Me & My Money: David Walsh, Netwatch Systems
‘I learned to haggle watching my father in action at cattle marts and street fairs’
David Walsh: “Money is more necessary to me than important.”
Are you a saver or a spender?
A bit of both. Although Netwatch is Carlow-based and mighty proud of that fact, I come from Kerry, and was raised on a farm. My mother was an amazing woman for balancing budgets. She managed to send eight of us off to school and higher education, all through the wise management of her household income. She taught me the value of saving at the right time, and putting a little away regularly.
Do you shop around for better value?
I think everyone likes getting value for their buck, but I’ve learned the hard way that cheaper doesn’t always mean the best outcome. I value personal recommendations very highly so I will often ask friends and mentors for their opinions on a product or supplier rather than going with the cheapest option.
What hat has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?
Three years ago, we invested in bringing Jerry Kennelly’s Junior Entrepreneur Programme to primary schools across Carlow, an initiative that requires a significant time investment as well as a financial one to run successfully each year. However, I have to say it was one of the best investments I have ever made. The energy and enthusiasm of the young entrepreneurs of Carlow is infectious.
What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?
It would have to be the engagement ring I purchased for my wife, Beatrice. Too often in life we are told to build walls between our business life and our private life. In reality, especially when you own your own business, they are interlinked. It is only possible to deliver an exceptional service if you have support and encouragement from your loved ones.
How do you prefer to shop – online or local?
I’m conscious to shop local where possible and particularly to support new entrepreneurs in their ventures. However, Ireland has become very tech savvy in recent years, so you can also support many local businesses through online channels as well.
Do you haggle over prices?
Absolutely, as a Kerryman, it’s bred into us from birth! I learned to haggle watching my father in action at cattle marts and street fairs. Much is made of the skill of high-end traders on Wall Street, but in truth they wouldn’t survive 10 minutes in Ballinasloe or at Puck Fair.
Has the recession changed your spending habits?
Yes, in a positive sense, In 2008, as the recession took hold, we came together as a team in Netwatch and discussed if we should batten down the hatches and hope to ride out the economic storm. I think the recession put a clearer focus on value-for-money, but as long as you are providing a quality service, there are still opportunities out there.
Do you invest in shares?
I have never invested in the stock market and rather invest in products I understand like commercial property with predictable rental income.
Cash or card?
I’d say I’m a 50/50 user. I am disciplined enough when it comes to my card use; and I tend to settle it in time, avoiding extortionate interest rates!
What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?
The last thing I bought was a ticket to attend the EY Entrepreneur of the Year CEO retreat in Boston. It was an outstanding return on investment as I got opportunity to bounce ideas off the brightest of Irish business brains whilst getting lectures from the best academics from MIT and Harvard.
Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?
I spent more than two years saving every penny to gather the £9,000 deposit for my first house, which I bought in 1995 for £45,000.
Have you ever lost money?
Of course, I’ve seen many opportunities that I thought might have been golden pay-offs, and which didn’t work out, but the important thing is to get back up, shake yourself off and try again. These setbacks make us stronger.
Are you a gambler and, if so, have you ever had a big win?
As an entrepreneur, I think you have to be a calculated risk taker but there’s a difference between taking a calculated risk and being a straight-up gambler, unless of course you’re betting on Kerry to win the Football All-Ireland. And then you will win more times than you lose!
Is money important to you?
Money is more necessary to me than important.
How much money do you have on you now?
I’m just back from Boston, so I’ve got the princely sum of €127 on me right now. With three teenagers in the house, I’m quickly relieved of any disposable cash on a daily basis.
in conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea