Archive for the ‘Recession’ Category

Christmas Presents

December 1, 2015

Goat for Christmas

I love the sketch (see below) with Ricky Gervais, Steve Merchant and Karl Pilkington about Christmas presents – it’s that time of the year again and the subject of corporate gifts is upon us!

I remember the first Christmas after we had entered the recession I was dropping a small hamper to a client as a ‘thank you‘ for the business during the year.

The strangest thing happened – he turned me away quite awkwardly and refused to accept the gesture of thanks “not under the circumstances” he said .. “We are in a recession“.

To me I wanted to simply show our appreciation for the work and I felt the gesture was valid regardless of how the economy was going.

That was really the end of the Christmas business gifts as we knew them and even the sending of physical Christmas cards became an exception.

It was noticeable last year as the economy started to improve the gifts and gestures of appreciation started to slowly reappear and I tried to pay particular attention to the ones that impacted on me and the ones that had less impact.

At best the gift gesture should be an opportunity to show appreciation and even strengthen the business relationship – at worst the gesture will make no difference to you and might even make you feel like you are on a big database!

The Thoughtful Gift

This one is a beauty where the person meets you and gives you something they have really thought about, which clearly had significance to you – fantastic!

The Christmas meal

This is a powerful gesture but it is a really time consuming one. With special relationships it is invaluable – if you can break bread together in a relaxed setting then go for it.

The Homemade Gift

On this occasion the person makes something for you … It doesn’t have to be big or extravagant but it was made by them for you. This is an incredibly personal gesture and very powerful.

The Gift for all

This is the gift that you know is one of many. It is great to get a gift but always better if you know it came with special thought and effort. If this is delivered with a personalised card it works.

The Charity Donation

This is definitely a nice idea (it could even be a goat!) but it does rob you of that opportunity of giving something to your client.

The POS gift

The gift of a calendar or diary complete with their logo only works if it is something of genuine quality – if not then it is probably more about them than you .

The Christmas Card

The card alone can be powerful if the sender takes the time to personalise it with a genuine message. Some card is better than no card. Personalising is time consuming but it makes all the difference.

The ‘thank you”  message (email/text)

A personalised message (email or letter) with a genuine note of appreciation works well if there is no hint of it being generic. Written well this can be better than any card. This can even work as a text but make sure it is 100% personalised

The E-Card

The generic Christmas card sent by email was a real product of the recession – for me this is just jamming up my inbox and it has very little meaning. Some of these come with a note about Christmas opening hours, which is fine I guess.

I did notice that many of our business relationships weren’t acknowledged in any way – I don’t hold anything against any of these business partners but an opportunity was lost to say thanks and make these relationships stronger.

Christmas is that time of the year that gives you an opportunity for saying thanks and you shouldn’t waste it.

When deciding what gifts to give I wouldn’t worry too much about the monetary value, however I would go along with ‘it’s the thought that counts‘ sentiment and I would add Personalise with a capital ‘P when possible.’

If you want to show genuine appreciation then go for it!

Merry Christmas and thank you for your custom..

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion PR, Marketing and Graphic Design, with offices in Dublin and Cork

Housing Crisis or Housing Opportunity?

September 29, 2015

housing opportunity

I was sitting on a plane coming back from London on the late flight and I noticed someone a few seats ahead of me on the opposite side flicking through the newspaper. I hadn’t tuned into the news that day so I was trying to soak up the headlines as best I could to get some hint as to what was going on.

Headlines are quite dangerous because often they are designed to catch your attention and the actual content may not fully reflect the ‘story’ that is portrayed. You only discover this when you actually read the article but often we never get that opportunity as when we are busy we flick the pages of the newspaper and very quickly we start to consume the ‘headlines‘ as the actual stories.

This headline had the words ‘Housing Crisis‘ in it and as it would imply there must be a housing crisis. I have read these words in so much coverage lately that it would be correct in assuming that we have a big  ‘housing crisis‘ on our hands.

If you Google the words ‘housing crisis‘ you will get a mountain of listings with many published in the last few days.

