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Just the ticket for theatres and music venues

Small Business Inside Track Q&A: Paul Fadden, managing director, Ticketsolve

Paul Fadden: 80 per cent of all ticket inventory will be purchased through mobile devices

Celebrating 10 years in business, Dublin-based Ticketsolve provides theatres and venues with a ticketing platform. It serves high profile clients like the Galway International Arts Festival, the Everyman Theatre Cork, Bafta and Leicester Square Theatre.

Founded by Brian and Sean Hanley, they brought in managing director Paul Fadden to the team in the early stages.

What distinguishes your business from your competitors?

We are a customer-first organisation, that’s what’s really important and that’s what sets us apart from our competitors. The reason I say that is that’s the feedback I get from our customers continuously. They really like that we are approachable, professional and that all our support team have worked in the industry and have been customers of Ticketsolve in the past.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face in business?

Facing up to the transition from being a funded company and quickly realising after two to three years that we were going to have to start making money. We had to scale back and we got into a really lean phase and it meant we could grow again organically. It really sharpened us as a business and I’m glad it happened to us in a way.

What’s your major success to date?

I get great satisfaction that the majority of people in Ireland have purchased through our platform at some stage over the past 10 years.

We are obviously an Irish company but 70 per cent of our business is in the UK. That shows that we are able to go into another market and do really well in it.

What more could the Government do to help SMEs?

Through the years, we’ve been very well supported by Enterprise Ireland and without their help we would’ve found it very difficult to get where we are today.

I would love to see more focus on helping businesses to scale after the initial start-up period. Overall, I think Ireland does quite a good job, supporting SMEs.

Do you think the banks are open for business?

If you asked me that two years ago, I would have said ‘no, definitely not’ but I know, in recent times, there’s been a major change in that area.

For anybody who’s thinking of getting involved with a bank I’d say only pick a bank that you think you’re going to have a good relationship with, primarily that they’ll understand your business. Operating in the area that we do, we really want somebody who understands SaaS (software as a service) companies and how they grow.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in business?

I would say it’s around focus. We started up a complementary business some years ago and it didn’t work out for a lot of different reasons but it was primarily focus because it was taking way from our core business which is Ticketsolve. That said, I think we needed to go through that journey to really understand that.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

There are some Irish companies making really big impacts at the moment. Two that come to mind are Intercom and Stripe, I’ve huge admiration for these companies and what they have achieved.

The people who I really admire most are my parents who set up a clothes retail store in Castlebar in the early 1970s. This was a mammoth task, especially with interest rates over 16 per cent at the time. It took real resilience and sheer determination to ensure their business worked.

What’s the best piece of business advice that you’ve ever received?

You have to put your costumers first and really understand what they want but you have to treat them very well also. Be approachable, friendly, but also deliver on what they need.

How do you see the short-term future of your business?

People’s buying behaviour has changed so much since we go involved in ticketing. Ten years ago only 10 per cent of people were using the internet to buy tickets, which has changed massively. In a maximum of two years, 80 per cent of all ticket inventory will be purchased through mobile devices so we have to make sure that our software is fully optimised across all platforms, which it is currently, but it’s going to want to change and get even better. That is our challenge and we put a lot of investment in that.

What’s your business worth and would you sell it?

It’s very hard to put a value on our business because we are a SaaS business. Honestly, it’s not something that we’ve done because we are not in the business of selling our business so we don’t need to have a value on the business. We are very focused on just continuing and servicing our customers.