David W Duffy Founder and CEO of The Governance Company says our ambition is to be a world leader in the provision of corporate governance services to boards providing: education, evaluation, advisory and support services using the latest technologies, great design and creativity.
Our initial focus will be on developing eLearning programmes to develop and assess the competencies of directors on boards in charities, state bodies, credit unions, housing associations and sports organisations globally.
How did you get the idea/ concept for your business?
I was doing an 9-month online course in Leadership at the Irish Times, which I found fascinating, and then I wondered if anyone was doing something similar in corporate governance. After a month’s research, the answer was no, so hey presto the idea was born.
Give a brief account of your education background.
I studied business in TCD, followed by qualifying as a Chartered Accountant with PWC in London. In my early 30s I did an MBA in IMD Lausanne which was a life changing experience.
Did you always know/ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?
Yes, given family history, I was only going to be happy starting a business. The steady pay cheque from a large company was not respected where I come from.
Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?
My father was an “entrepreneur” when he started his business in 1947. As the word had not hit our shores then, he did not know he was one! All my siblings and my son run their own businesses in Ireland, Germany and Australia.
Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company?
Yes, I was doing a lot of consulting work in corporate governance and was looking for a book on the topic and could not find one, so I wrote the first book on corporate governance in Ireland in 2004 when it was neither profitable nor popular. It was called “A Practical Guide to Corporate Governance” I have written three more since and conducted 100 plus governance assignments. So, know the turf.
What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?
I have started two other businesses so starting another was not something that worried me. One in strategy consulting and the other in homecare. The homecare one bombed as it was launched in 2009, so plenty of learnings there. Yes, you can’t beat prior experience.
How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc)
A mixture of EI HPSU funding and bootstrapping.
Looking back, would you have changed the method of funding you chose?
Not really it has worked out OK to date.
What difficulties, if any, did you encounter when securing funding?
HPSU was a challenge and it took me two attempts to get it. Second time around I got some help from VC and a friend who understood what it took to make a pitch with impact.
Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them?
Not really as I was able to generate enough cash from consulting to keep the lights on.
What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business?
Know how deep a hole you can get into and be able to get out of it…that’s called experience. Energy, dogged perseverance and a strong market profile will all help.
To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to?
I would not say we are successful yet, but we will be. I have no doubt there will be bumps in the road, but that’s life. We will adapt to the market opportunity and take it from there.
What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur?
Essential, hard to get to where you want to get to without doing the hard networking yards but be smart about it. Its not who you know, but who knows who that’s important.
Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?
Yes, there is a real ecosystem in Ireland now, that is quite sophisticated and worth tapping into.
Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?
Not for the moment, enough on my plate!
If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be?
Have no fear! If you think the idea is good enough just go for it. If you fail, so what, you can try again.