We talk to former winners of the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards to learn more about how winning the award has impacted their businesses.
In this post we speak to Ronan Clarke of Smarter Surfaces.
Remember, the closing date to enter the awards is Friday 25th September 2015. You can enter your business here.
Best Business Start Up Award 2014 – Ronan Clarke, Founder, Smarter Surfaces
Smart Wall Paint develops, manufactures and sells a one-coat whiteboard paint which transforms smooth surfaces into write-on wipe-off whiteboard areas. The paint is available in three finishes – white, clear and magnetic, is eco-friendly, and can be applied to wood, metal, glass and other smooth surfaces. A commercial grade paint, the product is manufactured in Ireland and the UK and customers include Google, SAP, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, BT, Vodafone and Virgin, as well as small businesses. Smart Wall Paint was established in 2011 by Ronan Clarke, and is based in Rathgar, Dublin. Employing 15 staff members, the product is now available in 20 countries with 25 distributors, and is also sold online.
What was your start-up day?
We started trading on 1s t June 2012, although we spent two and half years prior to that on R&D, to develop the first of our products, Smart Wall Paint White.
What motivates you?
Achieving our goals, when we hear from customers in different countries telling us how the products we make here in Ireland are impacting their organisations. Seeing how our team has grown and developed.
What keeps you up at night?
Denise and I as business partners, are constantly discussing things like “are we missing something here? Are we making the right strategic decisions?”
What’s been the most surprising part of running the business?
The international growth for us has been great- we’re now in over 35 countries on five continents. We are often surprised at the far-flung locations where our orders and partners come from.
What’s been the most challenging for you?
We have a team of great of people that are so committed but it’s been a challenge getting it right as the business evolves.
We consider our distributors as part of our family and we put a lot of time into these long-term relationships. We are dealing with a lot of different cultures and these relationships take nurturing.
And the most rewarding?
The wins – whether that’s a new distributor, a win for one of our distributors, a great sale or a product breakthrough on the R&D side.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
We made a couple of poor distributor choices in the early days and it took some time to correct those.
What are some of the characteristics of people that have been successful at your company?
We are an entrepreneurial company and it’s very fast moving so the people that excel here are motivated, smart and able to adapt. It’s an enjoyable place to work but the pace is not for everyone.
What are you most excited about for the future?
As a management team, for us it’s all about scaling. We get a buzz from identifying the potential opportunities, whether that’s a market or a product and making it happen.
Any amazing families, partners, and friends behind the scenes you’d like to thank – how did they support you in the early days?
When Denise Doran came on board as a shareholder and director working alongside me, it changed the business completely. She brought global corporate experience whilst I was at incubator stage and this has had a huge impact on transforming the business.
What doors has winning the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards opened for you?
We have had great positive feedback from people after winning the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Award not just here in Ireland but also abroad, particularly from the Irish Business Community internationally.
What was the biggest benefit for you winning this award?
There are many benefits. From increased confidence within our team to recognition globally which helps our partners know they are working with an award-winning company and contributes to new distributors choosing to work with us. It’s also a milestone for us to move onto our next ambitious goal. So in summary: so many benefits.
Ronan Clarke, Founder, Smarter Surfaces, www.smartersurfaces.com