Friday, August 28, 2009

Festival of World Cultures 2009

Hooray, it's that time of year again...

No I'm not talking about the kids going back to school and the traffic getting appalling again, I'm referring to: this... An opportunity to put the traffic and schools to the furthest part of your mind!

I'm in the county this time! Can't wait to head down and sample the delights. I love wandering around Dun Laoghaire at the best of times but once a year it gets really, really good - you just can't beat a carnival atmosphere to make you realise how much fun Dublin can be.

Whether you are looking for alternative gift ideas, to sample new food curiosities, to listen to different music, to party or really just the opportunity to soak up some atmosphere, head down to the Festival of World Cultures in Dun Laoghaire this weekend. Finish off the "official" summer on a high! You know it means the sun will come out next week anyway...

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I've changed my Occupation Small Business Agony Aunt. Because it's true!

Someone encounters a hurdle as they start/run their small business and they come to me. I suggest alternative routes - around, under, break through said hurdle... I have realised it before I just think it's becoming more and more true lately. I'm not just signposting anymore, I'm actually helping. It's nice.

Previous titles have included:
- silver-lining finder
- dragon without a rubel
- angel in disguise (i.e. no funds, just advice,haha)
- volunteer ass-kicker, steel toes as required
- soggy-shoulder owner

Now I just have the occasional white hair and the marginal increase in wrinkles. I am so privaleged to help people, I just hope I do make a small difference to some business lives out there. Apologies if this comes across as naval-gazing.

Happy almost-Friday everyone.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Please wake up and Smell the Recession

I spent three hours working hard with someone this morning who walked out of the meeting with nothing. Therefore I walked out with nothing. What is the point of trying so hard to help someone inject some strategic thinking into their business if they refuse to take any of the suggestions on board?

Pardon my tone of dejection but it has been a while since I met such an ostrich. No offence to any real ostriches out there reading this here blog ;o)

It is a long time since I've seen such an enthusiastic approach to head-burying.

Take a business, over 20 years in operation. When they started up they were pretty much the only operators in their field - well done, blue ocean etc., marvellously opportunistic.

5 years on, the Celtic Tiger arrived and the business grew organically by word of mouth, and has continued to do so since then. (Cue thoughts of "is that it? Could they not have grown some more?" and yes I would agree but I'll get back to today...)

They have never had to go out and look for business in their life - not once. It has all sort of just landed on their doorstep - OMG what luck.

And what happens now?
They are now not alone in their market. Lots of other - business hungry - people have entered their area of expertise over the last 20 years and what's more, they're good at it.

What ever about the alarming fact that this morning's "business" person did not even know who their closest competitor was (how have they survived!!) - my main worry was providing them with the basic tools they need to survive from here on in. They need to drastically change their strategy and start listening to their customers. At the moment they are manufacturing product and simply waiting for the clients to come along and buy it, without finding out if they want the stuff in the first place!

A bit of research, a bit of listening, a bit of reflexion wouldn't go amiss. This morning was just soul-destroying: at every opportunity the business person turned around and told me all about how they have operated in business up to this point. They are worried and stressed all the time, haven't paid themselves a wage in over 12 months and called me up asking for help. If they had the good sense to ask for help, why wouldn't they listen? I was so confused...

I think I have it now though. I just don't think their heart is in it. Looking for work now is too much effort for them - they have only survived because running a business until last year was easy for them. Rethinking strategies, networking, doing a simple competitor analysis, a SWOT on their own business, looking at trends in their marketplace - all too much like hard work, not at all appealing.

My goodness. It really is a wonder they got this far!

Rant over, apologies one and all...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Which is your favourite Blog?

Mine's the Lemonaders, they be cool - in my humble hopp-in-onion.

What do I like about them?

They're fun. They're real. They be pals. They write about fun things that are usually normal enough ;o)

T-Cup and Kitty Cat are 27 and 25 respectively, and write about their lives mostly. Their likes, dislikes, travel plans, fashion passions and footwear fetishes.

I do like my rant-y blogs, don't get me wrong, but I can always count on the Red Lemonaders for that bit of upbeat sparkle in my week. Thank you ladies!

Just call me Graham

Because here I am with a quick reminder...

The SEEDCORN Competition is closing next month. If you have not yet started to prepare your application please take a look soon - I underestimate the time it takes to do a business plan. It's important to make it as good as possible. The last BP I did took 11 revisions before I sent it out to be read by anybody else so imagine how long that took. (Three months).

Seriously, if you're looking for funding, consider Seedcorn - what have you got to lose?

