Gallagher's useless advice at €4-a-minute left me feeling sick
Young shop owner got 'mundane spiel' from Dragon mentor
Published 20/10/2011 | 05:00
A 22-year-old shopowner who was left bitterly disappointed by Sean Gallagher's €500 bill for business advice says he feels "pretty sick" when he hears the presidential candidates' promises to young people.
Kealan O'Connor, from Navan, Co Meath, said that the presidential favourite promised him two hours of mentoring at €250 an hour -- but he said the meeting lasted just 90 minutes and he was still charged €500.
He said his session in February with the businessman and TV star, which promised to bring his "business to the next level", was "useless" and he felt deeply let down.
Mr Gallagher has become the bookies' frontrunner in the election race after pledging to help young people get off the dole queues and set up businesses.
His father, Eugene O'Connor, booked the mentoring session for February so they could get some guidance on how to get Kealan's budding confectionery company off the ground.
They also hoped he might give them some tips on a number of other ideas they had, including a plan to install domestic wine cellars.
The O'Connors were initially surprised when Mr Gallagher requested full payment in advance of the two-hour session and cashed their cheque immediately, almost two weeks before they met.
"At the very least, I expected a receipt in the post a few days after sending the cheque, but it did not come for a month and even then I had to request it," Mr O'Connor senior said.
The session had been booked to take place in Dundalk, but Mr Gallagher requested that it be changed to Dublin.
They arrived at 2.30pm, half an hour before their session was due to begin at 3pm because they were paying him "more than €4 a minute".
"I spotted Sean in the lobby at 2.40pm and introduced myself. I told him we would wait for him in reception. Then, 3pm came and went, and at 20 past, I decided to go and find out what was going on," said Mr O'Connor senior.
"The receptionist pointed me to a nearby room and I saw Mr Gallagher and his PA sitting there and having a good laugh at our expense. I didn't feel like laughing at all.
"We felt it was so unprofessional. It was almost 3.30pm by the time we started. That was €125 up in smoke. There was no apology. But we decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and were sure he would make up for it at the other end.
"As the session progressed, it was as if he was winging it. At one stage, Mr Gallagher said, 'sweets are bad for teeth'. I couldn't believe my ears. I replied, 'and cars kill people'.
"Then he asked us if we had looked into grants from the Enterprise Board. That's not what we came to the meeting to hear. You can get that sort of information on Google.
"I wanted my son to leave with his chest pumping with motivation but the whole thing was totally uninspirational. It was the sort of mundane spiel you'd get in a public house or on the sidelines of a football pitch."
At 4.45pm, Mr Gallagher's PA came in and said he had a train to catch. Ten minutes later, he ended the session.
"We were stunned," Mr O'Connor senior said.
"We ended up getting an hour-and-a-half of his time for €500. We sat in the car afterwards, looked at each other and thought, 'what a waste of time and money!'"
In the promotional material for his mentoring sessions, Mr Gallagher promises to give clients "specific strategies and feedback that will catapult their business forward".
He says he will provide a "roadmap for growing revenues, gaining traction in the marketplace and achieving goals."
The O'Connors waited seven weeks for some follow-up material to arrive but it did not.
"The whole thing was an incredible let-down," said Mr O'Connor senior, adding that the "whole experience was a major disappointment from start to finish".
In response to the O'Connors' complaints, Mr Gallagher accepted last night that a fee of €500 was charged to them for their mentoring session, and that no follow-up feedback or a report on the session was provided to them.
In a statement, he said he was unaware of the O'Connors' dissatisfaction and would like to meet them to discuss their concerns -- but he refused to comment on the allegation that the session only lasted 90 minutes.
He said the O'Connors had come to him with three business ideas, none of which had "a business plan". Mr Gallagher said that he appraised the ideas and "advised the clients that he always cautioned against multiple plans and suggested they should concentrate on one project". He said he assessed each concept and advised on whether or how they could be taken to market.
Yesterday, Kealan was contacted by a member of Mr Gallagher's team, who asked to speak to him but he declined.
"It's a bit late at this stage," said Kealan.
"When we saw Mr Gallagher on 'Dragons' Den', we thought he might be able to help us but I knew within 10 minutes of our mentoring session, that he just wasn't interested.
"When I hear him making so many promises to young people on the campaign trail, I feel pretty sick. He certainly didn't help me. It felt like he just didn't care."