SmarterPreneur Stories: Orla Linehan, Fidelia

Orla solo web

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 Orla Linehan, owner of Fidelia Chartered Accountants.


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

When setting up the business, the one thing I was clear about was that I wanted to do work that I enjoy. I don’t do audits for example. I find auditing monotonous and a little soul-destroying. What I love to do is to help people set up their own businesses and look after them along the journey. While most of the questions I get asked are accounting and tax related, a lot of the time I am someone to bounce ideas off, or get some reassurance that they are doing the right thing. Of course we do all the usual stuff – bookkeeping, accounts, tax returns – but the main thing we provide is peace of mind, so that clients can get on with running their own businesses.

Running my own practice, I am also free to choose the clients I like to work with – clients who are interesting, fun and inspiring.

My role is still very hands on. I am involved in technical work as well as training, marketing and ensuring clients are happy.


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

It was my 35th birthday. As usual I had taken the day off work for my birthday and was sitting on my couch at home watching one of the Harry Potter movies. The rain was hammering on the window and it was one of those days where it never got truly bright. I had spent the past 30 days partaking in NaNoWriMo which is a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I had written about 35,000 in the end before I cracked from the pressure. Although they were not the most beautifully written words the world has ever known, it made me realise that I needed to create something. It was not just a case of wanting to create; I had an actual need to be creative. I knew I wasn’t going to be the next JK Rowling, but I could use my creative side to create a business, to turn the ideas swimming around in my brain into reality.

The more I thought about it, the more excited I got. I made a promise to myself, that by my 36th birthday, I would have my own business. The next few months were thrilling. I worked by day, and at night I prepared and planned for setting up my own business. Like many entrepreneurs, I had plans to change the world, even if it was just my small corner of it.


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

I would hire someone to help with implementing our marketing plan. It’s so easy to get caught up in technical work each day. We already have so many great ideas; it would be great to have a dedicated marketing person who can put our plans into action.


Who has influenced you in the development of your business?

My biggest influencers have been other Cork entrepreneurs who took the journey before me. We have a great community of entrepreneurs in Cork. I met with several people in many businesses and the ideas, support and encouragement have been fantastic.


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

I would tell myself to visualise what the Fidelia Dream Team would look like and start getting great people on board as fast as possible. Working with others has made a huge difference even to my own productivity and I enjoy my working day much more now that there is a team around me.


How long did it take for you to transition from “technician” to entrepreneur?

I am still in technician mode most of the time, but I do like to allocate specific time to entrepreneur work each month. I also have a member of staff who likes to remind me that I am an entrepreneur, which keeps me on my toes.

If it were feasible, it would be great to hire enough staff so that I could delegate most of the technical work. My plan has always been to create employment in an interesting and fun working environment.


What would you do if you weren’t running this business?

If I wasn’t running the business and had enough money to survive I would write. I am constantly coming up with ideas for movie scripts and novels. One of these days, I may actually put pen to paper. For the moment, I am happy creating a business.


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

Most of us in the office are real tech fans. We have searched far and wide for apps and software that could help us manage our to-do lists and have finally found something that has revolutionised how we manage our workload – a whiteboard! Strange as it seems, getting out of your seat and walking to the board to tick off a task gives a great sense of achievement, no matter how small the task. Our whiteboard gets re-set every month, which allows us to close off a month and congratulate ourselves on achieving our goals for the month. This prevents us feeling like we are on a treadmill with a never-ending task list.

I also have a post-it on my desk with the jobs I need to do for the day. You can only fit about 5 tasks on the post-it so they are more likely to get done.


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

The biggest revelation was about mindsets and how they shape your life. I was in Germany with my husband Jason and son Cian, visiting Jason’s brother and family. I somehow found myself in a park minding the dog while the others headed for the playground. After a few minutes of trying to get a conversation out of the dog, I remembered that I had downloaded some books to my iPhone. I can’t remember the name of the book but it was on the SmarterPreneur reading list [Carol Dweck’s Mindset].

What I read changed my view of the world. It was about the power of our beliefs, both conscious and unconscious. It turns out that I have an underlying “fixed mindset” which views talent and ability as being inherent and which we can’t change in any meaningful way. (On the other hand, a growth mindset views ability as something that can be developed). I have always been someone who enjoys learning about new things so I was surprised to find I had a fixed mindset. However, as the I delved deeper, it became clear that I did display many of the characteristics of a core fixed mindset – avoiding challenges, sticking to what I know well and above all, taking criticism very personally. It was like the book was written about me. I was so excited and shocked and there was no one else around, that I just had to tell the dog about it.


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

If I were able to go back in time, I would love to have a SmarterPreneur circle made up of the great industrialists like Vanderbilt, Carnegie and Rockefeller. Although often ruthless, I admire their ingenuity, determination and competitiveness. It would be some SmarterPreneur session!


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

After discovering that I had a deep-seated fixed mindset, I set about changing it and moving along the spectrum to a growth mindset. The main adjustment I made is to create a team around me. One of the team, Denis, is definitely in the growth mindset camp and we have had many a debate about challenges and the meaning of success. Since Denis has come on board, we have made many changes that I would not have done if I was still working on my own.


What is your business going to look like in 2020?

2020 is just around the corner, but I would hope by that time to have most of the ultimate dream team on board, working in a fun environment with lots of interesting and inspirational clients.


You can connect with Orla on LinkedIn or Google+, and follow her on Twitter.

Orla organises a monthly coffee club in Duke’s Coffee at City Gate, Mahon, Cork. First Tuesday of every month at 10.30am. Informal networking fuelled by free coffee and all are welcome!

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