I often suggest to Small Business Owners and startup promoters that it is as important to know what you do as what you don’t do. After many years in business, I think I have figured out the best way for me to offer my services – for the mutual benefit of me and my clients. Here are some general answers to some frequently asked questions:Donncha Hughes
1. What overall service do you provide?
I offer management support, in the form of training, consultancy and mentoring, which enhances the ability of start-up promoters and owner managers of SMEs to successfully plan and manage their businesses to achieve superior results. For more see my Client Services page or watch the video.
2. So, do you write business plans?
Yes – this is consultancy. But this process takes a significant amount of time. It is also somewhat expensive. As such I only write a few plans a year on behalf of clients. These are generally for startup promoters applying for investor funding or significant bank finance. Please contact me for details of fee involved. I would also suggest that you download this case study to understand the process involved.
3. Do you review business plans?
Yes – this is consultancy. You may need a business plan as part of a Grant application for LEO or to avail of the Short Term Enterprise Allowance. I think that business promoters should in general prepare their own business plan in such instances. I can provide guidance on how to prepare your own plan. I can also review your plan when it is drafted. If you send me a pdf by email, I will send you feedback using my Business Plan review template. It will look at the key areas of your business plan – check how my Slideshare entitled ‘Business Plans in a Nutshell‘. Please contact me for details of fee involved.
4. Do you write tender documents?
Yes. However, I am conscious of the time and effort (and the fees that I have to charge) for writing tender document responses on behalf of clients. As such, I normally ask clients to collate as much information as possible for a live tender of their choice. I will then use that information to prepare a response which is signed off by the client. The aim of the process is to upskill an internal person who can then adapt this document for future tenders. A key skill is for senior management to be able to decide if they should respond to particular tenders. Please contact me for details of fee involved.
5. Do you review tender documents and processes?
Yes. This is what I would consider ‘my normal tender service’. I provide guidance to senior manager (the founder) on how to pick the tenders to spend time on (high likelihood of winning). I then work to review draft to evaluate and improve responses based on the stated criteria. Please contact me for details of fee involved.
6. Do you write grant applications on behalf of clients?
No. I could but generally I recommend that clients look after the grant preparation. I can provide guidance on content in terms of strategy. This is to minimise client costs. But more importantly, the client will have to draw down the funds so needs an in-depth appreciation of what is included.
6. Do you undertake feasibility studies on behalf of clients?
I do (see next Q) but I prefer to work closely with clients on aspects of the feasibility and provide hands on assistance to ensure that a solid feasibility study is undertaken. In my page on Feasibility studies, I explain that there are 4 elements to every feasibility. These are Technical, Commercial, Financial and Team. The promoter will manage the technical feasibility. I will assist with opportunity identification and market assessment as part of the market validation which addresses Commercial and Financial Feasibility. This includes secondary research and preparation of primary market research instruments such as surveys and structured interview guides for customer development meetings.
7. Do you write feasibility reports and business plans arising from feasibility studies on behalf of clients?
Yes. I specialise in writing both feasibility reports and business plans, when I have been involved in the feasibility process.
8. Do you prepare HPSU applications on behalf of clients?
Yes. I have prepared 3 HPSU applications. 2 were successful. I work with senior management to devise the best answers. A draft will then be sent to Enterprise Ireland personnel such as the assigned DA for their feedback. Feel free to ring me for a chat to discuss process and fees involved. Please note that while I prepare financial projections, that the client must retain their accountant to complete the FDS (Enterprise Ireland Financial Data Sheet). They have access to historical financial and shareholding which is required to be included.
9. Do you write Pre Seed Fund applications on behalf of clients?
Yes. Please request a quote for this work. For startup promoters who I know (from training or networking), I am happy to provide some unofficial but specific feedback on applications. No charge will apply. Simply send me an email and attach draft application which can be saved as a pdf within the EI system. Time permitting.
I would also highly recommend that startup promoters undertake my online CSF training online – Yes, I will be updating this soon on basis that CSF has now been replaced by the Pre Seed Fund .
10. Do you help clients to prepare their pitch for the Pre Seed Fund when they have been shortlisted by EI?
Yes. Please contact me regarding fees that apply. Please note that there is no guarantee of success. Pre Seed Fund is a highly competitive process. I have helped many startups to secure CSF over recent years. I generally provide 10 hours consultancy to assist with Pitch and Slidedeck preparation and review – spread over about a week.
11. What about the Pitch meetup?
The Startup Galway Pitch Meetup group is now finished. It ran for about 2 years.
12. Are you an Enterprise Ireland and/or LEO approved mentor?
Yes. I am a mentor with EI and with LEO Galway, LEO Roscommon and LEO Mayo. Please note that process is to apply to EI or your local enterprise office to request mentoring. A representative will be in contact to discuss your request and assign a mentor from their panel. [The application and who you are assigned to has nothing to do with me as the mentor – all the mentors are very good]
13. Are you a Bizmentor and how does that work?
Yes. I am a member of the Galway panel of A member of BIZMENTORS a structured mentor programme offering Pro Bono Access to Business Expertise and Wisdom. The programme is active in Galway for several years . Assignments are for 3 one hour mentor sessions. Mentors are not paid, and mentees (person receiving the mentoring) are not charged. I am a member of the Advisory Board – a superb initiative. Check out the Bizmentors website and apply to join as a mentor or to apply to avail of mentoring.
14. Do you offer private mentoring?
Yes, but I always suggest that clients look firstly at securing a mentor from an Enterprise Agency or via Bizmentors or similar initiatives such as the Small Business Advice programme.
15. What is the Startup Galway Digest?
Startup Digest is a global event platform operated by Techstars and supported by Google for Entrepreneurs. I used to curate (on voluntary basis) Startup Digest Galway, a Google Calendar of events in Galway for Startups. Unfortunately, there has been no Galway Digest issues since 2019.
16. You have not published your prices, do you charge VAT and what are payment terms?
Correct, my prices are not fixed as I provide a tailored service. But I will give a ballpark figure fairly quickly if requested. To my mind it is more important to understand the brief. VAT is charged at 23% in Ireland. I request that clients pay my invoices immediately when submitted. I don’t generally ask for advance payments. I will seek a Purchase Order in good time and comply with all relevant procurement requirements.
17. Do you offer public training programmes in business and management?
No. I delivered a half day on Negotiations in SuperPixel Labs, Galway in May 2016. But normally training is delivered as part of enterprise development programmes manged by Enterprise Agencies. Clients include New Frontiers in DKIT, ATU Sligo & Letterkenny, ATU Galway and Castlebar, SETU Waterford and SETU Carlow. I have also delivered sessions for UL, University of Galway and DCU. Enquiries welcome.
18. Do you deliver WordPress training?
I can. I used to deliver a three day programme on behalf of LEO Galway on WordPress – the best way to learn how to create and keep your own website up to date. For more see my other website startupwebtraining.com
19. Do you work with or partner with other like-minded professionals to offer services?
Yes. I am happy to work with or alongside organisations on specific projects. I worked most closely in 2019 and 2020 with Ailish Irvine of Irvine Training; Theresa Mulvihill Smart Marketing and Denise Doyle of Retail Republic.
20. Do you deliver live online training?
Yes. All services were delivered virtually in 2021. I think that Zoom is a fantastic solution for delivering online training – the polls and breakout rooms are super features. Thankfully training is now delivered both in person and live online whichever is the best option for clients.
I hope that these FAQs were helpful – the answers outline a general approach but feel free to contact me to discuss your specific situation.