When we read the articles you will hear about the lack of supply, small numbers of houses being built, negative equity, repossessions, rising rents, tighter controls over bank lending, NAMA and developers sitting on land banks and a looming homelessness crisis.

For the most part it is all negative rhetoric and that word ‘crisis’ is bring used over and over, so much so that we should all get depressed.

In any other industry if you were to describe this exact set of circumstances we would be using the words ‘opportunity‘ instead:

  • There is high demand for the products and lack of supply
  • The demographics indicate that this demand will sustain itself into the future
  • Prices are rising due to demand but there are also low interest rates and an improving economy
  • Employment levels and income are rising
  • Fulfilling this demand (10,000 units per annum extra) will create 25,000 extra jobs
  • More jobs means more ability to pay, creating even more demand
  • Demand will generate income for the government
  • Demand will stimulate growth in supporting industries

Why aren’t we using the word opportunity and looking at the upside and the huge positives?

If this was any other sector, businesses would be seizing the opportunities and they would be supported by the banks. If we could create 25,000 new jobs there would be all sorts of supports and incentives on offer by the government.

And what about all of the ancillary products and services? – the carpets, curtains, tiling, fittings, furniture and electrical sales which would come after all of the professional services. That would be a huge amount of economic activity.

When it comes to property we are suspicious, we are fearful it will ‘overcook‘ the economy once again and we feel that any incentives given to consumers will be abused by the developers. It’s an industry that we distrust and the word ‘greed‘ seems to automatically apply because of the excess of the Celtic Tiger, which is still fresh in all our minds.

Despite this negativity around the industry I am very puzzled  that no one is writing about these obvious positives so I have a peep at the Construction Industry Federation website to see what they are saying.

I find a copy of a press release dated 4th September 2015 with the heading “Six steps to increasing housing supply and stimulate growth in the economy“.

They could just be right ..

The best way to solve our ‘housing crisis’ is to seize the housing opportunity.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion PR, Marketing and Graphic Design, with offices in Dublin and Cork

 

Rocky Balboa and Irish Water

November 23, 2014

Rocky Balboa making a comeback

We were up against the ropes after taking a fierce pummelling.

It felt like there was no mercy as blow after blow landed and we were dizzy, weak and confused, nearly ready to give up and the heavy punches kept landing. Please stop ..

USC tax, narrowing of tax bands, disposable income crumbling, banks seizing up on lending and pressurising without mercy, NAMA just as merciless and then we had the property tax. Our trusted charities seemed to be an incredible gravy train with political appointments and despicable salaries with zero accountability.

Just as a glimmer of sunshine started to appear out through our swollen eyes a Kango hammer was digging outside our doors installing meters to measure how much water we were using so we could be charged at whatever rate they decided – no one knew.

This was very different, this was outside my front door and all of a sudden you touched a raw nerve. The installer cut up the footpath and never repaired it and when we called him he was very very smart saying it was always like that and he could prove it because he had a picture from Google Earth ..I’ll give him Google Earth where the sun doesn’t shine!

If there was a leak they would fix it but after that it was my problem, if we didn’t pay our water would be restricted to a trickle, if we didn’t register there would be fines, no one knew how much the water would cost but we did know there were bonuses for staff (for what?!!), they wanted our PPS numbers and the bunch running the fiasco called Irish Water were made up largely of political and very unsuitable and incompetent appointees.

Blow after blow each punch hammered us.

Rocky

They crunched down hard on that raw nerve without mercy and we could feel that anger rising. Even though we were totally exhausted, beaten to a pulp, eyes nearly shut and ready to fall down an inner strength rose from deep inside us and we managed to stand up and lift our tired arms and throw a punch.

To our surprise it connected …bang.

All of a sudden he was not so solid on his feet and we felt some of his superiority and power draining from him and shifting into our arms and legs… we were not beaten.

We thew another punch and another and each of them landed…bang, smack and he was suddenly reeling, dizzy against the ropes.

Will we show him the same degree of mercy that he showed us? Bang ..didn’t think so.

