SFA E-Zine – The Tuesday Edition
 

Dear Member, 

 

We would like to draw you attention to the SFA opening hours over Christmas. The SFA will be closed from 5:30 on Friday 23 December. We will partially re-open on 28 and 29 December, contact Sven at tel: 01-6051602 or e-mail sven@sfa.ie. Then we close again until we return to business as usual on 2 January.

  

In this week's ezine we bring you details on how to renew your subscription for 2018. We advise you on public holiday entitlements over the Christmas period.

 

Each week in the SFA e-zine, we profile a different business support available to small businesses. In this edition, we focus on the Credit Review Office, an independent body that reviews banks’ decisions to refuse, reduce or withdraw credit for SMEs. We bring you a summary of the Digital Health Index carried out by IE Domain Registry and information on how to secure your domain name. We take a look at the Economic Outlook for the Irish Retail sector. We also provide a summary of recent press coverage.

 

This is your last chance to register your attendance for the SFA Members Christmas evening taking place this Thursday for an evening of festive networking. Take a look at the 12 topics you can choose from on our new training courses taking place in 2018. Save the dates in your diary for our new upcoming events, 10 January 2018 for GDPR and 1 February 2018 in your diary for Business Connect.

 

As always, we’d love to hear from you about any queries you may have, issues you wish to have raised with Government or other stakeholders and your ideas on how we can improve the business environment for us all. Please contact me on tel: 01 605 1602 or e-mail: sven@sfa.ie or tweet: @SFA_Irl or visit: www.sfa.ie.


Kind regards, 

Sven Spollen-Behrens

SFA Director


SFA IN THE MEDIA
Recent press coverage

Recent press coverage

  • SFA Awards
  • Small business Saturday

  • Invoice financing

SFA Awards

 

The finalists for the SFA National Small Business Awards 2018 were referred to in the:

 

Finalist company was interviewed on KCLR Radio on 6 December.

 

Invoice financing

The SFA’s November business sentiment survey was referred to in an article in the Sunday Times on 10 December stating that 50% of members are looking for external funding.

 

Small Business Saturday

The SFA has called on shoppers to support small businesses in their local communities as part of Small Business Saturday This was referred to in an article in the Evening Echo (cork) on 8 December and the Roscommon Herald on 5 December.

NEWS
SFA membership subscription 2018
 

We would like to thank you for your continued membership and support throughout 2017. We appreciate your support and hope that your business is benefiting from our expert advice services, along with the extensive networking and marketing opportunities we provide for you through our events and many different communications channels...


We would like to thank you for your continued membership and support throughout 2017. We appreciate your support and hope that your business is benefiting from our HR advice services, along with the extensive networking and marketing opportunities we provide for you through our events and many different communications channels.

2017 membership invoices where issued at the beginning of this month and we would appreciate your immediate attention if you haven't responded already.

 

You have two payment options to choose from:

 

You have an option to pay by direct debit monthly or quarterly. Please visit www.sfa.ie/directdebit where you can fill out the relevant form for your payment.


Alternatively you can renew your subscription through an electronic payment and send it directly to Bank of Ireland, 2 College Green, Account Number: 10025922, Sort Code:  900017. 

 

We will continue to remain your strong voice throughout 2018 and we will strive to deliver on our vision of Ireland as the most vibrant small business community in the world – supporting entrepreneurship, valuing small business and rewarding risk-takers.

 

We look forward to continuing to be your trusted business partner, offering you expert advice, networking and business representation services in the coming years.

 

For further queries on this, please contact Sven at sven@sfa.ie or on tel: 01-6051602.

Annual leave and public holidays over the Christmas period
 

As the Christmas holiday season is fast approaching, it is that time of year when businesses need to factor in annual leave and public holidays. Here is a quick summary on what your business needs to know and legally comply with along with a few of the more frequently asked questions from members...


As the Christmas holiday season is fast approaching, it is that time of year when businesses need to factor in annual leave and public holidays. Here is a summary on what your business needs to know and legally comply with along with a few of the more frequently asked questions from members.

 

For 2017 the official public holidays for Christmas and the New year are:

  • Monday 25 December
  • Tuesday 26 December
  • Monday 1 January

Some businesses may decide to include one or two company days as a type of paid leave but this is not mandatory.

 

How is annual leave calculated?