The other one usually around this time of year is the Shell Livewire Awards, although I haven't heard much about them this time around. Whatever about the awards, the Shell Livewire online community is a great resource for budding entrepreneurs - it's a little less stuffy than other online resources, it's for the under-30's. I also like peeking at the site occasionally simply for inspiration! Some ideas are so quirky, I love it :)

Whatever you decide, good luck with any new business ideas you might be having just now... Personally, I'm working on a chocolate truffle recipe ;) hehe

Bizcamp Dublin

OK I'd been holding off for confirmation of a family "doo" before signing up for this and as it happens, the do is "on" so Bizcamp has been erased from my diary. ~sadface~

At the Guinness Storehouse on Saturday 19th September, a bunch of interesting business folk will gather round for what seems like an injection of inspiration when I look at the lineup. Well over 200 people have signed up for the conference, which is set up with a community vibe - those interested in attending will also be sharing (not making sales pitches, mind!) - and you can find a list of who to expect chattering away, here. By the's totally FREE due to the organisers working hard to secure sponsorship (yes, sponsorship - imagine how hard THAT task has been in the current climate!) - from the likes of Bank of Ireland and Microsoft...

I'm pretty gutted I can't make it. I was unable to attend the last one due to academic reasons and although this reason is more fun, I'm still sorry there's a clash in the diary...

Here's a vid on what to expect which I pinched from the Bizcamp site this morning...

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Can I just say...

That yes I am AWARE that this blog is completly random. Some of it is fun-related and some of it enterprise. Hope you don't mind - I don't.

It's just a bit of fun really.

That is all. I wish you all a happy weekend.

On being Interviewed in the Bath by Terry Wogan. A lá Committments.

It has arrived at last. Fame. Oh, and Terry Wogan interviewing me in the bath.

Terry: So MJ, you've come to the end of your dissertation, come away from the Thesis Centre in Camden St with a few scars. Tell us about it.
Me: Well Terry, for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to do some research into the manufacturing industry. What with it being in trouble 'n' all, I hoped to help it along by finding some success routes for those that have stayed the course thusfar.
Terry: And what did you find out MJ?
Me: That it was not a good idea. My life has had to go pretty much on hold for the past year, and I'm not sure it was worth it.
Terry: Why so?
Me: Because I'm not sure anyone is actually going to read the damn thing.
Terry: You've lost faith in your findings already, so soon after publication?
Me: Not at all Terry, I've lost faith in other people's interest. My findings are fcuking amazing, I'm a fricking genius.
Terry: Well of course, of course...
Me: I found out that some fellas have the balls to go for it, and others are just ok ticking along.
Terry: Right, well, that's hardly scientific, is it?
Me: It was fricking case study based research Terry, it doesn't have to be scientific, that's the beauty of it. It's all down to interpretation. Gleaning from it whateverthefrick you want. Know what I mean?
Terry: How long did it take you to conduct the research?
Me: Well you know Terry, there had to be a few months of procrastinating in there, no good academic research is worked on consistently. Any PhD-person will tell you that. It needs a bit of...panic, drive, you know what I mean?
Terry: I think I do...
Me: So after p*ssing about for three months, I did a bit of a Literature Review. Picked a few holes in what others had done in the area.
Terry: That sounds good -
Me: Yep, that made me feel great so I p*ssed around for another few months doing sweet FA, then decided to get my finger out and conduct a few interviews.
Terry: Remarkable.
Me: Indeed Terry, indeed. I asked a few questions, prodded a few sore points and tried to get to the bottom of a few questions my research supervisor had mentioned. Transcribed the whole thing and eh, well...
Terry: What?
Me: Honestly? I stared at it for another while. Couldn't figure out how the hell to get from 40-pages of notes to a graph or barchart of any kind.
Terry: So what did you do?
Me: I looked in a few books, asked the supervisor a few questions that caused his eyes to roll heavenward.
Terry: And?
Me: I decided to ignore him completely and went off on a tangeant that got me to my 20-odd-thousand word limit.
Terry: Incredible.
Me: I know, I'm a fricking genius, like I said. An academic marvel, if you will.
Terry: That's one way of looking at it.
Me: I'm looking forward to results day and graduation. Should be a hell of a bender.
Terry: Is there anyone you want to thank now?
Me: Well of course! The makers of coffee, for one... My supervisor for not openly judging me. My friends, family and random strangers on Twitter who have kept me entertained when I was meant to be working. My better half for turning a blind eye when I scoffed ALL the chocolate in the house and then yelled at him for no apparent reason. Often.
Terry: And what is to come of your findings now, now that the class has disbanded. What will happen to your research findings?
Me: I'm fcuked if I know Terry. Have you any chocolate?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

National Pride

Went to see this recently. Shivers, spine, etc.

Evokes a memory or two that is worth awakening, IMHO.

For the first time it occurred to us as a nation that we could actually be sexy... That Irish dancing wasn't twee... That we had such a lot to be proud of. That we had so much potential.

And then we unleashed it! I'd love it if we could get back to that. The pride in our own ability, taken with a pinch of humility that didn't make us too big for our boots.

I hope we can get back to that. To being a great little nation.

Have a look - I hope you enjoy it!

The Irish Times has a lovely montage of the show backstage at the Gaiety Theatre. You can view it here.