Duffy (Want to be an Entrepreneur?), a determined Irish entrepreneur, shares his attempts to make a name for himself in business while contending with ongoing tumult in his native country. With enthusiasm and warmth, he details his upbringing in Ireland during World War II, his early life as a radio operator, and his sales career at Shell. But Duffy’s high-paying job and occasional misadventure couldn’t satisfy his entrepreneurial spirit, and the narrative soon finds him embarking on a number of business endeavors — house flipping, tomato farming, oil recycling and health care — in search of existential meaning. In the background, the tense political situation in Ireland comes to a head, causing mounting impediments to Duffy’s business growth. After losing a large chunk of money on unwise investments, he must prove that his early success was not a fluke, as he builds another business from the ground up.
Although this is the memoir of a serial entrepreneur, entrepreneurship only gets thoroughly explored about halfway through, and the delicate balance between personal narrative, historical exploration, and business how-to is never perfectly struck. However, Duffy is a natural storyteller with plenty of material, and the wide-ranging anecdotes peppered throughout are the most intriguing parts of the book: a case of mistaken identity in a Liverpool police station, a competitor engaging in scare tactics, and pro-bono stints as an on-call scuba diver.
Duffy’s account spans decades, jumping back and forth in time with occasional repetition and confusion, as he doesn’t always specify years. Readers may struggle to keep track of his personal life, but for the most part this in-depth look at starting a business in a challenging environment is a story of perseverance, cunning, and ingenuity. Filled with the day-to-day realities of entrepreneurship, and interspersed with historical events, personal failures, and bits of advice, Adventures stands as an exciting, fast-paced memoir.
Takeaway: This adventurous memoir of an Irish businessman is perfect for young entrepreneurs or history buffs.
Great for fans of: Phil Knight’s Shoe Dog, Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity
A thoroughly enjoyable read. From a slow start in the small town of Monaghan to a technical education in Manchester, leading to a posting as Radio Officer on a coaster, Fred endured a pretty hazardous existence at sea. Some fun and adventure in the South Atlantic and the Caribbean followed which led to by a new career on land with British Petroleum in the UK.
Further technical training led to a significant posting to the Irish market and in particular to county Sligo. There he developed other skills including diving, water skiing. A local young lady caught Fred’s eye and marriage to Helen Raftery soon followed. After a short spell in Dublin the couple returned to Sligo to set up their first enterprise. This was a hugely successful tomato growing business which involved growing the plants under vast acres of horticultural glass. A high requirement for oil to heat the greenhouses led our intrepid entrepreneur to an even bigger creation of an oil refinery in Portlaoise.
Many obstacles financial, competitive and socio political were met head on, endured and eventually overcome. Fred knew when to cash in ‘his chips’ and sold Atlas Oil for a “pretty penny” and moved his family to the UK. A really bad financial experience ensued after Fred became a “name” at Lloyds of London. This however did not deter him and he went on to create another very profitable enterprise in the manufacture of laser print cartridges which took him to the Balkans to set up factories in Bulgaria. Despite extremely bad luck caused by flooding in that region the business was sold for a considerable sum.
Alongside every great man stands a formidable woman and there is no doubt that Helen played a large role in this success story as a confidant, executive director and mother of their 4 children. Their relentless drive for success permeates the story with a lot of hard graft and a continuous search for knowledge.
Inevitable success followed both commercially and socially so the reader is left in no doubt that the rewards that followed were thoroughly deserved. This life story was really interesting, full of humour from start to finish and this reviewer would have to recommend it for the indomitable spirit that it manifests.
Paperback and Kindle Edition
This book packs in so much.
A fascinating history of growing up in rural Ireland in the 30s and 40s; some interesting and, at times, terrifying, insights into the Northern Ireland conflict; but mostly this is the story of Fred Duffy’s adventures as an entrepreneur, before the word was really in mainstream use.
Fred has an uncanny knack of spotting a good business opportunity, and the endless enthusiasm and energy needed to turn a good idea into a successful business. He does a great job of bringing us along with him through the ups and downs of running his various businesses; the ‘downs’ never keep him down for long.
Fred’s wife, Helen, is the other hero of the book. Helen accompanies Fred throughout all his adventures and at times plays a key role in supporting his new business ideas, including getting up in the middle of the night to light the boiler in the glass house of their tomato farm, and training as a technician to ‘remanufacture’ toner cartridges for a toner recycling business. A wonderful team.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it’s a must read for anyone interested in starting their own business.
Great fun and truly inspirational.