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Is planning worth all the effort?Posted: 13/02/2018

Benjamin Franklin said, "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail". Simply put, if you don't have a plan to execute your setting yourself up for failure. Many people have great ideas but no plan or idea of how to get there, hence if you haven't planned it you are going to fail.

There is the view that no one besides banks, grant bodies and the late Soviet Union requires five-year plans to forecast complete unknowns. These plans are generally fiction and dreaming them up is almost always a waste of time. Start-ups are not smaller versions of large companies. They do not grow according to plan. If you look at the successful business around Dungannon you see that they ultimately succeed after going quickly from failure to failure, all the while adapting and improving their initial ideas as they continually learn from customers."

Harvard Business Review stated recently, “a strategic plan is not a set-and-forget instrument. It's a work in progress.” In saying all that there is some value in preparing a business plan. For a start it can give a bank some reassurance that you know your business and what you are planning to get in to. Secondly, if it a business idea does not work on paper then there is little chance of it working in practice at all. The NI Business Start Up Programme, funded by the local Councils, gives new entrepreneurs the opportunity to explore their idea with a business advisor and then prepare a business plan.

A new way of thinking towards business planning, however, is the Lean Startup methodology. First coined by Eric Ries, Lean Startups favour experimentation over exhausting planning, customer feedback over intuition and iterative design over traditional "big design upfront" development. And it's not just for new startups either. An increasing number of established businesses are implementing lean startup methods to help them deal with rapid change in the marketplace. For many fledgling entrepreneurs in the idea phase of setting up in business, it can feel like they are simply taking a stab in the dark; but it doesn’t have to be such a hit-or-miss proposition. With a little lean thinking it’s possible to develop and refine your ideas to mitigate market risks. Most start-ups don’t have the benefit of unlimited pots of money, so the lean business model encourages the controlled deployment of resources that you do have. As a way of reducing risk, simply create an initial prototype that allows you to test the water with the aim of refining it into a better version further down the line. It’s a sensible, measured way of understanding whether your product or service has a demand within the target market using the least money time and resources.

Business plans rarely survive first contact with customers. As the boxer Mike Tyson once said about his opponents’ prefight strategies: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”



Social Media Spring CleanPosted: 22/01/2018


By Brian MacAuley


Ultimately when it comes to business, social media marketing can contribute to generating sales. Social media is much more than just a way to grow your image and connect with your current customers. When done correctly, you can use sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to generate real leads for your business. And the best thing is that social media lead generation is cost effective.

With people turning to their mobile devices and social media in the buying journey there are many reasons why your business should be active on social media. Checking that your presence is effective is therefore essential - “time for a spring clean”. To carry out an audit on your social media, look closely at your activity, results, audience, and your advertising spend. You may find you’re spending too much time or money on a platform that’s not delivering results or, for example, that you’re hitting your audience on Twitter but not Facebook. The first step in your audit is to compile all the social media metrics you can to evaluate your overall results – the number of followers, likes, shares, comments, video views, post reach etc.

Take a close look at how they compare on different types of posts, too. Do you get more engagement from Facebook when you tag influencers than when you share blog posts? Do your video views get more engagement on Instagram or Twitter? Are they steadily increasing over time? Sometimes our assumptions are wrong, which is why it’s so important to track this data. For example, you might be frustrated with comparatively low on-platform engagement on Pinterest compared to your other social profiles. However, after an audit, you might discover Pinterest actually sends you the most (and best) site traffic. social media followings might be different for each platform. If you market your business on Pinterest or Snapchat, you know how true this can be.

You also may be missing one demographic of your target audience on one platform. You probably don’t have as many male followers on Pinterest or lack older followers on Snapchat, for example; however, that wouldn’t make sense on Facebook.

Most social media sites provide audience information, like Facebook’s Audience Insights or Pinterest’s Analytics. Once you know who your target audience is and how people are interacting with you on social media, it’s time to take a closer look at how you’re using your social media platforms. Ultimately, you want to monitor your presence for consistency and quality. For example, do you respond rapidly to Facebook messages and emails, but not Twitter direct messages? Is your branding consistent across all platforms?

