then, through the process of being coached, he focuses on the skills he needs to develop to achieve those objectives. In professional coaching the individual begins by leading the conversation and the coach listens and observes. Gradually, as the coach begins to understand the individual’s goals, he will make observations and ask appropriate questions. His task is to guide the individual towards making more effective decisions and eventually achieving his objectives. Coaching looks at where the individual is now and where he wants to get to.

Between the initial interview and an individual achieving the goals he identified, there is a process in which the two parties meet for regular coaching sessions. The length of time each session lasts will be established at the start of the partnership. Between sessions an individual might be expected to complete specific tasks. A coach might also provide literature for the individual to study in preparation for the following session. Most coaches employ an “appreciative approach” whereby the individual identifies what is right, what is working, what is wanted and what is needed to get there. An appreciative approach focuses more on the positive rather than problems.

An individual who enters into a coaching partnership will usually adopt new perspectives and be able to better appreciate opportunities for self-development. Confidence will usually grow and the individual will think more clearly and be more confident in his roles. In terms of business, coaching often leads to an increase in productivity and more personal satisfaction. All of this leads to a growth in self-esteem.

In a coaching partnership the coach first needs to listen carefully in order to fully understand the individual’s situation. He needs to support and encourage forward-planning and decision-making. A coach also needs to help an individual recognise his own potential and the opportunities that are on offer. A good coach will guide an individual to fresh perspectives. Finally, the coach must respect the confidentiality of his partner. 6 Coaching can bring out the best in workers, highlighting what they can achieve if they are given the right support. Both individuals and teams can enjoy an increased level of motivation after receiving the right coaching. When individuals are keen to make progress in their jobs, they usually enjoy being coached and find the experience extremely useful.

Multiple intelligences

Everybody has a different approach to learning and the more we understand about the type of learner we are, the more effective our studying should become.

Howard Gardner first introduced us to the idea of Multiple Intelligences in 1983. He believes that there are several types of intelligences that can’t be simply defined from one IQ test. He categorises intelligences under the following headings;

1.  Verbal linguistic – having a good verbal memory, being interested in words and how language works

2.  Analytical / logical – being able to investigate and have a scientific approach to learning

3.  Musical – being sensitive to sounds and rhythms

4.  Visual spatial – being imaginative with a good visual memory

5.  Kinaesthetic – being receptive to touching objects to enhance your memory

6.  Interpersonal – being good in group work, listening to others

7.  Intrapersonal – being aware of your own personal goals and motivations

8.  Naturalist – understanding the link between nature and humans

It’s important to understand that these intelligences work together and it would be unwise to think of ourselves as having only one or the other. Labelling learners as a particular type of learner could stop them from exploring all of their intelligences. So instead we should think of ourselves as having dominant intelligences.

 

When you are next in a classroom ask yourself these questions to think about how you learn:

  • When I hear a new word do I need to see it written down to know how it’s spelt?
  • Am I interested in grammar and how English tenses are put together?
  • Are my notes kept neatly in a methodical way?
  • Do I keep a personal dictionary of newly learnt words?
  • Does my personal dictionary help me to remember the words?
  • How easy do I find it to hear differences in sounds?
  • Does drawing pictures of new words help me to remember them in English?
  • Does touching an object help me to remember what it’s called?
  • Do I enjoy listening to the teacher and taking notes?
  • Do I prefer working on my own or with other people?

 

More interactive and lists media

Claire didn’t follow a traditional path into Silicon Valley, having attended Ballyfermot Art College’s Rock School and studied communications at DIT, before eventually co-founding Axonista in 2010 with former colleague Daragh Ward.

“If you look back to when the iPhone came out, that was a pivotal moment for me, it was probably the founding vision of our company. I think Daragh showed me an episode of Family Guy on my mobile phone and I remember thinking this is the future – you can actually watch video on your mobile phone, what does this mean for the future of video? So, that’s what Axonista do. We help brands navigate that whole new era of television that is online and has leaped off the TV set in the living room and is now on all these different smart devices.”

“Previously, I worked in sports TV – in Setanta, which was also a really cool start-up. I knew back then that the market was shifting and going through phenomenal change. TV definitely isn’t dead but it’s evolving into a two-way interactive system with audiences. Our company name Axonista means ‘revolutionary thinking’ which comes from the word ‘axon’ which is the cell that processes and transmits information travelling through your brain.”

