Music on the Move: Paul O’Hea

Paul O'Hea gave up a high-powered executive position to set up Music on the Move, a music products company. He tells us how he's getting on.

Name: Paul O’Hea Age: 46 Type of business: Music on the Move– music products that tap into needs of the online generation and people on the move.

When did you first decide you wanted to start your own business? I was Chief Executive of international construction company, Colt Group, for 12 years and left in 2004.

Was it your first business idea and where did it come from? This was my first idea and it came from talking to the best focus group there was – my 5 children who range in age from 9 to 16. They told me what was needed in the marketplace, and I then met a manufacturer who I got along well with and understood what I was trying to achieve.

Was your decision to start a business inspired by any other companies or individuals? My grandfather, who founded the Colt Group, has always been an inspiration to me. He had 19 ideas launched to market and it was the last one that worked and helped his company become a multimillion pound success. (The winning idea was the Colt ‘Cowl’, a device to prevent fireplaces backdrafting).

What makes you think there’s a market for your business? My ‘Music on the Move’ business is being driven by the explosion in the MP3 and ipod markets, along with the ease of access to the web, and the increasing need for people to be totally music-mobile, whether they are working or travelling.

Once you’d decided to start a business, what did you do first? I set about protecting the business – name registration, developing a website and creating a limited company.

What research did you do? I talked to the focus group (my children!) to find out what they thought was needed and I used my intuition.

What advice did you seek? Manufacturing and marketing advice from the people who would be helping to bring the idea to market.

Does the government need to provide more help to people trying to start a business? They need to make people aware of any funding and support initiatives available and make sure that they are accessible.

How useful has your business plan been and do you think you’ll stick to it as your business begins to grow? The most important job of a chief executive is to have a vision of where the company is going. That applies now with my new business as it did when I headed up the Colt Group and a £90 million turnover. The business plan for ‘Music on the Move’ is evolving over the first 3 months of trading, although I have had to show certain suppliers a basic plan.

How much did it cost to start the business? 2,000 units of stock cost £16,000, plus there was a £10,000 marketing bill for website development, design and packaging costs, along with a £1,500 accountants’ bill.

How did you fund this? Through the bank and with the help of a financial package secured before leaving the Colt Group.

Similarly, how are you funding your running costs until the business takes off? As above, and I hope that within 6 weeks, we will be in the black.

Have you made any provisions for business not being as prosperous as expected? I’m aware that if sales volumes don’t hit certain levels within the timescales set, I’m likely to have to borrow. There is a government DTI scheme I am investigating and we would also consider remortgaging.

When did you stop working? I left the Colt Group some months ago. I had always known that I was going to be someone who would be happiest working for myself and it was the right time to do it. I wanted to spend more time watching my children grow up and get involved in their activities. What I have chosen to do means that my work and their interests coincide – the best of all worlds!

Are you working from home or from premises? Home. The main difficulties are interruptions from family life, telephone calls – and the joy of freedom! The plan is to look for premises around April.

How many hours are you working at the moment? About 14 hours a day.

How do you manage your day? Unlike working within a large organization, where there are hundreds of people to delegate to, there is only person I can delegate to now – me. You have to list your priorities each day and don’t stop until they are dealt with. If at the end of the day there are 1 or 2 things you didn’t do, you will usually find out they either sorted themselves out or are no longer relevant.

What about staff? My wife and a few friends are helping with the business, telephone work etc, even though my wife has her own business. We will take on staff in the future.

Does the red tape surrounding staffing concern you? Staff issues are fine, I’m used to dealing with it – it can be horrible, but it’s not daunting.

What marketing and advertising have you done so far? The website is up and running, packaging is completed, a PR machine is running, direct mailshots to my contacts and business, advertising in a national paper, and we are attending trade shows.

Where do you hope to be in 12 months’ time? A successful stand-alone business with no borrowings and growing fast.

What are the main obstacles to growth? Manpower on the ground. Money isn’t always a limiting factor. Most banks will help with a good idea. The right people supporting you at shows or on the end of a telephone is important.

How do you plan to overcome any obstacles? By mapping out the next 12 months of human resource demand and make judgements on who I need.

How important is your website to your business? www.minispeakers.co.uk is the shop window for our first ‘Music on the Move’ products so is the important first stop for customers. It has to be fast and easy to get around, reflecting the nature of the business. It must convey the fact that these are quality products that can be bought at reasonable cost because of being an online company.

What are your main ambitions – to make a lot of money or enjoy what you do? Making money is just an output of the strategic input. To run a successful and profitable business gives great satisfaction, because it allows me to be more choosy in how I spend my time with my family.

What have you found difficult about starting up and what do you wish you’d done differently? The most challenging aspect was finding out about the online shopping process and experience. We chose to launch www.minispeakers.co.uk as the first online presence for the whole ‘Music on the Move’ concept and it has been a rapid learning curve trying to keep up with this constantly evolving and exciting sector.

What skills and personal characteristics do you need to start your own business? There is an X-factor involved in understanding how to create your own luck. People always think that businesspeople like Phillip Green, Phillip Rose, Richard Branson etc are lucky, but that’s not what success is about. People that don’t give up, demonstrate tenacity and perseverance, finish the job and show enthusiasm create their opportunities for success.

What advice would you give anyone thinking of starting a business? You’ve got to deeply want to do it. If you have a good idea and you are convinced that there’s a market for it, then lack of money needn’t prevent it being successful.

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