Are entrepreneurs born or can they be made?

6 Jun 2024

Mairead Mackle, the CEO and founder of Tarasis Enterprises.

Ahead of the InvestHer Summit, veteran entrepreneur Mairead Mackle shares her top tips for aspiring founders.

Leading a business isn’t easy and if you ask people what it takes to do it well, you’ll probably get a plethora of different answers.

Some will discuss the key steps an individual has to take to begin a business effectively, others will outline the top tips for dealing with customers or employees. You may also hear discussions on the specific personality traits that many top entrepreneurs share.

But if someone is going to provide tips worth listening to, it helps if they have the experience – experience like that of Mairead Mackle, the CEO and founder of Tarasis Enterprises.

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This company provides a range of services for the housing, renewables, health and social care sectors across Ireland. Mackle set up the company 30 years ago “literally around the kitchen table” and has guided it into a business that employs more than 500 people nationwide.

Mackle has founded multiple businesses throughout her career and recently moved into the beef sector by co-founding Wagyu meat producer Kingsbury Wagyu. With all of this experience, she has shared some tips on how to create a successful business.

“There isn’t one critical ingredient to start-up success, but the recipe encompasses having a clear vision of where the company is heading, passion for excellence, customer focus, maintaining a healthy cash flow, meticulous planning and robust financial modeling,” she said.

Mackle will also be sharing her experience at the InvestHer Summit, which is taking place in Dublin this year on 19-21 June 2024. This event will bring together women entrepreneurs, investors and organisations from within the funding ecosystem. Ahead of the Dublin-based event, there will also be a networking event in Northern Ireland on 17 June for women founders.

Born or made?

Mackle holds many titles from her experiences, being an entrepreneur, philanthropist and investor, while also being a mother of seven. She has witnessed some key mistakes that entrepreneurs can make early in their journeys.

“Some of the most common mistakes that founders make include inadequate cash flow planning, becoming too immersed in operational tasks before focusing on strategic objectives and delaying the process of building a cohesive team,” Mackle said.

When answering the key question – if good entrepreneurs are born or made – she noted that a good founder tends to have certain key qualities including curiosity, being open to new ideas, unwavering focus, determination and self-belief. But she doesn’t believe a person is either born with the right stuff or not.

“While some entrepreneurial traits may come naturally to certain individuals, I firmly believe that entrepreneurship can also be cultivated through opportunity, learning and experience, and this has certainly been my personal experience,” Mackle said.

Mackle said that entrepreneurs should tell themselves there “has never been a better time for pursuing opportunities” – no matter what “the voice in your head” may say.

“Above everything else, however, is passion,” she said. “Success is nothing without it, so you must love what you do. Follow your passion, thoroughly test the market and actively seek out people who align with your vision and mission.”

Building the right team

But having the right skills and traits to run a business is only one aspect to being an entrepreneur. There are plenty of other pitfalls.

Businesses are made by the people they bring in and Mackle believes the way to assemble a good team is to seek out individuals who align with your company’s values and “are also willing to embark on the journey together with you”.

“I have found that you naturally attract people around you who share your values,” she said.

Investment and mentorship

While the staff in a company are vital for its success, funding is also required to make a business grow. Mackle is no stranger to securing investment for her various projects and has a similar approach to picking investors as she does to picking her staff.

“For founders seeking investment, I advise starting the process early as securing finance can often take considerable time,” Mackle said. “It’s crucial not to just seek partners that are willing to put up the capital investment.

“The greatest impact comes from those investors whom you also genuinely enjoy working with, as their guidance and advice can be as valuable as their financial contribution.”

Guidance can also be found by veteran entrepreneurs and Mackle believes mentorship is a highly valuable resource for any business leader. For anyone seeking a mentor, she believes it is essential to find someone “you can relate to and who has successfully navigated the path you aspire to follow”.

“For example, if scaling is your goal, seek a mentor with experience in scaling businesses,” Mackle said. “In fact, I don’t know of any entrepreneur that doesn’t attribute at least part of their success to the help of a mentor, and that is certainly the case for myself. I was privileged to participate in Vital Voices’ Global Ambassadors Program in Paris in 2019 and again in Washington in 2022. I’m also part of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year programme which offers tremendous support and guidance.

“You always need to be open to sharing your experiences and also learning from others.”

InvestHer Summit takes place in the Dublin Royal Convention Centre from 19 to 21 June 2024. Book your tickets to attend now. 

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic