'There is a joy in building a business that has a positive impact on people's lives...'
Derek F Butler, Chief Executive, Grid Finance
'In 2009, I left PwC in Los Angeles to join GOAL in Uganda as a finance manager. Shortly after, I was promoted to financial controller. In 2013, I returned to an Ireland which was still suffering the impact of the financial crisis.
"With my experience in emerging markets - it was in Uganda that I first encountered micro-lending - I thought there was a great opportunity to take the philosophy of people lending to people and technology to build a new way of channelling the capital we know is in Ireland to small businesses. With that philosophy, we built GRID Finance, an online business-lending platform that allows real people to lend to Ireland's most credit-worthy small businesses.
"Building a disruptive start-up that wants to change financial services for the better in the aftermath of a major financial crisis is not easy, but extremely satisfying. There are some things I would do differently but there are a few key things which are vital no matter what.
"Stay true to your philosophy. All great businesses need a strong purpose and philosophy. Your reason for being as a business has wide-ranging impact on everything, from how you attract and deal with customers and employees to how you design your products. Having a clear purpose gets you through the lows and makes the highs sweeter.
"It is the great over-used term that 'people are everything'. When you are building a business, you are building a broad alliance of stakeholders - customers, employees, shareholders. It is vital that you are aligned, believe in that core purpose and can work together. Building a sustainable alliance is difficult and time-consuming but is vital for creating a business with long-term value.
"The customer is central to everything we do. If you don't understand your customer and know in a deep way what you are trying to do for them, you are doomed to failure.
"As you build the business you need to constantly evolve your view of the customer and how your product makes their life better.
"The truth in any business is in the bank account. Focus on cashflow and whether your balance is increasing or decreasing. The accountants will help you with the rest!
"There is a joy in building a business that has a positive impact on people's lives - as the challenges come, it is vital that you never lose sight of this."
Sunday Indo Business