• Morgan Fagg

The Business brings Speed dating to Athlone businesses

Updated: Oct 19, 2018

Over a hundred people from across the midlands attended RTĒ’s The Business’ networking event which was hosted by George Lee and held in the Radisson Blu on May 5th 2011 .

The speed networking event attracted business people from neighbouring towns in Roscommon, Mullingar and Offaly. The night included speeches from successful business people such as Supermacs’ founder Pat McDonagh.

The networking night gave people the chance to meet with one another and a chance to chat and swap business cards. A previous networking event was held in Limerick with many success stories later featuring on RTĒ Radio 1’s show, The Business.

Presenter, George Lee stated in his address that it was people who will get us out of the situation we are in now and that success stories are important as they inspire other people.

Despite his own interest in economics, Mr Lee doesn’t believe we need to know all the financial terms we hear repeatedly on the news and he is surprised by all the financial terms which have become part of our vernacular since the start of the recession.

Mr Lee stressed that despite Ireland’s 14% unemployment rate, Ireland’s competitiveness is improving daily and Ireland is starting to be seen as a top destination in some quarters and said that the recent auctioning of NAMA owned properties proves that people still have money to spend but that we are now looking for more value.

He continued to say to say that people shouldn’t give all the power to politicians as they are our representatives. He said that people can still innovate and create and it was time we put our thinking hats on and said that more money should be spent in Ireland to encourage job creation.

Guest Speaker Pat McDonagh has seen the creation of 104 outlets over the last 32 years but spoke of the difficulties in the first two years of setting up his business. He recalled having two days off in the first year which included Christmas Day and a sick day.

He was surprised how difficult it was to get a business loan for his first premises and further surprised how reluctant banks were to give him a loan to buy a property on O’Connell Street where he would be competing against McDonalds.

Mr McDonagh recounted his school days he spent in the Carmelite College in Moate when he used to play football. Inspired by Newcastle United player, Malcolm ‘Supermac’ McDonald, Pat McDonagh earned a new nickname playing for Moate and this nickname shouted from the sidelines, stuck with him and his future businesses.

Originally planning to open a pool hall, Mr McDonagh decided to open a fast-food outlet which only served Take Away food at first. He reminisced about blowing all the lights on a Ballinasloe street in his first year in business. It was a busy night during the Balinasloe horse fair when the fuse box blew with 100 customers waiting for food inside.

He saw many obstacles over the years one of them was insurance. He watched first hand as people would claim to have slipped in his toilets and demanded generous compensation. Each claim raised his insurance premium and he knew he had to tackle these claims. Mr McDonagh was advised to pay people by his solicitors but he chose to fight the claims and explained to the group gathered in the Radisson that even €5,000 for a claim is a lot of money when you think of all the work that you must do, serving people food till the early hours on a Saturday morning.

He highlighted that people must add value to what they are doing and businesses should watch their overheads. You must make cut backs that don’t affect your customers which means making savings in heat, electricity and in his case insurance.

Pat McDonagh said that the future is bright for Ireland and both the Queen and the President of America are visiting soon which will hopefully have a positive effect on tourism. He added that the country is slowly pulling itself up by the bootstraps even if some people are busy blowing streetlights in Ballinasloe.

Before resuming the speed networking event in which different business people moved seats to chat to other business people, George Lee accidentally called the speed networking event, speed dating, putting an extra twinkle in everyone’s eyes.

Angela Mahon and Noel Joyce from midland based Designhub chatting with George Lee.

Athlone based Enterprise Forum, Sebastien Rolland, Richard Nash, George Lee, David Jackson and Mary Doyle. Enterprise Forum provide support for people starting up in business.

AIT Economics lecturer Henry Joyce with RTE presenter George Lee.

Supermacs founder Pat McDonagh speaking at the networking event held in the Radisson on May 5th.

George Lee gets to grips with the Maglus Ipad2 stylus

Jude Quigley from Glasson’s Shannon Marine & Boat Manufacturing Ltd with George Lee at the Business networking event.

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