How do you measure your own success?
Limerick brothers Patrick (28) and John (26) Collison, co-founders of online payments system Stripe, last week completely redefined the meaning of Irish success, making the Forbes billionaires list for the first time.
Self-made and worth more than $1 billion each, they’re now in league with the world’s richest as the youngest newcomer billionaires.
For most, this is the stuff of dreams, but Dragons' Den is back on our screens on Sunday nights and it will showcase the many stories of entrepreneurs from around Ireland eager for success.
So what makes these entrepreneurs stand out from the crowd? In the past seven years, the Dragons have seen 415 pitches and invested in over 95 businesses with an investment figure of over €5 million.
What do successful people do differently every day? How do they stay motivated and ahead of the curve? What are their tips for success?
“Be proactive, think with the end in mind, put first things first, think win / win, seek first to understand then be understood, synergise and sharpen the saw”, says author Stephen R Covey in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Success can come in many forms and mean very different things to different people whether that’s simply work / life balance, achieving a set number of career goals through the years or merely getting satisfaction from work. What most successful people have in common is their discipline and drive, whether that is prioritising health and fitness, getting up early or planning their days in detail in advance.
Vision and instinct are common themes with ambition and hunger to get ahead and an ability to keep an eye on the big picture, while constantly researching and reading and adjusting and building a strong team.
While there is no proven formula for success and luck and timing are always a factor, here are five tips for success in business today:
1. Dive in to the detail – relationships matter most
Chanelle McCoy is Ireland’s newest dragon. For the first time ever in Dragons’ Den, there will be a predominantly female line-up with dragons Eleanor McEvoy and Alison Cowzer joining Barry O’Sullivan and Gavin Duffy.
Director of Chanelle Pharmaceutical Group which now has sales of over €100m a year, Chanelle Mc Coy emphasises how important relationships are – and will always remain – in business. Speaking about her early career as a Sales representative for a pharmaceutical company, her aim was to get past receptionists to schedule meetings. She stresses that her attention to detail on this helped her to achieve success, matched with her hunger to get business.
"I'm very solution-driven anyway so I saw this as a great challenge. I learned about what were their favourite biscuits and what were their favourite hobbies and really just tried to build up a relationship with them. After a while, out of pity, people saw me and I started to build up a relationship with them. I just was so hungry to get the customers."
2. Reinvent constantly – don’t fear failure
Gavin Duffy is the master dragon having been there since the show first aired in 2009. He is best known for taking businesses from early concept stage in the Den to success in retail or online in just a matter of months.
Gavin points out that working in business takes a lot of sacrifice and if it is not working then do not be afraid to reinvent. This is what successful businesspeople do. He admits that he is only a serial entrepreneur because “I failed at so many things”
“Whatever area you go into, there’s going to be sacrifices on your time and being away from your family, so whatever it is, make sure it’s going to pay you handsomely for all that effort in the end. And most importantly, you should also make sure to pull the plug on your business if it’s struggling or not really flying. Have a go at something else. Don’t keep dragging it on. First and foremost what determines a successful business is timing.”
3. Give back – motivate others
Dragon and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Barry O’Sullivan hit the headlines late last year when he gave back by donating his 6-bedroom holiday home on the Aran Islands to help 15 families.
Showing that success is also about altruism, this huge, unprecedented gesture was a massive way of giving back and also part of a campaign by Focus Ireland and COPE Galway to motivate other high net worth individuals to recognise and help with the homeless crisis.
4. Find the best advisors and build the best team
Alison Cowzer, co-founder of East Coast Bakehouse, Ireland’s only large-scale biscuit manufacturing business, stresses the importance of finding the best advisors and building the best team.
“It’s not cheap but it will pay you back in spades” says the businesswoman referring to finding the best advisors. “It's tempting to find the cheapest suppliers and advisors, but for key areas such as legals, finance and design you need a team with the best available talent - and they need to believe in the project as much as you do!”
“Having the right team on board is, without doubt, the most crucial element of the process. The challenges of a start-up can overcome an individual. Sharing those stresses among a group that trust each other and respect others' skills and expertise really does lighten the load. For a start-up, the team comprises much of the story - the story that encourages investment and reassures investors, lenders and partners that the goal is achievable”
5. Never take money for granted
“Never take money for granted. You should always apply the principal that it is easier to mind it than to make it”, says Dragon Eleanor McEvoy, founder and Chief Executive of Budget Energy, an electricity provider in Northern Ireland.
McEvoy, from Limerick, also previously set up and sold two successful businesses – Pembroke Distributors and Phonecard Warehouse. Her current company has a turnover of over €30 million and employs 50 staff at its offices in Derry.
She also advises would-be entrepreneurs to “trust your instinct and forget about the losses – focus on the wins”
Dragons' Den is back on our screens on Sunday nights at 9.30pm. This is the 8th series of the show. Click here for more information.