Cara Macklin is a professional coach. In an interview Cara told IIBN that combining my experience as an entrepreneur and professional coach I help entrepreneurs with great ideas think creatively, act courageously and create powerful change. I use both my business experience and leadership coaching to help leaders achieve greater results developing themselves their team and their business.

You can visit Cara’s website here

How did you get the idea/ concept for your business? 

The VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) environment, never more evident than currently makes it increasingly difficult for entrepreneurs and leaders. As an entrepreneur and having disrupted an industry I know how lonely and tough this can be. With my entrepreneurial experience and as a trained coach, I knew I could help leaders navigate this challenging environment through creative thinking, courageous actions and create powerful change.

I always tell leaders, ‘You create the change or it will create you.’

Give a brief account of your education background.

BA Hons from University of Ulster. MBA from Cass Business School, London. Coaching Development Certificate in Professional Coaching Skills with ICF approved training.

Did you always know/ever think you would become an entrepreneur when you were younger?

I always knew I would become an entrepreneur from a young age. I started my first business at 15 running buses to local nightclubs. Growing up in the countryside, I had a captive market of customers who wanted to socialise. As a young child I made jewellery and sold it to family and neighbours. I remember being asked at primary school what I wanted to be when I grew up, and as a lover of business and fashion I said I wanted to own ‘Tammy Girl’ a teenage girls fashion chain. I suspect not the usual answer from an 8 year old girl growing up in rural Northern Ireland.

Is entrepreneurship a common trait in your family?

Yes, I grew up in my family business, so entrepreneurship is in my blood from a young age. My journey in business started at 5 years old with my education around the kitchen table, and this continued my whole life. I worked for 15 years as a Director in my family business, the award-winning Macklin Healthcare group & Malone Lodge Hotel and was instrumental in its growth becoming a multi-million pound organisation from 3 businesses with 250 employees to 7 business with 600 employees.  After 15 years, I left and set up my coaching business as well as managing a portfolio of my own properties.

Did you have prior knowledge of the industry before setting up your company? 

I have extensive knowledge of entrepreneurship, leadership development, and the ability to illuminate the potential in leaders and their organisation so they can achieve much greater results. Having trained professionally as a coach, I was able to combine my previous knowledge and experience with my coaching and help other leaders achieve much more.

What was your previous work experience (if any)? Do you think this gave you an advantage when setting up your business?  

Having worked for over 15 years as a Director in hospitality and healthcare I held various roles with responsibilities both operationally and strategically including; Strategic Development, Operations Director, New Business Opening, Sales & Marketing, Head HR & Transformation, Procurement Director, Interior Design, Change Management and Financial Management. In 2017 I disrupted the elderly healthcare market in Ireland leading a team to create and open the first Lifestyle Care Home, which had facilities including a café, nail bar, hairdressers, spa, pub and cinema and was cited by the IoD chairman as ‘a world class concept.’ I also worked in London for Marks and Spencers in their Food Trend Studio, and during my MBA worked on projects in Iceland, China and South Africa as well as experience with the International Doyle Hotel Group. I’ve represented the business community through various organisations including Skal NI, IoD, Women in Business. My previous experience was totally invaluable when setting up my business. My clients work with me, because they know I’ve been there and done it and I’m not just reading it from a book. That is crucial to them.

How did you initially fund your business? (self-funded, government funding, etc) 

The business was initially Self-funded

Looking back, would you have changed the method of funding you chose?  

Looking back, I wouldn’t change the method of funding.

Did you encounter any financial difficulties in the first year of operation? If yes, what did you do to surpass them? 

The biggest challenge when starting any business is cash flow. The old saying Cash is King is always true, but never more so than when you first start out. You must be so careful with your costs, whilst at the same time ensure you are investing in the right things that you need to grow your business.

What characteristics do you feel benefited you most when starting your business? 

The most important characteristic that benefited me the most is my entrepreneurial DNA. I have a constant drive for creativity and improvement and doing things much better. Entrepreneurs have to be resilient as every day they have new challenges thrown at them, and flexible and adaptable to the constantly changing environment. This is where I thrive and enjoy the most, and it has been invaluable starting my own business.

To what do you attribute your company’s success/growth to? 

The success of any Entrepreneur is the people they have around them. I’ve been fortunate to have great mentors and great teams working with me throughout my businesses. One of my passions is unlocking potential in those who work with me and making them believe they can achieve things they never believed possible. It’s such an amazing sense of satisfaction seeing them achieve these things. It’s one of the things I enjoy the most working with my clients.

What is your opinion on the importance of a professional network for an entrepreneur? 

A professional network is absolutely critical for an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is lonely, and this is one of the main reasons that leaders work with me as their coach. Having a trusted group to bounce ideas off and ask for help when needed is more important today than it ever was. The business world is changing so quickly, but it is always people together that will help each other navigate these changes.

Do you think entrepreneurship has changed in recent years?

Entrepreneurship has changed hugely in years. The speed and variety of change in the external environment combined with the complexities and uncertainties makes it increasingly more difficult for leaders and entrepreneurs. The VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment has never been more evident than what the world is going through today with Coronavirus. I believe for business to survive in the future, the leaders must have the traits of an Entrepreneur – creativity to think of new ideas and solutions to problems, courage and resilience to deal with the challenges and changes, flexibility to adapt quickly, the ability to make strong connections with people and get the best from their teams for high performance. I’m so lucky in my business now coaching successful leaders globally, where my work encapsulates helping them with at least one of these areas.

Would you ever consider starting another company or involving yourself in new start-ups again?

I would definitely be interested in starting another company or getting involved in a new start up again.

If you had one piece of advice for a new entrepreneur, what would it be? 

Don’t follow the crowd. Be different, courageous and write your own story.