'Learn to live on very little, be a good listener and ask questions'

Tools of the Trade: Coco Content’s Stuart Switzer talks hockey, championing productions and jargon.

By Zuzia Whelan Reporter, Fora

EVERY WEEK, FORA gets inside the heads of some of Ireland’s top entrepreneurs to gain insights into what got them to the top of their trade. This week we speak to Stuart Switzer, managing director of Coco Content.

More than two decades ago, Stuart Switzer hung up his pen and calculator and took the helm at content production company Coco Content. 

The former accountant is now running the show at the business behind hits such as RTÉ’s First Dates Ireland and Room to Improve. 

In our weekly Tools of the Trade series, we spoke to Switzer about his liver and his passion for hockey. 

What was a big turning point in your life? 

When I traded in my pen and calculator for a pair of jeans and an uncertain future. I was working as an accountant, and then I got sense and saw no future in auditing, which is checking the past. I fancied the idea of a creative industry and ended up in this business. 

I started as a consultant to the company advising on financial matters and found it a hell of a lot more interesting than what I was doing. So I jumped ship. 

Why are you running the company and what drives you to keep going?

It’s an exciting ever-changing business. We’re a creative, producer-driven company. That’s our point of difference, which means all of our productions have a champion from birth to delivery. 

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think? 

Linda Cullen, my business partner, who is the most astute and talented producer in Ireland. She has an innate sense of what the viewers want and how to deliver on that. 

What’s one habit you would recommend people starting in your sector should take up?

Learn to live on very little, be a good listener and ask questions. 

What is the biggest question you wish you asked before you started?

Is this going to be hard on my liver?

What’s a common misconception about your industry?

That it’s all about lights, camera, action.  It’s all about graft and tenacity.

What business jargon would you ban from meetings if you could?

Blue sky thinking. It’s meaningless, we’re an ideas-driven creative company. That’s our lifeblood, so it’s stating the obvious in lots of ways. 

What’s more important, education or experience?

I think it’s a combination of experience and common sense, which is not all that common.

Who have you learned the most from in your career/life?

Our chair, Paul Higgins, a successful serial entrepreneur in the media space. 

What ambitions do you still have?

To deliver on an ambitious, high-concept production we’re very close to financing. I hope by May 1, all the i’s will be dotted and all the t’s will be crossed and we’ll have the contracts signed and sealed. 

What helps you switch off? 

Sport and the company of friends over a beer. I play hockey for Ireland’s Masters team. We have three tournaments a year, we train a couple of times a week. This year we’re playing in Japan, after the Olympics, in the same stadium.  

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