Inside Track: Jude O’Meara, managing director of Elephant Self Storage
Don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. I was quite lucky, I had a mentor in my career while I was running my business
Jude O’Meara, managing director of Elephant Self Storage
What sets your business apart from the competition?
We are an Irish-owned family business, and that extends to the staff who are very loyal. Our facility is made up of 800 store rooms. We offer everything from exclusive small lockers that start at €5 a week up to large rooms that take the contents of your house. Like a five-star hotel, we try to keep it spotlessly clean and have high levels of security.
What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. I was quite lucky, I had a mentor in my career while I was running my business. I would advise everyone, no matter how big or small your business, to have a person with whom you can discuss things relating to the business.
What is the biggest mistake you have made in business?
I think the biggest mistake I made was that I didn’t get into it sooner. I have been running Elephant for 11 years but I had to jump in at the deep end. I didn’t have much experience.
And your major success to date?
Getting the brand out there. It was quite difficult in the beginning, it was very challenging. It’s very important to create a trusted brand and we spent a lot of time on doing that. Now 60 per cent of our customers come through referrals.
Who do you most admire in business and why?
I admire my dad because he is one of the few people who makes things happen. He is a true entrepreneur. When he started, he borrowed €5 and he brought camping to Ireland (with O’Meara Camping) and made it a business. Another person I admired was Steve Jobs because he was dyslexic like myself and that never held him back.
Based on your experience in the downturn are the banks in Ireland open for business to SMEs?
We didn’t have much dealings with the banks and have organised ourselves so we didn’t have to rely on them. Honestly, we don’t like how banks did business in the good days – lending money out to small businesses and seeking to have them put their house up for collateral. And then, when they got into debt, expecting the public to pay it all back. It’s scary what the banks did back then and now we are all paying for it.
What one piece of advice would you give the Government to help stimulate the economy?
To get out of our business. All the red tape and paperwork that needs to be done. The Government has no idea of the time it takes small businesses to do this type of work. Another one would be insurance costs and the Government is doing nothing about it going up. There are just lots of layers of bureaucracy. The Government doesn’t realise the effect of this on small businesses.
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to face?
Starting the business and having an empty shell and trying to fill it. And obviously trying to learn as I went. Trying to fill Elephant Self Storage is not easy and it wasn’t done overnight. Again, it’s like a hotel. People check in and out all the time so as you get full you are very happy but when the customers go you have to fill it again.
How do you see the short-term future of your business?
I would like to see us expanding. You can’t really sit still in business. We will roll out a booking online system this year. Then we will look at expanding our premises.
What is your business worth and would you sell it?
To me personally it’s priceless because I have put so much into it. We are not looking to sell, we are looking to grow but, having said that, if an acquisition opportunity arose, of course we would look at it.