Also look at the types of content you share across your social platforms and over time. Carrying out a spring clean on your social media may seem a chore, but it is essential. There are tools online to help you do it on your own and the know-how and training at Dungannon Enterprise Centre if you get stuck. 

Moon Landings to Business Growth - Goal Achievers 2018Posted: 08/01/2018

On 25th May 1961, John F. Kennedy announced to the world his ambitious goal of sending a man to the moon by the end of the decade! On 20th July 1969, Neil Armstrong announced, ‘one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’ … from the moon! Now in 1961, absolutely no one knew how exactly to put a man on the moon so how did the U.S. achieve Kennedy’s goal?

Well, the first thing Kennedy did right was to set goals in the first place and he wasn’t afraid to dream big! Next, he told people about his goal – if a goal is kept secret it’s chances of achievement are relatively low. Then he got working on the smaller steps that needed to be taken to effectively send a man to the moon.

So how can you put Kennedy’s example into practice in your business? Well, the human brain has amazing problem-solving skills and setting goals helps to channel the brain towards finding a solution. By announcing his goal to the world and putting smaller actions in place, Kennedy inspired many people to work towards achieving a single goal and the brain power of many was focused on finding a solution to the problem. So, by taking the time to consider ambitious goals for your business and sharing those goals with your staff and networks, you too will channel your thoughts and actions towards solving the problem.

But it’s all well and good to set goals but how do you make sure you achieve them? Here are some top tips:


1. Dream Big… But be motivated!

The human brain is set up to help you achieve goals that you believe are achievable. Audit your business. What resources do you have? How many customers are in your target market? What skills do you have access to? What time do you have to dedicate to achieving goals? What room do you have for growth? Once you know this you will be able to set ambitious goals that are realistic within the framework of your business. BUT know that big ambitions will only come to fruition if you are motivated to see them through to the end.


2. Bite Size It

It’s likely that one of your goals will involve profitability but if your goal is to double profits your brain’s ‘hell no’ detector may start ringing and there’s no way you will achieve your goal. Instead break it down to more manageable daily or weekly goals. Increased profitability won’t happen without more sales so what can you do everyday that will help increase sales? Remember that the first 30 days following the setting of any goal are the most important. By doing something everyday you are showing that ‘hell no’ detector that you are serious and those around you will also see that you are serious and will start to work towards helping you achieve your goals.


3. Adapt & Adjust

While the end goal always stays the same, be flexible with your smaller mini goals and actions. If they are too easy, make them more difficult or if they are too difficult make them easier. If you fail with your mini goals, then your main goals will never happen. Don’t punish yourself for falling off the bandwagon, in fact, know that you will and allow for it in your plans. Know that after a while the repetitiveness of daily actions may become boring and make sure to challenge yourself every now and then to keep it interesting.


So, if you’d like your business to reach moon like heights get working on your goals now. Dream big, tell people your vision, break it down and take action every day. And if you need some help or simply want to take time out to work on your goals and how you will achieve them book your place on our Goal Achievers 2018 masterclass, taking place on Thursday 18th January at Dungannon Enterprise Centre from 10am – 1pm.


New Year “Stickability”.Posted: 02/01/2018

If I achieved every New Year’s Resolution I made I would be a different man today - probably slimmer and fitter for a start. What is it about making promises to ourselves and then reneging on them once it becomes too hard? Not having the “stickability” to complete on promises to ourselves must be a flaw in all of us from birth. Or maybe not, after all, we all learned how to walk despite the number of times we fell. As babies we don’t make resolutions to learn how to walk, no matter how much it hurts. So maybe it’s the making of the resolution and the significance that we put into the promise that stops us. Fear of failing is a strong emotional reason to not make a resolution in the first place. If you don’t make a resolution then there is zero chance of failure, right?


