'I think the biggest mistake is looking back and beating yourself up about it'

The CEO of Offbeat Donuts talks trying not to dwell on the past and coming up with way to excite customers.

By Zuzia Whelan Reporter, Fora

A ‘LECTURE’ TO his teenage daughter led Brian O’Casey to hang up his corporate boots and start Offbeat Donuts. The CEO worked for 25 years in the corporate world before founding the donut business. 

With a turnover last year of €5 million and a staff of about 100, the company is growing – and has recently started franchising outside of Ireland.

In our weekly question-and-answer series, we talked to O’Casey about how he tries not to dwell on the past and how Offbeat’s biggest challenge is keeping customers excited. 

Here’s what he had to say:

What was your earliest or childhood ambition?

Nothing to do with food or anything else. I always had a desire to be a soldier – I joined the scouts and orienteering and things like that.

What’s your favourite spot for a working lunch or coffee to meet clients?

There’s a little café on Westland Row, just up from our store in Pearse Station, called Caffé di Napoli. It’s an Italian restaurant and café – it’s a lovely little hidden spot.

What’s the next big thing in your industry?

If it’s in sweet treats I think ‘mini’ will become more important. People will give themselves a treat but it could be a smaller portion size.

People will always talk about health but I think they’ll also want to have an experience, and I think food is an experience. But it may not be in as large a portion. It’s all about balance. 

What advice would you give to your teenage self?

We’re expected to live for longer than we’ve ever lived before. It’s never too late to go back and study. It’s never too late to change your career – you just need to have enough determination.

For me, I worked in the corporate world for 25 years before I set up my own business.

I spend quite a lot of time talking to my daughter about her Leaving Cert and how it’s very important but it doesn’t define her life. She can go back to study, or do it again, or change her career path or change whatever she studies. I think I did a better job convincing myself than her, so I decided to set up a business on the back of my lecture.

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Source: Offbeat donuts

What has been your biggest mistake to date and what did you learn from it?

My biggest mistake is that I keep looking back in hindsight and saying I could have done this I could have done that, or should have done this.

Forget about it; mistakes, they’re not mistakes really. You’re going to have bumps in the road. I think the biggest mistake is looking back and beating yourself up about it.

What’s your favourite job interview question to ask and why?

To ask people to tell me about themselves. From that question I think you get an awful lot of insight into who that person is; what motivates them.

Let them talk, and see what comes from it. If I want to employ a person, I need to understand who they are. I can see from the CV what they’ve done, I need to see what they’re about. 

Is there one job/task you would never delegate to anyone?

No, I would delegate any job that I think somebody’s capable of doing. I think the challenge or objective for any manager is to find somebody that’s more capable of doing a job than they are.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received, and who did it come from?

The best piece of advice I received was to be happy with myself. That came from my wife. 

I’ve spent a long time trying to make sure that I’m happy with what I’ve done, and I’m happy with the reasons why I’ve done it. I try to be happy with who I am. 

What do you see as being the biggest challenge for your business?

What we’re trying to do is create something that interests our customers, and I think that’s probably the biggest challenge for most businesses – to keep coming up with things that excite our customers.  

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