Colm Lyon is founder and CEO of Realex Payments. Prior to founding Realex Payments in 2000, Colm’s career spanned over twenty five years in payment related businesses, starting with fourteen years in the financial service sector. Colm is involved in other internet start up businesses and has plans to launch a major new payment business, Carapay in early 2012.
Colm has won numerous accolades over the past decade, in 2011 Colm received the prestigious Ruban d’Honneur in round two of the European Business Awards as well as the Business & Finance magazine “Business person of the month” award for his contribution to Irish business. In 2009 he was awarded the Internet Hero Award at the Golden Spider Awards for his contribution to the Irish Internet Industry.
TheEmployable is aiming is to fill the void that exists for the newly unemployed & redundant, the graduate, the long term job-seeker & the disillusioned worker, in a positive and thought provoking way. We have faith that through this community; support, ideas, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial activity will grow!
Many of our audience will be currently facing tough employment or economic times. What advice do you have for an entrepreneur starting out today, in this turbulent economic climate?
The best time to consider starting a business, is when it feels right. The external marketplace constantly
changes and will always present challenges of one sort or another. No matter what your business plans/idea or when you decide to go ahead you will always have to be clear about what you want to do, you will need to find people to help you, get resources and go to market – these are all big demands. I always try to focus on the things I can solve rather than external factors over which I have no control.
What was the spark that made you consider starting your own business?
I had considered it for a long time – 2 years or so and had several other ideas that I tried to develop. In the end I think it was more about the fact that I had come to the definite conclusion that I wanted to run my own business – that had been a dream since I was young. Waiting until I was 38 to leave and start a business was in some ways a regret, but now that I have a business I can apply many of the learning and experience to this role.
What three pieces of advice would you give to a graduate who want to become entrepreneur and start their own business?
1 – I would ask “what problem are you solving?” a very helpful way to evaluate a business is to consider markets as groups of people with problems to be solved, so if you can answer this question well and the listener gets it straight away (i.e. agrees that there is a problem) then that’s a good first step.
2 – Bring as much clarity as possible to your plans – take away all the fluff and simplify the pitch – I was asked recently a question about a new business, which was “if you were to make a TV advert for this business, what would it say?” – ask yourself that question.
3 – Do it. It can only go wrong and understand that failure is a step on the journey to success.
What would you say are the top three skills or talents needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
1 – Persistence – things will take much longer, cost far more and only deliver half of your expectations
2 – To be highly adaptable – changing your focus from one thing to another with ease and speed is essential
3 – Be fair and good to people as you cannot build a business alone
What failures have you had, and what have you learned from them?
Loads – Many things have gone wrong and I’ve made poor decisions along the way. I refer to the “point of perfect failure” which has two meanings. Firstly you must understand when you have reached the position of failure and stop. If something is not working then it’s vital to stop the project. Secondly there is meaning to failure. It must be accepted, evaluated and something new must come from it.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family / work life? Do you feel you can take holidays for example!
In the early days there were no holidays and there was a big impact financially. As the business grew that became less. However from the first day to now, you constantly think about the business and work long, long hours. You must stay ahead in all aspects of the game.
What is your personal definition of success?
To wake up in the morning and look forward to the day ahead. It’s something one should never take for granted and for so many people in the world this is not the case.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being the person who sets the strategy and building a team to achieve our goals – that is simply the best aspect. I’ve found it incredibly rewarding how we have grown – from zero ten years ago to where we are today – 100 staff, four offices, 5,000 clients, processing 1bn euro a month – the whole team is very proud and now half our business is outside Ireland and it’s growing faster than ever.
And the Worst!
Time – we all have the same amount of it, but I would like a little more!
What other Entrepreneur or Business leader do you admire the most?
Richard Branson and Steve Jobs and John Teeling have been people I have admired greatly for different reasons – John told me about businesses and I was fascinated from the start, Branson for the scaling and diverse nature of his empire and he shows how critical brand can be. Steve Jobs told the world that design and user experience really matter and is in fact a differentiator.
If you could change one political policy to help the economic recovery what would you change?
While I recognise the employment benefit of having large multi nationals in Ireland, I really believe that we must focus on and grow indigenous Irish businesses and generally speaking we find that difficult – be it low ambitions, a small talent pool and inexperience. While the state does help Irish firms to grow I would like to see more specific assistance in the scaling of businesses, particularly in management.
If you could follow one dead famous person from the 20TH Century on Twitter, who would you follow and why?
That’s a funny one? Not sure to be honest. Perhaps someone like Jim Morrison from The Doors – I can only imagine what he could have tweeted!
Cheers Colm for speaking to TheEmployable and we wish you all the best for the future…