The government are now reeling after the fiasco of Irish Water, taking blow after blow. The rules of the game are changing by the day; the charges are being reduced, we won’t have to give PPS numbers, no one’s water will be reduced to a trickle and anyone who can’t afford it will not be pursued and then we have the apologies..

“I didn’t mean that” “That was a mistake” “We handled it badly”.

Up against the ropes and waiting for the knockout blow the government is trying everything to escape the wave of punches but they keep coming despite all attempts to call an end to this brutal fight.

When we were up against the ropes there was very little mercy and those painful lessons aren’t easily forgotten. So before you start to recover and find your feet again …BANG.

These water protests won’t stop anytime soon regardless of what changes are made.

The activists know they have the government on the ropes and they won’t let up.

While its easy for us to join in as we have all felt those heavy blows, its really important that we are sure who these activists are and make sure that we don’t get a new fighter in the ring who is bigger, uglier, meaner and even more merciless than the one we feel we are fighting right now.

Is it time to step out of the ring? 

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork

 

How did you survive the recession?

May 5, 2014

navigating the storm

It looks like we have come through the recession and things are finally improving – it was a rough, tough, bumpy ride but we got there!

As things start to improve the horrible memories will fade into the past but hopefully the valuable lessons we learnt will stay with us and we will be stronger for them.

In our industry we were particularly vulnerable as many businesses totally shut down on their positive spend and investment in Marketing and PR was deemed by many as unnecessary in tough times. Budgets were slashed and at the beginning of 2009 we lost a lot of good accounts. On top of this we suffered a lot of bad debts, which was really hard to carry.

Thankfully we dug in and we survived and we managed to come through this challenging period without losing any staff, without having to reduce wages – in fact it was the opposite. We managed to grow our business and we took on extra staff and we opened an office in Dublin.

Personally I took a lot of inspiration from a book I read called ‘Storming the Recession‘.

In my view we survived the recession because of a few things:

  • We did our best to stay deliberately positive at all times
  • We worked hard at keeping our team motivated and protected them from tax increases
  • We used social media extensively to boost our awareness and promote our services
  • We looked for and grabbed unique opportunities, which only occur in tough times
  • We kept our pricing competitive at all times
  • We made sure we delivered for our clients – their budgets are precious and it is essential their investments are wise ones
  • We looked for extra ways to deliver value for clients including embracing new media enabling them to connect with customers in new ways
  • We diversified our services and started to run training courses in PR and Social Media – most of these were done in the evening and the extra income really helped. These courses also helped to increase our network and awareness
  • We absolutely worked our socks off punching in incredibly long hours – we thought recession would mean less work!!

There were times when things were really tight and very worrying but we always seemed to just about get through. Maybe we were lucky but then again maybe you make your own luck?

This was a unique time that no doubt will come again and is important that when that happens we remember how we coped the last time round, which is why I am forcing myself to write this!

What did you do to survive the recession?

Greg Canty

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork

Are things on the up at last?

November 25, 2013

economic crystal ball

I was really annoyed to hear the coverage that the media gave the latest Ernest & Young downgrading of their Irish Economic Forecast in their Economic Eye Winter 2013 report.

The latest All Island EY Economic Eye Winter 2013 report has revised its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) forecast for 2013 downwards in the Republic of Ireland (ROI) from 0.8% to -0.2%“.

The comprehensive report covered more than just this but it was the “downgrading” that seemed to grab the headlines.

I gritted my teeth and shouted “shut the hell up” at the radio when I heard their economic experts being interviewed on air explaining their analysis.

Jesus …we near to hear positive news, we need to hear about those businesses that are seeing growth, we near to hear about the successes and we need to start believing that things are really improving.

ConfidenceIt’s only with confidence that things will start to improve and I firmly believe that this is happening – at least from what we are witnessing in the marketplace.

Giving airtime to such negativity is only going to hold us back as it has done for the last few years. Is market performance all down to facts or is it down to sentiment?

A nice bounce will happen if we start believing ..