The recent GEM report into enterprise throughout the countries of the world found that the fear of failure was higher among UK entrepreneurs than their counterparts in the US - and worse still in the report, Northern Ireland was the highest region in the UK. Fear of potentially failing can stop a person from starting a business and stopping a business from growing. Making a declaration about what you are going to do and that you are going to succeed many sound counter intuitive to a fear of failure, but it’s the only antidote to the situation. Authentically declaring what you are going to do in your business can galvanise staff into action and customers will respond to you differently. While it may feel like arrogance or recklessness, it will occur to others as decisiveness and positive leadership – traits that are always attractive.  

Making that declaration or resolution requires courage, confronting the well-practised fear that you will fail and look foolish. I understand that fear but do it anyway. 2017 is gone and 2018 is now on the horizon. 2018 will also come and go, so don’t take yourself too seriously and do it anyway. How are you going to grow that business of yours? When are you going to start that business idea of yours? In Dungannon we are lucky that we are surrounded by a culture of entrepreneurship and failing is regarded as just a way of learning for the next time. A wise business man from Donaghmore once told me that we all make decisions that we regret. Its only a mistake when we know it’s the wrong decision and do nothing about it.  

So, for what it’s worth, my New Year’s Resolution this year is to make a meaningful difference to the people of Zambia. I don’t know what that difference will be or what it will look like, but there it is – the cat is out of the bag now! Oh, and maybe loose an inch of my waist -  but I’m not sure about the “stickability” around that one.


More than a PhonePosted: 19/12/2017

by Brian MacAuley


What do you think is the greatest innovation of all time? This is a difficult question and the more you think about it, the more ideas you are likely to come up with. For many of our young people, the smart phone is often the impulsive answer – not the wheel, penicillin or electricity,

Smartphones, and the expansion of 4G connectivity, have changed the way we do business forever. There are various brands of smartphones that have made a stir, not just in Dungannon, but all over the world. Some of the most popular brands are iPhone, Blackberry and Android and businesses now consider these mobile devices as essential in their respective communication systems. In particular, more and more start-up enterprises are integrating smartphones in their phone systems.

Today, business deals and transactions can be done outside the office, so it is crucial to have something that can help you maintain a smooth communication with your employees, business partners and customers.

As a smartphone is essentially a small screen computer, it means you can carry out a wide range of tasks when on the go, such as send and receive an email, write a report, buy groceries, check your bank balance, record a voice memo, and many m more. Recent advances in technology mean you can now use your smartphone in a similar way to a contactless bank card and pay for things just by tapping the screen. So, if you are in a business meeting far from your office, you can conveniently ask your employee to send you documents. Smartphones today have bigger memory capacity. With this, users can easily store files, particularly those that are important for the business. Files such as photos and music can be also stored right after downloading or after sharing via Bluetooth. By having storage for files in your phone, you can easily send or share files whenever necessary. Just like online banking, some businesses are migrating towards online accounting systems. Business owners that have smartphones can now do bookkeeping tasks such as raise invoices, look at customer or supplier statements.

In many cases, the cameras are better than the phones themselves. Recording high definition video or photos using a smartphone is easy if you want to explain a product or demonstrate something. 4G internet connectivity means that photos and videos can also be quickly uploaded and saved in the Cloud.  

The number of smartphone users in the world is forecast to grow to around 2.5 billion in 2019, which is incredible when you consider there are about 7 billion people living on the planet. Just over 36% of the world's population is projected to use a smartphone by 2018. Smartphones are now becoming more than an eccentric Christmas present, but more an essential tool for business.

Fear of SellingPosted: 30/11/2017

By Brian MacAuley, CEO, Dungannon Enterprise Centre.

It’s a simple fact of business that if there are no sales, then there is no business. Sales and selling are the foundation stone of any business, but for some owners of small businesses the task of selling is something they dread and even avoid, despite the fact that it is vital to their own business survival. 

