Summary of Business:Sterner Holdings Limited t/a Alliance Insurance Brokers, Alliance Financial Planning and The Wealth Shop Alliance is a General and Financial Services Brokerage based in Skerries in North County Dublin.
What led you to starting your business?The business was started in 1998, before I commenced my employment with the company. In 2013, the business undertook some major changes and that is when I took over as the Managing Director. We have 14 employees across the General Department - which comprises Personal and Commercial teams, We have a team of qualified advisers in the Financial Services department which includes 2 highly qualified Certified Financial Planners. We grow our business by reputation and referral with a small marketing budget, mainly spent on social media platforms.
How did you raise the funds you need for your business?The company is largely supported by Directors funds with less dependence on this form of finance in the recent years.
What is the most significant lesson you have learnt in running your business?Never take your eye off the ball. Trust your instincts. Go with your gut. Surround yourself with people you can trust
What has been the proudest moment in your business so far?My proudest moments, that's plural because there have been quote a few, was looking at the figures, seeing them improve month on month and knowing that I am doing a good job.
What have been the biggest challenges in your business to date?Our biggest challenges are changes - whether it's in systems, processes or staff. Any change involves a buy in from everyone in order to make it work and it can take some a little longer to work that you had anticipated so you feel disappointed when it's not working and then suddenly, you turn a corner and you're back on track again. Sourcing and retaining staff is another area in which we have struggled in the past. The Insurance Institute of Ireland have started an apprenticeship scheme in conjunction with Sligo IT and we have taken on 3 excellent apprentices who are an integral part of our teams. Any staff advising the public must achieve a minimum competency level as directed by the Central Bank so keeping up to date with industry markets, products, legislative changes and compliance is part and parcel of our every day work.
What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of starting a business?Listen to your staff, take advice from peers, make plans for when you have bad days and equally important, make plans for when you have good days. Don't fall into a false sense of contentment just because you have a good day - work on every day with equal drive and determination and you will be able to deal with disappointments without it being the end of the world. It will be easier to pick yourself up and dust yourself off if you keep a positive mental attitude.
What’s the best business book you’ve ever read?Anything by Warren Buffet - he's straight talking and insightful
Who is the entrepreneur you admire the most?I like Richard Branson. He hasn't stopped trying for all the years since he came on the radar. He gives back to the communities. His social media activity is always interesting and although we are not in the same industry, you can pick up a lot of good business behaviour from Mr Branson
What’s your website?https://www.allianceinsurance.ie/
What Social Networking sites does your business use?https://www.linkedin.com/company/1060876/admin/updates/
How has the SFA helped you in your business?I have attended a number of presentations which I found very helpful. I also sought the help and advice of a number of the experts in SFA and the advice I received was on point which helped me out dramatically
Contact details:Valerie Deasy
Alliance Insurance Brokers
Telephone: 01 8493000
Address: 68 Church Street, Skerries, Co. Dublin