Inside track Q&A
They should reduce the amount of red tape that businesses have to deal with. For example, I tried to hire someone through the JobBridge scheme recently. I didn’t just want someone through that scheme because they were cheap. I was prepared to keep the person on after they’d completed training and give them a full salary. There was so much hassle going through the JobBridge scheme because I wanted to offer them proper pay and a full-time job. I ended up just hiring someone that called in off the street. Also, I think people giving out government funding should have to know what a person needs to make money.
I think Leader and Enterprise Ireland funding is excellent. I’ve received funding myself.
That said, the people deciding on the funding should have run a business themselves or have been self-employed, so they truly know the pressures involved. There should be help rather than high jumps.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge?
Getting our products listed. We worked with distributors when we set up the business in 1987. We were hugely dependent on them though to get our products listed and selling at an affordable price. We now supply Tesco and Musgraves directly. We also got a marketing person on board as there’s huge competition within the cheese industry. Often you could have 100 types of cheese on display in a supermarket. We have to be mindful of our positioning in the store.
What’s your business worth and would you sell it?
We often wondered how much the business was worth. In a way, you could say it’s invaluable. If we didn’t have a family to take it over, we’d probably sell it. That said, we’d also probably sell it if someone walked in the door tomorrow and offered us €2.5 million cash.
Do you think the banks are open for business to SMEs at the moment?
We don’t have first-hand experience as the only loan we ever got from the bank was when we set up in the late 1980s. We paid a huge interest rate back then – it was 21 per cent – so we haven’t been back since. It’s definitely very hard for people setting up new businesses now though, as often they won’t have any financial history/credit history. On top of that, they might have very little experience in business, so the odds are really stacked against them. Effectively we now own the banks though, so it’s very annoying that some excellent SMEs are being refused loans. You really have to have a good business plan going forward.