'Overnight success' - hahaha!

The mythology behind the 'overnight success'

Listeners of That Great Business Show know that we like our business, ‘warts and all’. When we hear anyone claim (it is rare, thank God) that they were an ‘overnight success’, we raise our eyes to heaven, close our ears and move on swiftly. But you do (unfortunately) still hear those most unlikely war stories - businesspeople who overcame any and all challenges, obstacles and difficulties in what seems like an instant (to us), resulting in unprecedented exposure, growth and profitability. Makes it sound easy, right?

Big FAT fib

'Overnight success' is, in fact, a big FAT fib. What most people see as an ‘overnight success’ is, in fact, the value of a great product or service finally being recognised within the market because the entrepreneur in question chose to persevere and persevere (and did we say persevere?). ‘Overnight success’ is the by-product of blood, sweat and lots and lots of tears. In essence, success, particularly if it is to be sustainable, requires hard work, sacrifices, courage, humility, patience, teamwork….the list really does go on. There are no quick fixes. Take a look at some of #TeamGBS who might be regarded in the public sphere as overnight wonders but, digging deeper, as evident in their interviews, prove that there’s no substitute for solid foundations and hard graft. 

Grind and graft

After 20 different jobs, Jo Browne of Jo Browne Skincare (Episode 17), who started work at 13, founded her own Carlow-based skincare company and is now selling to 12 countries around the world, most recently South Korea. Her ‘overnight success’ came after several decades of grind and grafting. It has not been glamour all the way as she turned her hand to many different jobs - from working in newsagents and door-to-door sales to payroll administration and cheffing, Jo really has garnered a lot of experience through the years. One of seven children, Jo developed a very strong work ethic from the example of her parents. Growing up in a large family in rural Ireland (even though at #TeamGBS HQ, we believe Hacketstown, Co. Carlow is the centre of enterprise in Ireland – we’ve had so many great guests from that small town), a life of ease was never going to be a handy option for Jo. She credits her current success as an entrepreneur to good old fashioned hard work, a mindset focused on getting the job done, whatever it takes, and not being afraid to get her hands dirty.

What box?

Likewise, the story of James Murphy of Irish start-up, Impact Gumshields (Episode 25) shows that ‘overnight success’ is most frequently hard-earned. The company is a market leader in the production and supply of customised gum shields. Developed over a 3-year period, thousands of testing hours and hundreds of design iterations, James and his team have strived to make the best fitting and most protective gumshield possible. It took three and a half years for James’ business to secure a much-coveted patent on its software. According to James, his ‘overnight success’ can be attributed to looking at creative ways of doing things and that old adage of 'thinking outside the box'. By the way, we’ve said it before, but James’ fabulous one minute video with rugby legend Ian Madigan on YouTube is the cleverest bit of ‘zero cost’ marketing we may have ever seen. Check it out. 

Patience is a virtue

Prolific entrepreneur, Dr. John Teeling (Episode 28) strongly believes that ‘most spectacular overnight successes are a long time in the making’. We couldn’t agree more. His ‘overnight success’ with Teeling Whiskey took over 35 years. His whiskey project was written in 1970, started in 1987, lost money for 10 years and didn’t pick up until 2005. Success came unexpectedly with a change of drinking preferences of a whole new generation. Nothing strictly to do with Dr. Teeling – he just happened to be the right man in the right place at the right time. No longer the preferred tipple of gentlemen of a particular age, it became trendy for youngsters to drink whiskey and Teeling Whiskey became cool. In order to stay going when the going got tough, Dr. Teeling suggests that it was 'the hunt, not the kill', that motivated him over the many years striving for success.

The magic of mythology

The mythology often associated with ‘overnight success’ is thus, just that. Real success invariably involves trial and error, frustration, disappointment, reinvention and, of course, a measure of luck.