“It wasn’t a question of having a grand plan, but I knew what I didn’t want to do."

When thinking about starting a new business, sometimes one of the hardest steps is to know when to take the plunge and just go for it. We asked Tony O’Shaughnessy what were his key reasons for starting his own company, ABS, and how he knew it was the right time to go into the venture:

“It wasn’t a question of having a grand plan, but I knew what I didn’t want to do. The decision to start a business was a combination of pure luck and circumstance. I had been in IT for seven years and I knew it was the right time to start. Even though ABS was an IT service provider, I knew that I didn’t want to carry on just as an IT manager, I wanted to do something different.” 

We also asked him to tell us more about the obstacles he came across during his entrepreneurial career and how he managed to overcome them:

“The obstacle to success for me – when looking back at my own experience – was my own lack of in-depth business knowledge, particularly service strategy and management. That really hurt us at one point in our development.

“If I was advising people starting up a company now, I would want to ask them if they have a clearly defined strategy, do they really know what management is about? In the majority of small to medium companies I know, the managers tend to be the best ‘doers,’ who are normally the worst managers to have.

“The steepest learning curve for me over the years was that we ended up giving people who were great doers – because they were very skilled at computer programming or analysis – a team to manage. Because we both had very little experience in management, we tended to aggregate problems. Especially with small companies, being very proactive with little management knowledge will only go so far.

“Retrospectively, it’s easy to say that it would have been useful to bring in mentors or consultants to help, but that wasn’t how we approached it. We were thinking that we had this great idea for a product or solution and we wanted to tell the world about it. What tended to happen is that we learned the hard way by running into the problem, wondering why the strategy isn’t clear, why the customer is only getting part of the message, why internal people love the company in one dimension and find it frustrating in another. It was a very long haul process about what is or isn’t a priority. Because we didn’t have the necessary structure in place, it cost us time and money.”