“Nobody in my view, should be allowed to start a business if they haven’t some experience of buying or selling cattle,” says business mentor Blaise Brosnan.

“All the dynamics that are involved in livestock negotiation; having your contacts, reading the body language, it is all there in business negotiation too.

“You can apply all the terminology in the world to a situation, but if you focus on the basics it is all the same.”

Blaise from Rathmore, Co Kerry graduated from his Agricultural Science degree in the mid-70s having specialised in agricultural economics. On graduating, Blaise joined Golden Vale, while classmates Tom Arnold went to the Central Bank, Finbarr O’Neill to Bank of Ireland and Con Lucey to the ?IFA. After two years at Golden Vale, Blaise was headhunted to Wexford Farmers Co-op Society where he headed the operation as CEO. This was at a time when Enniscorthy Mart was the largest covered mart in Europe.

Having settled in Co Wexford, Blaise is today involved in a number of businesses at board level. Thirty years ago, he set up the Management Resource Institute which offers mediation services and so far more than 4,000 owner-managers have taken part in the “Management Development Programme” run by Blaise in conjunction with Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) across the country.

This inspired his first book in 2009, titled You are the Limiting Factor: Unlocking your True Business Potential which was followed up by Jack – Business Lessons from Life, Life Lessons from Business and most recently I Dare You: Win the Debate in Your Own Head.

His focus is to get owners and managers to stand back from their business and take a look at what they can control, what they have little to no control over and how to deal with it all.

“It is about focusing on what game they are in, what angle they are currently working out of and what angle they want to position themselves into,” he says.

“Working out their competitive advantage and coming up with an action plan takes thinking time.

“We all need some support to identify goals and implement change.”

Life & business according to Blaise

How did you get to that point; to want to influence people in their business thinking?

“I had a phone call yesterday from a guy who did the programme about four or five years ago. He had a lot of work to do after inheriting the family business. While the business was profitable, it was disorganised. In doing the course, ?he identified three items hindering the progression of his business. I had not seen him for a few years and he phoned to let me know he had just achieved the three targets. So when people say to me, ‘Why do you get up in the morning and drive a few hours to do these courses’ it is because when I get phone calls like that, I get great pleasure when I see somebody succeeding from it.”

Do the same variables cause headaches in businesses across the country?

“Any business will have about 20 headings in their profit and loss account. Every one of those is a variable and within them is a mini-variable. While we need to understand the macro economy, we need to run the business as successfully as possible within the environment that the macro economy creates; without letting the external stuff get to you. If you focus on being as effective as possible that will put you into the frame of mind of, ‘Am I able to differentiate my offering so that it is a distinct advantage?’. The people who tend to be most effective in business look at their business strategically and they are always looking for an angle to give them the edge.”

What have you found pulls people through tough challenges in their working life?

“To be successful in business, you have to have clarity of purpose. Then you must be capable of converting that vision into a commercial reality. These are two different skills. Somebody can have a great vision but might struggle with implementing it. Others might not have a vision but would have the know-how to get things moving. That is the thing; in business or farming, or anything really, if you can pinpoint exactly what it is you want to achieve, that clarity will get you through the tough times. It is really important. Look at the sports stars. When they win a cup or tournament, they refer to dreaming, visualising and implementing a plan to execute their desire. Business and sport are exactly the same thing: having a vision, putting the right people together and working to achieve the dream.”

And what has pulled you through the tough times?

“There’s been plenty of tough times. When I came out of college, agriculture went through a very difficult period. I remember seeing calves at Enniscorthy mart and they were worth nothing. Within two years they were getting bigger prices. Then the massive deflation of the 80s and the adjustments the country went through after the ?Celtic Tiger years. Something that makes a huge difference is doing something because you want to do it rather than having to do it. To change the wording, from having to do something to wanting to do something, makes a massive change to how a person feels inside. I find this helps me.”

What way is the land lying in 2023?

“There are a high proportion of owner managers that have never run a business in an inflationary period, which is quite different to deflationary conditions. So they need to take a better look at their outgoings and how they can optimise their offering. Really there are two choices: you can moan about it or you can make adjustments.”

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