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How to: Kickstart business by stepping back from social media... and picking up the phone

And what entrepreneurs can learn from sports stars.

BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS SHOULD stop worrying so much about their Twitter presence and revive the art of cold-calling, one expert says.

Ron Immink, the “entrepreneur-in-residence” from UCD’s Innovation Academy, said many startup founders put too much emphasis on social media and creating long-term plans at the expense of drumming up business.

“A ‘like’ on Facebook is not going to pay the bills … there needs to be a move back towards some hard-graft selling,” he told TheJournal.ie.

“Rather than focussing on tweeting you might be better off making a few cold calls, but it is almost a lost art.”

Immink said the unwillingness of many to pick up the phone had to do with “the psychology of entrepreneurs” and the difficulty they had in facing rejection.

With social media that doesn’t happen – there is no rejection, there is no ‘dislike button’ whatsoever. Of course you have to be in social media, you have to have an online presence, but I would make a bet that if entrepreneurs made 10 more calls a day they would do a whole lot better.”

ron_immink_smallbusinesscan Ron Immink

Get a taxi, read a book, talk to a coach

Immink, who is also the co-founder of Small Business Can, a Ulster Bank-backed forum for entrepreneurs, the chief executive of business consultancy BookBuzz and author of several books, said one great, untapped resource for small- and medium-enterprise (SME) owner-operators was the sporting field.

“Most of us have to work very, very hard to be successful – it is the same with athletes, so I think there is a lot we can learn from them about discipline,” he said.

Immink said leading coaches and sports clubs were also skilled at focussing on the few, key elements that lifted performance the most – another valuable lesson for any entrepreneurs who tried to spread themselves too thin.

“Go in and talk to your local GAA coach, read some autobiographies of successful athletes, pick up some books on eating healthily, focus and visualisation,” he said.

Another under-utilised resource for entrepreneurs in Ireland’s major cities was the expertise on hand in third-level institutes, he added.

“SMEs are still ignoring universities because they think they are ivory towers and there is nothing useful for them to learn there,” Immink said.

If I was an SME owner, the first thing I would do is get in a taxi and go to Trinity College or UCD and visit their innovation centres. If you are looking for a source of inspiration that is definitely something I would suggest everyone should do.”

Irish entrepreneurial culture ‘as good as anywhere’

However Immink, who originally hails from the Netherlands, said an “absolutely phenomenal” netowrk had developed around startups in Dublin and the entrepreneurial culture in Ireland was “as good as anywhere, if not better”.

“All of the big players are here and because Dublin’s such a small city everyone knows eachother so the connections are very easily made,” he said.

The government and its various agencies, including Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Office network, also did a lot to support SMEs – although sometimes they suffered from a lack of “joined-up thinking”.

“They’re all, in their own right, really, really good, but there seems to be a disconnect between the different initiatives,” Immink said.

But then, if you are an entrepreneur and you can’t navigate the support system, maybe you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur.”

All this month, as part of TheJournal.ie’s ongoing SME focus, we will be looking back on 2014 – and throwing forward to 2015 – for the small-business sector.

Originally published at 7.45am

READ: Ireland needs more backers to get ‘skin in the game’ for business to grow >

READ: Business Poll: So this year’s coming to a close – but how is 2015 looking? >

About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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