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My experience working with a wide range of young businesses, from complex financial software through to artisan food producers says, it is easy to get distracted by products and forget that the underlying success drivers are the same regardless of what you make or do.

girl at wall

A visit to The Climbing Wall in Sandyford, a 3 week old fledgling business already packed with happy customers on a freezing January night made me stop to think.  What gets customers in this case to a business with no marketing or advertising budget?  What separates success and disaster for a young business in the early scary days?

“The wall” is an indoor state of the art climbing wall in Sandyford industrial estate. So, your business is very different, but the same answers apply and will help you succeed early.
  • Passionate attention to  all customers, including the ones future customers. I dragged along a friend who doesn’t climb, and had no intention of doing so.  She instantly felt welcome, even though climbing up the wall until then was something she only does at business meetings. Your customers may come in many forms and will have different needs. See the world from their perspective – are they confused? Scared? Stressed? Finding it hard to park? At the Wall you feel safe and at ease. And yes, of course, she climbed. And is now hooked.
  • Create a happy place where staff are as engaged as you are in looking after customers with care. Your staff must feel like a really core part of your baby business.  Get them on board and make sure to find ways of harnessing all their bright ideas about how to make your project a success
  • Know your customers intimately before you start. Alan and Brian really understand their market, and are well networked. They already understood exactly what climbers want and immediately ran simple high impact events that have built up loyalty, traffic to The Wall and loads of Word of Mouth publicity, always the most powerful form of marketing. This also helps you create a sense of community and shared values among your customer base, so your customers stay longer and believe in what you do.  Happy customers come back.
  • Be clever about how to position and communicate what you offer: .The Wall makes canny use of social media and press coverage to get the story out in a more targeted and dynamic way than any ad ever will.  Network, but be savvy about how you use that precious network.
  • Know your competition equally intimately, know when to compete (and how) and when to collaborate. Sometimes collaboration is the right strategy – work together and instead of splitting a new small market you can grow it together, creating greater awareness by acting as a group and attracting more people to a new service or product.
  • Good team - make sure all the practical stuff is under control.  The top team here includes a marketing whizz and an employment law specialist.  They have team skills to make sure the business is set up on a sound financial footing, property and planning skills and expertise to make sure design and operations are top class.
  • Finally – do something you love. The chances are you will be very good at it!
  Moira Creedon is a facilitator and consultant in Strategic Finance and has worked with both corporate and public sector clients worldwide helping decision makers at strategic level to understand finance and improve their ability to formulate and implement strategy. She teaches on IMI’s Diploma in Management and a number of Short Programmes including the Senior Executive Programme. See our Spring 2015 schedules here: IMI Diplomas Spring 2015 and IMI Short Programmes Spring 2015 [post_title] => 'Off the Wall' tips for early business success [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => wall-tips-early-business-success [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 20:58:52 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 20:58:52 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 22610 [post_author] => 80 [post_date] => 2018-04-05 09:27:06 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-04-05 09:27:06 [post_content] => [caption id="attachment_22612" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Jack Welch was CEO of GE for 20 years. In a changing world, is he still the model for leadership? Jack Welch was CEO of GE for 20 years. In a changing world, is he still the model for leadership?[/caption]   When discussing the challenges facing business leaders it seems almost de rigeur nowadays to talk about the level of change organisations are facing. The challenge to equip leaders to build the future in these uncertain times is certainly daunting, with seismic geopolitical shifts (in this context the Trump administration seems to be the gift that keeps on giving), disruptive technological change (how many of us even fully understand the implications of bitcoin, blockchain and whatever new technology will be unleashed on us next) and even severe climate and weather events. The very ubiquitous nature of these challenges may however inure us to their real potential as both a threat and an opportunity to affect a true paradigm shift in how we view leadership, a classic case of an issue being undervalued through overuse. . The Concept of Leadership From the perspective of the 21st century the development of our concept of leadership is a little clearer than it may have been in the past.  