FSB Northern Ireland Member Case Study #7: David Cunningham – Truska Ltd & digita.agency

  • 14 Sep 2020

Some background details on David & his companies

I am David Cunningham, I have been a self-employed/sole director since I started my business in 1992 and before that worked for, and latterly ran, a printing company employing 30 people for 15 years. I know about small business!

Truska was established in 1992 as a general IT company selling software, hardware and related products. We started doing websites in late 90’s with our first fully ecommerce site being launched in 1999. Since about 2003 we have been focused on the web and the digital side of the business.

Currently our work is predominantly web design and but with associated services such as hosting, email and digital marketing and more recently we have developed a web platform called Wite Canvas. Wite Canvas allows us to build fully functional eCommerce and standard marketing sites from scratch without relying on 3rd party ad-ins and bolt-ons and other people’s views of what we can and cannot do. Wite Canvas - Your Vision Realised.

 

In 2015 I partnered with a design colleague and am now also a joint director of digita.agency. Producing fully designed and hi-end websites and comprehensive digital marketing services from blogging, SEO, copy writing and all forms of social promotion, organic and paid.

Why did you join the FSB?

I joined FSB in about 2002 to avail of the information and helpline mainly, did not really fully understand the organisation and its other values in those days. I did avail of some services such as insurance but not much else. I got more involved in about 2015 by joining a branch committee going on to be the branch chairman and to sit on the regional committee.

It was at this time I started to realise the true, and often hidden, value of my membership. My enthusiasm then got me co-opted and then elected, by the members in the region, as their National Councillor in 2018. From then on, I have seen the huge work that the organisation does behind the scenes in lobbying government, councils and other organisations locally, nationally and beyond to Europe and further afield – always working tirelessly for Small Business. During Covid-19 this was significant, the approach the FSB takes is all based on members information, backed up with survey facts, and not opinion and is therefore taken seriously by those in power. The BREXIT debate is also a key topic and I have seen the endless work being done by the organisation, especially here in Northern Ireland and national policy teams on behalf of all SMEs.

Have you found it useful?

Over the years I had the need to use the FSB services, I insure my business though the FSB and we bank with the Co-Op but more importantly I have used the help line to seek legal and other advice over the years, the GDPR resource on the members web portal proved to be a very valuable asset when setting up our policies.

How did Covid-19 impact your business?

Covid19 and its effect – well I always did work from home, in a separate office to the house, so had all the infrastructure in place. We already used zoom, a little bit, as our product is predominantly on-line so we were not heavily affected relating to how we operated.

The biggest challenge we had was that with two other people now working also from home and fighting for the limited broadband, we had to try and mange heavy usage periods. Broadband availability (an area FSB are big on campaigning on as well!).

The whole on-line industry seemed to take off once people came to terms with lockdown and we have not looked up since. We have delivered successful projects including complex design and other challenges using zoom and other on-line/cloud services successfully which gives us confidence to expand our geographic reach further.

 

What is single greatest challenge for any SME at the minute?

As an SME we constantly face growing and new challenges. We have a number of clients in the EU so the VAT implications of BREXIT concern us, as mentioned broadband is every evident challenge particular if working from home continues longer term.

Business just surviving the whole Covid experience and just being there to be our (and other people’s) clients. We have had a number of clients increasing their spend on digital but equally many have just stopped it, in particular from the hospitality sectors. The medium-term growth and the subsequent, probably inevitable, tax changes an increase that will be needed to “pay” for Covid supports are worrying.

What are the opportunities and positives for SMEs at the minute and how are you embracing recovery?

Everything is an opportunity if you look at it the right way. With the rise on on-line activity our business should thrive. The development of Wite Canvas as web platform that has no restrictions will open many doors for us. Our approach to keeping our overheads low, quality and service high and the ability to use cloud services, such as zoom, means we can open new markets and keep downtime, such as travelling, to a minimum.

The world is our oyster.

Of FSB’s key campaign issues at the minute. Which is most important to you and your business at present and why?

Key issues for us are Post Covid Recovery, Broadband and GDPR. Prompt Payment although not a direct issue for us at the moment could have knock on effect on us as we scale up to larger clients that will be more involved in supply chains. I see local bank closures as an issue that will affect many small businesses, esp. retailers, as cash, although now used less, will not disappear for some time yet.

In addition, I see fraud as a huge challenge and especially Post-Covid. We need to better protect people from fraud (or themselves some may say). GDPR and protection of data is a part of this but we seem to concerned with those holding data, yes that is not wrong, but seem to be unable to go after those blatantly abusing and carrying out fraud.

 

Have you any words of advice to anyone starting a small business?  

Running your own business is very rewarding in so many ways, but it is equally challenging in a number of ways. If you have the idea and it adds up, you are passionate, are prepared to work hard, often with long hours, and have the support from those around you then go for it.

Do your homework, be prepared to employ professionals for important areas that you do not fully understand - this ensuring thing are done right and that you spend your time working in and on the business and not wasting time on areas you do not have the skills for. Join a network group, not just to raise your profile and get new business but also for comradery and help and advice, it can be a lonely place – Oh! and yes, join the FSB.