With the days of getting a job straight out of college and retiring from the same job at 65 long gone, entrepreneur and star of RTÉ’s Dragons’ Den, Gavin Duffy tells Conor Harrington that more and more people will have to set up their own business
Shooting for the fourth series of Dragons’ Den finished in January, but ‘dragon’ Gavin Duffy has just spent the morning with a lady whose product he invested in in the first series and is on his way to meet another contestant from the latest series.
“It’s an unusual TV show in that regard, in that, when we finish recording, the work only starts for us as dragons. You’re continuously working on with them,” says the former LMFM radio chief.
Indeed, Mr Duffy says that, from his experience on the show, people who come forward looking for investment actually place a much higher value on the mentoring and the direction they get.
This behind-the-scenes mentoring is something that doesn’t necessarily make good television, but Mr Duffy knows that it is “absolutely critical” to business.
Mr Duffy will speak in the Galway Bay Hotel on Wednesday 2 May at a ‘Mentworking’ night to launch St Columba’s Credit Union Ltd (SCCUL) Enterprise’s SCCUL Mentoring initiative. The SCCUL mentors’ programme will bring together senior Galway business people with over a millennium of invaluable business insight and experience between them, to donate their time, pro bono, to small businesses and start-ups.
“A lot of people when they start in business, they’re so fixed with it that they’re not able to stand back and see other opportunities or sometimes a smarter ways of doing things. And their business will benefit from it hugely if they can find and work with somebody they can just bounce ideas off and get a bit of direction from,” says Mr Duffy, who also trains business people in media mmeanagement when not working in television.
He also believes that the path of the self-employed person can be “a lonely one” and having someone on hand who has been through the process before can be hugely beneficial. The SCCUL initiative, he believes, is setting the benchmark for the rest of the country.
“I think that what’s really impressive about this initiative is the fact that they were able to get so many mentors from the Galway business community to help them on a pro bono basis. That’s fantastic and I think it sort of differentiates Galway from the rest of the country. I think it’s an initiative that other parts of the country will take note of and follow in their footsteps because it’s definitely something that is, I think, going to be very, very successful,” he says.
Good mentoring, according to this Duffy, is about offering advice, without becoming too controlling, and resisting the temptation to roll the dice yourself.
“The one thing you have always got to remember is, it is always their business, so you can give advice, you can give a steer, even as an investor, but you’ve got to give them the freedom to make their own decisions. You’ve got to leave people room to grow as well.”
This is, he says, the encouraging thing about the SCCUL initiative: the fact that the organisers have asked the mentors to be helpful, but not dogmatic.
“What I think has been good is that these very senior business people in Galway coming forward, they’ve already done a workshop about what’s good mentoring, what actually helps people.”
At the 'Mentworking' launch, Mr Duffy will be talking about the best means of promoting business, networking and getting people to help, and getting advice.
The night is open to all Galway business people and takes place at 5.30pm in the Galway Bay Hotel, Salthill. For more information, visit scculmentors.ie.