Niall Harbison’s advice to business owners: ‘Immerse yourself in mobile’

30 Apr 2014

Niall Harbison, social media entrepreneur and author of Get Sh*t Done!: From Spare Room to Boardroom in 1,000 Days

Niall Harbison, the co-founder of Lovin’ Dublin, PR Slides and Simply Zesty, has just written a business book. One of the key insights he offers executives who missed the social wave is don’t miss the mobile wave.

Simply Zesty, which UTV plc acquired in 2012 for about stg£1.7m, was set up by Harbison and Lauren Fisher in a spare bedroom in Dublin just two years previously.

Last year, he embarked on a new venture with model Emma-Jane Power to create an online PR hub called, aimed at connecting brands directly with media through easy-to-access quality digital imagery. In January, the company raised €500,000 in seed funding from a number of investors.

Another venture, Lovin’ Dublin, which began as a hobby aimed at reviewing restaurants and sharing recipes, has morphed into a growing media empire of its own, with monthly visitors hurtling towards 1m a month and a growing staff of reviewers and brand managers.

Now Harbison has written a book under publishing company Penguin titled Get Sh*t Done!: From Spare Room to Boardroom in 1,000 Days, which will be published next week but is available to pre-order from Amazon.

Q&A with Niall Harbison

We caught up with Harbison to get his views on being a founder and how he would urge other founders and executives to achieve their potential.

What are the golden rules you forged while trying to build Simply Zesty and what work principles are you applying now with Lovin’ Dublin and PR Slides?

“I love moving really quickly. I’ve stolen the Facebook motto ‘Move fast and break things’ and applied it to my own personal life.

“I think that philosophy is working well at the moment because of the pace of change in digital and with social media. We are living in the most disruptive business times ever and that helps. I’m not sure how I would have gotten on a few decades ago when the world moved more slowly!

“The other key rules I have are around people. Find brilliant ones who you would trust with your life (Lauren, Emma and the crew in Lovin’ Dublin) and then empower them.

“I’m only one person but with dozens of people behind me and giving them all the power and scope to do great work it makes me look great. Getting great people and making them feel amazing will return great results.”

Procrastination is a danger to everyone – what are your tricks for avoiding mission creep and distraction?

“Make decisions based on gut and run with them. When working with big companies in Simply Zesty I saw how slow decisions could paralyse companies.

“So what if some stuff doesn’t work and it fails? You move onto the next thing. Sometimes you need to throw a bunch of stuff against the wall to see what works and not be precious about what doesn’t.”

In your biography on Amazon you mentioned personal demons stalked you in the early days – what advice do you have for overcoming fear, uncertainty and adversity?

It’s nothing to do with the early days! The demons and fear are there today more than ever. I sold one business, which I thought was great, but people start sniping and saying it was luck so within a week the demons were back and I was thinking that people were right.

“I now know I need to build a second huge business to prove to myself and to others that it wasn’t just luck. Stupid, I know, but that is the way I am wired.”

In navigating business and technology in 2014, what are your thoughts on how leaders and executives should employ technology to their greatest advantage to effectively ‘get sh*t done’?

“I hope that we have moved from a point where a couple of years ago most executives were burying their heads in the sand and hoping it (social media) would go away to now knowing they simply can’t afford to ignore it.

“The pace of change is so rapid it can kill businesses within a couple of years if executives are not careful. 

“While social media was a big change, mobile is what really matters.

“You need to immerse yourself in it. Understand every facet of it. Live it.

“Your customers and staff are all on it 24/7 and spending lots of money there so make sure you are aware of this seismic shift that is happening today.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years