Dublin-based Barbara Moynihan founded the presentations training company ‘On Your Feet’ in 2010.  Ireland was in the depths of a recession at the time and this made the first few years very challenging.  Fast forward 11 years, the company now has a small but highly experienced team of 5 and delivers training both virtually and face-to-face to many Fortune 500 companies.

Barbara shares her experiences with us here.

Covid has presented many challenges but also opportunities.  Our client list has now expanded from Donegal to Dubai and Cork to New York.  Over the next 3 years, On Your Feet predicts a significant growth in virtual clients and that by 2025 the face-to-face business will account for less than 25% of turnover.

Barbara hosted and facilitated a learning module on Public Speaking in a Virtual World as part of  IIBN (NY) Leadership & Executive Acceleration Program (LEAP) that empowers Irish and Irish-American women to accelerate their careers by providing access to professional insights, mentors, and role models.

Did you always want to run your own business?
The short answer is no! I did my Leaving Cert and left school at 16 and I was very immature.  I had seen staff leaving the local bank at 4:30pm and decided that was the job for me.   Consequently, I got a job in the bank and initially, I absolutely loved it.  Over the years I became quite unhappy.  One of the main reasons for this was I felt my job as a banker became more sales focussed.  I also got itchy feet, so when I was in my mid-20s I resigned.  I went to a kibbutz in Israel.  From there I went to Greece for a few months where I picked grapes, hopped from island to island and had some interesting jobs.  For example, at one stage I had a job removing wasps from soft drink bottles.  I ended up working in a ski resort in Switzerland for the best part of a year.

How did you come to be running your own business?
I came back from my travels and realised I had a love of helping people to develop and grow. For the 9 years prior to setting up On Your Feet, I worked for a well-known international training company.  When the recession hit in 2009 this work dried up.  The only way to make an income, in training, was to start my own business.  Initially, I used to call myself a ‘reluctant entrepreneur’.  But I dropped that title as I developed a love of running my own business and being an entrepreneur.

Was there a defining moment when you realised that your business had potential?
Back in 2014 I won a Business Woman of the Year award.  One of the questions the judging panel asked me was “What are you going to do to grow the business”?   I remember thinking that I could not possibly do more hours.  I realised that I had a ‘business’ not a ‘job’ and that I could grow without doing more hours. That was a huge moment for me, as it was the moment when I realised I needed to grow the business by taking on other facilitators who I could train in the On Your Feet methodology.

With Covid, has it been challenging to move your training from face-to-face to virtual?
Not as difficult as you might think.  Prior to Covid, we had limited experience in delivering virtual training – in fact, we had only done it on a one-to-one basis.  One week into lockdown, we got a call, asking if we could deliver our Executive Presence programme virtually.  Without hesitation, I said “yes”.  Then I went about figuring out how to do it!  I had been a Microsoft Certified Trainer in my 30’s so learning new technology did not cause me any problems or stress.  We delivered that programme 2 weeks later.  Apart from a couple of technical hitches, which is to be expected in the virtual world, it went exceptionally well.

What about the future for On Your Feet and the virtual world?
We know the virtual world of meetings and presentations is here to stay.  So, over the last 18 months we have constantly been looking at how we can make the virtual training world more engaging.  We use Menti, Padlet and other online tools to make our programmes participative which helps make them more engaging and impactful.  Our most exciting innovation to date is our recent addition of a video platform, which enables our clients to engage with us via video and is being very well received.

What advice would you give to others starting their own professional services business?
As with any new business, ask others who have done what you are doing successfully, to share with you what they did.  Be optimistic but be realistic.  Everything takes longer and costs more than you expected.  Try doubling your optimistic view, it might just be more realistic.

Would you share some tips for those who find presenting virtually difficult?
You need to be more structured – this enables you to get your message across more succinctly.   At the same time, do not aim for perfection.  Expect hitches and glitches!  If you do expect them, when they materialise you are more able to take them in your stride.
Finally, be yourself.  There is no need for a 9 o’clock news voice – be more conversational, it will look and feel more natural.

PHOTOGRAPH:  Suzanne Fahey, Circus Photography

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