You won’t know if you’ll do well until you Get Started!
On Tuesday the 12th of February, the DCU DICE students were back again in the Helix for their third and final conference of the year. This conference was entitled Get Started 2019. The theme of this conference revolved around the whole idea of entrepreneurship and getting started in the business world. Three main themes were discussed at the conference which included Family Businesses , Early Stage Startups and Scaling Up. There were a variety of speakers, each with diverse and interesting backgrounds which all had a part to play to where they are today. I was excited to hear what each and every one of them had to say. As a business student, I have a very big interest in entrepreneurship and possibly having the chance to start my own business someday if the opportunity came knocking on my door.
We were privileged to have had the opportunity to hear from the likes of David Pollard, who is the Innovation Project Manager at Rehab Group, Lewize McCauley Crothers who is the CEO and co-founder of Exit Entry and Louise Murphy who is the Sales Director and Founder of Cyc-Lok. The Early Stage Start-ups panel consisted of Lewize McCauley Crothers, Louise Murphy, Maura McAdam and Sheelagh Brady. We also heard from Martin McVicar who is the Managing Director of Combilift, Ross Keogh who is the Co-founder and Director of Keogh’s Crisps, Barry O’Callaghan and David Moloney. The Family Business Panel consisted of Ross Keogh, Dr Eric Clinton, Rosy Temple and Orla Stafford.
Although I found each topic to be different in their own way and I found myself engaged with each speaker, I have decided to talk about the theme of Family Businesses in detail.
Ross Keogh – Keogh’s Crisps
Ross Keogh is the co-founder and director of Keogh’s Crisps. It is a family business that is based in North County Dublin. The business is made up of his uncle Tony, his cousin Derek, his brother Thomas, and his father Peter. The five of them run the business and they employ over one hundred people. Ross emphasised how they do not make any decisions lightly as there are over one hundred families depending on their decisions and they all depend on The Keoghs for income. Ross told us how his late grandfather, Peter Keogh, was the first innovator within the business. He would say, “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten”, which is a quote by Sir Henry Rice. Quality is the core to everything that Keogh’s do. Quality is always remembered and another thing which I found to be clever was that the following quote was always drilled into their minds from a young age, “You’re only as good as your last bag”. I found this extremely interesting as from a very young age Ross was taught subtly to be successful and driven. This quote implies how success comes from how much work and effort you are willing to put into your product or service. This is my interpretation of this quote.
What I found unique was how Keogh’s decided to cold store their stock of potatoes in order for them to keep them in the market all year round. Potatoes were only in season from the months of June to February, so potato farmers had no crops for the months of March to May. Keogh’s ensured that they could continue selling to retailers all year round.
The Keogh’s tried to think of new and innovative ideas to attract younger people to buy their products. They changed up their packaging to have something new and creative and they also came up with the idea of microwavable bags of potatoes. These potatoes are kept in the bag in the microwave and are cooked with the steam in the bag. They were the first company to launch this idea on the market and it has proven to be a big success.
Although the Keogh’s were doing very well in the market, they still wanted to excel even further. In 2011, they launched their crisps when they saw a gap in the market. They launched them in the middle of the recession after several years of investigating the new product and ensuring that it was perfect. They have also diversified and are now selling popcorn too. One of the main reasons why they started with the crisps was because they wanted to expand their exports to the United States of America. Unfortunately there was an embargo on the importing of potatoes into America and they could not export them unless they were cooked. This is how the whole idea of the crisps sparked. They currently export crisps to over 14 countries around the world and they send the microwavable range of potatoes over to the UAE as well.
Ross’ tips to start a business:
- “If you want to do something you’ve never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.”- Thomas Jefferson. Meaning you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome.
- You have to put yourself out there and you have to change what you are doing if it is something you want to do.
- I you have an idea for a product or service, you need to see what the end goal is; what will it look like? What will consumers be saying about your product? Where it will be sold and who will be buying it.
- You need to be good at everything, “ A Jack of all trades”.
