We want to give our members here in Northern Ireland a platform for telling us all about their experiences as an SME in NI and their reasons for being a member of the FSB. No better week to start the ball rolling that during our #ThinkSelfEmployed campaign launch week.
This month we speak to Dominic McCanny, a Chartered Business Psychologist and owner of Testing Talent …he tells us about his journey
I first started work in 1973 (45 years ago) and worked in the insurance industry for 21 years before undertaking firstly my undergraduate degree and then my master’s in business psychology. Following that I continued my studies and am now a Chartered Business Psychologist.
My specialism is in helping businesses select, promote and develop the right people for their business particularly focussing on working with the SME sector. Testing Talent are the largest independent providers of psychometric assessments in Northern Ireland and we bring a depth of professional knowledge and assessment of people that is extremely valuable for employers. We are a collective of Chartered Business Psychologists covering all of the UK and Ireland.
We use innovative and powerful assessment tools, based on and supported with sound independent research which are highly predictive of job success. We take the complex psychometric data and ‘translate’ into normal business language that is accessible to all. Our assessments are extremely difficult to fake, giving clients confidence in the accuracy of the information we provide.
Over 80% of our business comes from existing clients who really value how we identify the skills, attributes and motivations of people, before either hiring them or promoting them to more senior roles. We have often been thanked by small business owners who initially thought they had the ‘ideal’ candidate only to realise that the individual was unlikely to be successful in the job role, after our assessments.
Why did you join FSB?
An FSB representative called at our offices and enquired if I had ever felt the need for additional support in developing our business. That started the conversation and I have now been a member for the past 7 years.
As a ‘micro’ business having the support of an organisation such as the FSB has been of real value. Not only with the practical support that is provided through the various schemes available but also at the regional and national level in representing the interests of small businesses.
It has also provided me with an opportunity to network with other businesses and learn from their experiences. Hopefully I have also been able to provide to other business owners my knowledge in successfully running two insurance practices and now my professional practice as a Chartered Business Psychologist.
Have you used any FSB services so far and how has this experience been/helped your business?
The range of services are excellent. Very comprehensive and extremely useful for small businesses.
On one occasion I had to seek legal advice in relation to a large late payment. Following the guidance provided and the actions I took I quickly received payment. Had I not availed of this service then undoubtedly my cash flow would have suffered.
I have found having access to FSB documents of great benefit keeping me abreast of legal requirements in running a business, including Health and Safety Policy, Consultancy Contracts, Environmental and Sustainability Policy, Equal Opportunities and Quality Assurance documents.
With our business growing I am now employing a Marketing Graduate to further develop our business. Having employment contracts that I can use saves me both time and money as well as knowing that I am complying with all legislative requirements.
What is the single greatest challenge for any SME at the minute?
I think the single greatest challenge for our business is the uncertainty around Brexit. Once a decision is made whether it is ‘Soft or Hard’ Brexit then we like most businesses will adapt and develop accordingly. If it is a ‘Hard’ Brexit then there will be additional costs in setting up new legal arrangements, but once completed then the ongoing costs will be manageable.
I have already made contingency plans using the Brexit Voucher provided by InterTrade Ireland and in the event of a ‘Hard’ Brexit I think I am fairly well placed to move forward. One of the additional benefits of availing of the Brexit Voucher was the fact that it also gave me the space to think as to how I could further develop my business outside of the EU and avail of other international markets.
When I look at our Google Analytics we get regular ‘hits’ from Australia and New Zealand and I already have a client in Australia. So, whilst there are challenges there will also be opportunities.
What are the opportunities and positives for SMEs at the minute?
I certainly think that there are many opportunities and positives for a specialist service business such as ours. The reason for this is that our size and business model allow us to be nimble and agile. When I started my psychology business 21 years ago we undertook psychometric assessments using a ‘paper and pencil’ approach which meant having to be present to administer tests. Whilst this is still availed of, the advent of delivering assessments using digital platforms has transformed our business. This also means that we can and do have a global reach.
One of the learning aspects of coming through a number of recessions is the fact that we keep our costs to a minimum. Not only does this benefit us but the savings we make are filtered into our pricing model when working with businesses. This provides us with a competitive edge on pricing as well as meeting our ‘Quality Standards’ in psychometric tests.
Availing of state-of-the-art computer programmes, allows us to use innovative and powerful assessment tools, based on and supported with sound research which are highly predictive of job success.
Using the internet has transformed how we operate, and this is something we will continue to embrace and develop, with a new on-line product shortly to be launched.
FSB key campaign issues at the minute include: Brexit, Small Business Rates Relief, GDPR, Prompt Payment, local Bank Branch Closures, Broadband. Which is most important to you and your business at present and why?
Certainly, the two issues of most importance to our business are Prompt Payments and Broadband.
I believe that the FSB have done an amazing job particularly with Government Agencies and Local Councils in both bringing and keeping the issue of Prompt Payment to the forefront. We work with a number of local councils and they ensure that payments are made quickly. My experience is that I receive payment from them generally within 15 working days which is excellent.
Slow Broadband is now having quite a detrimental impact on our business. Working in a rural setting only 2 miles from a fibre enabled cabinet we find that we are lucky to get 1.5Mb download speed and our upload speed is around 0.5Mb. This is woefully inadequate. The FSB has done a superb job in ‘pushing’ for a much quicker introduction of the Government’s aim of 10MB to all premises by 2020.
Working with a number of other small businesses in the area, we are currently considering Fibre to the Premises as a separate initiative, but introduction will depend on overall costs. Therefore, continual pressure on this issue by the FSB is particularly welcome.
Your words of advice to anyone starting a small business
Having owned a number of businesses over the past 30 years I would firstly say that it is hard work. Any person must realise they will work long hours and have to put up with many challenges.
You really must do your homework and be aware of how quickly the market can change around you. Just think of video / record stores that once flourished but today no longer exist. The ‘death rate’ of businesses is staggeringly high. Around 60% of them will have ceased trading within five years.
My second piece of advice is to be pleasant to people, treat your employees well and look after your family and your own health. After all what are you in business for?
My next piece of advice is pay your bills within your credit period. I have always found that this simple act creates fantastic ‘good will’. You know what it feels like to have to ‘chase’ people for ‘your money’.
My final piece of advice is, enjoy what you do!