Belfast Telegraph

Why evolution can be just as important as revolution when you're an entrepreneur

By Simon Seaton, senior manager for business development at Ulster Bank

It's natural to think that a new year means a new start - and the pressure of expectation builds up until we've broken all of our resolutions by January 11.

People sometimes think of entrepreneurship in the same way - that in order to go into business, you need to develop something totally different from what's come before, like a Steve Jobs from Strabane or a Bill Gates from Belfast. It's a mindset that can work for some, but it can also make 'the perfect' the enemy of 'the good'. A great many companies though are incredibly successful by identifying a market need and subtly differentiating themselves and their products from their competitors. Effort matters as much as innovation.

We see this across Northern Ireland, with those who show quiet dedication in growing sustainably - not just the usual big players, but also accountancy firms, dental practices and pharmacies that are at the heart of their local communities. Evolution can be as successful as revolution, if a good idea is combined with the right people.

So what can those who are just starting out learn from our established businesses?

Firstly, they have a really pragmatic approach to the relationship between failure and success, and a desire to understand how their mistakes made them stronger, as well as not being blinded by success. In my experience, those who are able to balance introspection with optimism are those with the ability to turn their ambitions into reality. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, they know their own strengths and know when to seek outside help and advice when it comes to dealing with specific operational or marketing opportunities.

For local entrepreneurs and early stage businesses, the Propel programme is an exciting opportunity to benefit from this kind of support. Aimed at start-up and scale-up businesses that are export-focused, it helps participants accelerate their development so that they are ready to pitch for business and financing on a global stage.

Ulster Bank is the first and only bank offering dedicated support for Propel companies through a partnership with the programme, offering them the opportunity to avail of a bespoke banking package that can include day-to-day banking, unsecured bridging funding, working capital funding, and potentially other sources of debt funding.

Two really great examples of Propel companies benefiting from Ulster Bank support are hipflask brand SWIG and specialist hi-fi company DGR Audio Designs .

We are proud to work with them and the Propel programme to develop and provide funding solutions for their great sustainable ideas.

Entrepreneurship comes in many forms - whether that is the Portavogie-based fisherman we recently supported to invest in upgrading his trawler, the North West-based diving business we are helping invest to attract more foreign visitors to the north coast, or the residential developer in Bangor building impressive new homes.

The breadth of our support, combining technology - our online applications for finance take just eight minutes to complete - with local knowledge, and a network of over 15 small business managers on the ground, helps us to provide the experience and the reach to support great businesses being built right across Northern Ireland.

  • Simon Seaton is a senior manager for business development at Ulster Bank

Belfast Telegraph