“Starting out, we got a Horizon 2020 grant for 2 million Euro. We also raised seed capital from Enterprise Ireland and from some angel investors, but we always reinvest back into the business and into research and development. We have about 20 people in the company now but there’s no school that teaches you how to be the CEO of company – you just have to do it. Being a female CEO in a tech industry I try to be approachable and visible so that young women can see me and say ‘ok she doesn’t have a strictly tech background but she’s making it and maybe that’s something I could do’, I try to put myself out there.”

This and much, much more on The Capital B below. Download and subscribe here.

The Capital B is available every Monday morning from 7am; listeners can tune in on Soundcloud and can also download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and other podcast providers.

Effort and commitment that goes into achieving success

We caught up with John at the recent AIB Start-up Academy Dublin Summit and asked him about the importance of self-belief and mentorship.

How important is it to have belief in yourself when starting off in business?

It’s a bit scary and a bit daunting to do something from scratch on your own. There will be days where you doubt yourself, so you definitely need to have that self-belief. I also think that you need to surround yourself with people who are similar to you and who can pick you up when you’re having a down day. You’ll be able to do it vice-versa with them. I’m pretty selective about the people I hang out with. I want to be around high-energy people who can boost me along when I’m not quite there.

As a coach, you act as a mentor to your fighters. How do you approach this role?

When a fighter is starting off, they’re able to lean on me a little bit because they’ve seen the experience I’ve had and the success I’ve had with different fighters. One of my main roles with them is to make them accountable. If they tell me they want to be a champion, I measure the hours they’ve been training. If they’re not training like a champion, they’re not going to be a champion!

Is there any advice you’d give to someone who was considering starting their own business?

Number one for me, in whatever you’re doing, is to make sure you really really enjoy it, because you’ve got to be ready for long, long hours. An average week for me is 60-70 hours and anybody I know who works for themselves would have a similar story. Unless you really enjoy something, you won’t stick with it!

Are you competencies on your business

  • Some years ago when executives and managers talked about the type of employees they wanted to contract for their businesses they spoke of skills and qualifications. These words are still used but have been overshadowed by the term competencies. Competencies are a concept taken on board by Human Resource departments to measure a person’s appropriateness for a particular job.
  • In simple terms a competency is a tool that an individual can use in order to demonstrate a high standard of performance. Competencies are characteristics that we use to achieve success. These characteristics or traits can include things like knowledge, aspects of leadership, self-esteem, skills or relationship building. There are a lot of competencies but they are usually divided into groups. Most organisations recognise two main groups and then have numerous sub groups which competencies can be further divided into.There has been a lot written about competencies. It is easy to see how people can become easily confused by what a competency actually is. It is also essential that people in the world of business have a clear understanding of what different competencies are and, in particular, which competencies are of interest to them – either as an individual interested in self-development – or as an employer looking for the best candidate for a job.
  • Competencies can be divided into two distinct types; technical competencies (sometimes referred to as functional) and personal competencies. As the name suggests, technical competencies are those which are related to the skills and knowledge that are essential in order for a person to do a particular job appropriately. An example of a technical competency for a secretary might be: “Word processing: able to word process a text at the rate of 80 words per minute with no mistakes.”  Personal competencies are not linked to any particular function. They include characteristics that we use together with our technical competencies in order to do our work well. An example of a personal competency is: “Interpersonal Sensitivity: Demonstrates respect for the opinions of others, even when not in agreement.”
  • As you can see from the examples above there is a particular way of expressing a competency. First the competency is given a title; for example “word processing”. Then a brief indicator or explanation is given as an example of the person’s aptitude in that competency; for example “able to word process a text at the rate of 80 words per minute with no mistakes.”
  • Competencies are probably here to stay so it is worth thinking about your own competencies and trying to categorise them; first into the two sub-categories mentioned above and then into a more detailed list.

Do you know the techniques

  1. Companies carry out Market Research to gather and analyse data to understand and explain what people think about products or adverts, to find out about customer satisfaction and to predict how customers might respond to a new product on the market.
  2. Market Research can be categorised under two subheadings – Quantitative Research and Qualitative Research. The questions asked with Quantitative Research are structured whereas Qualitative Research questions are much more open and can often reveal consumption habits which the researchers hadn’t previously considered. You carry out Quantitative Research when you need to know how many people have certain habits and the Qualitative Research when you need to know why and how people do what they do.
  3. Companies involved in Market Research include the Research Buyer and the Research Agency. The research agency carries out the market research in ways previously discussed with their clients – the research buyer. Sometimes companies only need their own data analysed, or are simply looking for advice on how to carry out their own research. Points that are discussed between the two parties can include:
  • The time duration of the research
  • The budget available
  • Who the target groups are
  • Predictions of results
  • How the results will be helpful

4. Street Surveys – stopping people in the street

  • Phone or postal – people fill in questionnaires and send them back
  • Internet surveys – a relatively new technique which functions in a similar way to other surveys except that a large number of people are interviewed at the same time

5. Am I asking the right groups of people?

  • How many people should I speak to in order to get representative answers to my questions?
  • Are my questions easy to understand?
  • How am I going to analyse the data?