From this remove we can see how the largely male, heroic models of leadership have greatly influenced the literature and teaching in this field. The business leaders who are most often cited, Jack Welch, Steve Jobs etc. are broadly from a similar mould and the models of leadership, with the exception of Servant Leadership (as a servant leader you put the needs of others, particularly team members, before you even consider your own, but how many executives really model themselves on this type of leadership?) extol an assertive, confident, out-going and mainly extroverted style. In fact, the Myers Briggs type most associated with leadership is the ENTJ (extraversion, intuition, thinking, judgment), which is described as the ‘general’, again exposing the military underpinnings of the leadership canon. We can clearly see this bias in the continuing popularity of books like Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people”, the pseudoscience of NLP and programmes that teach executives how to create the right ‘impression’. Given the genesis of the leadership concept it is understandable that people might misconstrue the notion of leadership presence as the ability to impose oneself (and influence people), but there is real hope that we are about to experience a genuine shift in the paradigm. . Unhappy Influencers [caption id="attachment_22617" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Richard Boyatzis studied how leaders influence those around them Richard Boyatzis studied how leaders influence those around them and how that effected their lives and careers[/caption] . Recent research conducted by Richard Boyatzis and colleagues from Case Western Reserve University examined the relationship between the extent to which people adopted an ‘influencing’ leadership style and their later satisfaction with both their careers and their life in general.  Interestingly they found a very strong negative correlation between these factors, i.e. the more people adopted an influence style the less satisfied they were with their careers and lives. Boyatzis and colleagues did not have an objective measure of career success, so one could still argue that the ‘influencers’ did better in their careers, but Boyatzis’ research does tell us that irrespective on how well an outsider might judge your career progress, the ‘influencers’ are less happy about their situation.  The researchers concluded that those who adopt an influencing style are pushing on their environment and trying to get more from others, e.g. they tend to show a high need to control social situations. The crux of the problem, especially in the context of a VUCA world, is that pushing on or trying to control an environment that is in a constant state of flux, verging on chaos is unlikely to be very effective and will certainly lead to people being highly dissatisfied and unhappy in their work and indeed their lives. Now would be the perfect time for the leadership movement to learn the lessons of evolutionary psychology that success in a changing environment falls to the most adaptable, those who can outlearn their competition.   The Adaptable Generation This will require a cadre of new leaders who are less ego-identified with success and winning, who don’t see problems as opportunities to impose themselves and demonstrate mastery of the environment. Rather we will see the emergence of leaders who can go with the flow, adapt to new realities quickly, work through and with others as either leader or follower and pivot gracefully as cherished paradigms fall away and hard-earned experience proves ineffective as a guide to new problems. There is no doubt that the idea of women in leadership is in the current zeitgeist and may or may not create a fundamental shift in how we see leadership in the future.  I am however hopeful, that as the new model emerges we will see less emphasis on the old machismo of the ability to impose oneself on others and on the environment and more emphasis on the willingness to adapt, change and ‘flow’ with emerging realities. Bruce Lee used to tell his students to ‘be like water’, perhaps that is not a bad metaphor for what leaders will need to become.   imi-colm-foster-810Dr Colm Foster is Director of Executive Education at the Irish Management Institute. He has acted as a leadership development consultant to organisations in the US, Asia and Ireland, particularly specialising in Emotional Intelligence. The next IMI Diploma in Leadership starts on 2nd May, 2018. [post_title] => 21st Century Leadership: The Shifting River [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 21st-century-leadership-shifting-river [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-09 13:19:26 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-09 13:19:26 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 41767 [post_author] => 94 [post_date] => 2020-04-01 10:51:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-04-01 10:51:39 [post_content] => Why do certain leaders have the ability to really engage, inspire and move people to act? We talk to Paula Mullin, IMI Connect Lounge Speaker and Executive Coach, about Executive Presence and what it can teach leaders in how they should package themselves in order to drive their business, and teams, to success. Subscribe: iTunesTuneInSoundcloudAcastStitcher – or search ‘IMI Talking Leadership’ in your podcast provider of choice. [post_title] => Lunchtime Listen | Executive Presence with Paula Mullin [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => lunchtime-listen-paula-mullin-executive-presence [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-04-20 13:51:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-04-20 13:51:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 4760 [post_author] => 7 [post_date] => 2013-04-24 16:28:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2013-04-24 16:28:58 [post_content] =>