While I have every respect for the experts in Ernest & Young I do believe that we have every reason for optimism based on what I am seeing and hearing:

  • We are seeing positivity and real intent by our clients
  • We are seeing competitiveness for staff
  • We are seeing sectors that were dormant such as retail and fashion back engaging for the first time in years
  • Hotels are busier than before – often it’s hard to get a booking
  • The summer for the tourist sector was well up on recent years
  • Restaurants are busier and the corporate market is back in force wining and dining: “Lately Tuesday’s are like Saturday’s” one restaurateur shared with me
  • Christmas party bookings are up on last year
  • The tradesman seem to be busy again
  • New businesses are opening
  • Hotels in NAMA control are being purchased by new operators
  • Solicitors and estate agents are telling me house transactions are happening – not by investors but by genuine buyers
  • Those houses will need furniture, carpets, lighting, painting and decorating
  • Banks are finally making progress with difficult situations and progress is being made
  • Supermarkets are opening new units and fighting a war using a “Support Irish products” agenda
  • The shops seem to be busier than they have been

Of course these are just my observations and the conversations that I am hearing every day.

I genuinely feel things are on the up and I sincerely hope that this is the case – to broaden this conversation can I ask ..

What are you experiencing?

#Positivity

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Fuzion are a Marketing, PR and Graphic Design agency in Ireland with offices in Cork and Dublin

Learning to Crash Land

March 27, 2013

Plane on the Hudson

We were passing some time in New York (we were there for the christening of my brother’s daughter) on a bitterly cold January 15th, 2009 so we found ourselves in the cinema.

We came down the escalators after the movie finished to hear loud sirens and watched as police cars, ambulances and fire brigades sped by in quick succession.

We grabbed a cab to Penn Station and the female taxi driver agreed to take us once we weren’t going in the direction of the Hudson – a plane had just crashed in the river. Her mum called on her mobile and warned her to quickly get out of Manhattan.

By the end of the short cab ride the incident was clarified on the radio – it wasn’t a terrorist attack. It was a freak accident caused by a flock of Canadian Geese and the Captain, Chesley Sullerberger, a former Air Force pilot managed to land the plane safely on the water with all 155 passengers very shook but all in one piece.

Thank god ..

Two days later we touched down at Shannon Airport and grabbed a newspaper to catch up on news since we had been away. Right on the front page we read about one of our clients, a hotel in Kerry that had gone into liquidation – not only did they owe us quite an amount of money but it was obviously the loss of a client.

What were we facing this year?

Over a period of the next few weeks we lost a few really good clients as the wheels came off the economy and budgets were being slashed by everyone – we had just moved into offices only a few months previous and it felt like our plane was plummeting!

Of course we panicked, of course we were worried but we dug in just like we always do. We had a great team and we needed to have faith in ourselves and in our ability.

I remembered clearly one of the lessons of Napoleon Hill in his book published in 1937 “Think and Grow Rich” – Have faith and believe that you will succeed ..he spoke about something that he called “The Secret“.

We have always adopted a positive philosophy, which has served us well – Two months later we won our biggest account, we picked up a few other accounts and later that year we started running training courses – it was an incredibly tough year including some other large bad debts but somehow we managed to bring our plane in without losing any of our passengers!

Since then business has continued to be challenging with plenty of turbulence but thankfully we continue to have faith and we always seem to survive, grow and thrive.

One of these days it will get easier ..won’t it?

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Fuzion are a Marketing, PR and Graphic Design firm with offices in Dublin and Cork.

Crisps!

January 28, 2013

Tayto crispsI love crisps, I think I always have ..

I remember when a bag of  Tayto crisps was 3 pence and you could buy Perri for 2 pence …that was a lot of money back then and to me they were a total luxury and only bought on very special occasions.

Back in Primary school I remember watching our schoolmate Barry Coffey eat a bag of crisps so quickly during lunch – how could he?

He was the luckiest kid ever – he was the only one in the class who came to school with a bag of crisps and he had the audacity to eat them quickly with no reverence whatsoever!

Eating Crisps

I remember the Sunday afternoon spins with mum and dad and my sister Laura.

