Virgin Media Business Sponsors the 2019 All-Ireland Business Summit in Croke Park
Earlier today, Croke Park hosted the 5th Annual All-Ireland Business Summit and Awards aimed at accrediting best-in-class Irish businesses.
Over 1,000 delegates, 50 exhibitors and 10 speakers attended today’s Summit.
Well known presenter, Ivan Yates was MC and introduced entrepreneurs to the Virgin Media Business Connector Zone telling them they have one thing in common. “You’re all nutcases for deciding to be self-employed and run your own businesses.”
On stage with Ivan were two of Ireland’s best known entrepreneurs, Deirdre McGlone, formerly of Harvey’s Point Hotel in Donegal, and Brian Hefferon of Nesta Self Storage.
“If creating shareholder value means creating customer value, what can you do to makes their lives better? Very often someone else will already be doing that, what can you do to make it different?” Ivan asked his guests.
“Our unique selling point is our staff”, said Brian. “We surveyed our customers and they ranked location, staff and price in that order as key factors. We can’t do much about location, the warehouses are where they are. But we invest a lot in staff training and empowerment.”
“People make the place”, Deirdre added. “Harvey’s Point is more than a hotel. It’s a place to escape to and immerse yourself in nature. It’s also a place where you are welcomed and made to feel at home. It’s all about the Cead Mile Failte and it’s all about the culture. Our people have pride on the hotel and are proud of coming to work. You have to make sure that culture is nurtured.”
When asked about his worst mistake in business Brian mentioned his first foray into digital marketing. “I tried to get into digital marketing very early before I knew a lot about it”, he recalled. “After the first weekend I had a bill for €8,000. That was a costly mistake, but the most important thing is to learn from that and know what you are going to do next. Don’t try to beat the system.”
Ivan asked Deirdre what technology had meant for her business. “Technology is important, but you have to ensure that you don’t lose sight of the homemade welcome and the handwritten note that make all the difference to guests”, she said. “You have to get the balance right.”
Ivan then traced his own life from leaving school before his Leaving owing to the death of his father from cancer. “I got interested in politics at the age of 16”, he recalled. “I looked up Fine Gael in the phone book – I had no relatives who fought in 1916 and I wasn’t a socialist so that was the party for me.”
He founded Celtic Bookmakers while still a TD and by 2006 had 73 shops in the UK and Ireland and was making €4 million EBITDA annually. “I was invited to the best restaurant in Ballsbridge by the bank who told me my business was valued at eight times earnings or €32 million and my recently rezoned farm was worth €25 million. The bank said, ‘Ivan you are worth more than €50 million but you have a problem – you have no borrowings.’ They fixed that problem and in 2012 I was in Swansea Court going personally bankrupt.”
“I don’t know if when you die there is a heaven or a hell, but never, ever, ever sign a personal guarantee”, he added. “There is debt restructuring for businesses but not if you have given a personal guarantee.”
The second piece of advice he offered related to expertise. “In business you always have to be your own best accountant and solicitor; when the going gets tough, those guys will head for the hills. It’s absolutely essential that you know exactly what you are doing at all times.”
He also advised businesspeople to learn from the late Feargal Quinn, who was due to be honoured at today’s event. “He did many great things, but one thing that was exceptionally smart was not to fall in love with his business. He flipped Superquinn at the very top of the market and sold it for €320 million to a group that subsequently went bust.”
“The definition of a long term investment is a short term investment that goes horribly wrong”, he added with a smile. He then shared some advice from the CIA before introducing the networking session. “People will forget what you said but they will always remember how you made them feel. People skills are all about getting people to say yes. The golden rule is that flattery will get you everything you want.”
The lively networking session saw people gather in groups of four at different tables for ten minute sessions where they shared thoughts and experiences.
The event concluded with Ivan speaking to Aidan Darcy, head of Virgin Media Business. “Our brand purpose is making connections matter. We are building a community by connecting people and businesses across the country. Our fibre network covers 70 to 80 per cent of business premises in the country. We are in all the major cities and 40 towns and outside of that we have wireless solutions to meet connectivity needs.”
“The big thing for me is that Virgin Media Business is available in more regional locations now”, he continued. And being part of Liberty Global means we can work with our business customers to help them leverage technology to make their businesses grow faster.”