The Best & Worst Business Advice we ever Received
25 January 2017
Posted by: Norita Kelleher
When setting up a new business, the world and its mother will likely weigh-in on what you should and shouldn’t do. The trick is to find the gems and discard the rest.
We reached out to some UL graduates who started their own successful businesses and asked them to share the best and worst business advice they ever received. Here’s what they had to say:
Yvonne Clark Dip '12
Owner/Therapist at Just Be Holistic Therapies
Best piece of advice: My business Just Be Holistic Therapies started trading in March 2015. In late 2014 I met Colm O'Brien, MD and Founder at Carambola Kidz - Healthy School Lunches at a networking event. When I told him I was starting my business he wished me luck and I of course asked him for some advice. He advised me to focus on my passion or talent and serving my customers and to leave all the other elements of running a business to someone else. I laughed and said I'd definitely need an accountant then! He replied by saying I'd definitely need an accountant and one I liked and trusted but in the meantime to set aside 20% of all earnings for the Revenue. I guess the word Revenue put the fear of God in me so I did exactly as Colm had said. At the end of my first returns, I got a bill from Revenue and I'm delighted to report it wasn't scary as I had my little pot ready to pay them. It's very easy to use all your earnings on supplies, marketing, etc. when you first start a business and that's before you pay yourself but it's more important to ensure you have enough to cover your stamp and any tax due to the revenue. Colm's advice is the best I ever received and although I haven't always been able to afford to outsource all my administration, I do focus on serving my customers first and it has served me well.
Worst piece of advice: I have to say I'm really struggling to give the 'worst' advice I have received as I can honestly say I have never received bad advice from anyone in college or business. Does all advice work for you? Well if you don't try you don't know. Have I learned from my own mistakes? Definitely! When I started my business I would say going with every idea that comes into your head is not sound business advice. It can be costly and provide little or no return. You can't be all things to all men so choose your offerings very carefully and only go with the ideas that will pay dividend. Do your research, talk to focus groups or surveys and ensure you have the customers to purchase your idea whether it's a product or service.
Donal O’Connell BEng '85
Managing Director of Chawton Innovation Services Ltd
Best piece of advice: The best piece of advice I received early in my career was to 'move sideways' from time to time. It came from one of my Managers, Mike Overy. However, not only did he give this advice, he opened some doors early on to make it possible. By that I mean it is good to gain experience in other corporate functions, in other industry sectors, in other size companies, in other geographical locations.
I became a much better engineer I believe by leaving the lab and spending time in a Chinese factory, in a US service centre, working in another corporate function other than R&D, experiencing both life in a start-up as well as an MNE, living and working in my case in The Netherlands, US, Finland and the UK.
Worst piece of advice: I have come across examples of managers or specialists in one discipline or function in a business downplaying the value or risks associated with something from another discipline or function without really knowing what they were talking about as it was outside their area of expertise. Some care is needed when rating the value of such advice.
Louise Ryan MSc '09
Co-Founder/Managing Director Ball & Socket
Best Piece of Advice: I think the best advice I received in recent years was you need to learn to work on the business and not in the business. I heard this at an event that was organised by our Local Enterprise Office.
The task at hand was to focus on leading and not doing. On a daily basis you can get tied up in overseeing the smallest of projects and forget to focus on growing the business. So not only did I need to learn to delegate, this statement forced me to sit back and look at the clients we had and question if they were the right fit, if they were taking our business in the right direction and if they were profitable. Unfortunately this lead to us taking bold steps and replacing overly labour intensive clients who kept me in the day to day of the business for no return with profitable clients that allowed our business grow in our areas of expertise.
The outcome was positive and it has allowed me to attend international conferences to continue to grow our expertise and learn from best practice world-wide, with the aim of growing Ball & Socket to be the best Branding and Retail Specialist Area in Ireland.
Worst Piece of Advice: I must admit I feel like I have gotten rather a bit of bad advice over the years. I have gotten much better at not listening to it!
One piece that stands out is all business is good business. This is linked closely to the best advice I have received. Not all business is good business, you need to figure out if each project is helping the business grow, helping your team to grow, helping you grow and become profitable. If it is not, it is not good business, and in the long run will only hold your team back.
Tom Brennan MBA '05
Co-Founder, Eirgen Pharma
Best Piece of Advice: One of the best pieces of advice we received was to “Go with our gut” when starting the business. This does not mean “Do not plan” or “Do not write a business plan”, rather in the very early stages of our business, we met many potential investors and advisors. Invariably one expert would offer a completely contradictory piece of advice to another subject matter expert. We found these conflicting opinions made us very confused regarding what direction we should take to get our business off the ground. However, when we stepped back, evaluated all expert opinion and then decided to go with our gut feeling, it was sound advice.
Worst Piece of Advice: EirGen was founded in 2005 in the middle of the Celtic Tiger property boom. Both I and my business partner, Patsy Carney were advised numerous times that we would be better off investing in property where we would have the security of bricks and mortar rather than take such a risk in starting a pharmaceutical company. Thankfully we did not put our meagre savings into property at the end of 2005 and instead we went with our gut!
What do you think of the advice these graduates received? Do you have any gems of good advice or words of warning to pass on? Please let us know, we would love to hear from you.