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Twitter gives boost to small firms, says business expert

The SME community is alive and well, according to small business consultant, Olwen Dawe, who reports that two new hashtags on Twitter are buoying up the online SME community.

"Colleagues of mine have started a great community initiative via the micro-blogging site, using the 'hashtag' #SMEcommunity and #yeSMEcan," she says, adding that the online group offers insight, support and conversation on all things small business-related and promotes the notion that 'together is better'.

It is through this recent online development that Dawe, who runs a business consultancy service, Irish Business Intelligence, decided to 'repackage' her offering to reflect the thoughts and needs of her small business colleagues. The service, as it stands, offers start-ups advice and support in the early stages and throughout development and growth.

"I also work with growing SMEs requiring support in strategy, messaging and execution of internal projects. As times has gone on, I've realised that I need to articulate my approach in a clearer manner - that is, I don't consider myself a consultant, but instead a business partner, working with the business."

Of the pervading atmosphere among small businesses, start-ups and growing SMEs, Dawe notes there is a quiet confidence among many.

"Obviously, the challenges are still great; however, in the main, I must say that I find owner managers an extremely positive, upbeat group to deal with. They are not going to bow to the pressures, but instead look for opportunities and new ways of doing things."

Irish Business Intelligence was established in August 2010 as a small business and SME-focused development and support consultancy, and in its first year, has worked cohesively with enterprise organisations, small businesses and SMEs in the west of Ireland.

"There is an incredible resilience within the small business sector. I am continually amazed by the amount of new ideas start-ups approach me with for coaching, as well as the growing SMEs thinking 'big'. These fledgling
organisations or growing companies simply need a 'virtual' business partner - someone who will provide insight, experience, planning and execution," says Dawe.

Often the term 'consulting' doesn't connect with small business owners, inferring a sense of 'hands-off' or inaccessible services: "The feedback I receive from clients indicates that the hands-on approach is best, working cohesively with the business, and really understanding it, is what it's all about".
Are there any emergent trends for the Irish SME to watch for?

"I would consider smart online activity key - it is unbelievable how many small businesses don't even have a website. Thankfully there are great initiatives available, which ensure no one has an excuse for not being online. SMEs need to make sure that they have a strategy for online, as opposed to just being 'present ' - those with clear strategy can really leverage their business online. In addition, the hot topic undoubtedly is export, with many programmes being launched for cross-border export, as well as to the EU and beyond. Irish manufacturers, distributors and professional services should all examine their strategy with a view to long-term export/expansion."

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