AIBF Entrepreneurs Meet-Up: 11 essential tips for smart growth

AIBF Entrepreneurs Meetup

Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.” Michele Jennae

Collaboration and peer learning are central to our work at the AllIreland Business Foundation.

Our TRIBE of All-Star Accredited businesses is incredibly diverse with expertise spanning multiple industries. This presents a huge opportunity for our members to learn from each other and offer fresh perspectives on common problems.

The monthly AIBF Entrepreneurs Meet-Up provides a regular platform for TRIBE collaboration and learning. And this month’s event was no different.

We learned so much from two talented business leaders who have achieved huge professional success with their respective companies. In the following booklet, you will find some of our favourite learnings from a truly memorable event. We hope they inspire you to achieve your goals this year.

Meet Our Speakers

Laura Kavanagh

Laura is the trailblazing Commercial Director of JJ Kavanagh and sons, Ireland’s largest private coach operator. She is the 4th generation in the family business that has been in operation for over 100 years. Laura has delivered huge success for JJ Kavanagh & Sons through timely implementation of digital strategy. But her journey within the business has been far from straightforward and she has overcome significant challenges in implementing her vision for the company.

Laura’s practical advice is a must-read for any entrepreneur or business leader who wants to run their company more efficiently.

Patrick Naughton

From sole trader to CEO of an industry-leading business Patrick Naughton has built a successful brand and a talented team at ShadeTech. The company employs 25 people across two factories in Shannon and last year recorded a turnover of €2million. Like Laura, Patrick’s journey has not been without its challenges and his story is a lesson in resilience and opportunism.

Patrick has is eyeing up global expansion through his international trading firm Easycleat Devices that exports to the UK soon will export to the US. The AIBF wishes Patrick well on his latest venture and would like to thank him for offering his valuable advice to our readers.

1. LK: With any business opportunity – look where you can add value

“JJ Kavanagh & Sons was a traditional family business run in a traditional manner – I saw an opportunity to modernise it.”

Laura capitalised on an opportunity to improve her family business through eCommerce and digitisation. Her focus in joining was to add value and her background in marketing was key in identifying growth opportunities for the company.

2. LK: When implementing new strategies – expect resistance

“The biggest obstacle initially to growth at JJ Kavanagh was implementing change internally in the company.”

To grow is to change. However, people can often be resistant to change. Why? Because it’s difficult… When taking on a new project or shaking things up in your business it’s important to expect resistance and persevere if you believe your changes will improve things.

3. LK: Let the numbers do the talking

“Data helps you to communicate your point of view in a persuasive way”.

It’s much easier to implement change if you have the data to back it up. If something doesn’t feel right in your business look at the numbers – they don’t lie.

4. LK: Set KPIs and track them from week to week

“We track customer complaints every week as one of our KPIs – we don’t see it as a negative anymore in fact we use it as a focus to improve our customers’ experience.”

KPIs allow you to understand the performance and health of your business so that you can make critical adjustments in your execution to achieve your strategic goals.

Knowing and measuring the right KPIs will help you achieve results faster – in this case, Laura’s main KPI shows her what needs to be done to ensure a market-leading customer experience.


Pictured above is ShadeTech CEO and Founder Patrick Naughton.
5. LK: Truly excellent customer service requires a deep dive and constant tracking

“We focus on what actions we can take to improve our customer’s experience rather than what actions will improve our business.”

To achieve an excellent customer experience it’s key to map out your customer journey – break it down into steps.

Set KPIs and continuously improve each step. Get feedback from your customers and your customer service team – listen to them and take action.

6. PN: New Levels – New Devils

“The problems I had three years ago aren’t my problems today.”

It’s always a wonderful experience when you’re reaching new heights and achieving new goals.

But with new levels of achievement comes new hurdles to be jumped – The key to success is to stay encouraged when the going gets tough.

7. PN: Work ON your business as well as in it

“I was guilty of getting too caught up in the day to day of the job, I realised I had to work my vision for the business”.

Working IN your business is anything that’s a job: Execution and management of the execution.

Working ON your business, however, includes anything strategic: Business strategy, marketing strategy, sales strategy, product development, research, and the key vision and decisions that will take your business forward.


Pictured above is Laura Kavanagh, Commercial Director at JJ Kavanagh & Sons.
8. PN: Write down your tasks

“One of my most powerful tools is the diary – This is where I organise and focus my time – If it goes in the diary it becomes law.”

Planning is the key to successful projects and a diary is a brilliant tool to organise your thoughts and give yourself a roadmap towards your goals. Remember – trying to organise your tasks from your head is the quickest way to lose your mind.

9. PN: Sound out your ideas

“I believe in sounding boards – I surround myself with people who are better than me in different areas and I consult them constantly.”

Trusted advisors provide perspective and an opportunity for business leaders to get out of the day-to-day running of the business and test potential ideas.

10. PN: Look after your teams

“Everybody at ShadeTech earns well above minimum wage and we have recently introduced health insurance cover.”

“The return on this investment is excellent work and happy teams.”

People want to feel valued and valuable. If you treat your employees with respect and reward excellent work – the result is usually a high standard of work and a positive atmosphere.

11. PN: Rethink your relationship with failure

“My advice for business leaders is to have integrity and don’t be afraid to fail”.

Failure is not a weakness – failure is a sign that you had the courage to give something a go. In life and in business you win or you learn.