Local businesses supporting each other through Covid-19 crisis

Karen O'Grady

Reporter:

Karen O'Grady

Email:

news@midlandtribune.ie

Local businesses supporting each other through Covid-19 crisis

BNI members meeting via Zoom lately

The local business networking group ‘BNI Vision Chapter’ in Birr found themselves unable to meet face to face in early March and they were suddenly thrust into taking their weekly meetings on-line.
This was no easy task, as much for the fact that a lot of the group were not ‘techies’ as well as the whole concept of not meeting and sharing business and networking face to face is the whole premise behind the BNI philosophy.
The BNI (Business Network International) group in Birr is a year old since March this year and currently has 17 members made up of local businesses. They met every Wednesday morning in the County Arms Hotel between 9.15 and 11am up to March 11th but since then they’ve met on line through the BNI online platform.
At first it was all a little strange and everyone was probably feeling quite awkward but as the weeks have gone by everyone has got more used to it and the members now look forward to seeing different faces every Wednesday to those that they’re at home with all day. A lot of the businesses cannot trade at the moment due to the restrictions and others can do a limited amount on line or at a distance for essential work etc.
The main aim of BNI in normal circumstances is to generate business for each other in the group through referral marketing. It’s different to other networking groups as the members actively engage with each other to build up trust, get to know one another’s businesses so that in time they are able to refer them to people they know and meet that may need their services. The referred business itself still has to get the business but as we all know if someone refers a good business to you, more often than not people are happy to get that endorsement and give the business a chance to quote for their work. Each BNI Chapter also only allow one member per profession or category so it’s a way of locking out your competition.
Business is still being done on line as per as supporting each other in many other ways. Recently they had James Hogan of the Local Enterprise Office on line with them to go through the supports that are available to businesses and all the members found this very helpful. They try to stay positive with one another and are supporting each other through their social media outlets, staying in contact during the week and catching up every week on line. All the members in some way or another are suffering through this crisis and the one common goal with all the members is to come out of this situation with the least amount of damage and ready to hit the ground running when the country opens up again.
Members have been innovative in many ways trying to focus on the needs of their customers in the current climate. Lorraine Cororcan of Bank of Ireland who are still open is helping customers with financial requirements at this time as many businesses would be under pressure with cashflow etc. Arlene Guinan of Brosna Press are now supplying all forms of Covid 19 Signage solutions and printed material necessary for companies and retail sector to allow them to open their businesses safely, all details are on their Facebook page. Brendan Hoolan of Hoolan Financial is advising anyone coming up to Retirement that they need to be fully aware of all their options including their open market option. It does not matter which company one is dealing with- it’s very important that one gets all available options before deciding on draw down. Remember you only draw your pension down once - but you have to live with the financial consequences of this decision for the rest of your life.
Alan Minnock of ACS CCTV & Access Control is now supply and installing Fever Screening Solution Cameras which are going to be necessary in many workplaces. The businesses in BNI Vision in Birr are helping each other by spreading the word about their businesses through each other’s networks and this is vitally important in the current climate. Another member Chris Sempos of B2B Digital Marketing who are now working with many companies on the development of e-commerce websites in conjunction with the Trading on-line Vouchers from the Local Enterprise offices which covers 90% of the cost.
Sylvia Sweeney of Sweeney Furniture & Design who specialize in fitted furniture are highlighting the fact that they can provide home office solutions for people that find themselves now having to work from home and needing a dedicated space to do this properly.
Other members are still trading on line or by phone such as Pat Mullally of Mullally Electrical in Roscrea and Tom Kelly of Central Education & Office Supplies in Birr. While Barry Loughnane of the County Arms Hotel in Birr is currently not able to be open he is doing some renovations to his premises and is available for enquiries, he is getting support every week from other members who hope to be able to visit the Hotel very soon again.
There are a number of BNI chapters across the midlands and thousands around the world generating business for it’s members. We had an on-line visit from a Lithuanian member last week and it was good to hear how they are coping with the pandemic in another country.
BNI welcomes visitors all the time, regardless of whether they ever want to join the group, as it gives members an opportunity to promote their own business and to hear about other businesses in their area. A lot of business is done between members and visitors to the Chapter. Members such as Ger Maher of Corrib Oil and Slawomir Wlodarczyk of Hazi Tyres are trading and available for business and Cormac Troy of Midland Cleaning, Brendan O’Carroll of Premier Insulations and Des Mulhare of Mulhare Electrical all hope to be back up and running very shortly as restrictions are litfted. Niall Donaghy of Allay Claim Management and Eoin Quinlan of Gorman Hooper Doolan Insurance are both busy with customers regarding claims and renewals and are happy to hear from anyone who needs their services. During this time of on-line meetings BNI Vision Chapter Birr are welcoming any local business to visit any Wednesday morning to their Zoom meeting and they will see first hand the support that the members are giving to each other.
If any business out there would like to visit any Wednesday morning get in touch with BNI Vision through Facebook or directly with Sylvia Sweeney, President of the Chapter at sylvia@sweeneyfurniture.ie.
The members of the BNI Chapter are: Tom Kelly – Central Education & Office Supplies (057 9122220), Des Mulhare – Mulhare Electrical (mulhareelectric@yahoo.ie), Brendan O’Carroll – Premier Insulations (info@premierinsulations.com) , Slawomir Wlodarczyk – Hazi Tyres (087 1190733), Brendan Hoolan – Hoolan Financial,(087 2800313) Pat Mullally – Mullally Electrical (0505 21055), Arlene Guinan – Brosna Press (086 2467450), Lorraine Corcoran – Bank of Ireland (lorraine_m.corcoran@boi.com), Ger Maher – Corrib Oil (087 2423361), Eoin Quinlan – Gorman Hooper Dolan (087 7543135), Barry Loughnan – County Arms Hotel (057 9120791), Alan Minnock – ACS CCTV & Fever Screening Solutions (087 7710111), Chris Sempos – Digital B2B Services Limited (089 4685690), Cormac Troy – Midland Cleaning (087 2505072), Niall Donaghy – Allay Claim Management (claims@allay.ie) and Sylvia Sweeney – Sweeney Furniture & Design (086 3691641).