Louis Grubb is co-founder, with wife Jane, of Tipperary-based farmhouse cheese maker Cashel Blue. The original kitchen table business when it was established in the 1980s, today the family-run enterprise has a turnover of €3.5 million.
What is your business’s elevator pitch?
We started out at country markets – I don’t think farmers’ markets had even been invented when we started out in 1984. We’re still an artisan producer of soft blue cheese but today we are one of the larger ones, with 60% of our sales going to export.
What do you regard as your business’s greatest achievement?
That we’re still here.
What was the lowest moment?
In business you’ll always have them from time to time. The ones that stick out most for me are where you have put a lot of time and effort into developing a promotion or landing a deal, and it doesn’t pay off.
“You have to recognise that you’re never going to win every deal.”
What’s your attitude to risk?
I’m conservative in so far as I’ll try not to be over extended. I’m happy to take a risk so long as I can ride it out if it fails. If I know it won’t pull me down, I’ll take a calculated risk. I’m lucky in that I’ve now handed over a lot of the risk-taking sweat to the younger generation, so they are taking the brunt of those decisions. The buck still stops with me, but only just.
Who has inspired or motivated you and why?
My first job was with Teagasc and I had an immediate supervisor there whose attitude still informs my own. His name was John Mulqueen and he was always positive. If you had an idea for something you wanted to do, he’d always tell you to have a go. I think in life you can approach things in a positive or a negative way, he always chose the positive.
What do you do, if anything, to switch off from the business?
I garden a few uneconomic vegetables and I boat on the Shannon. I like botanising too, walking the hills and looking at plants.
What would you do differently if you were starting your business today?
I wouldn’t borrow money at 22%, like I did.
What lessons have you learned in business that others could apply?
Always keep your quality up. If you let that slide, whether you’re producing a product or a service, you’re in trouble. And don’t be a ‘me too’ either. If you do that you’re going to have to be able to do everything a little quicker, cheaper, faster and it’s just not possible to keep that up.
If there was once piece of business advice you’d like to give to another business owner, what would that be?
Delegate authority before you get too old. If you have younger people in your business who are capable of taking responsibility, give them their head. It doesn’t matter if you are 50 or 70, the younger people will have more ideas and more energy. It’s a good move for you and it’s a good move for the business.
Pictured are Sarah Furno with her father, Louis Grubb. Photo by Brian Gavin, Press 22.