Leadership Lessons: Decisions That Shaped Irish Businesses

We caught up with these hard-working company leaders and questioned them about the difficulties they’ve faced and insights they’ve gathered while navigating the Irish business landscape.

Behind every successful Irish business is a team of dedicated people determined to make it work. By being honest about their victories, setbacks and inspirations, a detailed portrait emerges of what is needed to succeed in business.

We quizzed our three business bosses about their best decision, a book that inspired them and a decision they’d change.

Henry Gillanders |  Owner |  Pianos Plus

As a provider of top-quality piano brands, such as Steinway & Sons, Boston, Essex, Kawai, Yamaha, Seiler and Roland, Henry Gillanders and his team are committed to offering only the best in customer service.

Exceptional customer care is paramount in today’s business environment, but it’s especially needed when your business has a long path to purchase. Through the generations, Pianos Plus has successfully and consistently stayed relevant in the modern retail landscape, with technology playing a major role.

Your best business decision of 2017?
Henry’s best decision in 2017 was a technical one. A much-needed change in infrastructure allowed his business to continue to provide the excellent customer service they’re known for.

“The most satisfying decision was to finally change our measly broadband service which averaged about 1MB for the past 16 years to the fast fibre service from Virgin. This also meant significant savings as we had two providers before, one for broadband and one for phones”.

Anything you wish you’d done differently?
One of the benefits of being a long-established business is the fact that there’s lots of experience and knowledge to learn from.

“I didn’t make any decision I regret”.

Your top book recommendation for other business people?
Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is often lauded by business leaders as the ultimate handbook and guide to making it in business. However, the same determination and competitive edge needed for battle – whether you’re in the boardroom or charging towards the enemy – can also be found in sport.

“Jonah Barrington, ‘Murder in the Squash Court’. [it’s a] Relentless pursuit of goals against all odds.”

Martin Browne |Founder & Co-Owner | This is Galway

If there’s one thing Martin Browne and This is Galway proved in 2017, it’s that print isn’t dead. The interactive events and entertainment directory lets visitors know exactly what’s going on in Galway – in both an online and offline format.

The brand’s excellent customer service begins with its easy-to-navigate website. Boasting a sleek design, the website is also fully optimised for mobile browsing. Customers visiting on mobile will now have the same user experience as anyone visiting on desktop. Slow load times, small text or difficult-to-navigate landing pages are a thing of the past.

Your best business decision of 2017?
A mixture of self-belief and faith in a traditional publishing medium led This is Galway to making their best decision of 2017.
“The best decision This is Galway made in 2017 was bringing what we do to a print magazine. It’s no secret that print is on its way out, so it was a risky move, but we followed our gut feeling and trusted what we know about our local area, which is that Galway loves print! It’s made our online services stronger, and we’re getting great feedback so far, so we’re happy to have taken the plunge”.

Anything you wish you’d done differently?
When your business grows fast, it’s important not to let an outdated technical infrastructure get in the way. By switching to a better service provider, you can make sure your businesses vision is fully realised.

“We didn’t get our own office space until the second half of the year, which I think held us back from expanding our team, although our experience co-working introduced us to some great people. With our own office, we have room for more staff members and interns, as well as space to imagine and plan our next steps”.

Your top book recommendation for other business people?
There can be something refreshing success stories, especially those which feature new entrepreneurs. Martin Browne took inspiration from renowned businessman Gary Vaynerchuck and applied his learning to create synergy across a number of channels.

“Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk was a great read. Effective social media is a big part of what we do, and insights from the book helped us expand over more platforms and figure out a strategy for connecting with our audience in new ways”.

DC Cahalane | CEO | Republic of Work

Republic of Work is a collaborative space with a difference. Not just a shared working space for entrepreneurs, it’s also an inspirational and creative hub for established businesses. Allowing multiple companies, on different stages of their business journey, work side-by-side is what sets Republic of Work apart from its competitors.

Your Best business decision of 2017?
If you have that next great business idea — get it up and get going. Believe in yourself, beat your competitors to the market and start your exciting business adventure as soon as possible.

“Starting it! Republic of Work just opened its doors in April 2017. Getting started and getting our first location open was a huge deal, but more importantly it also showed us what we didn’t know.

“Interacting with real, live actual customers quickly showed us what we were doing right and, more importantly, what we were doing wrong.

“When you’re starting a business it’s easy to overthink and want everything perfect but until you’re interacting with actual customers to see their reactions to your product, you’re just wasting time”.

Anything you wish you’d done differently?
Caution is always advised when starting a new business, partly because failure is such a high risk. However, things can often go much better than expected as Republic of Work learned.

“I wish we’d been more ambitious. As a start-up business, we started with a careful, measured plan and it’s paid off but we could have afforded to take more risks and tried bigger things.

“We totally underestimated how quickly our #smartworking concept would be embraced by larger businesses seeking to break the status quo that was paralyzing innovation in their businesses. Now heading into 2018, it’s an area that we’re doubling down on, but we could have gotten there much earlier had we taken a leap of faith”.

Your top book recommendation for other business people?
Learn from mistakes or be destined to repeat them. One way of doing this is to make them public. As Sir Richard Branson did with this blog post about the journey of Virgin Megastores. Celebrating victories without forgetting failures was something which resonated with DC Cahalane.

“While I don’t read much, I listen to audiobooks religiously, probably every day, especially while travelling. Finding my Virginity, the 2nd part of Richard Branson’s autobiography, has probably been the book highlight of the year for me.

“Getting the real-life insights behind some of the biggest success (and failure) stories of the Virgin Group makes you realise that in business it never gets easier, it just changes, and real entrepreneurs change with it.

“At the start of the book, Richard is one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs and yet the book covers some of the most challenging time periods for Virgin. I think it’s refreshing to get such an honest appraisal of the challenges of modern business and highlighting the fact that it just gets harder and harder right until the end where success comes.

“It’s an essential read for anyone thinking of taking the leap into entrepreneurship”.