Five Young Scientists who took on the world

Ireland’s ‘Young Scientist’ competition has had many brilliant winners since its start in 1965. Here we look at five previous winners who have set the world on fire.
Patrick Collison
Limerick native Patrick Collison won the competition in 2005 at the tender age of 16. With success under his belt and ambition in his heart, he moved to the US and, at the age of 19, sold his first software company, Auctomatic (which he founded with his younger brother John) for €3 million. Not bad for someone who [legally] couldn’t buy a beer in the States at the time. Not content with being two of the youngest self-made Irish millionaires ever, the Collison brothers (main image) then founded Stripe, an online payment company valued at over $9 billion. The brothers are on course not only to change the way people pay for things online but to help more SMEs sell online and usher in the era of global mobile eCommerce.
READ MORE: The winners of the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition 2016.

John Monaghan
The first ever Young Scientist winner hasn’t done too badly for himself either. After winning the inaugural trophy way back in 1965, by building a working model of the human stomach, Kildare native John Monaghan ended up moving to California when the biotech industry was still in its infancy. Here, he founded Avigen Inc. As CEO of his firm, he raised nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in financing, and the NASDAQ-listed company is now a global leader in the US pharmaceutical industry.

Adnan Osmani
Mullingar-born and reared, Adnan Osmani claimed the 2003 title with his project, the XWebs browser, which he subsequently patented. Addy, as he is known to his 120,000 Twitter followers and friends, is a YouTube star with his show Totally Tooling Tips. As well as being a key

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Performance management systems explained

Performance management is a system of involving your employees to help you achieve your business’s goals.

It’s as important for an SME to have performance management systems in place, as it is for a larger business. Why? Because the more you involve your employees in delivering your business targets, the more you will meet customer expectations, improve productivity and deliver the bottom line numbers.

This 10-point checklist will help you create a performance management system for your business. 

1: Start at the top

The CEO (owner) needs to champion a performance management system, and all senior managers should be involved in the process.

2: Communicate the benefits

The CEO needs to get the message out about why performance management is being introduced and why it’s of benefit to both the business and the employees.

3: Get employee feedback

Don’t just launch a new system without involving employees in the process. Tell employees how it will work for them. Seek constructive feedback and act on it.

4: Identify clear business objectives

Ensure that the business’s objectives are well-defined. Use financial and non-financial measures, such as customer retention, new business wins or speed of customer response. Next, translate them into individual goals.

5: Set tangible individual goals

Employees should be able to understand what they need to deliver, how their performance will be measured and the skills, behaviours and knowledge that are expected of them. Employees should be provided with written business objectives, a clear job description and the criteria that their performance will be measured.

6: Ensure goals meet the SMART test

The business needs to ensure that goals are specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and timely (or SMART).  Here’s an example. A manufacturing plant sets a goal of reducing overtime hours of ten hours per week to five hours per week no later than the end of the financial year.

7: Formalise employee feedback

Managers should continuously review an employee’s progress against targets. Review meetings should be formal and should be held quarterly, if there are quarterly targets. Employees should be asked to contribute and asked about how they perceive their strengths and weaknesses.

8: Give constructive feedback

Feedback should be about encouraging employee self-awareness. Managers should provide timely feedback and use specific examples to support the points. Focus on the behaviour, not the individual.

9: Understand underperformance

There are many reasons why employees miss targets. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of skills, miscommunication or inadequate supports. Employees may have personal problems or lack motivation. Managers should encourage employees to share reasons why targets are missed. Together, they should agree what support or changes are needed.

10: Seek professional help

Performance management is a specialist skill. If you feel you have insufficient expertise in-house, get help. The investment of retaining an experienced adviser to help design the system will likely pay off in the long run.

INTERESTING: You can’t do it all alone. This is why mentors make sense.

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Developing a business strategy

Planning to grow? Below are nine points that will help you build a successful business strategy. 
1: When business planning, be alert to changes in your market or in customer behaviours. Many businesses fail because they bury their heads in the sand and don’t read the signs until it is too late.
2: Remember that marketing is an essential part of strategy formulation. It’s about creating value in response to customer demand.
3: Ensure you rely on good data and analysis to inform the strategic direction you take. A reliance on merely historic (usually financial) and other internal data will not provide the necessary insight to plan ahead. You need richer sources of data and market insight.
4: You don’t have to commit to a big research budget to get that all-important external insight. Simple processes, like customer surveys with the incentive of a prize, can be hugely valuable.
5: Involve your staff in the process of gathering information and opinions to inform future strategy. Remember that many winning strategies start with insights from staff members.
6: Communicate your strategy to your staff in a manner that they will understand. Keep it simple and tangible. Ensure you update them on implementation milestones.
7: Consider how you will communicate your strategy externally, particularly to allay any unfounded fears. For instance, if a business plans to expand into a new market and you or a senior manager will be in charge of that expansion, you need to ensure your existing customers understand what you’re trying to do and get assurances that servicing won’t be affected.
8: Your mission statement needs to be widely understood. Don’t fall into the trap of just sticking it on the wall and ticking the box that a new strategy is now in place.
9: Remember that strategies evolve and need a degree of flexibility. They should

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