SEAN Gallagher hopes his new book ‘Secrets to Success — Inspiring Stories from Leading Entrepreneurs will offer guidance and advice to budding entrepreneurs, in describing the road others have travelled to success.
The businessman, former TV Dragon and presidential election runner-up could easily have filled a book with tales of his own journey. Visually impaired from birth, he did not let that stop him founding or co-founding a number of companies and becoming a sought-after speaker and motivator.
But instead, Sean has pulled together the stories of a range of Irish entrepreneurs and their successful businesses. These include a number of Cork entries, including Clonakilty Black Pudding and Voxpro.
“Clonakilty is the perfect example of a business that was a traditional cottage industry, started in a butcher shop, a traditional recipe passed down the generations,” he said.
“Colette Twomey’s husband took over the shop and continued on the tradition and when he sadly died, Colette was faced with the challenge of letting the business go or taking over the reins. She courageously took over the reigns and it is an inspiring story of stepping into a traditional business and putting your own mark on it, diversifying and creating a household brand. She is now selling her products internationally, a tremendous success story.”
Sean is also a fan of Dan and Linda Kiely, the husband-and-wife team behind Voxpro.
“They remortgaged their home to buy the company Dan was working for, having the vision to remortgage, buy the business and ultimately respond to the market need,” he said.
“That became the seed of Voxpro, fast forward to now where they have close on 3,000 employees around the world. The theme in their case story is about dreaming big and having the right culture.
“Nobody ever scales a business on their own, it is about building the right team around you and getting the right culture that allows all employees to play to their strengths and collectively achieve the vision of the company. Voxpro is a superb example of that.”
Sean also tells the story in his book of the Barry Group, “an incredible story of growth and scale and vision”.
Glenilen Farm in West Cork is given as an example of the Irish businesses which he believes are the backbone of the country, even on a much smaller scale than some of those mentioned.
“The role of the entrepreneur and the significance of what they do has not yet been properly recognised,” Sean believes.
“I am a great supporter of Foreign Direcct Investment (FDI), they create so many jobs but they cannnot create them in every part of the country.
“Entrepreneurs creating five or 10 jobs in a rural area or a small town, they are the engine for the economic growth in that area, and the glue that holds that community together.
“They keep the shops, the pub, the post office open by allowing people to stay in their area for work, they even keep the sporting organisations. We can’t become so over-reliant on FDI, we have to support the entrepreneurs. This book is about showing them role models.”
He sees mentoring and support as a key part of developing entrepreneurial spirit.
“Entrepreneurs are a tribe and tribes love to support each other,” he said. “I never in my life had the experience of someone starting out in business or trying to get to the next level, reaching out to businesses that didn’t get support.
“Entrepreneurs support each other simply because they know that they were at one point where the other person is, trying to get started and grow.
“So many entrepreneurs give back, whether that is though the EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme or through local enterprise offices, people are always trying to help, through formal or informal mentoring networks.
“That is hugely important and this book is written for people who may not have a mentor but want to learn from honest stories.
“The book is like having your own board of mentors who can shine a lot on the challenges faced by all businesses.”
He believes many homegrown entrepreneurs are under-appreciated.
“I travel a lot and do a lot in schools encouraging young people about business,” he said. “I ask them about an inspiring entrepreneur and many will say Richard Branson. That is great but what’s about the entrepreneurs in your area, all the small businesses offering jobs in your community?
“The purpose of the book is to celebrate indigenous Irish business and entrepreneurs who through their own risk taking and ingenuity are creating jobs in communities all around the country.”
When talking to young people, Sean emphasises the importance of resilience and bravery in business.
“I talk about enterprise but also about confidence and about risk-taking and being afraid to fail, because innovation in entrepreneurship is always about taking risks,” he said.
“The entrepreneurs in ‘Secrets To Success’ have excelled, not by having things come easy going but by overcoming challenges and obstacles and finding opportunities.
“Many people in this book faced unemployment or were made redundant and they bounced back from that, they created a job for themselves. Most of them experience in their lives a pivot that has made them respond in a particular way and responding to that has led to their success.”
Secrets to Success — Inspiring Stories from Leading Entrepreneurs costs €14.99.