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
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
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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