Monthly Archives: November 2016

A large majority of businesses offside

The InterTradeIreland All-Island Quarterly Business Monitor (April-June 2016) indicated that over 95% of businesses surveyed across the island have no plan in place to deal with the consequences of the UK’s vote to leave the EU. Moreover, nearly one in five report that this uncertainty will lead to a decrease in their level or speed of investment.

Crucially, this uncertainty and degree of pessimism comes at a time when the wider economic and business back drop is very positive, with 90% of businesses reporting they are stable or growing. Encouragingly, also, is the result that almost two thirds of businesses on the island state that they have the ambition to grow in the immediate future.

In the meantime we encourage businesses to focus on the things they can control, such as:
 

1. Customer and Supplier Relationships

Focus on developing close value-adding partnership relationships with customers or suppliers that can endure potentially destabilising changes in pricing relationships.

 

2. Business Planning

Possessing a clear and concise plan for your business that identifies clear objectives, critical processes, threats and opportunities is a vital step to navigating uncertainty. Clearly this plan should be reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis.

 

3. Innovation

Innovation should play a key part in your business plans. Uniqueness in a product or service offering comes with a premium that can offset disadvantageous cost movement. InterTradeIreland’s Challenge Programme  shows businesses how to build innovation into their DNA.

 

4. Currency Hedging

A currency hedging plan reduces a business’s risk of losing out when the value of the currency you are selling in declines relative to the company’s core operating currency. As such, hedging is a risk management strategy that protects rather than creates profits. Guidance on hedging can be provided by your bank.

 

InterTradeIreland Supports

InterTradeIreland is supporting businesses to navigate the uncertain landscape and realise their growth ambitions as the terms and conditions of the UK’s new relationship with Europe – and more specifically that between Northern Ireland and Ireland – emerges.

Our range of trade programmes will become more attractive to inexperienced and first time exporters as new trading relationships begin to emerge. Our Trade Accelerator Vouchers, which can be used for market advice to help scope the potential business opportunity in the opposite jurisdiction and any regulatory hurdles, offer the perfect vehicle for getting expert company-specific advice on changes in the trading environment as they emerge.

Most importantly, we encourage businesses to continue pursuing an export growth strategy. Businesses that export, including those that trade across the border, are three times more likely to be growing!

Some of the elements affecting SMEs

In last year’s Budget, the Minister introduced an Earned Income Tax Credit of €550 for small business owners who cannot benefit from the PAYE tax credit of €1,650 available to employees. The Minister announced an increase in this credit to €950 for 2017.

The three lower USC rates have been reduced by 0.5%. Accordingly, all income earners will have a lower tax burden to varying degrees. The ceiling at which the 2.5% USC rate applies is increased to €18,772 – this ensures that a full-time worker on the minimum wage will remain outside the top rates of USC.

 

2. Minimum Wage

The higher cost to employers arising from the increase in the hourly minimum wage from €9.15 to €9.25 will take effect from 1st January 2017.

 

3. Entrepreneur relief

The standard rate of capital gains tax remains at 33%. However, the Minister announced a reduction to 10% in the capital gains tax rate that applies to disposals by Entrepreneurs of qualifying assets. Entrepreneur relief offers the reduced rate of capital gains tax on the disposal by an individual of business assets up to a lifetime limit of chargeable gains of €1 million. The Minister is to review this lifetime limit in future budgets.

To qualify for the relief, the business assets which include shares in a company must have been owned by the individual for a continuous period of at least three years in the five years immediately prior to the date of disposal.

 

4. Share-based remuneration

Following a public consultation and review of share-based remuneration earlier this year, the Minister announced the intention to develop a new, SME, focussed share-based incentive scheme which is to be introduced in next year’s Budget.

 

5. Retailers and Tourism

The reduced 9% VAT rate for tourism and related activities will continue to apply.  The Minister noted that the reduced rate will act as a buffer for the sector against the weakness in sterling which increases the cost of holidaying in Ireland for British tourists.

 

6. SMEs in the Construction and Property Sector

The Minister introduced a new ‘Help to Buy Scheme’ for first time buyers of new houses that take out a mortgage of at least 80% of the purchase price. This scheme will provide a rebate of income tax paid over the previous four years. The rebate is subject to a maximum of 5% of the purchase price of a new home up to a value of €400,000. New houses with a cost between €400,000 and €600,000 will also qualify for the scheme but the rebate is calculated at the €400,000 limit. No rebate will be paid on new house purchases in excess of €600,000. The rebate does not apply to the purchase of second hand houses.

The majority of phone numbers

Traditional telephony, where your phone calls are trafficked over physical lines, is dying out. The public switched telephone network (PSTN) has been decommissioned in some European countries, with end of life dates set for the near future in others. It is expected that the end date for Ireland will be announced soon.

The reason for this is IP telephony, or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). This technology uses your broadband connection to traffic your phone calls and has long been accepted as the alternative to PSTN due to the real business benefits it can offer. Essentially it allows you to put your phone system and phone numbers into the “cloud” so they are not reliant on the physical PSTN to work.

How does this improve your business communications? Let’s take a look at five very real benefits.

 

1.    Flexible user management
For cloud phone numbers, the inevitable comings and goings of employees in an organisation pose no issues. If an employee leaves, assigning their old number to a new starter in your organisation can be done with a couple of clicks, no matter where they are based. They don’t need to sit at the same desk as the previous person and use the same phone cable. They don’t even need to be in the same office.

If someone needs to work remotely, either from home or while they travel for business, there’s no issue with them staying contactable via their same number. In its most basic setup, a cloud phone number is usually pointed at one or more devices i.e. your desk phone or a soft phone.

 

2.    Improve your operations
With a cloud system, you can put time of day rules in place with some simple clicks. This means that when someone calls out of office hours, you can play a specific message mentioning what the office hours are or perhaps providing them with an alternative contact method. You can prompt them to leave a voicemail afterward, or even redirect their call to that alternative contact number.

If a person calls within office hours, they can be directed to the receptionist or the boss or even given a full menu of options to choose from for each department. This is known as Interactive Voice Response (IVR).

Your organisation may have more than one “main” number. For example, your sales team might have its own general number as well as each sales rep having their own direct dial. When the sales line rings, it’s possible to set up which team member’s phone should call first, or perhaps all of them should. If the call goes unanswered for a period of time, you can redirect it to the team leader’s or manager’s phone.

The beauty of a cloud-based phone number is not that these services are simply available. They are available for PSTN numbers too (although it can be an arduous and expensive process). Rather, with a cloud phone number, these rules can be tweaked whenever needed by someone within your own organisation – no matter how many times they need to be changed.

 

3.    Get in-depth reporting
As your cloud phone number works via the internet, it is a lot easier for your virtual phone system to provide reporting data on your calls. Duration, date, number called or whether or not it was a transfer – all of this information is easily available.

You can use call recordings for training purposes, check the call performance of your in-house sales team or an individual user, or keep a tab on how many calls are coming in to your customer support team.

Reporting for a traditional phone system can be accomplished. However, it will be priced as an add-on to your service or you will need to contract a third party to provide you with the capability rather than have it included with your phone system. There will also be limitations on the information that can be provided.