The morning started with a discussion on ‘Getting the Contract’ with Dr Peter Brennan from Bid Services, Tom Smith, Head of Procurement at Three, Karl McCann, AIB Merchant Services and Anita Finnegan, Nova Leah. Everyone on the panel shared their experiences from both side of the tender process. Tom spoke to what he looks from in a provider, pricing, ability to scale and to successfully fulfil the contract. Anita on the other hand spoke of her experience as a small company and how they won a major contract, and the steps she has taken to try and reduce the tender process from 12 months to 4 months.
The next session of the morning was on ‘Making your Pitch’ this panel started with a presentation from entrepreneur Sean Gallagher, who drew from his experiences on both sides of the table pitching an idea or business. He spoke about his time on Dragons Den, witnessing great pitches and the disastrous ones also. We then had Barry McLoughlin, Communications Clinic, give the enthralled audience his do and don’t tips for pitching yourself. Did you know that if you have a dry throat you should have still water instead of sparkling, the sparkling water irritates it?! Sean Walsh, Poplar Lines Trading Company spoke to the audience about winning a tender with John Lewis in the UK to provide many of their household products as well as his exclusivity deal with Disney for their merchandise.
The third and final panel of the morning was about how to ‘Collaborate to Innovate’, highlighting the versatility of small companies to react to changes and turn around innovative ideas much more quickly than some of the larger companies who may struggle to bring about change in their organisations. John McQuillan, Travel Tech Labs, spoke about how he has seen a small business create a solution for large organisations in a fraction of the time and being able to win big contacts as a result of their speed and agility. Dave Byrne, Dualtron and Ross Brennan, TCD Innovation also spoke to the room with a key focus for small companies to reward their staff in a time when staff retention is proving difficult for many. It is about ensuring your most innovative team members have the opportunity to grow with you and are recognised for the contribution they make to the company.
During the coffee break and throughout lunch there was a great buzz around the rooms where we had the finalist of the National Small Business Awards exhibiting. People in the room were using this opportunity to network, ask questions and to really see if there were opportunities to grow business both large and small. The SFA asked a series of questions that were posed to the room after each panel. We are in the process of collating the information and look forward to producing a report at the end of the month that will be made available to all who attended and on our website. Now to start planning for next year...