How PorterShed Backs Startups

It’s a balmy day in mid-May and PorterShed, a co-working space in Galway backed by AIB, is a hive of activity. John Clancy who is CEO of ChatSpace, one of the companies based in the thriving business hub, explains:

“Every week there’s something on here that helps connect start-ups to the wider support ecosystem and beyond. For example, last week, we had an exhibition for local artists here after hours. It’s that kind of social connection that really makes the difference.” And PorterShed is well equipped for socialising, with monthly meet ups complete with free beer from a Connemara-based brewing company.

Working Together

Oh, and the coffee is good too. This place is buzzing with passionate innovators. “People talk all the time about synergies, and since we’ve been here, we’ve been networking and reaching out to other companies that are in complementary spaces,” John says. “We’ve put business their way and they’ve put business our way. Everyone is in the same boat really. The companies here are by and large either at start-up stage or moving to scale stage. There’s a common goal and excitement amongst everyone and I have to say the dynamics work.”

Cutting Edge of Innovation

ChatSpace are certainly innovating, and their team of six have created an analytics tool which combines AI with natural language processing and deep learning to create a truly cutting edge piece of technology. “Unlike traditional analytics tools or chat analytics offerings, ChatSpace is built purely for chat from the bottom up,” John explains. “We deliver conversational analytics that enables brand owners to see how every customer is engaged, what the customer feels, and detect if their needs are being met. They can also seamlessly bring a human into the conversation when needed to listen to the true voice of their customers on chat channels.”

Game-Changing Analytics

ChatSpace’s groundbreaking analytics enables their clients to analyse the content, context and sentiment of conversations their customers are having with their brands at scale and as they are happening. “In this new transitioning world of social media, the goal is engagement through private, meaningful, conversational moments,” John explains. “Content will still be important, but the individual will be the focus of the experience. Brand communications will have to be more immediate, expressive, and intimate.” Where ChatSpace distinguishes itself is in its ability to understand the context and organic flow of a conversation, allowing brands to foster a meaningful connection based on an individual customer’s personality.

A Space to Grow

For John, moving to PorterShed made perfect sense for the business. “We decided to move to PorterShed because it’s a connected space and it’s much more involved in the startup community in Galway,” he says. “From a tech point of view, there’s another 20-30 tech startups here. They bring in support structures through AIB, KPMG and Enterprise Ireland. Noreen from AIB comes in here once every week. She sits here for a couple of hours and it’s great for us as I don’t always have time to go to the bank. So, for example, if we have any questions regarding international transfers, she can deal with the query here and I don’t have to leave the facility.”

Pitch Perfect

And why would you leave, with facilities like hot desks and top class meeting rooms at your disposal? But John’s favourite facility is the mini auditorium. “What I love to do is to go there late in the evening. I can stand up on the stage and practice my pitch just to the guys,” he says.

And it’s a pitch that’s clearly been resonating – as Chatspace’s disruptive tech has caught the attention of several top brands. As John puts it: “I would say if you’re a technology startup, PorterShed is the place to go.”

Pointy Helps You Find it Locally

Mark Cummins, the man behind Pointy, spoke on The Capital B this week. Not his first foray into the world of tech (he previously sold a company to Google), Pointy aims to help get local stores online as well as help consumers find the products they need fast.

So what exactly does it do? Pointy is a device that attaches to the barcode scanner in each shop and automatically lists the products to a website, Mark explained where the concept came from;

“It really simplifies making a website for a local shop, quite a lot of local retailers have websites but they’re not getting anything out of it. Consumers are looking for products and that product information is not available online so all the local shops are invisible. When people are doing these searches on Google they’re getting redirected, so local stores are not picking up the business that by rights they should be”

“It’s like a location service, most of the time people just want to go in and pick up the product in person, you’d be absolutely amazed by what people search for.”

Pointy also has some big name investors behind it, international rugby star Jamie Heaslip is involved, who Mark says has a huge interest in tech.

“He’s actually very tech savvy, it’s an interest of his, he likes that we have a local Irish angle”.

Also on The Capital B this week, we’re chatting to the Commercial Director of Lidl Ireland, the founder of Popertee delivers a lesson on how to find the perfect retail space for your store and Freshii’s Dave O’Donoghue on why talk is big but execution is everything.