Annual leave entitlements can be calculated using one of the following methods:

  • 4 working weeks in a leave year whereby the employee works at least 1,365 hours (unless during the year the employee leaves their employment).
  • 1/3 of a working week per calendar month that the employee works at least 117 hours.
  • 8% of the hours an employee works in a leave year (but subject to a maximum of 4 working weeks).

The maximum statutory annual leave entitlement of an employee in a leave year is four of his/her normal working weeks or twenty days if they work full time. This is on a pro-rata basis if they work part time hours.

 

Who is responsible for ensuring that annual leave is taken?

The employer must ensure that the employee takes their allocated statutory leave within the leave year. Failure to do this is a breach of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, however, with the employee’s consent, this leave can be taken within six months of the following year and ideally it should be taken as early as possible. It is illegal to pay an employee in lieu of their statutory annual leave entitlement unless the employment has been terminated within the leave year.

 

The only exception to this is when an employee is on certified sick leave which is ongoing. In this case, annual leave can be carried forward for a period of fifteen months after the leave year in which it was accrued.

 

How can our business effectively manage annual leave?

The employer can look at placing some reasonable restrictions to manage annual leave effectively. For instance it is recommended that:

  • Reminders are issued at least three months prior to the end of the leave year to those employees who have large amounts of “untaken” leave.
  • Where a large number of employees have not taken their annual leave entitlement yet and with the employer’s agreement, they could carry this amount into to the following year subject to the company policy. This would only apply to annual leave that is in excess of 4 working weeks.
  • Employers could look at a sell back scheme, where employees can purchase a particular amount of their annual leave entitlement at the end of the year.

Please, refer to the SFA website for more information on effectively managing annual leave.

 

Our business operates a shut down for the Christmas period. Can I request that my employees use their annual entitlement for the shut down?

Yes, however, a minimum of four week’s written notice must be given to employees that the company is operating a shutdown period and that employees are required to use their annual leave for this time period and ensure they have adequate leave outstanding to cover use for the shutdown period.

 

For further information on annual or public leave entitlements, please refer to the SFA website or contact Helen Quinn on 01 605 1668 or helen.quinn@sfa.ie

Appeal bank credit decisions to the Credit Review Office – 55% overturned
 

Spotlight on the Credit Review Office, an independent body that reviews banks’ decisions to refuse, reduce or withdraw credit for SMEs. This article provides information on the scheme and advice on how to avail of it...


There are over 80 different government supports available to small businesses but many of them are not well known or understood. Each week in the SFA e-zine, we will profile a different support that could improve your business, giving you information and advice.

 

Credit Review Office (CRO)

 

What?            

 

Simple, independent review process for small businesses refused/reduced/withdrawn credit by banks.

 

Experienced credit reviewers, with frontline SME credit experience, review the bank’s decision to refuse credit. The bank must provide the information used in reaching the decision. The CRO issues recommendations for the borrower and the bank.   

 

As of the end of March 2017, the CRO had reviewed 552 cases:

  • 250 – bank decision upheld
  • 302 – borrower upheld
  • 55% overturned
  • €46.7 million credit recommended
  • 3,175 jobs projected/created               

The CRO reports regularly to the Minister for Finance on credit trends and bottlenecks. These reports are published and can be found here.

 

Why?             

 

The recovery to date has been deemed ‘creditless’ by some – an indication of the hesitance of small businesses to apply for credit and the difficulties of accessing it. The aim of the CRO is to ensure that viable businesses have access to credit, which is an important tool for growth in a healthy economy.

 

How?             

 

If a company disagrees with the bank’s decision in relation to a credit application, the first step is to follow the bank’s internal appeal process.

 

If the applicant is still unsuccessful, they can appeal to the Credit Review Office by visiting www.creditreview.ie, calling 1850 211 789 or emailing info@creditreview.ie.

 

A fee of €100-€250 applies (depending on the value of the loan request) and the appeal takes on average 4-6 weeks.  

 

The outcome of the appeal is a short opinion document from the CRO with recommendations for the borrower and the bank and next steps (if the appeal is successful).

 

The bank must comply, or explain to the CRO why not. To date, all banks have complied with the recommendations.

