Category Archives: Business

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.”

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?

 

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?

– See more at: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/business-magazine/market-research-techniques#sthash.sCpa4jrO.dpuf

The different ways of complaining

  • Face to face
  • By phone
  • By email
  • By letter

Let’s first take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each before concluding which is the most effective.

Picture this scenario: you have bought a faulty item from a shop and you take it back to complain. You go directly to the shop assistant and tell them your problem. They say they cannot help you, which makes you angrier, to the point perhaps where you start insulting the poor shop assistant. RESULT: This will do you no favours, like getting any compensation, or even a refund. If you go directly to the first person you see within the organisation you are complaining about, you may be wasting your time as they may be powerless to take any action or provide you with a solution. So the important lesson to be learnt is to make sure firstly that you are speaking to the relevant person, the one who has the authority to make decisions.

Perhaps you don’t have time to actually go and see the relevant authority in person so you decide to make a phone call. The problem with complaining by phone is that you may be passed around from department to department, making you more and more angry until you finally give up. Either that or the phone is hung up on you, which leaves you fuming even more. Furthermore, any contact can be denied.

The same applies to emails too, which can additionally be deleted, or even manipulated.

This leaves us with the traditional letter. When we first make a complaint the usual response is a request to write a letter:  “Can you put that down in writing please?”

The advantages of writing a letter of complaint are that:

  • Written records are still very important, e.g. in legal matters as opposed to a fax or email.
  • You have complete control over what is being said, and you can present evidence.
  • You can be prepared, and plan your letter carefully.
  • You are able to keep copies of anything sent in writing.
  • You have time to reflect and/or consult as opposed to complaining on the spot.

So here are some useful points to consider when writing your letter:

  • State what went wrong exactly. You need to provide concrete evidence, with documentation, for example a receipt, where possible. Make sure you keep copies of all correspondence, including relevant documentation. You also need to state where, when, who was involved, what was said or done. Photographic or video evidence boosts your case.
  • What do you expect from your complaint?  If you are complaining about a situation at work, focus on taking action to improve situations rather than spending your time complaining.
  • State a time limit for when you expect a reply.
  • Be assertive, and stay calm.
  • Make sure you address the complaint to the relevant person.

– See more at: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/business-magazine/complaining#sthash.uSoaDMC1.dpuf

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

Are you a blogger too

Only a few years ago, a “web log” was a little-known way of keeping an online diary.  At that time, it seemed like “blogs” (as they quickly became known) were only for serious computer geeks or obsessives.

This didn’t last long, though, and within a very short period of time, blogs exploded – blogs were everywhere, and it seemed that almost everyone read blogs, or was a blogger.

The blogging craze of a couple of years ago (when it was estimated that ten new blogs were started somewhere in the world every minute) now seems to have died down a bit – yet thousands of blogs (probably the better ones) remain.  Blogs are no now longer seen as the exclusive possession of geeks and obsessives, and are now seen as important and influential sources of news and opinion.  So many people read blogs now, that it has even been suggested that some blogs may have been powerful enough to influence the result of the recent US election.

Blogs are very easy to set up – all you need is a computer, an internet connection and the desire to write something.  The difference between a blog and a traditional internet site is that a blog is one page consisting mostly of text (with perhaps a few pictures), and – importantly – space for people to respond to what you write.  The best blogs are similar to online discussions, where people write in responses to what the blogger has written.  Blogs are regularly updated – busy blogs are updated every day, or even every few hours.

Not all blogs are about politics, however.  There are blogs about music, film, sport, books – any subject you can imagine has its enthusiasts typing away and giving their opinions to fellow enthusiasts or anyone else who cares to read their opinions.

So many people read blogs now that the world of blog writers and blog readers has its own name – the “blogosphere”.

But how influential, or important, is this blogosphere really?  One problem with blogs is that many people who read and write them seem only to communicate with each other.  When people talk about the influence of the blogosphere, they do not take into account the millions of people around the world who are not bloggers, never read blogs, and don’t even have access to a computer, let alone a good internet connection.

