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Business Advice for Irish Start-ups: Part 2
Are you thinking of starting your own business in 2014? In the second of a two-part series of articles, we look back at some of the invaluable start-up advice imparted by AIB customers during our Featured Business interviews over the past 12 months.
One of the questions we asked our customers was: “What would be your advice to businesses starting out?” Here’s a sample of the answers:
Have a mix of older, wiser owls, as well as young Turks. We found, in the early stage especially, that we benefited from having non-execs or shareholders who were retired or semi-retired and had good, prudent advice we wouldn’t have known about.
David Woolfson, SleepAngel
Know the market you are entering very well, and be fully aware how it’s performing in the current business environment. That’s crucial because, if you don’t know the market you’re going to operate in, you could very soon run into difficulties. Also, I recommend “feedback analysis”. Often we are very surprised that things don’t work out the way we expect them to. Set a key action into place, write down what you expect the results to be, and nine to 12 months later compare the results to the expectation. This will show very interesting results!
Fintan Smith, Carysfort Healthcare
Be bold, be different, know your unique proposition. Don’t bother relying on grant aid, go and get it, don’t spend your time filling out forms. People just get side-tracked and delayed with all that. A detailed business plan that is reviewed regularly is important, as is goal setting. This year you want to make a million quid, so work backwards – what do you need to do?
Mark O’Loughlin, Sanctuary Synthetics
Put your head down and work hard. If they’re inclined to go into business, they’re probably that sort of a person anyway. I would definitely talk to older people who have been in business for a time. All of this has been learnt over 13 years of being in business, and we’ve made lots of mistakes – but you learn from your mistakes. So a mentor programme would be good for somebody.
Michael Gowran, AA Caterex
Test your concept as soon as you can. Find out if people really have a pain and focus on that. If they don't have a real problem to be solved (i.e. not high on their priority list), it doesn’t really matter, so move on and find something that is a problem for them. Don’t get stuck on proving that you’re right; accept that you’re probably not and work out what they really need.
Rory O’Connor, Scurri
You have to do your research properly. You can’t be over-optimistic. We all have been, of course – it’s a trait of an entrepreneur to be over-optimistic. You need to be careful with that; don’t make too many assumptions until you’ve gone out and tested the market. Most importantly, know the regulations of the sector you’re involved in and be absolutely sure you collect your money.
Seamus Mulligan, Cuinneog
My advice would be to do a proper business plan: detailed financials, a proper marketing study – making it realistic as well. Far too many businesses do what I call “stupid economics”. They say “This particular market is 100 million. I’m going to take 1% of that market, so my sales will be one million.”
Cameron Wallace, Eight Degrees Brewing
If you have an idea: 1) Market research it; see if there’s anybody else doing it. If there’s no market for it, let it go. 2) Write an amazing, solid business plan. 3) Have savings behind you, then go and visit the bank and ask for support.
Lisa Flanagan, Buggabandz
No matter what you look back on in life, all problems are solvable if you work as a team; someone will have a solution if you throw it out to them.
Sheila Murray, Murray’s Recycled Plastic
… have payment terms agreed. If there’s any doubt about who they are selling to, forget about it because, if they’re not going to get paid and aren’t able to collect the money, they’re going to be gone.
Jason English, Woodfarm Fencing Supplies
My advice to startup businesses would be hard work, dedication, interest, being proud of every job, deriving job satisfaction. Most importantly, look forward to every day and don’t be afraid to take on a new challenge.
Ann O’Shea, Beara Iron Works
You couldn’t underestimate the detailed plan – the plan for three to five years ahead of you. That plan has to have growth – what happens when you employ somebody and where do you go from there? Make your company for growth. If you just say I’m okay for now, you’re only ever going to be okay for now.
Michael Masterson, Moll Industries Ireland Ltd.
I think the most important thing is to stay positive and to persevere. Staying positive is really important, if you let the fear in, you won’t get anywhere. Perseverance absolutely pays off.
Dorothy Creaven, Element Software
Before you set up a business, get a job working for the best in a similar or related business and gain experience, tell them you’ll work for nothing if need be and learn the business – if you’re good at it, money will find you. Put your savings into your start-up; that way I think you’ll be twice as likely to make it succeed and I think investors will like that too. Also surround yourself with the right people – hire experience and go with your gut. I believe the single most important attribute for anybody in business is the ability to sell – if you can’t sell – hire someone who can.
Tim Cronin, Cronin Movers
Know yourself, know your limitations and know your customers.
David Burke, M&T Plant Hire
I would say to anybody who doesn’t have a business background, don’t just do a six week “start your own business” course; get really professional business support from a company like ActionCOACH right from the start. It would have transformed my life over the last nine years if I’d had that help to start with. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing from a business side of things.
Jenny Beale, Brigit’s Garden
In broad terms, surround yourself with positive people, keep physically fit and make time for your family and friends. Then, when you come into the specifics, you’ve got to be willing to take risks but managed risks; you’ve got to control your expenditure and don’t be impatient – don’t spend the money before you’ve got it; don’t expect to drive around in a Merc just because you have a business.
Dr Barry McCleary, Megazyme
Get fully and completely involved in your business. A lot of people seem to start a business and think that it will run itself; that they just need to pop it up there and sit back and enjoy the profits. You need to immerse yourself in your business. Know your product, know your staff, know your customers.
Vincent Weldon, Tech Refrigeration and Air Conditioning
I would say always be looking at the competition and see what’s happening in their area and see what differentiates you from them, e.g. the packaging or the product. Find a niche and see that you’re not all making the same kind of stuff. Look out there and see what’s happening.
Bryan Lynch, Bryan Lynch Finest Salads
Excerpts from interviews by: Web Content Partners
Please be aware that all of the views expressed in this Blog are purely the personal views of the authors and commentators (including those working for AIB as members of the AIB website team or in any other capacity) and are based on their personal experiences and knowledge at the time of writing.
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