Saturday, March 2, 2024

Dear Vicki: Is it really better to hire country people over Dubs?

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A As someone from the countryside, I could take this as a compliment. More seriously, I believe all Irish workers, whether they are from inside or outside the Pale, have many wonderful traits in common.

We live in a small but modern country where we can move with ease between cities and rural areas, which results in lots of social mingling and development of our kinship. We are also constantly picking up influences from one another at school, university and on the sports fields.

When you have a job vacancy, ­always judge candidates on their compatibility for the role and not on their geographical origin.

I can give you dozens of examples of Dublin citizens working in the country and being super successful. Equally, country people working in Dublin and smashing it.

When I interview candidates for a role, I never have any preconceptions about where they are from or even their gender. I look for someone who has a hard-work ethic, is honest, a team player, has drive, and whose skill set will enhance the company.

Terenure, Termonfeckin, Talinn or Timbuktu, it shouldn’t matter. We need to focus on the person, not where they come from, or otherwise we may have to worry about a new form of domestic discrimination.

​Q After a successful few years, my company is starting to struggle. What are the first steps I should take to try and turn things around?

A There are myriad reasons for a company to start to flounder, and unfortunately a third of new companies in Ireland close within the first four years. In fact the most vulnerable period for startups is years three and four. However, you can often pass failure on the way to success.

In the 109 years of the JJ O’Toole Ltd business managed by the O’Toole family, we were at times not just struggling, but close to closure. The struggles were mainly due to external influences such as forces majeures that included world wars, recessions, a plastic bag tax, Covid-19 and more.

We thankfully survived all adversities and mostly came out in better shape than before. Our survival on each occasion could mainly be attributed to having a good team, a solid business plan, creative thinking with regards to problem-solving, an ability to pivot, and most importantly, a hard-work ethic combined with a never-give-up attitude.

Stay focused on your customers. If you don’t, it’s hard to survive when times get tough. If clients are looked after well, along with a solid business plan, proper research into your competitors and product, access to a good financial adviser and a strong marketing presence, you should be able to come out the other side in good shape.

Take a step back and conduct a thorough root-and-branch analysis of your company. Consider sitting down with someone who has good business acumen while not necessarily being intimately involved in your company, as often it is somebody who isn’t involved in the day-to-day mechanics who can spot where improvements can be made.

Ensure you are availing of any government grants that might be available to your company.

Too often I hear entrepreneurs talking about how quickly they aspire to grow their new company’s turnover and literally become an overnight success. It is rare this happens, so don’t try to run before you can crawl.

You need to be patient, strong, resilient and maintain focus on the road to profitability, and expect many challenging hurdles along the way.

Wishing you all the best in the future with your company.

About Vicki O’Toole

A mother of five who had spent many years as a homemaker, Vicki O’Toole stepped in as managing director of JJ O’Toole Ltd, Ireland’s oldest packaging company, when her late husband retired in 2008. She went on to win many awards for her leadership of the Limerick firm, and was a finalist in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards in 2018. Four years later, Vicki sold JJ O’Toole Ltd to Zeus and she has since established a new company of her own, Tola Consultancy.

Do you have a question about your business you would like to ask Vicki? Email

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