 

Tips               

 

If you are interested in applying, don’t forget:

  • The Credit Review process is open to all businesses with less than 250 employees, less than €50 million in turnover and/or a balance sheet value of less than €43 million, including sole traders, partnerships and limited companies
  • An appeal can only be made to the CRO if the loan was refused by AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank or PTSB.
  • Appeals can relate to credit facilities such as loans, overdrafts, leasing and invoice discounting, from €1,000 to €3,000,000.
  • Credit card debt is not covered by the Credit Review Office.
  • An appeal must be brought to the CRO within 28 days of the bank’s internal appeal decision.
  • Even in cases where the appeal is not successful, the CRO will try to suggest some form of remedy or alternative way forward.

The CRO recently published an information note for SMEs with debts in a loan portfolio sale.

Economic outlook on the Irish retail sector

Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the retail sector in Ireland, has recently published its Christmas Retail Monitor 2017 that predicts the Irish household will spend an average of €2,654 in shops this Christmas, approximately €870 more than any other month of the year and roughly 2.6% more than Christmas 2016...


Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the retail sector in Ireland, has recently published its Christmas Retail Monitor 2017 that predicts the Irish household will spend an average of €2,654 in shops this December, approximately €870 more than any other month of the year and roughly 2.6% more than Christmas 2016.  The monitor predicts an increase in total sales of over €100 million, with sales over the Christmas season expected to top €4.5 billion, up from €4.4 billion in 2016. However, with a greater number of Irish shoppers now choosing to shop on foreign websites, the challenge for Irish retailers will be to ensure that this buoyancy is felt locally and that Irish based retailers benefit from this anticipated additional spending.

 

The growing migration by Irish consumers online over recent months is creating a challenge for Irish retailers. Local traders have to date been unable to stem the flow of close to 75% of online consumer spending that currently leaves these shores.

 

Irish retailers are reacting however, and the online consumer offer is stronger than at any point in times past. Irish retailers also continue to focus on getting their in-store activity right in these crucial trading weeks and will be seeking to capitalise upon an increasing willingness on the part of consumers to spend their greater levels of disposable income.

 

Key indicators point to retail prices remaining low, thanks in part to intense competition between retailers and positive currency movements. Other insights from the monitor include:

  • Consumer goods prices have fallen by 2.2% in the first ten months of 2017 and by 8.4% in the last three years. This pattern is set to continue as consumers avail of record discounts arising from Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales
  • Retail sales in the first ten months of this year are up 3.9% in value terms on the same period in 2016
  • Gross disposable income was up 5.4% in the first half of 2017, following on from growth of over 4% in 2016
  • Overall employment grew by 2.9% in the first half of 2017. The labour market is now approaching full employment with unemployment at its lowest rate since 2008
  • Central Bank statistics show that total e-commerce spend is likely to exceed €16 billion before year end. This would represent a close to 50% increase since 2015, highlighting the increasing number of Irish consumers shopping online. The uplift in online sales in the online channel is running at six times that of traditional bricks and mortar outlets.

Expectations for Christmas by retail sector supermarkets and convenience stores: For grocery and convenience stores, Christmas comes late with the feast day falling on a Monday this year. Therefore, the week beginning 18 December will be make or break for this category. Black Friday has minimal effect on food sales other than to trigger even keener competitive activity. This keen competition for market share will drive heavy discounting and promotions, a dividend for shoppers but costly for retailers.

 

Department stores: Department Stores are expecting Christmas to be a bit of a nail-biter this year with last

minute shopping expected well into the final week. Early sales or pre-Christmas price promotions are not expected within this category of retail this year. For 2017 the big focus is around personalisation, fragrance, champagne and chocolates. For men it will be about trainers, expensive branded and limited editions at mid-price, and as always, for women, luxury accessories and niche fragrance.

 

Pharmacies: Overall there has been a positive start to the Christmas period for pharmacies, with footfall and sales up on last year. Top sales are expected to come in premium cosmetics, fragrance and Christmas gifts this year. Online sales in the category are expected to grow over the weeks in the lead up to Christmas Day as firms discount to drive traffic to their web stores. Community pharmacies report slightly slower growth thus far, but hopes remain high for the weeks ahead.

 

Computers, electrical and electronics stores: TV’s, tablets and video game systems were the key sales drivers over Black Friday and Cyber Monday and significant demand for these products is expected continue right up to Christmas Day. While discounting and promotions were used to generate sales over the Black Friday weekend, there will be a renewed emphasis on margin retention on the run up to Christmas.

 

Please see here a link to the full report.

