To mark the start of National Enterprise Week which runs from 16 to 23May, 2014, Bank of Ireland Business Banking today (Monday 12 May, 2014) launched the findings of a survey conducted by Ipsos MRBI among Irish SME’s which shows that 67% of SME business leaders are optimistic about the year ahead, with 82% reporting that their businesses have either stabilised or are in growth mode.
Over 43% of SMEs reported that they recruited new staff in the last 12 months, with 32% saying they will recruit more staff in 2014.
Other key findings of the Bank of Ireland survey include;
- 73% of respondents believe the Irish economy is stable or growing, and 67% believe employment and the Irish economy in general will improve in the year ahead
- 47% of SMEs said their one big ambition for the year ahead was business growth with 10% citing increased profits
- 22% of SMEs believe increased customer demand and 17% said expansion into new markets were the biggest opportunities available to them in the year ahead
- 72% of Irish SMEs use online media/technology to market their businesses, with 68% citing Facebook as a tool they use, making it the most popular ahead of search engine marketing (48%), LinkedIn (40%) and Twitter (30%)
- Compared to 12 months ago, 50% said regulation was a bigger challenge for their business, with 48% saying customer demand was a bigger challenge, followed by taxation at 47%, competition at 42%, access to finance at 37%, and availability of skills at 27%.
Speaking about the survey results and National Enterprise Week, Gerry Prizeman, Head of Enterprise Development at Bank of Ireland said: “It’s great to see optimism continue to grow amongst Irish SMEs, reflected in our survey results. The theme for this, our 10th National Enterprise week is ‘Enabling Enterprise’, and we at Bank of Ireland are keen to support Irish SMEs as they emerge from the challenges of the recent past and gear up for growth in the future. At Bank of Ireland, we are receiving over 1,000 credit applications every week, and approving 85% of them. We are providing over 50% of new (non-property) SME lending in the market. We are seeing strong demand for credit from SMEs and we expect that demand to continue to increase as the economy improves.
“During National Enterprise Week, over 1200 businesses will display their products and services across our 270 branches. We will host some 200 events including Networking and Credit clinics over the week, giving advice in relation to accessing credit for micro and small businesses, the Agri sector and trading overseas. We want to be at the forefront in enabling enterprise throughout the country from providing credit to support working capital requirements and business growth to other activities that will help businesses progress. We want to be the enterprise bank for business customers.
“We are supporting SME’s in the technology sector through our sponsorship of the FinTech programme of NDRC (National Digital Research Centre) and will shortly be announcing our involvement in a new Bank of Ireland Accelerator programme. We are also supporting SME’s looking to use social media to engage with and broaden their customer base. To date over 500 SMEs have registered to participate in our Twitter partnership, which allows SMEs to access advice and tutorials online as well as offering them opportunities to win twitter credits. We recently announced a world first partnership with Facebook for SMEs to access support and guidance on using the world’s leading social media site to engage their customers.”
National Enterprise Week comprises a number of events and activities to include:-
- Show your business: It is about facilitating businesses to showcase their wares to the public in our branches – in the hope that they will sell more products, make new contacts and also to provide networking opportunities with other businesses that are facing similar challenges. This will take place across our branch network.
- Speed Networking, Clinics &Mart visits: These provide entrepreneurs and business owners with the opportunity to have access to high level networking events and credit clinics which we have been running throughout the country, bringing SMEs through the information and detail required to support their request for credit/lending facilities. We will also be attending local marts across the country to meet with the agri community in their place of work.
- “Economics and Enterprise” Breakfasts: We are hosting a number of breakfast networking events across the country featuring local entrepreneurs as well as the Bank of Ireland’s new chief Economist Dr Loretta O’Sullivan. These events will allow business owners to understand how global and domestic economics can impact on their local markets and understand how local entrepreneurs are harnessing the recovery in the Irish economy.
- Social media clinics: We will also be hosting a number of social media clinics across the country featuring speakers from Facebook, Twitter as well as Social Media expert Aileen O’Toole. This will be a great opportunity for business owners to understand and develop a social media strategy for their business.
- Agri and Food Conference – 2020 Vision: In the run up to National Enterprise Week, a major Agri and Food Conference was held at Corrin Mart, Rathcormac, Fermoy, attended by over 600 customers and non-customers from across the Agri sector. The speakers included Richie Boucher, CEO – Bank of Ireland, Jack Kennedy Dairy Editor of Irish Farmers Journal, Valerie Kingston, owner Glenilen Farm and Jim Woulfe CEO of Dairygold who spoke on the prospects for the sector over the coming years.