- You need to put the correct foundations in for the business for it to work and stay standing. Your foundation is your culture, your values and your vision.
- Hire people who are better at a particular role in the business than you.
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new”- Albert Einstein.
Family business panel
The family business panel included Ross Keogh, Orla Stafford, Rosy Temple and Dr Eric Clinton.
Firstly, Rosy gave us guidance for working outside of a family business rather than getting directly involved in the family business. She worked in London for five years before returning to the family business and this enabled her to grow and develop more. She emphasized how it allows you to gain some understanding and methodology of whatever area you may be working in, whether it be sales, marketing or operations. You get a sense of how other businesses are run. She also told us how it gives you the opportunity to learn how you work best, and how you balance all of the different pressures. These will all help to add value to the family business.
Orla has a traditional Irish family business in the sense that they own a family farm. Orla told us her attitudes towards working inside and outside the family business. Orla moved into her family business in May 2018 after working in a food services company. At this time they were launching a new product and she had the ability to build brand awareness and promote the new product and to get it out into the market. Orla knew that it was important to work for other businesses too in order to get herself out there, to gain insights and to have more experiences. It is good to see how other businesses are ran and to be managed under different people. It also gives you the opportunity to learn what you are good at and what you are not so good at. Understanding what you can bring to the business and what you want to bring to the business is also very important. The impact you want to make can be substantial to the growth of the family business.
Ross gave all of us, as next generation entrepreneurs, advice on how to develop a brand and how to take that brand international. He told us that we need to think global, act global. You must find out what are the done things in that particular country in order to be successful in that country. You can not just act on another country and expect them to react how Ireland would react. You need to know what the consumers want. Keogh’s discovered that different flavours for their crisps were very popular in different countries, for example, Spain love their tomato flavour and people in Dubai love their sweet chilli flavour. When you are moving into a new international market, you need to know the people that you are focusing on in that market and their different tastes.
Family business facts
- In America, “Family businesses generate over 50% of the Gross National Product (GNP)”. These family owned businesses generate a lot of The US’ income. (Forbes, 2013).
- It is said that “less than one third of family businesses survive the transition from first to second generation ownership. Another 50% don’t survive the transition from second to third generation”. (Forbes, 2013). This is a very low rate of survival for family businesses.
- The greatest amount of America’s wealth comes from family-owned businesses. Family firms comprise 90 per cent of all business enterprises in North America. (Conway Centre for Family Business).
I was intrigued throughout the whole conference. I was amazed by all of the wonderful businesses each of them had and all of their creative ideas were brilliant. I was engaged the whole way through and I did my best to listen carefully to what each speaker had to say as I find the whole idea of owning your own business fascinating. Some day in the future I would really love the opportunity to start up my own business if I had the resources and I would especially love to do it with the help of my family someday. Although I am sure there are some difficulties about working with your family, for example, work feuds may be brought back home and difficult decision making could get in the way of relationships. However I believe that there are many advantages to working with your family too. You are working with and surrounded by people you love and people you know that you get on well with and it may also bring your family closer together by spending more time with them. You get the opportunity to pursue what you love with the people you love. It was great listening to the panel and individual speakers to understand how their individual family businesses work. Every business is run differently, each family has their own unique approach to how they run their own firm. It was interesting to hear how their ideas developed and how they made them into the business they have today. I took a lot away with me from this final conference. Although I enjoyed all of the conferences, this one had the biggest impact on me as I am really interested in the whole idea of becoming an entrepreneur someday in the future after I have graduated from college. I really like the idea of working for myself. I understand how some aspects of working for yourself may be very challenging but I believe if you put the hard work and effort in to what you believe in, then you are bound to succeed.
DCU Get Started Conference
Conway Centre for Family Businesses, Family Business Facts. Accessed on 26/02/19. https://www.familybusinesscenter.com/resources/family-business-facts/
Forbes, July 2013. The Facts of Family Business. Accessed on 24/02/19. https://www.forbes.com/sites/aileron/2013/07/31/the-facts-of-family-business/#65fc77aa9884