Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

Business View: BRS Golf success was par for the course with bright idea

Dreams don't often come true in life, never mind business, but for brothers Brian and Rory Smith the sale of their brainchild BRS Golf is definitely a dream come true.

Not many people in the 1970s could predict where the future lay, or which sector would become the great hope of the Northern Ireland economy.

Most parents in that era -- and indeed now -- like to gently push their offspring towards traditional professions like medicine, law and pharmacy.

But Professor Jack Smith of Queen's must have had the feeling that the unwieldy and over-sized pieces of equipment he was working with in the 1970s were the key to the future.

As his son Brian explains, Professor Smith encouraged his children to embrace computer science, and that career path has stood his sons in good stead.

Last month they sold their firm to US owners GolfNow. It will maintain the business's roots in Belfast while bringing it to a new audience in America.

They will also seek to expand the current workforce to 35. Speaking yesterday Brian emphasised the importance of finding talented web developers and being able to offer them attractive packages in return.

Now that it's owned by a US company, the profits won't stay in Northern Ireland but the business will continue to generate wealth for the economy.

But was the brothers' entrepreneurialism a trait they were born with, or something they learned? There's no doubt a love of computers was in their blood.

Certainly, their time with Nortel -- even though its history in Northern Ireland ended in acrimony -- would have been an important learning experience.

One entrepreneur who used Nortel as a springboard agreed that the company was a "good incubator for skills".

"Actually there are lots of recorded episodes of similar phenomena whereby a big company closes down and lots of little start-ups appear and some end up very successful," he says.

But while a former workplace can act as a mentor, good ideas arguably count for a lot more. Brian Smith said he and his brother had grown frustrated with being greeted by an engaged tone every time they rang to book tee-times, hence their simple but brilliant idea to create a system for booking tee-times online.

With such a good idea and such a wise father, maybe success was par for the course.

STICK TO THE OFFICE DAY JOB!

THE history of businesspeople and music-making shows it's often best to stick to one or the other.

Although fictional, The Office's David Brent is probably like most businesspeople in fatally embarrassing himself when having a go at singing.

But Andrew Mason, the founder of discount website Groupon who was ousted from the business earlier this year, is hoping he can buck Brent's trend after releasing Hardly Workin', a collection of "motivational business music" on Spotify. Among his faux-pas were turning down billion-dollar offers for his voucher business from Google and Yahoo.

Now he's decided to spend his down time in the studio -- but anyone who's heard the fruits of his efforts will be hoping he'll create another business soon.

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