It is through a combination of excellence in strategic thinking and leadership impact that senior managers in Irish operations have continued to win new mandates from their global headquarters.  The skills and abilities that generate these management successes are not however relevant only to leaders in multinationals.

In an increasingly globalised economy, every senior executive, regardless of the size or focus of the business in which they operate,  needs to cultivate global best-practice capabilities in both strategy and leadership.

 The Numbers - €122.5bn, €19bn, €7.4bn via 260,000

Let me tell you what they mean. In 2012, according to this excellent IDA infographic, 260,000 staff in multinationals (MNCs) in Ireland created 122.5bn in exports, earned 7.4bn in salaries and their organisations spent 19bn in the Irish economy. Of the 145 new investments in Ireland in 2012, 66 were companies who invested for the first time. To me these numbers tell us two things: 1. The IDA is doing a fantastic job in marketing Ireland abroad, attracting Foreign Direct Investment and, in turn, stimulating our economy 2. MNCs already established on these shores have just as much economic impact as those investing in Ireland for the first time. In fact, according to the figures, around 55% of the 2012 investments came from companies with a presence in Ireland already The country leadership of our multinationals are doing a great job of growing their global mandate. Why? Well, to begin with, local managers in MNCs have decision-making authority when it comes to issues that impact their business in Ireland. In fact, almost 70% of respondents in Merc Partners’ Executive Expectations survey are of the view that they have significant autonomy to take decisions. Take, for example, Yahoo!, the global internet search engine. They have grown from a small team with feet on the ground in Dublin since 2003 to a multi-lingual, multi-cultural workforce who earlier this month announced a further 200 jobs for their Dublin HQ. This investment is undoubtedly a vote of confidence in the Irish leadership group and a comment on the country strategy they are pursuing.  There is one cautionary note however. The Merc survey asked what skill gaps are hampering progress at an organisational level; the most frequently cited shortage? Leadership Skills. Over the past year we have been working with international experts to investigate how  leaders operating in both foreign and Irish-owned multinationals have grown the global footprint of their business.  Our findings have given us a skills blueprint by which all senior managers can enhance their own capabilities and drive growth in their organisations. Our redesigned Senior Executive Programme  focuses on the two critical pillars of strategy and leadership. It launches on 14th May and places are at a premium. If you’re interested in discussing whether this programme could drive return on investment for your organisation please contact me at or +353 (0)1 207 8495 Alistair Tosh is Director of Executive Education at the Irish Management Institute and is a specialist in leadership development.  [post_title] => The leadership blueprint: what all senior executives can learn from Ireland's FDI successes [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-leadership-blueprint-what-all-senior-executives-can-learn-from-irelands-fdi-successes-6 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-05-11 21:47:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-05-11 21:47:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) )
Hugh Torpey

Hugh Torpey

10th May 2018

Hugh Torpey is the Content Manager at the IMI.

Related Articles

'Off the Wall' tips for early business success
21st Century Leadership: The Shifting River
Lunchtime Listen | Executive Presence with Paula Mullin
The leadership blueprint: what all senior executives can learn from Ireland's FDI successes

Mastering Executive Presence and the Billionaire Booster Seat

When Mark Zuckerberg entered the US Senate hearing about Facebook’s role in the 2016 election and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, he brought one special item with him.

It wasn’t a lawyer (although he had plenty of those), it wasn’t a coach (although it seemed like he had had plenty of that). No, one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world wanted something that wouldn’t make him seem small sitting in his chair – so he brought a cushion.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced the US Senate (Picture Source)

What Zuckerberg and his team knew was that appearance is a significant part on how people perceive you, and thus how they will treat you. But he wouldn’t have founded and now be running the behemoth that is Facebook if he didn’t know he also had to go beyond this surface level.

In front of some of the most powerful people in the world, never mind just the United States, Zuckerberg demonstrated how he has moved from social awkward teen to a fully-fledged CEO of a Fortune 500 company. He wasn’t perfect – the online memes tell you that – but the truth is that the stock price of Facebook went up significantly on his performance.

Was this because he had a silver bullet fact that destroyed all the arguments against Facebook? No, indeed he admitted to the mistakes they made.

Was it because the Senators were out of their depth in terms of their knowledge of social media? Maybe, but Zuckerberg counteracted most interactions with solid answers, and deflected the probing questions for later answering.

Was it because he brought a cushion? No, but it is part of the story…


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IMI Talking Leadership Podcast: Paula Mullin – Executive Presence

Why do certain leaders have the ability to really engage, inspire and move people to act?

We talk to Paula Mullin, IMI Connect Lounge Speaker and Executive Coach, about Executive Presence and what it can teach leaders in how they should package themselves in order to drive their business, and teams, to success.


Hugh Torpey is the Content Manager at the IMI. This article is based on a Connect Lounge talk given at the IMI by Paula Mullin for IMI Members. For more on IMI Membership, go here