SmarterPreneur Stories: Gary O’Flynn, esus

ND1404-Apr064 Gary O'Flynn.

There is a special cohort at the core of our society and economy; ambitious people who run their own business. Some of them have joined SmarterPreneur Circles so that they can build a stronger and more profitable business. These are their stories.

Introducing Gary O’Flynn, owner of esus.

 

Gary, what is your business all about and what is your role?

Esus’ business is all about transformation. We offer services in two distinct areas. E-Learning, where we transform content into engaging learning material and Web Application Development, where we transform key business processes from paper to digital.

Our e-Learning solutions include tailored e-Learning programmes, game-based learning and instructional video all of which helps clients engage and educate their staff. Our web solutions include the development of web applications, online collaboration tools and paper process automation, which allow clients to streamline their businesses using web technology.

We work with a range of clients, primarily in the medium-large enterprise and multinational sectors.

My role is project management, strategy and business development. I’m working towards spending less time on project management so I can focus more on the other two, to help grow the business.

 

Can you remember when you first got the idea for starting your own business?

I remember it well. It was 2004 and my wife was pregnant with our first child. At the time I remember thinking that working for someone else would limit what I could provide for my family. I had been working for the same company for 9 years at the time and we had moved into the web space in the previous year. There were indicators that my employers were re-focusing on the core business (which was not web-related) and I felt that there was a possibility that they could ‘bin’ the web element thus making me redundant. Obviously this wasn’t an option when we were just starting our family. As they say, if you don’t plan for your own life, you’ll become part of somebody else’s plan for theirs!

I remember one funny incident when I was hatching my plans for the new business and trying to come up with a name. All excited, I told my wife that I had just come up the fantastic name of “esus” to which she replied “why would we call our baby esus?” Don’t forget I was trying to come up with a name for a new business and a new baby at the same time. “Esus” is an old celtic God of Commerce, thus the name!

 

If you had €10k to spend on promoting the business, how would you use it?

That’s a good question as I spend little or nothing on promoting the business and am in a lucky position that 90% of our business comes from repeat work and referrals.

We’re in the process of rebranding the business at the moment so I’d definitely use a portion of the €10K to off-set my costs on that. The re-brand has been an interesting process which started with a re-positioning exercise late last year. This was essential as the existing brand and website was (and still is) not reflective of our current business and focus. If you look at our website today, you’ll see a focus on web design, web development, multimedia and digital marketing. Through a combination of organic growth and intentional focus, we’re now clearly an e-learning and web development business. It’s very much a case of the cobbler’s children at the moment but we’re planning to launch a new website in May/June which will be an accurate reflection of the business. Watch this space.

To support the rebrand and to firmly position us as an “e-learning & web development” business, I’d also spend money on getting some press coverage, doing SEO work on our new website and building our social footprint.

 

If you could meet the person you were one year ago today, what would you tell them?

I’d tell myself a couple of key things:

  • Have a greater sense of urgency every day and don’t underestimate how fast time goes by. Before you know it, it’ll be the end of Q1, then Q2, etc.
  • Set stretching goals that take you out of your comfort zone.
  • Place a much bigger focus on ‘game changing’ goals.
  • On a daily basis, keep the endgame at the forefront of your thoughts, actions and goals.

and

  • You can’t do it all on your own. You need a good support network to challenge yourself, in the guise of Smarter Egg and others.

 

How long did it take for you to transition from “technician” to entrepreneur? (ok to say not yet!)

I’ve nearly always worked on the managerial and entrepreneurial side of the business as I am neither a designer nor developer. I am involved in managing projects so I suppose that falls into the “technician” role.

As I mentioned above, I’m working towards spending less time on project management so I can focus more on the entrepreneur role to grow the business.

 

What approaches/techniques help you get the most out of your working day?

I tend to spend about 2-3 hours every Saturday morning planning for the week ahead. This involves identifying the projects to be worked on, their associated tasks and the time required for each. Then at the end of each work day, I prioritise my tasks for the next day into A, B, C and A1, A2, etc. which helps me focus on the most important items first, the following morning.

All of our projects are tracked using a cloud-based timesheet solution and my own time is included in that so it places an onus on me to focus on the right things.

Another exercise that works for me is documenting “achievements, learning’s and observations” (both business and personal) on a monthly basis. This helps me focus more on the things that work and less of the things that don’t!

 

What has your experience in SmarterPreneur Circles taught you about yourself?

It has taught me that I need to focus more on ‘game changing’ goals as the payoff of those is significantly higher. I know this sounds obvious but until you consciously spend time looking at where you place your focus, it doesn’t always happen.

This ties in with Chuck Blakeman’s two opposing daily realities of “the Tyranny of the Urgent Vs the Priority of the Important”. Spending more time on the latter will help me drive the business forward to maturity.

 

Who would be in your Dream SmarterPreneur Circle (living or dead)?

I would love to spend some time with Elon Musk and get an insight into the way he thinks and works. He is one of the most inspiring entrepreneurs in the world today as he is responsible for a number of Billon Dollar companies including PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX, the latter two of which have completely disrupted their industries. What I admire most about him is that he has put his own money into Tesla and SpaceX and on more than one occasion has almost gone broke because of it.

My own dad died when I was a teenager so unfortunately I never got to know him as well as I would have liked or as a working adult. He was a shrewd businessman but I never got the opportunity for him to impart any nuggets of wisdom to me so a SmarterPreneur Circle would be a great way to address that.

I’m a serious film buff and my all-time favourite director is Martin Scorsese. I think he is an amazing storyteller and his work is visually stunning. As a company whose work is visual in nature and where storytelling is such an important part of our e-learning business, I’d love to get some insight into how he crafts his work.

 

How have you adjusted your business arising from your SmarterPreneur Circle participation?

Smarter Egg has opened my eyes on so many fronts. Everything from my vision of a mature business to the sources of my energy were brought to light. I’ve been a firm advocate of it since participating in my first SmarterPreneur Circle last year, so much so that I’m back for more this year.

Re the business, I’ve adjusted it in a number of ways. As I mentioned above, I try to place a bigger focus on the really important activities. This isn’t always possible but being conscious of it definitely helps.

I’m also much more conscious of the types of customers with which esus works best.

 

What is your business going to look like in 2020?

Surprise you as it may, I can actually tell you exactly what the business is going to look like in 2020 (as I recently completed a similar exercise) so here goes:

  • Esus is exclusively a learning company
  • We have a global project portfolio, a multinational client base, provide solutions in 45 languages and on all major platforms
  • We have offices in Cork, London, New York and Beijing
  • There is outside interest with a number of acquisition offers due to the breadth, quality, consistency and innovative nature of our offerings
  • Corporate Social Responsibility and “giving back” is an important aspect of the business

and

  • Our marketing efforts are focused on B2B sector with a strong play on being the “go to” provider

On a personal front,

  • I enjoy a healthy support network
  • I’m not involved in any production activity as I’m focused on strategy and growth

and

  • My diary is split between esus, family and helping others

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You can connect with Gary on LinkedIn or follow esus on Twitter.

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