Cautious approach pays off during tough times
Des O'Mahony: "Our caution when we were expanding meant that we didn't overstretch ourselves financially"
Inside Track Q&A:Des O'Mahony, chief executive of Bookassist
What distinguishes you from your competitors?
From our perspective, a competitor is anyone who is selling rooms for our hotel clients. To distinguish ourselves from them, we basically have to do a better job. The way we do this is by having a much more holistic service, and by having a more personalised approach to that service. We don’t view ourselves as a software company; we view ourselves as a strategic consultancy company that uses our own software to deliver on its objectives.
What’s been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
Scaling is a huge challenge. There is a comfort zone that comes with a small company where you have ideals, know all your employees and have control of everything. When you start to expand, it is very hard to envisage how that is going to happen. We’ve had to deal with different cultures and management approaches, as well as different clients in different areas.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?
I wouldn’t think about specific mistakes but I do look at approach. There are times when you have to take risks in business, but you may not have the confidence in yourself and back away from it. You look back with regret and say, “I should have seized that opportunity”. Sometimes I have been over cautious. However our caution when we were expanding meant that we didn’t overstretch ourselves financially. When the crisis hit, we didn’t have any bank loans and we weren’t reliant on anyone. Our caution paid off.
What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice I’ve ever received was not necessarily from someone, but was “received wisdom” over time, which is that you need to surround yourself with the best possible people. When you are a small business it is easy to keep track of things, personally know everyone hired, but as you grow you don’t have that luxury. The key thing is to continue to require excellence in the people who come on board. Ideas are two a penny but good quality execution is what counts, and that is all about people.
And your major success to date?
On a personal level, it is the belief that my co-founders and I have created good quality jobs for people. It is very easy to talk about success in terms of money, but that does not get you out of bed in the morning. It has been very heartening to me and my co-founders that we have been able to add jobs, not remove them, during the crisis of the last few years.
Who do you most admire in business and why?