Donegaldaily.com: What is your career and what do you do?
Jimmy: I am the Managing Director of Harte Insurances, which has offices in Letterkenny and Raphoe. I am also a local town and county councillor. They are quite similar I suppose – insurance broking is getting best deal for customer in insurance market and local councillor is getting best deal for constituent! I actually graduated with a degree in Psychology in 1980 from UCD.
Donegaldaily.com: Tell us about your first job and how much were you paid?
I worked as a part time telephone operator in the local telephone exchange in Raphoe when I was at secondary school around 1975 .It was the old manual phone system where the phones had starting handles! I was paid 50p per hour which was great for a student at the time. You I knew most of the phone numbers in Raphoe, and there was about 140 at that time. I can still remember that ‘Raphoe 1’ was the post office, ‘Raphoe 2’ was the Garda barracks, ‘Raphoe 3’ was the bank. and so on ….
Donegaldaily.com: What was your first success in business?
Surviving the first year which was in the early 80’s. That recession really caused problems for everyone.
Donegaldaily.com: Name the one local or international business person you look up to?
I’d have to say Sir Gerry Robinson, a native Donegal man who, as well as being a tough businessman, is also a very nice and regular person. He is an asset to the country and it would be great if his skills could be used to help Donegal to be ahead of the pack when it comes to recovery in the economy.
Donegaldaily.com: What has been your biggest mistake in business?
I have learned over the the years about the importance of listening to my customers and staff.
Donegaldaily.com: What is the most valuable piece of advice you have ever been given?
My father once told me to keep my overheads down and concentrate on my business. Good advice which stood me in good stead over the years.
Donegaldaily.com: What advice would you give to someone starting out in business today?
Go with your gut instinct but do your research thoroughly. Your instinct is usually right but it has to be informed and not just blind optimism. Don’t be afraid to take risks at times and listen to all advice but ultiamtely make the decision yourself.
Donegaldaily.com: What one item would you take with you to a desert island and why?
Presuming I was alone for several weeks then I’d take the complete works of William Shakespeare to read. He was not only a writer but a observer of human behaviour and his plays and sonnets are still relevant today. Some factor 50 would also help as I burn easy!
Donegaldaily.com: What item can you not do without?
I’m sad to say it’s my car, but living in Donegal it’s a must. If I lived in the city I’d love not to have a car.
Donegaldaily.com: What item would you prefer to do without?
The television, even though my 7 year old daughter Saidbh might object!
Donegaldaily.com: What do you do in your spare time (if you have any)?
I try to go jogging at least four days a week – there’s nothing more relaxing and stress-busting than to do a 45 minute jog with company to bring things into perspective. I’ve ran 12 marathons and would love to do number 13 next year..I’m also an avid soccer fan and religiously follow the fortunes of Trapps team and Liverpool FC.
Donegaldaily.com: When will you retire?
When I can afford to , which is probably never.
Donegaldaily.com: What’s your tip to surviving the recession?
I wish I had one really good tip but this recession is new ground for everyone. It’s important to realise that recessions are cyclical and we can learn from them which is useful for the next generation of entrepreneurs. Stick at the task that you are good at and think “inside the box” to focus on your core business. Anyone who tries in business shows that they have a risk taking nature and it usually pays off.
Donegaldaily.com: What one thing would you do if you were Finance Minister to help business?
It’s going to be such a difficult job for the next Minister for Finance but one suggestion might be when new businesses are starting up then grants could be paid after a year or two years instead of paying them out at the start. This would incentivise businesses to take a longer view of things.
* Interview by Greg Harkin