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Career Clinic - Business start-up

Friday, 4 December 2009

Why is it Relevant Today?
The live register in September of this year stood at 429,400 people, an increase of 183,422 people or 76.4% in just one year according to the Central Statistic Office's figures. The standardised unemployment rate in September was 12.6%.

(Sourced from On September 22nd, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) released the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) for Quarter 2 2009, which covers the period March to June. The QNHS Q2 '09 recorded a drop in employment levels by 8.2% in comparison to Q2 2008. With just a little over 1.9m in employment, employment has dropped back to Q1 2005 levels. However at that stage unemployment was only 4.2% and it is now 12%. Long-term unemployment has started to rise and now stands at 2.6% - a figure not seen since early 1999. Over the last year, 174,300 jobs were lost against 23,800 created. Out of the six categories where jobs were created, three are funded through the public purse and so future employment growth is doubtful.

(Sourced from Irish Times, 30th October) The Irish are also the gloomiest in the EU on job prospects. In a recent survey, over two thirds felt that if they were made redundant it was not likely they would find another job.

Martin Malone -
Martin is the second participant in our Career Clinic. He finished a building apprenticeship 9 years ago and has been working on and off as a bricklayer since school, his last job finished the 13th October. He is looking to maybe get into something in computers but has no real idea what to do. Likes computers, playing guitar, likes gardening. Once went to find advice on career guidance but never really followed up on it so looking to go a step further this time. In the last Career Clinic segment with him, Martin did a career aptitude session with John Fitzgerald and decided to start his own business: Creative Gardens by Martin

Sean Gallagher
Sean Gallagher is probably best known as an entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Ireland's largest home technology company, Smarthomes which he set up in 2002, along with his business partner Derek Roddy. He completed an MBA in 2000. Today, his interests include property development, telecommunications, as well as working closely with his Dragons' Den investment companies, including SurfSeeds

Career Clinic breakdown:

Week 1
On our first week we met our three Career Clinic participants, Eimear Farrell who was looking to move into PR, Martin Malone our brick layer who was looking to change career direction and Annmarie Wolohan who was aiming to re-enter work as an office manager.

Week 2
On our second week we re-visited Eimear and found out how she got on at her networking event, plus we found out some good news from her, she's managed to find a job in Geneva!

Week 3
Last week we found out how our unemployed bricklayer Martin Malone got on with our career direction expert John Fitzgerald as we try to find the best path for him to re-enter the workforce!

Week 4
Last week we caught up with our out of work office manager Annmarie Wolohan who had no formal qualifications in accounting. We set her up in a class in an IPASS course in Payroll in Plunkett College and got Annmarie back into the classroom! Just before her studio appearance, Annmarie got a job!

Week 5
Last week we got a HR expert, Aoife Coonagh, to give you the dos and don'ts of CV writing!

Week 6 ( LAST WEEK)
This week we catch up with our unemployed bricklayer Martin as we find out how he got on doing a day's work experience gardening with Eugene Higgins!

Week 7 ( THIS WEEK)
Martin will be getting a talk in business start-up with an expert!

Week 8 ( NEXT WEEK)
We will be examining the dos and don'ts of job interviews with our panel of experts, Sean Gallagher, Aoife Coonagh and James Mailley!

Questions for Sean:

Sean put together answers to the 5 questions you should ask yourself if you're starting your own business?

1. Be Clear about what your Business is about and what exactly you are Selling
What Products or Services are you going to offer?
There are many pitfalls in trying to be all things to all people. Having clarity around this allows you to focus and prioritise. You will need to be very clear about your Value Proposition i.e. what's in it for the customer and why they need or will buy your product or service. This involves doing Market Research. People generally buy benefits rather than complicated & hard to understand technical features. You need to be very clear about how what you are offering helps or benefits the lives of your potential customers. You can only fully understand this through carrying out research and talking to potential customers, not friends or family, as they can often tell us what they think we want to hear.

2. Its all about Selling
Sales are the life blood of business. You can have the best product, you may love your product and it may well be better than all your competitors.....but if you can't find a way to sell it then you can not grow your business. Here you need to think about; Route to market and whether to sell directly using your own sales team or using distributors as a route to market.

3. You can't Grow it alone, Building a strong team
We all have strengths and by default we usually end up only doing the things we like or the things we are good at. You need to bring on board those skills that you, as the Promoter, do not have. If you are technical then you will need to have a sales and marketing person involved. If you have strong sales and marketing expertise yourself then you may need to look at adding complimentary financial, technical or logistics expertise to the team as the company evolves.

4. Turnover is Vanity , Profit is Sanity but Cash is King
It is not enough to sell. To survive and grow you need to sell profitably. Therefore correct Pricing is critical. You can only determine the selling price if you know the costs of making the product and getting it to market. That way you can ensure that you have a sufficient profit margin built in. Many new business owners want to win the sale or get "that contract" so badly that they often discount to a level where they are not making any profit. While there may be times that this is advantageous, it is not sustainable. Although business involves offering products or selling services and employing people, the real Success in business is about generating profit.
it is also vital that you have procedures and mechanisms in place to collect debts as you can easily fall into the trap of wanting to keep winning sales but if you do not collect what you are owed then you will quickly run out of cash. Many business fail, not because they run out of orders but because they run out of cash and can't buy raw materials to make or fulfill orders.

5. The Law of the Jungle. You have to beat the Competitors to survive.
We all have competitors in some form or other. We are always completing for the disposable income that potential customers have. Therefore you need to differentiate your business or you product / service. This is often achieved through one or more of the following:
Branding, Quality, Pricing, Superior Customer Service or Support, Convenience, Additional Features or Money back guarantees etc.
The real question you need to ask yourself is why will people buy from you and not someone else? And how can you sustain this USP or unique Selling Point.

Other Important Point
Understanding Patents, Trademarks and Licensing