Words of wisdom from Irish entrepreneurs

Starting a business can be hard. Following the recent World Entrepreneur Day we gathered some words of wisdom from Irish entrepreneurs who’ve been there, done that and are still doing it.

John Tuohy, founder and CEO of OOHpod

Man in black jacket with parcel.

“No matter how well established your business is, there’s always going to be challenges, and you know you just really have to try and anticipate them”

Ruth Lyndon, Phoenix Recruitment

Woman inset on image of Manhattan skyline.

“In an indigenous business you will get to see and feel the impact your decisions are having”

John Carolan, CEO and founder, Solve Outsource

Smiling man in blue suit.

“Paying attention to the accounting requirements of your business is one of the key ingredients for growth … Get your accounting right, and there’s no limit to what your business can achieve”

Ciaran Marron, founder and CEO of Activ8

Man in navy suit.

“We keep our customers at the heart of what we are doing. They are key to the journey and for everything else that follows”

Chupi Sweetman, founder, Chupi

Dark-haired woman.

“I was lucky in that I was brought up with this strong belief that I could run a very successful business and make beautiful things. Many creative businesses don’t get very far because they are managed by people who aren’t interested in the business side of things, because they believe that as creatives they would never succeed in business”

Paula Fitzsimons, founder of ACORNS and Going for Growth

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“One of the most important things that we can do is to reduce the psychological isolation of being an entrepreneur”

Mark Elliott, CEO, Voyager IP

Man inset on image of Irish Navy vessel.

“When starting a business, many entrepreneurs overestimate its success, unable to see past the 18-month honeymoon period when friends, family and customers want you to succeed to the realities that kick in from year two”

Raymond Hegarty, IP supremo and serial entrepreneur on due diligence

Man speaking on stage.

“And if this deal doesn’t work, you might not be there to be able to pick up the pieces and run with the company again. So when a lot of people come to the end of this –  the news headlines all look like a victory and success – rather than a feeling of elation, a lot of the founders have this feeling of relief, that they just came out of this. And they are just ‘oh my goodness, am I still alive after all of this?”

Ian Browne, managing director, NDRC

“Execution is more important than the idea. Don’t spend too much time thinking about starting something, just start doing it faster and accept that some of them will fail”

Brian Cotter, co-founder, Sisu Clinic

Man in navy suit.

“It really comes down to surrounding yourself with the best people. Nobody is ever self-made. Pat, James and myself would have had lots of quiet conversations with ourselves around why we are doing this. We have learned that when you encounter difficulties, you somehow figure it out. And the next time you do it you remember how”

Dermot Casey, CEO, IRDG

Man in navy jacket.

“The best way for companies to predict the future is to invent, to create those new products and services for their customers and bring their customers to that path”

Nick Cotter, Cotter Agritech, World Student Entrepreneur winner

Man on screen in disbelief at winning an award.

It is far easier, cheaper and faster to learn from the key insights, experience and mistakes of others than to make the same ones yourself so utilising mentorship is key to building a successful start-up

Fiona Uyema, Fused

As an entrepreneur, there is a challenge every day. I used to worry that they kept coming – until someone reassured me that this is normal entrepreneur life

Sharon Keilthy, Jiminy Eco Toys

Woman and her daughter pulling faces.

Fail fast! Do the experiments that really test whether your business is going to work in the first few months – because if it’s not going to work you want to know ASAP!

Pat Phelan, CEO, SISU

Man in blue jacket.

The only experience I have is failures – so I know what doesn’t work 90% of the time. Most days it becomes easier not to make mistakes because you’ve made them before

Devan Hughes, Buymie

Man in red gillet jacket beside River Shannon, Limerick.

This is my fifth business and I’ve had four failed businesses before this that no one’s ever heard of or ever will. But they’ve been vastly important to me because everything I’ve done since has been derivative of the lessons I learned through those earlier businesses

Feidhlim Byrne, Clubforce

Man standing on pitch with ball in his hands.

With 20 years of no free time, stress, competitor battles, the loss of a relationship and constant challenge… was it worth it? Absolutely. I know in my heart I would do it all again

Brigid Reilly, Fernwood Flowers

Woman working with flowers in a garden.

“So much in the beginning is about planning and it still is. Everything has to be planned. You really have to know your numbers and what your margins are – to know what that magic number is to be profitable. Otherwise, it just ends up being a hobby that you make a bit of money from, not a business”

Larissa Feeney, Accountant Online

Woman in navy blue suit.

Resilience. If a business owner has resilience, they know that no matter what issues they have or what the circumstances, they can work through it. Ultimately, I think that’s the difference between success and failure. Successful people are those who keep on going through whatever challenges they meet. The only way to fail is to give up – if you keep going, you’re much more likely to find success in the long run

Jason Mowles, CergenX

two men and a woman.

Sean Griffin, CTO, Geraldine Boylan, CSO, and Jason Mowles, CEO of CergenX

Stay focused. It’s very easy to get side tracked. Agree short, medium and long term objectives for your business and ensure all decisions are taken in the context of progressing these objectives. It’s also important to be able to pivot – don’t be afraid to evolve your business objectives as new information emerges

Shane O’Sullivan, VisionR

Two men in an office in Dublin.

VisionR co-founders Oran Mulvey and Shane O’Sullivan

When it comes time to raise capital make sure you take the money that is right for you. There can be an eagerness to raise as quickly as possible and go back to building your business but you should aim for angels, syndicate, and VCs that have the right experience, connections, and chemistry that will help you scale up your business

Ronan Burke, Inscribe

Young man inset on image of Golden Gate bridge.

One of the things that Y Combinator really instilled in us was to focus on the really simple things that are within your control, like build a really good product and then talk to customers. And that’s something we try to keep in focus

Michael Furey, Ronspot

Try and have a good support network around you. Whether it’s at home or with fellow founders. It’s important to be focused on a single project in my view

Adam Keane, Altra

Man holding tablet computer.

Don’t wait, just do it – whatever the ‘it’ is. Don’t put it on the long finger. And pick up the phone. It will get things done 20x quicker than email

Una Tynan, Blank Canvas

Dark-haired woman and fair-haired woman.

UP Cosmetics co-founders Una Tynan and Pippa O’Connor Ormond

There are ups and downs, every day is different and you need to be okay with the chaos and lack of stability sometimes. Celebrating your wins and seeing perceived failures as learning curves are some of the ways that I approach keeping a positive mindset and staying resilient – it’s all part of the process!

Fintan McGovern, Firmwave (acquired by Taoglas)

Image of man inset on picture of soldiers in Africa.

Fear can go through a team or a company and that’s where leadership has to step up. The leadership must manage themselves and the messaging and communication, give assurance to people that they’re going to be okay. I go into some companies and I am shocked at how poorly some employees are treated. You need to be communicating with your people and providing assurance

Kerri Sheeran, TALY

Fair-haired woman holding a smartphone.

Research your market and your customer in-depth. Find out what exactly they need and why they will want to use your product versus other competitors. But most importantly I would advise any fellow founders to go for it, I’m a strong believer in nothing ventured nothing gained

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.