SFA Strategy 2015-2020
The SFA National Council adopted an ambitious new five-year strategy for the organisation in July. Members will benefit from new service offerings, enhanced opportunities to network and do business with each other and with larger companies, and a wider range of discount schemes over the coming years.
The SFA launched its new brand in November. This has been very well received by members, sponsors and stakeholders.
Services to Members
Direct Advice to Members
In 2015, the SFA dealt with 56,788 (written and telephone) enquiries from members on issues that directly affected their business. The SFA provided one-to-one direct consultations with 793 member companies. Some 83% of queries related to employment law and HR Management.
SFA Website - www.sfa.ie / Weekly E-zines
The SFA website has been redesigned to incorporate the fresh new SFA branding. The site 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-focused advice and to highlight more effectively our lobbying and media engagement. In 2015, there were 2,992,203 hits on the website. In September, we moved from a monthly to a weekly e-zine, keeping members updated with news, information and advice each Tuesday.
SFA National Small Business Awards 2015 – www.sfa.ie/awards
The awards ceremony of the SFA National Small Business Awards 2015 was held on 4 March, with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD, as Guest of Honour. The finalists of the 2015 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. The prize package for each finalist is valued at €50,000. An Taoiseach is Patron of the Awards.
SFA National Small Business Awards Showcase Event 2015
The fifth highly successful Showcase Event was held in February. This event allowed shortlisted awards finalists to display their businesses and products to members, guests, venture capitalists, financiers and the awards judges.
SFA Annual Conference 2015
The Annual Conference was held on 10 June on the theme “BOOST – your confidence, your team, your business, your profits”. Over 300 delegates were in attendance to hear addresses from a range of speakers including Brendan Howlin TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and Mark Pollock, Blind Adventure Athlete and Bionic Man. The event received extensive media coverage.
SFA Annual Lunch 2015
On 6 November, the SFA Annual Lunch took place in the Convention Centre Dublin. There were 500 members and guests in attendance including Ministers, Secretaries General and the CEOs of Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and Intertrade Ireland. The Guest of Honour was Patrick Honohan, then-Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland.
SFA Members to Members Evenings 2015
At the October Business2Business event, previous SFA National Small Business Award winners shared their insights into dealing with the challenges and opportunities they have faced in establishing and growing their businesses. In December, SFA members gathered for informal Christmas drinks to network and celebrate the achievements of the past year.
SFA Business Bytes
The Business Bytes series of free monthly training events continued with sessions in Dublin and Limerick. Topics covered in 2015 included: Taxation for small businesses, Networking at the next level, Key principles of a successful marketing campaign, Coaching for success, Finding your best customer, Government supports for small businesses, and Buying and selling a business. The 2015-2016 Business Bytes season was launched by Minister of State for Skills, Innovation and Research, Damien English TD.
SFA Speed Networking Events
The SFA continued the series of successful free Speed Networking events in 2015. The events included facilitated speed networking (a series of 3-minute meetings) for one hour, followed by informal networking with food and refreshments. Speed Networking events were rolled out around the country as part of the Startup Gathering week in early October.
The SFA executive team and other experts presented numerous webinars throughout the year on topics such as the new Companies Act, special types of leave, economic analysis and resourcing and leave over the Christmas period. Many members tuned into the webinars live and had the opportunity to ask questions. Others took the opportunity to play them back later via the SFA website.
The SFA further developed its social media presence in 2015. Members can join the 4,000+ strong community following the SFA on Twitter @SFA_Irl. The SFA LinkedIn company page now has over 1,600 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 annual, quarterly and one-off surveys, the SFA collects data on a broad range of issues that provide an insight on key business and policy issues that impact on the small business agenda. Research topics in 2015 included training needs in small firms, recruitment, pay trends and business sentiment.
Members Group Discount Schemes
Members can avail of a range of discount schemes including insurance, VHI/Aviva health insurance and member-to-member offers.
We ensure your voice is heard through lobbying, policy submissions and meetings with government. We shape the broad business and government policy agenda in order to achieve our vision of Ireland as the most vibrant small business community in the world – supporting entrepreneurship, valuing small business and rewarding risk takers. We pursue key policy issues that reflect your concerns and business priorities at a national and European level.
Wins for small business in 2015
- The introduction of a tax credit for self-employed and proprietary directors, recognising the discriminatory way in which they were treated in the tax system
- Reduction of CGT to 20% for small businesses
- Reduction of the marginal rate of income tax to less than 50%
- Launch of the Prompt Payment Code
- Movement towards reducing the bankruptcy period from three years to one
- Strengthened Central Bank Lending to SMEs Regulations
The SFA participated in the National Economic Dialogue in July 2015 to exchange views with a range of Government Ministers on the economic priorities for Ireland. The SFA also held meetings with a number of Ministers during 2015. These included An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD; the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD; Minister for Skills, Innovation and Research, Damien English TD; Minister for Business and Employment, Jed Nash TD; and Minister for Public Procurement, Simon Harris TD.
The SFA gave various presentations to Joint Oireachtas Committees on topics including: public procurement, low pay and the National Minimum Wage. We also made written submissions on these topics and on reducing the period of bankruptcy from three years to one.
The SFA National Executive Council met six times during 2015 and the SFA Affiliates Group met on three occasions. The SFA represents its members on over 30 external committees and working groups. These include the Advisory Group on Small Business, the High Level Group on Business Regulation, the Retail Consultation Forum, the Working Group on SME Public Procurement, the Company Law Reform Group, regional skills forums, the Irish Water Stakeholder Forum and Skillnets ManagementWorks Advisory Board.
2015 saw the SFA making a number of submissions to relevant government departments and State Agencies, including:
- SFA pre-Budget 2016 submission “Priorities for a job-rich recovery”
- Submission to the Department of Finance consultation on tax and entrepreneurship
- Submission on DJEI on the Action Plan for Jobs 2016
- Submission to the Low Pay Commission on the National Minimum Wage
- Submission to the Central Bank lending code consultation
- Submission to the Universal Retirement Savings Group on mandatory pension provision
- Submission to the Department of Finance on fees for card-based transactions
- Submission to the Department of Finance on the tax treatment of expenses for employees and office holders
- Submission to the Department of Education and Skills on the National Skills Strategy 2015-2025
- Submission to DJEI on the consultation on the University of Limerick Study on the Prevalence of Zero Hour Contracts and Low Hour Contracts in the Irish Economy
- Focus Groups of members with DJEI, contributing to the development of the Government’s “Enterprise 2025” Strategy
In 2015, the SFA issued the publication ‘Backbencher’ to all Ministers, TDs, MEPs and Senators. This newsletter informs our elected representatives of the ongoing issues and concerns of small business.
Award Panel Representation
The SFA participated in a number of judging panels including the OPTIMISE judging with IE Domain Registry, the SEAI Energy Awards, the eir ‘Fibre to the Home’ competition and the Irish Medical Devices Association Awards.
The SFA is a member of the European representative organisation BusinessEurope and engages actively with its lobbying agenda in the EU. The SFA participated in the SME Assembly in Luxembourg as part of EU SME Week. SFA representatives held meetings throughout the year with European Commissioners, MEPs and officials from the EU institutions. We also met with the Troika on a number of occasions as part of their post-bailout surveillance visits.
Regular meetings were held with senior government ministers, officials from a wide range of departments, backbench TDs and Senators, and opposition party spokespeople on small business issues.
In 2015, the SFA issued 54 press releases and featured in 680 TV/radio interviews and media extracts from national, local and online newspapers. Special supplements were published in the Sunday Business Post in advance of the SFA Annual Conference and the Irish Independent for the SFA National Small Business Awards.