Presidential candidate Sean Gallagher visited UCD this Monday, to open UCD Investors & Entrepreneurs Society’s Enterprise Week and promote his new book ‘Secrets to Success’. As an entrepreneur, Sunday Independent business columnist and former Dragon, he comes from a place of great entrepreneurial experience to give advice to business students. He describes his book ‘as the culmination of spending six years visiting companies across Ireland’, profiling the entrepreneurs behind forty-seven small and medium-size businesses.

Gallagher began on a dramatic note, telling the audience that the two most important days of your life are ‘the day you’re born and the day you discover why.’ He recognises that ‘many entrepreneurs struggle in finding their path’ and discover their reason why.

The central question that Gallagher’s talk and book aims to answer is; what is the secret to being successful in business? Gallagher believes that it is the accumulation of a certain set of traits that create successful entrepreneurs; resilience, passion and a vision.

He reminds the audience that he earned his status as a successful businessman; He has unemployed twice in his life. He didn’t come from wealth, he came from a hard work ethic.

During the early days of his career, while earning his diploma in Youth Work and Community Development, Gallagher learned that personal development and career development are undeniably linked. It was this experience of working with people in poverty that he formed one of his most fundamental beliefs; it’s ‘not about making money, but about making a difference’. He saw how children who came from homes with unemployed parents had lower expectations for their future, many never envisioned that they would reach the levels of education that the students in the audience have.

Gallagher highlighted the importance of passion and resilience, the ‘secret to success is their resilience to persist in the face of adversity.’ That passion has to be to create change in the society around you, ‘Wealth, before it is spent, must be created. It’s not about making money, it’s about communities.’

‘Entrepreneurs solve problems, at service of the public’. He summarised one of the stories in this book as an example of this passion to change society and serve those in your community. He spoke to a woman named Ciara Clancy, a physiotherapist that treats Parkinson’s that decided to make her audio therapy available online rather than in-clinic and now treats thousands of people, that she will never meet.

He  encouraged UCD students to fan that flame of passion to create, because ‘cynicism does not create change.’ ‘People who are unhappy in jobs are not using their skills correctly or making an impact of their society.’

‘Life will not happen to you, but be created by you.’ Do not be afraid to fail or take a risk, citing the common saying that ‘A ship in the harbour is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.’

‘Entrepreneurs have never really been celebrated in Ireland because people don’t understand them.’ But Gallagher’s view for a sustainable society is one that will be fundamentally motivated by entrepreneurs that create jobs; ‘That is the secret to Ireland’s success’. He believes that ‘failure is a badge of honour on your journey to ultimate success, but the Irish psyche is different’ and this defeatist attitude of the Irish can often deter young entrepreneurs. He urges us to remember, ‘There is no such thing as failure, there  is only feedback.’

In a practical piece of advice, Gallagher tells the room of budding entrepreneurs to ‘study people that are already successful, success does not have to do with intelligence but psychology, having the vision and having the courage to solve problems.’

The floor was opened to questions and Gallagher was asked If a student has a good business idea while in college that is unrelated to their area of study, should they finish their college course or should they pursue their business? Gallagher follows this question by laughing at a memory of previously answering this question in a university and two students dropping out the next day, so he is much more careful with his words this time. He recognises that it often depends on how transferable the skills that you are learning in college are, but ultimately you must act on what your heart tells you to do; ‘in choosing a career, it normally doesn’t come down logic, it comes down to heart.’

Another student asked Gallagher how he would encourage enterprise in Ireland. Gallagher responded by acknowledging that we can manipulate the economy in a number of ways, such as taxes, but really he believes that he has spent the last 7 years encouraging enterprise in this country, in the best way that he can; creating role models for younger entrepreneurs. And that is what his new book aims to do.


By Muireann O’Shea – CoEditor