Like most brothers and sisters (there were two and a half years between us) we had our share of fights. My lasting memory of those days was my sisters ability to make that packet of crisps last forever…I would have eaten my packet of crisps as slowly as possible and with total respect and my sister would still have 90% of her packet left.

She would crush her packet up and for the rest of that journey she would tease me silly.. one crumb at a time.

I know we are in tough economic times and that things are really tight but then I think of crisps and I wonder ..

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Fuzion are a Marketing, PR and Graphic Design firm with offices in Dublin and Cork

Revenue Commissioners on Target?

August 28, 2012
Target Express

Parked up for good ?

It is absolutely terrible to hear that Target Express in operation since 1988 who employ 390 people between Ireland and Northern Ireland have ceased trading due to an attachment order by the Revenue on it’s bank accounts. Target Express are clearly a big operation operating 12 depots and distributing for companies such as L’Oreal, Smyths Toys and AWear.

In 2011 they won the Haulier of the Year Award and they opened a new depot in Monaghan – well done guys, we loved that positive, drive forward mentality (have a peep at their Facebook page entry).

On Target for better days!

For those who are not sure what this means, basically the Revenue have taken over the bank accounts of the company. According to reports there were delays with payments to the Revenue (as is the case with so many businesses) and clearly they got fed up of waiting, used their ultimate power and crashed in.

390 people did not get paid last Friday as a result according to reports. I’m just picturing drivers going home to their families petrified about the future and trying to solve the dilemma of shopping for groceries at the weekend.

The pieces I have read on the papers suggest that negotiations were ongoing with the Revenue but ultimately someone there made a call to say “enough is enough” and they have effectively shut the business and helped to put nearly 400 people on the dole queues.

Maybe the company gave the Revenue the two fingers for two long and were not playing ball, maybe the revenue were unreasonable and abused their power, ignoring the tough and very real circumstances this company (fuel prices have gone through the roof as well) found themselves in – this recession ain’t pretty!

Without knowing any of the detail there is a good chance that Target Express (who are definitely finding cash flow really tight) could not look to the bank for extra funding and the only real wiggle room was to delay payments to suppliers and yes, squeeze some extra credit from the Revenue. Would you do this instead of paying your people on a Friday?

The Revenue will argue that they are not a bank and should not be funding a business with their Vat and PAYE/PRSI. Viewed in one light they are right – however in the grand scheme of things they are possibly very wrong. I would prefer to see those arrears being paid over a reasonable time and 390 people still working.

The Revenue must not have the power to take such action without recourse to some “Job Protection” authority (run by business people please) who can access the situation and put something reasonable in place that will protect valid jobs where possible and feasible.

Surely if we believe our Government’s stated objective, creation and protection of jobs is the biggest objective that there is right now in Ireland – everyone’s objective must be aligned to this, including the Revenue Commissioners.

When it comes to “Power” the Revenue just have too much and I don’t trust that it is being used properly – the “Target” must be jobs and Power needs to be with those who can generate and protect jobs, not take them away.

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

 

Fuzion are a Marketing and PR Firm with offices in Cork and Dublin

Big Dreams and Bad Sums

August 5, 2012
Kingsley Hotel

Kingsley Hotel – Under Water?

Driving past the Kingsley Hotel in Cork on the “Straight Road” as the locals call it, it’s really sad to see the place still shut and sadder again to know that it is now in the hands of the Receiver along with it’s sister hotel the Midleton Park.

The Kingsley Hotel was originally opened in 1998 on the site of the old public baths (I used hate going there as a kid!) by Thomas McCarthy and Thomas Kelly, two experienced hoteliers.

Dreaming big and with the help of willing lenders, this business duo transformed the then successful hotel in 2003 into a large five star hotel with over 130 bedrooms, suites and a separate luxury apartment development called The Residence.

We passed the hotel on a regular basis as the major renovation transformed the existing premises, including the building of an underground car park, which caused some costly delays to the project.

