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Entrepreneurs Panel

David Pollock
Charlie Mullins
Tony Caldeira
Laura Tenison
Richard O'Sullivan
Brian Hay
Debbie Pierce
Steve Purdham
Jennie Johnson
Jeremy Roberts
Julie Meyer
Michael Oliver

Throw in the towel?

Richard O'Sullivan

Founded Millie’s Cookies in 1985 and went on to sell the Bury-based chain to catering giant Compass in 2003 for £24 million. In 2007 he signed an agreement with Boost Juice Bars – an Australian-based juice chain – to operate its UK outlets. The tenth Boost unit opened in the UK in Bristol in June 2009. O’Sullivan has been chairman of the Liverpool bar chain Baa Bar since 2006 and the Mexican food chain Barburrito since October 2008.

Question: 

I run a small five-year-old chain of specialist high street shops and have been feeling unutterably depressed lately. For every economic good news story there seem to be ten bad ones. I have already had to make 20 per cent of my staff redundant in the last 12 months and, while the business isn’t in imminent danger, it isn’t making me any money either – and I worry that my customers may be lost forever to the internet.

I’m thinking of throwing in the towel and getting a job – I used to make good money as an HR manager.

What do you think?

Answer: 

The feeling of hopelessness is not uncommon among entrepreneurs as they build their businesses. The internet is certainly one threat to the business but over the course of your journey you will be faced with a wide range of business challenges. During this period it’s the internet, at other times it will be rising costs, uncooperative lenders or simply a bad run of luck. What separates us from the man in the street is our tenacity and our ability to adapt and overcome these challenges.

I get a huge amount of inspiration and motivation from my non-execs and my business network. Sharing your journey with people who are in the same boat or who have been there before can bring a lot of clarity to your own challenges.

As for feeling depressed by business, I simply try to look for the upside all the time. I’d rather be faced with the economic challenges of today than the horror and despair of the wars my Grandfathers fought.

My reason for becoming a business owner was driven as much by desire for more personal freedom and choice as it was by the financial opportunities. Given the huge and brutal challenges that face businesses currently, I can assure you there are hoards of HR managers that would swap places with you.

I’m sure you will decide how you wish to lead your life. My experience is that we can’t have it all, we simply need to decide what we want most!

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