Small Business

Thursday 21 August 2014

Feargal Quinn: What is the best degree for an aspiring businesswoman?

If you have small-business questions for Feargal Quinn, email them to problemsolver@independent.ie

Published 04/04/2013 | 05:00

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Q: I am 18 years old and I know that I want to be a businesswoman. There is no tradition of this in our home and everybody is discouraging me. What degree do you think an aspiring businesswoman should study?

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Your enthusiasm is infectious and I get a sense that you really want to do this. Choosing a career is more about you being enthusiastic and happy than following some predetermined path.

What you study will be determined by the type of business area that interests you.

Most of the universities and colleges run free information sessions to brief students on the various programmes they offer and that would be best suited to the area you might be considering.

My advice would be to go and look at every possible business course and attend as many information sessions as possible. Then, when you are better informed, you can start to narrow your choices.

Another option for you to consider is working part-time in a number of different businesses over the next few years so you will get a feel for what you like best.

I remember heading off to Europe to work in various industries to broaden my knowledge of how businesses work when I was of a similar age to you.

Literally, I stepped off a train in France and saw a sign looking for staff in a restaurant on the station platform; I went in and I was working within four hours.

I had many other jobs and it was through this process that I discovered self-service retailing and had the vision for Superquinn.

What I am saying is you need to immerse yourself in real business experiences, while at the same time exploring all the academic options open to you.

In that way you will start to get clarity on what you most enjoy doing and where your passion lies.

Good luck with your decisions.

Q: I'm trying to find graduates who are fluent in German and Italian for my export company. Despite advertising in the newspapers and elsewhere, I just can't seem to attract anybody. I don't believe there is a jobs shortage at all. Have you ever had a problem recruiting, and what did you do to resolve it?

I'll bet there are lots of people out there who would love to work with you and your team, and I am also pretty sure the majority don't know about the roles you have on offer.

I know you have done some advertising but sometimes you have to go and meet the people face to face and paint a picture of the exciting place your business is to work in.

Have you thought about having a chat with the colleges here who specialise in helping German and Italian students learn English?

Wouldn't it be great if they allowed you to meet some of the students and give them an overview of your business, or if they passed your details on to their students?

One of the big recruitment successes we had in Superquinn was to hold open interviews/information sessions in a local hotel near to a new shop we were about to open.

I recall sitting in a hotel close to our shop in Lucan with over 50 of my senior staff and being overwhelmed by over 3,000 candidates who turned up to hear more about what we had to offer.

We interviewed them all over three days, but they also interviewed us in an attempt to understand more about our business and to see if we were the right place for them to work.

What I learned from that event was that you really have to position your business correctly if you are to attract the right people. A final thought is also to look at all the online sources that are available offering jobs. Happy interviewing!

QI own a bakery which is struggling for all the usual reasons. I work with my daughter but just can't see her taking over the whole show when I retire. My wife says I expect too much from her and I was also lazy when I was her age. Is there some way of knowing whether a young person is ready to take over the family business?

All of my own family were involved in Superquinn at some stage. Some used it as a learning experience and went on to develop other careers for themselves, while others had varying degrees of involvement over the years.

I never forced them to become involved or never determined the level of involvement they had – that was left up to them.

In your case it might be wise to sit down with your daughter and ask her for her thoughts on her long-term plans. She may prefer to go on and carve out a career for herself in another industry and while this might be difficult for you to accept, it has to be her choice.

If you create a situation where she is forced to remain in the business but it isn't her number one passion, then you are always likely to have problems with the situation.

There are many family businesses I know where not one of the family members is involved in the actual running of the business.

Many businesses fall into the trap of believing the family have to run the business themselves, when in fact the right decision might be to hire suitable third-party management.

If it is a case that your daughter signals a wish to leave the business at some point and not take it over from you, then you can start legislating for that now by employing an external person whom you will groom and mould over the years with a view to them managing the business, on your behalf, when you retire.

Start by sitting down with your daughter and have a structured conversation with her and base your approach on the feedback she gives you.

Irish Independent

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