This post was written by Ruth Underwood. This is the first of three posts. Part II is here.
Getting a frank and honest tale of an entrepreneur’s rise and falls, and how he has managed to deal with the many risks and obstacles he has had to over come, is one of the key attractions of Entrepreneurs Anonymous.
The guest at the May 2014 meet up was Paul O’Connor, one of three partners of POLUS Intelligence. He founded the company with Loic Lucas before they took on another partner, Michael Murphy.
O’Connor’s first profession was an architect his first job after graduation was to carry out the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Luas. With the project finished, the architects he had been with offered him the opportunity to continue to work as his own boss.
While Paul was initially excited with this opportunity, he now admits that he had no clue how to do the job. His biggest discovery in those 6 months it took for his company to fail was “I had not been trained to run a business.”
In the end Paul was left with no company and a six-figure tax bill, which took him nearly 10 years to pay off.
Pauls’ tip, when you start a business you can’t think “I’m going to change the world and I’m going to help so many people” as if you can’t afford to go home and turn on the lights, then it isn’t worth it.
After learning a hard and difficult lesson, Paul started again, but this business also went south. He was then head hunted to go and design Tyrellstown in Mulhuddard.
In 2001 in the height of the Celtic Tiger, a developer friend of Paul’s called and made Paul an offer he couldn’t refuse. Basically Paul was offered twice his salary if he went to work for his friend as a planner.
Paul’s tip, “that you can’t get too emotionally attached to what you’re doing.” If you do it is hard to see your own personal motivations and personal beliefs beyond the emotional attachment.
Paul advises three questions to everyone, regardless of whether the person is an entrepreneur:
Who are you?
A good exercise is to challenge yourself, and then see whose voice it is you hear when you have a big decision.
There are 9 different personality types. According to Paul, once you understand these you are able to understand people much better.
And from a business point of view this is an extremely powerful skill, as it means you can go into a meeting. And within few minutes of chatting to someone you can recognise their motivations and relate to them through this.
Why do you exist?
One of Paul’s friends used to do coaching work who asked him why he was here. This made Paul go the core of why he was there and the recommends that everyone asks them self this.
Paul’s tip, write your own personal mission statement no more than 10 – 15 words. If you can do that it’s a starting point to making sure you’re going in the right direction.
What are you doing about it?
Self-awareness is the starting point for your personal mission and personal growth. However the reality is if you’re working for yourself and/or struggling with cash flow you will experience some dark and difficult times in your life.
Paul has experienced many, for example in the early 2000s Paul was still paying his 6 figure tax bill and was experiencing one of the darkest times of his life.
Paul’s tip, you have to learn to manage the stress in your business, understand how it is affecting your life and then build a relationship with it.
Paul’s tip, find the book by Declan Coyle “The Green Platform.” Declan has 10 2 letter words that he bases his life from “If it is to be, it is up to me.” As its about taking ownership and responsibility for yourself and your own mistakes.
Ask yourself “what is it you’re really passionate about?” If you take 6 months, everything you don’t want to do will come up, but you will find it.
How POLUS Intelligence got started
Paul loves historical war games, and began looking into them in Ireland. This is how he discovered Business Board Games and through this research he found Competitive Intelligence.
Unaware at the time what it was Paul joined a few groups on LinkedIn and began asking questions about it. Until one day he received an email from a Loic Lucas asking Paul if he would like to meet for coffee and discuss Competitive Intelligence, and Polus Intelligence went on from there.
Pauls tip, make sure you have your business model worked out. A business model is the foundation of a business plan and for Polus Intelligence they had no business model.
There were problems with Polus Intelligence from the get go. Paul and Loic wanted to change the world for SMEs only to realise that people wouldn’t pay for it due to the businesses were too small and also because of the recession.
They needed to go bigger. They then brought Michael Murphy on board. While trying to set up Polus Intelligence, Paul realised that he needed to retrain. So Paul went back to college and studied Business and Innovation in DCU.
Paul’s tip, at any moment you can change your belief and then transform your entire life. Once the belief changes, the whole system changes.
Paul’s tip, no matter where you are in your business don’t give up. Question and challenge yourself, but don’t give up.