Act now to secure your domain name before the rules change
 

The latest dot ie Digital Health Index has found that one in five SMEs have no digital assets whatsoever. If you are part of the cohort of companies that does not have a website, now may be the perfect time to register one as the rules for registering a dot ie domain name will shortly change...


The latest dot ie Digital Health Index has found that one in five SMEs have no digital assets whatsoever. This includes websites, social media profiles, blogs and apps. However, the research also found that 69% of consumers say that it is frustrating if a company does not have a website.

 

If you are part of the cohort of companies that does not have a website, now may be the perfect time to register one as the rules for registering a dot ie domain name will shortly change.

 

From March 2018, there will no longer be a need to provide a claim to the name when registering a dot ie domain name. This means that the advantage that you currently have, i.e. a ‘claim to the name’ associated with your business, is about to run out.

 

This short video and this one-page information sheet will help you to understand the changes.

 

The SFA and IE Domain Registry are encouraging businesses to protect your brand by registering any available names that you need. From March 2018, anyone with a connection to Ireland can register any name they want, including your business name, if it is still available.

EVENTS
Last chance to register - SFA Members Christmas Evening 2017
 
  • 14 December

The SFA Members Christmas evening will take place this Thursday, 14 December 2017 from 6.00pm-8.30pm at the SFA offices, 84-86 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2.

The purpose of the evening is to give members an opportunity to network and develop business contacts in an informal setting. 

 

Our guest speaker this year will be Conor Kavanagh, RTE Radio 1 producer.

 

Festive food and refreshments will be served. The evening is free of charge and feel free to bring along a friend or colleague but please pre-register online.  

Is your business GDPR ready?
 
  • 10 January 2018

Many small firms are aware that the General Data Protection Regulation will come into force next year (25 May 2018) and will bring with it significantly increased responsibilities for businesses of all sizes.

 

The volume of queries received by SFA on GDPR has risen substantially over recent weeks. Owner-managers want to know more about GDPR, their new obligations and how they can prepare.

 

The SFA already has a number of resources available in the advice section of the SFA website. Please see here for more information on ensuring your business is prepared for GDPR.

 

Throughout the first half of 2018, we will also be rolling out a number of events and tools for small businesses working towards compliance.The first event will be part of the Business Bytes series. It will take place on 10 January from 5:30-7:30pm in Dublin city centre. More details will be available shortly but, for now, be sure to save the date.

SFA Business Connect
 
  • 1 February 2018

Note 1 February 2018 in your diary for SFA's brand new event, Business Connect 2018. 

 

Get your new year off to a positive start. Use Business Connect to build your network with many of Ireland’s leading larger companies.

 

Hear from a range of large companies on how they do business and how they connect with smaller organisations. Hear also from smaller companies who are successfully providing innovative and agile solutions to larger organisations. 

 

At this marketplace event, indigenous and multinational companies of all sizes will share a platform to discuss how best we can do business together. The event will take place in Aviva Stadium, Landsdowne Road, Dublin 4. Further details on how to book here. 

TRAINING PROGRAMMES
SFA launches 2018 training offering – 12 topics to choose from

The SFA has launched its 2018 training brochure, 'Training that counts’. There are 12 different courses being offered throughout the year with a focus on skills that can make a real difference to your business in areas such as health and safety, management, employment law and finance...


The SFA has launched its 2018 training brochure,Training that counts’.

 

Is too much time spent on tasks and meetings that seem urgent but are not important for the future of your business? At SFA, we’re here to help you create time for things that can make a real difference, like developing management capacity and other skills for you and your staff.

 

The courses being offered in 2018 are:

  • Manual handling (half-day)
  • Developing and Implementing Strategy (1 day)
  • Effective Presentation Skills (1 day)
  • Employment Law: Discipline and Dismissal (1 day)
  • Finance and Accounting Made Easy (1 day)
  • First Aid Response (1 day)
  • Manage Your Time Effectively (1 day)
  • Performance Management and Appraisal Skills (1 day)
  • Powerful Performance Conversations (1 day)
  • Project Management (1 day)
  • Safety Awareness for Managers (1 day)
  • Foundations in Management (2 days)

The courses are offered at a price that makes it realistic for small companies to participate:

  • Half-day course: €150 for SFA members
  • One-day course: €220 for SFA members
  • Two-day course: €400 for SFA members

Book your places now at www.sfa.ie/events or find out more about customised training and other options here.