‘Togetherness, not MBAs, gets the job done for entrepreneurs’

Entrepreneurs do not do MBAs; entrepreneurship is not about getting it right, but getting it going, keynote speaker Pearse Lyons told the Cork Chamber annual dinner last night.

The founder and president of Alltech, a global animal nutrition and health innovator, told the 980 guests at Cork City Hall that entrepreneurship is about ferocious togetherness.

“It is about being agile,” said Mr Lyons. “The entrepreneurs’ world is a world of constant dissatisfaction, a world of constant reinvention.

“The world today needs more entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs bring jobs, jobs bring security and security brings plans for families and plans for the future.

“Last year, Alltech added 750 new jobs — it is part of our dream.” Alltech currently employs almost 3,000 around the world.

Mr Lyons is a graduate of the British School of Malting and Brewing where he said he became, much to his amazement, the first Irishman to earn a formal degree in brewing, and the first Irishman to do a PhD in the same area.

“The logical place for me to work was Guinness, but it was not Guinness that approached me, it was Irish Distillers,” said the Dundalk man.

Mr Lyons said it was there he learned that everyone needed a mentor.

“I was put into a slot, and that slot did not include marketing, would not include business, so I applied for a MBA course,” he said.

“After being rejected twice and completing a bachelor degree in commerce at night, I was finally accepted. It looked like my career was set.

“Little did I know that I would only last four weeks. I hated it. I hated the rigour and the statistics. Entrepreneurs do not do MBAs — so I quit, and learned rule number one of entrepreneurship.”

Among the others rules of entrepreneurship outlined by Mr Lyons were:

- Go out on your own: If you are going to go into business, go into business. Stop talking, stop thinking, stop worrying about getting it right, and start thinking about getting it going. Go out on your own;

- Take a chance, any chance, but make sure it is within the following parameters: In your area of expertise and, if possible, have no partners or investors;

- Sell whatever you can and make it profitable from day one;

- Go international. It is what we Irish do. Almost from day one, Alltech was international. Use whatever contacts you have;

- Do what makes your heart sing. The message is quite simple. Should a game-changing opportunity comes along, take it.

- You have to be prepared to leave. If you are part of big businesses that do not make sense, leave those businesses.

- Move fast. Today, we are in China, and we have been in China for 20 years. How did we get to China? I got an invitation from somebody I knew at a university. I arrived on a Tuesday, but just in case,I arrived three Tuesdays early. Go there and go quickly.

- Look at the big picture. What is the big picture? What is our future? The big picture now is crop science. The world needs food. There are 7 billion people. We need to increase the amount of grain per acre.

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