Years in the oil and gas industry prompted Alison McMurtrie to return to Ireland to establish her own business with the help of the Irish Government’s Back for Business programme.
After an international career spanning almost 20 years, Alison McMurtrie completed her MBA through Warwick Business School. The MBA validated the skills she had acquired during her career, and helped provide the last piece of the puzzle to leave her role in the oil and gas industry and set up her own business.
Holding positions in operations, asset management, global HR, technology and research in global oilfield services company Schlumberger, the native of Randalstown, Co. Antrim, had always been keen to seek out new challenges in Europe, North Africa, Australia and the Middle East. But approaching the 20-year mark with a single employer, she saw an opportunity to change direction.
“It was only in retrospect, during my MBA, that I realised the skills I’d learned were really relevant to SMEs”
“I didn’t know how useful my skills were in the outside world,” she says.
“During the downturn in oil and gas in 2014, we had to lay off 60% of our workforce. I found myself weighing the cost of coffee machines versus staff versus cranes and machinery – an intense level of granularity. It was only in retrospect, during my MBA, that I realised the skills I’d learned were really relevant to SMEs.”
After graduating with her degree from Warwick University in the UK, Alison left her role and set up her company, iDunn Consulting, in the summer of 2020. That the Covid-19 pandemic was only in its infancy was seen as an opportunity to break from corporate life.
“It didn’t put me off. I saw it as an opportunity more than anything,” she adds.
“My thesis for the MBA had been based on the ecology around start-ups and I realised there was a niche for a consultant with a general manager perspective, who can look at the entire business and develop a plan for making their companies better, leaner and with more scope for growth. That all-encompassing approach is key to my skillset and I could see the pandemic was creating a demand for that.”
Now a resident of Co. Longford, Alison hopes to expand her reach into her home jurisdiction of Northern Ireland within the next 12 months, while recruiting at least one other full-time staff member to continue the growth in the Republic.
“We want to be working more all over the island of Ireland. Ideally I’d like to find someone with the same mindset and open thinking, who can take the frameworks and apply them to other businesses,” she says.
“Longer term, we want to be a think tank for SMEs in Ireland. We want to look in depth at how other countries support SMEs and present proposals for reforming Ireland’s approach.”
Alison hails the Back for Business programme for linking her with a network of fellow entrepreneurs, connections which she would otherwise have struggled to foster after so many years living abroad.
“The sessions were really helpful, whether that’s the legal content or setting KPIs from KPMG. When I moved back my problem was network. I didn’t know anyone. Back for Business opened a lot of doors.”
Are you thinking of coming Back for Business?
This is the sixth year of the Back for Business programme and there are up to 50 places available to support those have returned to Ireland – or are thinking about it – and have or want to start a business here.
The Back for Business developmental programme, which is funded from the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme, was created to foster and support entrepreneurial activity among emigrants returning to live in Ireland. The call for this year’s applications was launched by Colm Brophy TD, Minister of State for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora.
Back for Business 6 will run from the end of January to June 2023. There is no charge for those selected to participate and the closing date for applications is Friday January 6th 2023.
Back for Business is aimed at those who have lived abroad for at least a year and have returned in the last three years or those planning to return in the near future. It addresses challenges that all early-stage entrepreneurs encounter, but also focuses on the additional barriers faced by those who have been living outside Ireland for some years
Participants on last year’s programme increased their combined workforce by 76% and more than doubled (107% ) their turnover during the cycle – despite the restrictions placed on businesses as a result of the Covid pandemic.
Those selected to join Back for Business 6 will take part in round table sessions, focused on goals and milestones, which are facilitated by voluntary Lead Entrepreneurs who have experience of successfully starting and growing a business.
This year’s Lead Entrepreneurs are: Hannah Wrixon, founder of WrkWrk, formerly known as Get the Shifts; Morgan Browne, CEO of Milner Browne and Enterpryze; Paul Duggan of The Gardiner Group; Seamus Reilly, co-founder and formerly of Critical Healthcare; and Thomas Ennis, founder of the Thomas Ennis Group.
A Back for Business Community is also being formed for previous participants, who will be offered workshops, review round tables and an annual Community Forum.
Those interested in learning more about applying for Back for Business 6 can download a brochure and register their interest in receiving an application form by visiting www.backforbusiness.com