'There's an illusion that entrepreneurs need to work 80 hours a week. I don't believe that'

Seán Brett of Steeltech Sheds talks about cleaning toilets and how he stays focused.

By Killian Woods Reporter, Fora

THERE’S ONE SIMPLE rule Seán Brett likes to live by: business should always be fun.

It’s a simple mantra, but it’s hard to disagree with a man who has gone from selling piglets to owning a Lamborghini.

After doing odd jobs like selling coal door-to-door to make a buck, two decades ago Brett set up Steeltech Sheds and he has been focused on the business ever since.

For the latest installment of Fora’s question-and-answer series, Brett is in the hot seat and gives a bit of insight into his business habits and the interesting tale of how he ended up owning his prized Italian supercar.

Here’s what he had to say:

3102604 Seán Brett of Steeltech Sheds
Source: Steeltech Sheds

What’s the worst job/task you ever had to do?

When I was a young lad – about 17 or 18 – I was working in a caravan park for two years and one of the jobs was cleaning the toilets. I was cleaning shit off the toilet, the floor or God knows what.

It doesn’t sound like a great job now, but it didn’t bother me at the time.

How do you start a standard day and how do you finish it?

I start each day with a bowl of porridge and a minimum half-hour exercise. Ideally I’ll finish the day making my young lad, who’s very good on the piano, play me a few tunes before we all retire.

How often do you take a day off?

I would nearly always be off on Saturday and Sunday and would take three or four weeks holidays throughout the year. I definitely wouldn’t run myself into the ground. I figured out the secret a long time ago, which is to delegate.

There’s an illusion that entrepreneurs need to work 80 hours a week. I don’t believe that, I probably do 35 hours. I did the 80-hour weeks a few years ago, but there has to come a turning point where you stop doing it.

What bad work (or business habit) have you had to kick?

I used to have a tendency to wander off, start some new business and take my eye off what I was already doing.

There’s a book called Good to Great by James Collins, and it talks about the hedgehog mentality, which I try to follow now. It’s where you stick to one thing and do it better than anyone else in the world.

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

I delegate every single thing. But if I was letting someone go, I would handle it myself. I don’t hide behind someone else, I would tell them myself.


Source: Steeltech Sheds

What detail about yourself would surprise your staff?

It’s a small little thing, but I like to wear mad, colourful shoes and that always gets attention. I think brown and black shoes are incredibly boring.

I don’t think everyone should look the same, it’s pointless. The idea of a grey suit, black shoes and a white shirt is incredibly boring. I like to dress well and I think shoes, a watch and good haircut are an essential part of that.

If you weren’t doing your current job, what do you think you would be doing instead?

God only knows. I would have to be working for myself because I couldn’t answer to anyone else. It would probably be something in retail or something to do with sales.

I have a few other ideas for businesses that I would have done if it wasn’t for Steeltech Sheds. I don’t want to let the secret out, but opening a chain of barber shops was one of them.

If you could invest in any Irish company (other than your own), which one would it be and why?

I would probably invest in Paddywagon tours. Business should always be fun, and that’s a fun business. Some people take it all way too serious.

What’s your favourite possession?

That would have to be the Lamborghini that I bought at auction in Northern Ireland. It belonged to a big drug dealer until they caught him and took all his possessions.

I would only take it out a couple of times a year because it has problems. It looks beautiful, but it’s hand-built so if something goes wrong it will cost you.

What’s the one skill you wish you had?

I always loved the saxophone, and I would love to be able to play it. I even bought one once, but never got very far with it.

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