Serial entrepreneur Jamie White talks to ThinkBusiness about becoming a coach during Covid lockdown and the feedback he is getting from business owners across Ireland.
For as long as Jamie White can remember, he has always been fascinated by human behaviour and the impact it can have on running a successful business.
His own career in business started at the age of 18 when he decided he didn’t want to work for someone else, and pursued ventures in events, online media and marketing. In fact, his first business venture took place in boarding school, where he admits he was “a bit of a wheeler-dealer”.
However, after 15 years of running his own businesses, Jamie suffered from burnout at the end of 2019, and so he decided it was time to take a break.
“Towards the end of last year, I started to get my affairs in order in terms of selling off certain assets and preparing to move onto a new chapter.
“At the time, I had no idea Covid-19 was on the horizon, and I had planned on spending 2020 doing some travelling, but lockdown put a halt to that,” he said.
With extra time on his hands, White received several approaches from business owners within his network who were in need of support in order to survive the lockdown period.
“It all happened very organically,” he adds. “A couple of business owners reached out to me over lockdown asking for advice and support, and this gradually turned into coaching and consulting. Over the years, I had developed a strong network and I found a lot of my connections were in need of help, and it came together really organically.”
“A lot of people don’t appreciate how lonely the journey of an entrepreneur can be”
Jamie, who won Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur in 2014 and 2015, has since moved into coaching and consulting on a full-time basis, and he even set up another venture during lockdown.
In April, he started Entrepreneurs Anonymous, a weekly online networking event, enabling like-minded entrepreneurs to meet and connect and to brainstorm and problem solve together.
“After cleaning my slate, and with the travelling cancelled, I noticed that a lot of the same issues were coming up for businesses I spoke to, and some were really personal. A lot of people’s lives are their business, and when their business is disrupted, their confidence goes, and it impacts mental health.
“With that, I started hosting weekly gatherings for business owners to come together and chat in an open forum. It’s been beautiful if I’m really honest. People are opening up about some really personal matters, but they quickly find out that others are in the same boat, and all of a sudden, a support system opens up and you see people offering to help each other. A lot of people don’t appreciate how lonely the journey of an entrepreneur can be,” Jamie continued.
A sector on its knees
When discussing those personal matters and issues currently facing business owners across Ireland, he says the pressure on these entrepreneurs is “horrific”.
“There’s no two ways about it. The small business sector in Ireland has been hit so hard. The same businesses that invested during the first wave to be Covid-ready when things reopened, are now struggling again.
“The idea of going into lockdown overnight has a detrimental impact on businesses”
“That investment hasn’t just impacted their financial reserves, it has also taken its toll on business owners physically and mentally. When you can see some sort of light at the end of the tunnel, it’s always easier to persevere, but right now it’s hard to see.”
Jamie believes stability is key if businesses are to get back on track and added that the Irish Government must consider any decisions they make in the future.
“The idea of going into lockdown overnight has a detrimental impact on businesses. If you take a business in the hospitality space, some of them are having to close with €20,000 worth of food in the fridge, and it’s crippling them.
“These knee-jerk reactions are nonsensical. Covid-19 is something we’re going to be living with for the foreseeable future, and we need to take an approach that supports our businesses that are at risk. And the long-term worry for me is that the next generation won’t look at going into business because the risks are too high, and they’ll know they won’t be supported when times are hard.”
“I believe if you get today right, you’re setting tomorrow up to be a good day”
For businesses that are currently suffering, asking for help is that most important thing an owner can do according to Jamie.
“If there’s ones truly amazing thing about the Irish, it’s that we really come together when times are hard. It’s been great to see people shopping local. But in times like these, there’s no value in being too proud. It’s really important to ask for help when you need it.”
Looking to his own future, Jamie is apprehensive to answer and admits he is unsure where the road might take him.
“Honestly, I don’t know. I try not think too far ahead. It’s so hard to predict the future, especially how things are now. I’m just trying to make the most of things day-by-day and that’s what I’ve been telling business owners I’ve been working with. I believe if you get today right, you’re setting tomorrow up to be a good day,” he finished.
If you are interested in getting in touch with Jamie, you can visit his website: www.jamiewhite.com.
By Stephen Larkin
Published: 28 September, 2020