Google’s director of Small Business Alice Mansergh wants to help 60,000 SMEs to get selling online. Her message to firms is to “grow with Google.”

Moving online and understanding customer needs are two of the most important things every business should be considering in order to grow during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Alice Mansergh, director of small business at Google.

Mansergh, who joined Google 16 years ago when the company was still in its “start-up” phase, has travelled the globe working with the company, before moving back to Ireland four years ago to work with small business owners and advising them on how to grow.

“Google grows in the small business space only when small businesses are growing through Google”

“Back in the early days when I joined Google, we were in temporary office buildings, and the internet used to go down from time to time and everybody had to pitch in and help on everything. It wasn’t always glamorous,” she admits.

Proud of how far the company has come in that time, Alice says Google plays an important role in the daily lives of people all over the world through features like Google Search, Chrome and Maps, and added that the company was able to maintain the “same spirit” it had 16 years ago.

Empowering SMEs to grow

 

ThinkBusiness.ie · Episode 37 – Alice Mansergh

In her role as director of small business, Alice works with SME owners across Ireland to identify ways the internet can support business growth.

“In the end, Google grows in the small business space only when small businesses are growing through Google. Our ethos really is helpfulness and making sure that if a small business gets online and starts reaching customers online, and supposing they’re even advertising online, we need to make sure that every minute of effort that they’re putting in, and every euro of advertising they’re putting in, is reaping rewards for them in terms of bringing onboard new customers and growing their business.

“It’s a lot of fun, we get to work with all different types of businesses, from health start-ups to new indigenous tech players, so there’s never a dull minute and no two days are the same,” she added.

Supporting 60,000 Irish SMEs

As a result of Covid-19, Google has committed to supporting 60,000 Irish SMEs as they embark on recovery from the financial impacts caused by the virus.

“If I think about the challenges that I’ve seen small businesses have, there are three main themes that came out; businesses struggling with time, with skills and money”

“It’s been a really difficult time for both people in their personal lives, and then also businesses, and I think that the biggest thing is change,” said Alice.

“If I think about the challenges that I’ve seen small businesses have, there are three main themes that came out; businesses struggling with time, with skills and money.

“Time because suddenly the whole world has been upended, and you’re trying to figure out what to do. You’re trying to find the time to keep things afloat, and then radically change your business at the same time. Skills because you’ve got to learn this new skills around how you’re going to operate online, and then money because so many business models were disrupted, and business owners have got to get over that cashflow hump as well.

“We’re helping 40,000 people learn the digital skills they need to get their business thriving online. We’ve also already given out €4m in funding to small businesses and government agencies to help them make that move online and be successful,” she continued.

While it’s still a reasonably new initiative, the uptake has been strong so far, with more than 8,000 people already being trained, along with new partnerships with the Dublin Chamber, An Post and the Gaelic Players Association being established.

Season of good willpower

With Christmas on the horizon, Alice has called on more Irish SMEs to build an online presence, and says there is nothing to fear by when moving to digital and that Google is there to support.

“Irish business owners are incredible people. They’re brave, entrepreneurial, creative, innovative, and leave aside COVID, which is a huge challenge for people right now, I think the other blocker is when people feel the internet’s not for them.

“I encourage people to have confidence in themselves. They are small business owners because they’re brave and entrepreneurial, and they’re amazing people. It doesn’t need to be a giant fancy ecommerce store, nobody’s asking you to be the next Amazon, but if you’re a small corner shop, and even just making sure you’ve claimed your free listing on Google Maps, you will show up on Google, and customers will be able to see what your opening hours are and what you offer.

“So small, free tweaks like that are a great first step. If we’ve got a traditional small business owner, who is not quite sure how to proceed, I think there are some good ‘no regret’ moves that everybody can take just to be a little bit more present for consumers online,” she added.

Buy Irish

While COVID-19 has undoubtedly caused major challenges for SME owners across Ireland, Alice says people’s willingness to support local businesses is one of the biggest positives that can be taken from the pandemic.

“At the start of Covid-19, we saw a several hundred percent increase in people searching for ‘how do I support local businesses’. Local business owners can take heart that consumers are aware that when they’re buying online, they don’t want all of their spend to go to multinational players.”

Now nine months on from the outbreak of the virus, and many of the same challenges remaining, Alice believes the pandemic can bring many opportunities for smaller Irish businesses.

“There’s that phrase; never waste a good crisis. Looking back to the financial crisis in 2008, some very successful companies we’re born out of that crisis.

“One of the things I’ve learned is that it can feel really daunting when there’s a lot of negative change going on around you, but my advice to anybody is to focus on what customers want or need, and use the tools available to pivot towards that. There is opportunity out there, and there are businesses that will come through this in good shape,” she concluded.

By Stephen Larkin

Published: 18 November, 2020 

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