Sometimes, it seems that the blogosphere exists only to influence itself, or that its influence is limited to what is actually quite a small community.  Blogs seem to promise a virtual democracy – in which anyone can say anything they like, and have their opinions heard – but who is actually listening to these opinions?  There is still little hard evidence that blogs have influenced people in the way that traditional mass media (television and newspapers) have the ability to do.

The Different of Business and ethics

Set up in the 1920s by James Carston, a Manchester tailor, the company has remained in the family and is now run by James’s grandson, Paul Carston.  Employing fewer than 50 people, the company has a reputation for producing high-quality men’s shirts, which it sells by mail order, and has a loyal customer base.  As Paul Carston says, ‘Once someone has tried our shirts, they tend to come back for more.  Our customers appreciate the attention to detail and the high-quality fabric we use.’  And it’s the fabric they now use that makes the company almost unique in the world of men’s shirt manufacturers. When Paul Carston took over running the company in 1999, he inherited a business that prided itself on using local well-paid machinists rather than sweatshop labour, and looked upon its employees as members of an extended family.  Paul, a committed environmentalist, felt that the company fitted in well with his values.  The shirts were made from 100 per cent cotton, and as Paul says, ‘It’s a completely natural fibre, so you would think it was environmentally sound’.  Then Paul read a magazine article about Fair Trade and cotton producers.  He was devastated to read that the cotton industry is a major source of pollution, and that the synthetic fertilisers used to produce cotton are finding their way into the food chain.

Paul takes up the story.  ‘I investigated our suppliers, and sure enough found that they were producing cotton on an industrial scale using massive amounts of chemicals.  Then I looked into organic cotton suppliers, and found an organisation of Indian farmers who worked together to produce organic cotton on a Fair Trade basis.  Organic cotton is considerably more expensive than conventionally produced cotton, so I did the sums. I discovered that if we were prepared to take a cut in profits, we would only need to add a couple of pounds to the price of each shirt to cover the extra costs.  The big risk, of course, was whether our customers would pay extra for organic cotton.’ Paul did some research into the ethical clothing market and discovered that although there were several companies producing casual clothing such as T-shirts in organic cotton, there was a gap in the market for smart men’s shirts.

He decided to take the plunge and switch entirely to organic cotton.  He wrote to all his customers explaining the reasons for the change, and at the same time the company set up a website so they could sell the shirts on the internet.  The response was encouraging.  Although they lost some of their regular customers, they gained a whole customer base looking for formal shirts made from organic cotton, and the company is going from strength to strength. – See more at: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/business-magazine/business-and-ethics#sthash.tcxU0YAX.dpuf

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.

– See more at: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/business-magazine/introduction-competencies#sthash.fUzHUHPy.dpuf

 

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. – See more at: http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/business-magazine/introduction-coaching#sthash.ZWxQA6KE.dpuf

Big business in Ireland

In this edition of The Capital B, Seamus O’Hara of The Carlow Brewery Company lifts the lid on the busy craft beer business and sheds a light on whether any brewery can truly stand the test of time.

The O’Hara brewery was set up over 20 years ago and it all started with a grá for beer. After experiencing the vast array of small breweries in the UK, Seamus saw a gap in the market, in other words, he wanted the good stuff and Irish beer just wasn’t cutting it.

At the time, craft beer was a mere glint in the eyes of out of work actors across the nation, but the O’Hara crew had stumbled upon something with substance and sustainability, and they wanted to see it through.

Using the old style of BES Investment the O’Hara team drummed up support from family and friends, and starting slow they began the long process of cracking into the competitive market of distilling.

One of the major forces affecting any start-up brewery is cash flow,  it’s highly capital intensive and according to Seamus; it can cost up to a quarter of a million euro to just get things going.

Starting on a customer by customer basis they gradually developed a loyal following and began looking to export. With some bumps along the road the brewery has gone from strength to strength, and the future is looking bright in this busy sector.

Also on this week’s episode, pub aficionado Noel Anderson discusses the surge in late bars and decline of nightclubs, plus a deep dive into newly modernised Jameson Whiskey.