Members Contacts – Advice and Assistance
The most popular service used by members is the direct contact to the SFA. In 2014 the SFA dealt with 55,122 (telephone and correspondence) enquiries from its members. SFA Executive staff provided one to one direct consultations with 854 member companies.
Areas of advice and consultation include:
- Rates of Pay
- Contracts/Conditions of Employment
- Discipline and Dismissals
- Rights Commissioner/Employment Appeal Tribunals
- Employment Legislation
- Health and Safety
- Debt Management
- Managing Insurance / Managing IT & Environmental Management
SFA Website - www.sfa.ie
The SFA website improved functionality brings members to the fore, with a membership directory, member profiles and member special offers highlighted. The information content continues to be updated to reflect the SFA’s wide-range of business-solution focused advice and to highlight more effectively our lobbying and media engagement. In 2014, there were 2,886,623 hits on the website. In addition, all members directly receive our monthly e-zine which is full of news, information and advice.
SFA National Small Business Awards 2014 – www.sfa.ie/awards
The awards ceremony of the "SFA National Small Business Awards 2014” was held on Thursday, 6th March, with then Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, TD, as Guest of Honour. The finalists of the 2014 programme attended a Strategic Management Masterclass weekend and Intensive Media training day as part of their prize package, which also included an interview in a special “Irish Independent” supplement and on Newstalk’s “Down to Business” Show. An Taoiseach is Patron of the Awards.
SFA National Small Business Awards Showcase Event
The fourth highly successful Showcase Event was held in February. This event allowed shortlisted awards finalists to display their business and products to members, guests, venture capitalists, financiers and the awards judges.
SFA Annual Conference
The Conference “Spotlighting SME Success” was held on Tuesday, 27th May, with 300 delegates in attendance. The opening address was delivered by then Minister for Small Business John Perry, TD. The event received extensive media coverage.
SFA Annual Lunch
On 10th October 2014 in the RDS Concert Hall, Dublin, 500 owner-managers and their guests attended our Annual Lunch. Our Guest Speaker was the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins.
SFA Members to Members Evenings
At the September “Business2Business” event, previous SFA National Small Business Award winners shared their insights into dealing with the challenges and opportunities they have faced in their business over the years. In December, SFA members gathered for informal Christmas drinks to celebrate the achievements of the past year and to network with each other.
SFA Business Bytes
These highly successful free management training events, are held on the second Wednesday of the month in various regions around the country. Topics covered in 2014 included: Twitter for Small Business, The What Where and How of Enterprise Supports for Small Business, Managing a Healthy Cashflow & Getting Paid on Time, Company Law Compliance – know where you stand, Making Online Advertising Work and Public Procurement – Creating Winning Tenders.
SFA Speed Networking Events
The SFA held another series of successful free “Speed-Networking” events throughout the country in 2014. The events were facilitated speed-networking (a series of 3-minute seated meetings) for one hour which was followed by informal networking with food and refreshments being served.
“Mentors without Borders"
The SFA launched a joint initiative with the International Council for Small Business (ICSB) as part of their World Congress in Dublin in June, on "Mentors without Borders". SFA members participated in the pilot, which will be mainstreamed internationally and involves cross-border mentoring of small firms.
The SFA executive team presented numerous webinars throughout the year on topics such as Managing Absenteeism, Redundancy and Alternatives, Contracts, Parental Leave, Investigation and Disciplinary Procedures and general business topics, which were well attended live and can also be viewed on our website post the events.
The SFA further developed its social media presence in 2014. Members can follow SFA on Twitter @Sfa_Irl and follow the SFA LinkedIn company page, which now has over 1,100 members.
SFA “Now That’s What I Call Business” Magazine
The SFA magazine was distributed to all SFA members by post quarterly, and is available in an interactive format on the SFA website.
A range of publications are available for members covering various HR and business related topics. Publications include guidelines, sample policies and wallcharts. All publications can be downloaded from www.sfa.ie.