The work seemed to take forever and was eventually completed leaving Cork with a superb large capacity five star hotel. We regularly met clients there for meetings and we also had a few Fuzion brainstorming sessions, which invariably ended up being helped along with a few glasses of vino!

My last memory of the hotel was attending a book launch for Brian O’Connell’s fine publication “Wasted” in one of the superb reception rooms.

The freak Cork floods in November 2009 managed to shut the hotel and unlike all the other business properties affected it has remained unopened, apparently due in part to drawn out and complicated disputes over insurance.

Kingsley Hotel bedroom

Big Dreams?

As already mentioned the hotel and it’s sister hotel, which is reported to be trading well have been put into receivership by the bank continuing a trend, which we have witnessed across the length and breadth of the country.

This particular “episode” has been complicated by a freak flood but similar to every other scenario the banks/NAMA have decided that the high level of debt will not be recovered so they move and take over the operation.

Does this course of action and the relavant sums make sense?

Lend too much to a business on the back of silly (hindsight is a great thing!) property values
– The business can’t sustain the high level of debt during the recession
– A depressed property market puts the whole scenario in the red
– Turf out the existing (experienced?) operators and replace them with high fee receivers and management companies
Negotiate a sale at a stupid price (watch this space) to an opportunistic investor (the bargain hunters are queuing up to get the best of the rich pickings)
– Chase the individuals unrealistically for the balance of the debt
– Eventually write off the unnecessarily huge level of unpaid debt (taxpayer mops up the difference)

This is the worst, laziest and most costly solution to a very tricky problem and unfortunately it seems to be the most popular course of action being taken.

With the Kingsley example and so many others that we are witnessing on a regular basis, surely it would be better to let proven operators manage the business through this difficult period in a “realistic” manner and let the economy and the property assets recover over time.

Businessmen with Big Dreams are the lifeblood of our economic recovery and the institutions that let these dreams go too far need to stop doing such Bad Sums..

Let’s dream again by having the courage to do Big Sums.

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Fuzion are a Marketing and PR firm with offices in Cork and Dublin

A Silicon Valley “State of Mind”

June 20, 2012
John Hartnett - ITLG

A Silicon Valley “State of Mind”

I am just back from a really uplifting Cork Chamber breakfast where the attendees had the pleasure of listening to John Hartnett, a Limerick man who is now working and living in Silicon Valley.

He was speaking about an initiative he is involved in called ITLG (Irish Technology Leadership Group), which is all about facilitating the Irish to succeed in Silicon Valley.

While the topic was absolutely fascinating what was even more interesting was his observations about Ireland and the Irish, which he can now do quite well “as an outsider, looking in” as he put it and the differences with Silicon Valley.

He spoke about Silicon Valley not being a place but being a “State of  Mind” and after listening to him speak for half an hour you get to understand exactly what he meant even by the language he chose in his presentation and in the Q&A afterwards.

The people in Silicon Valley work with a focused intensity, everything is possible, failure is often considered as a natural step on the ladder to success, mega opportunity is better than “niche”, we need to change the game and it’s all about “out of the park” ideas ….I was enthralled!

OK, we can see the big American influence but the language, both tone and content was totally infectious.

John spoke of the Irish having natural advantages such as being smart and sociable with great story telling ability but not being so great when it came to pitching and selling – “our kids should be presenting regularly at school so standing up in front of an audience and pitching your idea should be the most natural thing in the world when it matters”  he commented.

Silicon ValleyHe spoke about the very tangible “Negativity Bubble” in Ireland that we need to lose as quick as possible .. we need to get aggressive and go after it, we need to shake things up and make positive things happen. He spoke about getting more of the successful ex-pat Irish community in the US involved in the right organisations in Ireland such as the IDA, Enterprise Ireland and the Science Council.

Not only did John make perfect sense but he gave everyone in the room a huge injection of positivity – Thank you John.

Cancel all flights …don’t let him leave the country!

What’s your State of Mind?

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Note:

Colm Healy from Skelligs Chocolate gave me a great link to a “Ted” talk by Cameron Herold about “raising kids to be entrepreneurs“.