Booked review: It’s Never about the Money
Frank McCarthy’s tells the story of his successful career as an entrepreneur
It’s never about the money
Oak Tree Press
This short memoir from Frank McCarthy about his varied business career takes the form of anecdotes about entrepreneurship and life lessons that will appeal to the same audience that appreciated the style of Bill Cullen’s Penny Apples.
It starts in similar territory to Cullen with tales of childhood enterprise at a time when cash was scarce.
In McCarthy’s case with the story of how he turned a discarded kitchen press from his home into bundles of kindling wood for sale to neighbours.
Buoyed by success as the painted sticks proved suitably flammable, he sweet-talks the guard at the local dump to find more free material and blags paint from Corporation workers.
The call comes after the Sallins mail train robbery, where IR£200,000 (€254,000) in untraceable notes had been stolen as they made their way to the Central Bank for destruction.
He comes up with a model for a machine to punch holes in the notes which the bank buys. The story is layered with detail about the secrecy of the operation– with oaths sworn on bibles in boardrooms – but McCarthy is more than happy to spill all the beans at this stage.
Between maintenance and sales of the machines, ‘Smurfit came out of it well’ he informs us too.
There is plenty of bean spilling throughout the book in fact. He goes into some detail about an industrial relations dispute he became embroiled in at Guinness brewery and how he served a slander summons on a named union official.
McCarthy has been involved in a number of successful businesses over the years. The largest of these, Professional Contract Services, set up in 1978 was built to a 2,500 employee firm, with separate operations in Ireland and the UK, which were sold on in recent years. In 2010, he acquired the Mr Handyman master franchises for the UK, with his son Robert and Jacky Montgomery, a long-time business associate.
London has been a happy hunting ground for McCarthy over the years and allowed him to scale his business operations. People seem surprised at his success there, he says. “I walked around London for a few days to get the lie of the land. I tendered for a contract and made the sale,” he explains simply.
One of the great things about working in London, he says, was that on top of the initial deal for building services for large office blocks, there were additional large cleaning and renovating contracts with the individual tenants.
It was a pleasure working with these businesses and he never had to chase the payments, he notes.
There’s a helpful checklist too for those wanting to start their own businesses and words of encouragement for those who have faced the problem of redundancy.
Gritty determination is another major theme of the book. He is an enthusiastic proponent of good old-fashioned hard work and pushing yourself to the limits to achieve targets: he abhors laziness and group-think.
While this style of book may not be to everyone’s taste, he cuts a swathe through the bureaucracy and formality of business culture to get things done.
He is clearly irritated by naysayers and his independent line of thinking has served him well through his life and business adventures.