Which of these people is going to win the 'Best Irish Business Blogger' Award?

Did we mention that FirstPartners is sponsoring the Best Business Blog award? As a taster, here are the profiles of the 13 people short listed for the award. Who will we be giving the prize to? Come along on the 1st of March , Alexander Hotel, Dublin to find out.

MaryRose Lyons Brightspark Consulting
Brightspark is a Dublin web design and internet marketing agency, run by Maryrose Lyons who has been blogging since 2003. So she probably knows what she is talking about. Maryrose doesn’t pull her punches (read her blog to find out who she called ‘a shambles’) and is recommended to people dipping their toes in the world of business blogging.
Bubble Brothers
The tagline to this blog pretty much sums it up : ‘Wine, Champagne , more’. These Cork Wine Merchants ooze sophistication, even when they branch out from wine to talk about pancakes, pizza and the Bridgestone pick of 2008. All on the one page. They’ll even sell you some of their stuff if you ask nicely.
Pat Phelan
Cork Based Giant Killer Pat Phelan is out to slay the telecoms monsters. Watch a blow by blow account on the roam4free blog. You’ll never look at your mobile phone bill in the same way again.
Keith Bohanna
Keith’s main job is as part of the Irish Internet Association and creative camp Kilkenny. Or maybe it’s as part of a startup , DB Twang, a site for Guitar enthusiasts Kilkenny Creative Camp. Or maybe it’s teaching other business people to blog. Whichever subject is, Keith covers them well on his site.
Ice Cream Ireland
Ice Cream. In a blog. From Kerry cows. What more do you need to know?
BH Consulting Blog
Brian Honan , one of Ireland’s top Security Consultants , will have you paranoid after reading his blog. And while everybody else except you gets hit by virus, phishing attempts and emails that knock over your PC, you’ll be glad that you listened to him.
The Blacknight Blog
Michele Neylon has been a supporter of the blogging community, since well , before they were called blogs. Michele runs Blacknight hosting based in Carlow. The Blacknight example shows how a company in a ‘commodity’ industry (web hosting) can stand out by showing a human face on their blog(s). At the very least , it shows faith in their quality of service.
O’Conall Street
Conall manages to make business and politics mix. A man who has journeyed from Dublin to Belfast via Spain, the SDLP and the Good Friday Agreement , he is currently head of PR Company Weber Shandwick in Northern Ireland. He’s also a Man United fan, but everybody has to have at least one flaw.
McGarr Solicitors
McGarr solicitors are the first point of call for bloggers in legal distress. The site is very much legal people who blog, rather than just bloggers with a passing interest in the law. The blog provides a lot of useful advice in areas such as Personal Injury, (accidents at work particularly) , Environmental , Planning and Employment Law. And they do the bread and butter buying and selling your house as well. .
Interactions
Annette Clancy is an organisational consultant, coach and psychotherapist. An unusal combination perhaps, but she helps people overcome their ‘stuckness’ and solve business problems. The blog isn’t afraid to venture into uncharted areas such as the role of emotion in the work place.
Worldwide Cycles
One of europes few specialist bike stores run by people who are still competing regularly. Barry, based in Tipperary, explains what those infestations of cyclists are actually doing on our roads. And what cyclists get up to with cans of Lynx. It will make 4×4 drivers think twice before overtaking with only inches to spare.
Fortify Your Oasis
Thinking of changing your job? Read this blog first. Rowan explains how to give your life direction, how to pick , then land the job that fits in with this. And shows you how to preform a graceful exit from the role your are currently in and hate. And he’s written a book about it, showing that bloggers can do ‘real’ writing as well.
Frank Fullard
Mayo based Frank talks about entrepreneurs and the businesses they start. And he’s not afraid to think small, taking a different view from many of the ‘we’re a startup, we’re going to take over the world’ blogs that are out there.
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Anybody up for Seedcamp Ireland (Dublin | Belfast | Newry | Dundalk)?

At a recent OpenCoffee Dublin event Brian Cleland of InterTrade Ireland mooted the idea of a Seedcamp Ireland. He’d love to see it be held in Newry or Dundalk (as cross-border networking is really his thing), but is realistic enough to consider other locations.

Seedcamp logo

To quote the main Seedcamp website:

Seedcamp is where Europe’s top young founders can come together in one place.

From securing funding to developing the right network, young entrepreneurs in Europe face challenges in building globally competitive technology businesses. Through the provision of seed capital and a world class network of mentors, we want to provide a catalyst for Europe’s next generation of entrepreneurs.

We might need to use a different name, but would you be interested in an informal meetup of startups and investors? Given the turn in the property market, would investors be ooking to put their money into the startup technology sector? Where would you like to see it held?

Plato – more networking , people not computers

It’s a co-incidence of timing , but a reminder that there are many more meetups than just Barcamp (Dublin Event is on this Saturday).

Plato North West (Louth – Newry and Mourne) launched last night – thanks to Coca-Cola concentrates in Drogheda for hosting.
Plato Ireland Logo

Plato is a self help group for small business owners. (‘Hello , my name is Paul and I’m self-employed’). All the people involved are looking to grow their business. What Plato offers includes:

  • A support group of other people in similar situations that will meet regularly over the next months.
  • Networking opportunties , both within the group, cross border , and with other Plato groups (e.g Dublin, Cork and South East).
  • Clusters of companies in related sectors that would benefit from linking.
  • A struture to plan business expansion and a peer review to ensure you execute the plan.

