David McCourt is an Irish-American entrepreneur who has made his fortune in TV and telecoms. Earlier this year, he was awarded The Science Foundation Ireland annual medal for outstanding contribution to technology and innovation. He is the chairman and chief executive of Granahan McCourt Capital. In Ireland, he has been active in expanding access to broadband.
His book Total Rethink, launched earlier this summer, is available in all major book stores.
What‘s the most important lesson about money which your career as an entrepreneur has taught you?
Walter Scott, who is on the board of Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway and has been my mentor for 30 years, taught me that your first loss is your least loss – which means when you have a bad deal, get out of it and move on.
What‘s the best advice you ever got about money?
My mother (now 102 years of age and the wisest, most positive and most grounded person I know) once told me that if you see a penny on the street, don‘t ever think you‘re such a big shot that you shouldn‘t bend over and pick it up.
What‘s your favourite coin and what do you like about it so much?
The English two pound coin – when we were visiting England when my kids were young, my son got one as change for lunch not long after they‘d first been introduced. I fondly recall him thinking it was the biggest, shiniest coin he‘d ever seen and saying ‘Wow, I‘ll save that‘. I think of that now every time I see one.
What was your worst job?
I never had a job I didn‘t like. I‘ve tried my hand at a million different things and always found satisfaction from working hard, being positive and trying to solve problems. I‘m a big believer in people‘s success in business and in life being intrinsically linked to enjoying what they do.
What was your biggest financial mistake?
I started a company once and someone desperately wanted to buy it. Instead of selling them the whole thing, I only sold 20pc of it and the company then ended up getting swallowed in the dotcom bust.
Are you better off than your parents?
Yes – that was their objective from the moment I was born. My grandparents came to America from Galway with everything they owned in a chest (which I still have today) and they worked incredibly hard to make sure their kids had a better life. My parents were the same.
If you won the Lottery, what would you do with the money?
Absolutely nothing different.
Have you ever made an insurance claim?
None that I can remember.
iTunes or Spotify?
iTunes all the way – because Steve Jobs is the epitome of someone who used both sides of his brain – that is, pure business intellect and raw creativity.
What was the last thing you bought online?
My book Total Rethink – from an Irish online store, so I could test the ecommerce system.
Would you buy property now?
Yes, I love the real estate business. However, I like land better than I like buildings. Very few things give me as much pleasure as walking a good piece of ground with a cup of tea at sunrise.
What‘s the most expensive thing about being a parent?
The amount of time you spend worrying about things you have no control over.
Do you ever haggle?
I try not to haggle but once in Prague, a vendor offered me a pair of sunglasses for €30. I didn‘t want them, so I just said “€5”. The next thing I know I‘ve got a pair of sunglasses I didn‘t want or need – which I then gave to the first young person I passed.
Sunday Indo Business