Through our annual and one-off surveys we collect data on a broad range of issues that provides an insight on key business and policy issues that impact on the small business agenda. 2014 research included our banking survey, jobs & pay rates survey, business crime survey and gathering business sentiment on issues such as confidence/activity, late payments and employment law.
Members Group Discount Schemes
Members can avail of a range of discount schemes including insurance, VHI/Aviva health insurance and member to member offers.
Wins for small business in 2014 included:
- · Establishment of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI).
· Positive changes to personal and business taxation in Budget 2015.
· Expansion of the Employment & Investment Incentive Scheme (EIIS).
· JobsPlus scheme, the employment subsidy which reduces costs for employing long-term unemployed people, has been doubled in size to 6000 places.
· New Government Circular & Competition Authority Guidance issued on SME Public Procurement
The SFA met with a number of Ministers during 2014. These included An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, TD on our pre-Budget Submission; the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Richard Bruton, TD on small business policy issues & the Action Plan for Jobs 2015; Minister for Skills, Innovation & Research, Damien English, TD on the Action Plan for Jobs; Minister for Business & Employment, Jed Nash, TD on small business priorities & employment rights; Minister Simon Harris, TD on Public Procurement; and An Tánaiste Joan Burton, TD on social welfare operating as a disincentive to work. We also met with the Troika to discuss SME Financing in their second post bailout review.
The SFA gave various presentations to Joint Oireachtas Committees on topics including: the entitlements of social welfare payments for the self employed and on the whole area of access to finance for SMEs.
2014 saw the SFA making a number of submissions to relevant government departments and State Agencies, including:
· SFA Pre-Budget 2015 Submission “ The Path to Growth”
· Submission to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation on the Action Plan for Jobs 2015
· Submission to the JOC on Education and Social Protection
· Submission to the Public Accounts Committee on SMEs & Public Procurement
· Submission on Social Welfare Fraud
· Submission to the Department of Justice on proposals to amend European Small Claims Procedure
· Submission to the Department of Finance on Equity Finance in SMEs
· Input into Central Bank review of SME Lending Code
· Joint campaign against Upward Only Rents Review
· Enterprise 2025 Strategy Development by DJEI – Focus Group of SFA Members
In 2014, the SFA issued the publication “Backbencher” to all Ministers, TDs, MEPs and Senators. The newsletter informs our elected representatives of the ongoing issues and concerns of small business.
The SFA National Executive Council met six times during 2014 and the SFA Affiliates Group met on three occasions. The SFA are represented on over 30 committees and working groups. These include the Advisory Group on Small Business, SME Funding Consultation Committee, High Level Group on Business Regulation, Retail Consultation Forum, Working Group on SME Public Procurement, Company Law Reform Group, Central Bank E-Payments Working Group, the Irish Water Stakeholder Forum and Skillnets ManagementWorks Advisory Board.
Award Panel Representation
SFA participated in a number of judging panels including the Aontas Adult Learning Awards, OPTIMISE judging with IE Domain Registry and the SEAI Energy Awards.
SFA are members of both the European Representative organisations for business, BusinessEurope and UEAPME, and engage actively with their lobbying agenda in the EU. SFA Director, Patricia Callan, was invited to appear before the EU Parliament ITRE Committee to share expertise about SMEs in Ireland and across the EU and on what the EU and its MEPs can do to create a more supportive environment. The SFA also participated in the EU SME Week Assembly and the closing event for the EU Commission’s ending Late Payments Campaign.
Regular meetings with senior government ministers and officials, backbench TDs and Senators, and opposition party spokespeople on small business issues.
In 2014, the SFA issued 40 press releases and delivered 701 TV / radio interviews and media extracts from national and local newspapers and online coverage. Special supplements were published in the Sunday Business Post in support of the SFA Annual Conference and the Irish Independent for the SFA National Small Business Awards.