Most of the details of the meetings are confidential , but I’m (happily) surprised at the cross section of companies involved. External companies can be invited in by consensus of the group.

Related posts: How to network , people not computers.

Business advice : Don't be Dustin Hoffman

Do you remember Dustin Hoffman in Rainman? He was an idiot-savant (not the PC Term) that was a genius at Mathematics, but had talent for little else. Too often we’re like that – genius in our own niche (IT, Law, Sales, Marketing, Finance) but useless outside of it.

ShareIT is an attempt to break outside of these niches and share useful knowledge in the small business sector. The slides below are from the first ShareIT event in Cork (held last week), with a follow up event in Dublin (Microsoft Campus) on April 28th.

Jenny Kent How to be an effective communicator – Slides.
Key Point:
Plan what you want to say, say it, then listen.
Conor O’Neill Outsourcing – Slides
Key Point:
You can outsource (almost) anything , but communicate, communicate, communicate.
Krishna De Marketing Matters for Tech Startups (slides to be released)
Laurence Veale Writing for the web – Slides
Key Point: Keep it simple.
Donagh Kiernan Sales Generation- Slides
Key Point:
Everybody sells; work hard to understand what your customer needs.
Richard Hearne Search Engine Optimization – (email Richard for the password to Slides)

(Updated with links to the Dublin Event)

What is this barcamp thing anyway?

Derek Organ is brave enough to ask the question below about the Barcamp Ireland unconference. He’s deeply involved with Web 2.0 startup 1time.ie, so we know he’s not thick! I’m writing this post, as Enterprise Ireland recently posted an invite to everybody that was at the Web 2 Ireland get together, and I can just picture the people there scratching their heads and wondering ‘What is this Barcamp thing anway?‘.

Dereks’ Question:

I’ve never been to one of these events but I’d love to go there and show off our own web 2.0 product and also see what other people are at in ireland. I’m struggling at the moment though to figure out exactly how the the day will be formated. As in who talks, organizes etc? I’m sure they work but i wonder could anyone share there experience if they have been to one. What usually happens?

So, below are the answers the top questions I had before attending. Yes, the answers are strange, but yes, the whole thing seems to work.

1) Where is the event going to be held? At the time of writing , it’s going to be in Dublin, Cork, Galway or Waterford. Yes, it makes it slightly difficult to book accomadation, but hopefully a consensus will be arrived at soon. In general , Barcamp is dependant on people ‘donating’ a place to meetup. For example , last Octobers Techcamp Ireland was held in the Northside Civic Centre , Dublin.
2) When is the event on? This appears to be a little clearer, with current opinion favouring Saturday the 23rd September.

3) Who should attend? Anybody with a passion for the uses of technology – not just geeks in the traditional sense of the word, but people who can string two sentences together and still get excited about new possibilities.
4) How do I get invited? You invite yourself. Go to this page on the Barcamp site , and add your name to the list (click on the ‘edit page’ button on the top left). Yes it’s one of those web pages that everybody and anybody can edit (a wiki). In exchange for you being trusted to change the page, please don’t go mad with it.

5) How do I get in touch with the organiser? The organiser is you. I understand this may come as a bit of a shock, but at least you have about 30 other people (at the last count) to help you out. The wiki (see point 4) is what makes it all come together – the more you put in, the more you get out of it.

6) What will people be talking about? Anything that interests you. The current list is on the wiki, and first timers are actively encouraged to sign up to speak – not as a sales pitch, but if you genuinely think you have something useful to share.

If you’re looking for more information, you could do worse than check out the people that have already blogged about the event:

And by way of apology to Derek for damning him with faint praise , here is his company logo – well worth checking out.

onetime logo

Fixed Price? Don’t get Stung

Chances are , you get get paid on a ‘Time and Materials’ basis – either as an employee or a consultant. Chances are, you’ve also thought that some extra work , perhaps at a fixed price, would be a nice sideline. Before you dive in, remember the following 5 key points.

  1. Write a Project Outline. Say exactly what will (and just as importantly) won’t be carried out as part of the project. This can take a lot of time to put together, but is essential to avoid trouble later. Even better get the client to pay you to write this, as it’s vital for them as well.
  2. Client dependencies. Do you depend on the client to get things done? If so, specify exactly what the must provide and when. Can’t specify exactly when you need (and there are many projects where this is the case)? Then do the work on a time and Materials basis only.
  3. Be visible to end client. The temptation is to go into a dark corner and start coding. The trouble is that you emerge blinking into the daylight at the end to find (i) The client frantic with worry about how the project is going and (ii) that events have happened that you sh. ould have known about. Price in regular time on the client site to keep in touch.
  4. Contingency. A wise man once said (In this case the instructor at the PMBOK course in Chicago): ‘If you can’t carry out the project with 15% time left over , don’t start it. For fixed price projects, make this something like 30% as the client will ask you to do little ‘extras’ and you can’t ask for extra money for every single one.
  5. Almost as important as knowning when to start (see point 1) is knowing when to finish. Document everything and do a final ‘handover’ day (a good idea is to hand over a CD whith all project deliverables on it). If you don’t do this, the project will never end, and you will never get paid.

Notice that all these items are about process , and not technology. Put simply; you can mess up your project just as easily using Java , PHP or .Net . Mess up as an employee or consultant, you get shouted at by the boss. Mess up on a fixed price and you’re into serious pain as you burn through (unpaid) extra time.