In my experience, a fear of selling is often an attitude problem and is rooted in a fear of failure or rejection. If this resonates with you then consider this - some time in your past you had an experience that you decided was a failure and now you remain on constant alert for that same experience happening in the future and avoid it. Unless you face your fears then this experience is going to stay with you forever. Its easy for anyone to say “be courageous”, so here are a few tips on how to make it easier to sell.

First, get to know, in great detail, what you are selling, how it works, its various components and if it is a service, then know the people that deliver it. Being knowledgeable about the product or service you are selling will immediately help with your confidence in selling. Second, take time out to ask yourself “why should a prospective customer buy this and from you?” What is so unique about what you are selling? Quite often this is not so obvious, so ask any close friends that will give you their honest opinion.

Rarely do people buy from people they don’t like so building a rapport is vital – more importantly a rapport that is based upon integrity and honesty.  If you are being authentic then you will build trust with a prospect and then they are more likely to believe you later when you are making claims about your product’s features and benefits.

Asking a prospective customer open questions like who, what, when, why and how, will help you glean information from a prospect and help you understand their needs. Only then can you start explaining the benefits of your products to them.

Some sales people worry about “customer objections”. Consider that prospective customers that express “objections” are engaging in conversation with you and entrusting you with their view.  In my opinion, all prospective customers have a view of everything and you have a different view – there’s nothing wrong. Don’t disregard the view of a prospective customer as wrong, because it is not yours - just make sure he or she understands your view and give them the choice to change theirs, if they so choose. 

Selling is all about having a conversation with a prospective customer about their needs, demonstrating to them how your product or service can satisfy their needs and finally helping them to make a decision. Sometimes you win, sometime you lose, and like most things, the more you practice it the more you will succeed.      



A Step Ahead of BrexitPosted: 06/11/2017

So where do we stand now with Brexit?

At an event last week run by Intertrade Ireland on Brexit, it was reported that 98% of businesses had not started making any plans for Brexit and the main reason cited was uncertainty. Businesses want more information before they start to plan and make decisions. There is a lot of noise in the media circles but little substance to act upon. One true guarantee is that Brexit will absolutely impact upon every business in the Mid Ulster area. The unanswered question is how?

Goods, services, people and money cross back and forth over the Republic’s border every day. Our shopping trolleys are filled with goods that originate from EU countries.  We are told that if there is no agreement then the WTO agreement comes into force and there will be tariff barriers imposed just like current trading between non-EU countries.  Tariffs are custom taxes that Governments levy on imported goods. The tax can be unit based and/or a percentage of the cost of the product. In effect they raise the price of the imported product.


The good thing is that businesses in mid Ulster are resilient - we have passed through the largest financial crisis in living memory and survived. The smart entrepreneur will now be exploring what the consequence will be to their business. A reassuring fact is that if WTO tariffs are imposed more than 80% of products traded across the border will have a WTO tariff of less than 10%. However, if you are in the agri-food production sector the tariffs will be a lot higher.


There is also the potential of technical barriers imposed such as labelling, quality standards and pre-shipment inspections. Products may have to have certificates of origin issued by the NI Chamber of Commerce and there is cost for each certificate.

Post Brexit, goods being brought into the UK may be subject to more customs, and associated costs of documentation, customs deposits and possible delays. Some of us are not too old to remember the delays at the customs at Aughnacloy.


We are scheduled to depart the EU on 29 March 2019 and the politicians will do what they do to negotiate an agreement. My advice to Dungannon businesses is to start exploring the potential impact to your business now. The Intertrade Ireland website has a free Brexit planning toolkit and advice and support vouchers of up to £2000 for businesses. There is also a wealth of information on the WTO tariffs  and case studies of businesses making preparations now.  Many of the products traded across the border will not face a tariff, but there will be non-tariff barriers that will be just as difficult to address. We are in unprecedented economic times and the challenge is to think differently.

Brian MacAuley

CEO Dungannon Enterprise Centre

Website: Concept NI Web Solutions

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