Family Business

My love for the family business model is close to passionate. I love talking about them, working with them and most of all I love working in one of them.

When I was younger I had the good experience of being part of a business family. My father was the 4th generation of our family to work in a company in Cork called Dwyer & Co. My eldest brother George worked alongside him for a number of years.  At that time my Grandfather George (Dubs) was also still working in the business running an associate company Lee Footwear. Three generations of my family in one family business at the one time was I thought pretty cool!

As a young boy I used to be brought in to the various businesses and I met some of the wonderful people who worked there including family members who worked in the various departments of Dwyer & Co. In particular I used to enjoy visiting my godfather John Harding who always had a Fry’s dark chocolate bar hidden in his desk for me. That original Dwyer building still stands, directly opposite the Courthouse on Washington Street in Cork city.

Dwyer & Co was started by my great great grandfather James Dwyer in 1820 and over the years passed successfully through the generations eventually becoming a major employer in Cork.  At one time over 2,000 people worked in their different companies.

But bit by bit things started to unravel during the 1960’s and 1970’s. My father and his fellow director/owners were grappling with very difficult trading difficulties and complicated succession issues in the business, with too many family members involved. There were ongoing battles too about the ownership of the shares in the business and about who was actually the boss. My father also had at this time his own issues with alcohol and eventually lost his job and was effectively left with very little as his shares in the business became worthless.

My brother George because of the family confusion could see that there really was no future for him in the business and left it in 1972 to form his own clothing company Eurostyle Ltd which he has since transferred smoothly to two of his sons Alan and Peter.

Dwyer & Co eventually closed its doors in 1981 having traded for 161 years. That was the saddest day you can imaging as so many wonderful loyal people lost their jobs at a time when work in Cork was very difficult to come by. The only positive thing I took from that sad time was that when the liquidation of the company took place there was sufficient cash to pay off the creditors in full.

For me the decision to start my own business was not too difficult because I suppose when family business is engrained in your soul, the starting of one seemed a natural thing to do. And so in 1971, over 45 years ago I started my own little business on a wing and a prayer with a few quid borrowed from the bank.  13 years ago my eldest son Eamon joined me so now it is a family business in a real sense. The succession journey is now well underway as the control, ownership and responsibilities pass more and more to him as each day passes.

I read a nice article in the Financial Times last week about a particular business founder who was talking to his son about joining him in the business. His words were to the effect that if his son joined him, then, initially his son would work for the father. After a time they would share the responsibilities and ownership. Then after another while, the son would take over most of the responsibilities and ownership and the founder would spend the rest of his working days continuing to build up the value of the company for the benefit of his son and his son’s family. That was the deal.

In the words of Leonard Cohen when he talks about the various stages that we go all through in life. I am coming to realise that that’s the stage that I am at now.

I actually needed to read that article because for some people the letting go of the family business they started, comes easier than for others. For me I find it quite difficult and I think I needed to read those words and to feel I have a purpose in my continuing day to day work.

For so long the business was for me the only way I had of feeding and education my family and its survival through good and bad times was absolutely vital as I didn’t have any other way of earning a living. Yes for many years it was tough going and when the need for survival is engrained in you, it is perhaps difficult to let go.

I think that in the future when I talk to business owners who have a daughter or a son working with them in the business that they started, I will have more empathy for their feelings when I suggest that they start to pass some shares in their business to that daughter or son so that the business becomes their business too.

When I suggest that they should get their son or daughter to start putting some money away every month into a pension plan so that they too like the founder will have financial independence outside of the business I must be careful. Careful not to be too casual about the fact that bit by bit a successful succession plan means that the founder will in time not be needed by the business so much. That the business that was their working life for so long will in time perhaps not need them anymore.

It is a good problem I have and I am not complaining. There were many times over the years that our little business was struggling and could have gone under. That would have presented me with a much more difficult problem to overcome than the little one I face today. This one hopefully will just take a little bit of getting used to!

Ted Dwyer Family Business

October 2016

Maybe it’s time to get selfish with our money!

Many people are giving money needlessly each month to the tax man, money that they could and should, be paying to themselves.

Over the years if I am talking with young people, who are reluctant to start up a simple little pension plan I say to them” why not pay yourself a little money each month instead of paying it to the tax man? “They say to me “what do you mean”?

If the young person I am talking with is between the age of 30 and 40 and is on an income figure of €40,000, they would in Ireland, pay tax at the high rate of 40%, on some of that salary.

I then explain that if they allow me to set up a little pension plan for them they can pay up to 20% of their taxable income figure of €40,000, that’s €667 per month into their own little private pension plan. If they do as I suggest this will save them tax of €267 each month (€3,200 a year).

Imagine if they are aged 35 and do this every month till they get to age 65 they will save tax in total of €96,000 … That’s a lot of tax saved!

Payback time

And not only have that but remember what I said that they would be paying this money each month to themselves. When they get to age 65 if the money they had invested each month grew by just 4% each year, their fund would be worth €463,000. That projected figure is of course not guaranteed as the pension fund value will rise and fall over the years. However because the growing fund is tax exempt, it is not an unrealistic possibility over a thirty year timeframe, especially, if that person has an average risk tolerance.

So what has been achieved….. 1) Tax saved of up to €96,000……2) Pension fund projection of €463,000… not a bad day’s work.

But that’s not all because in Ireland when you get to pension age of say 65 it is possible under our present tax rules to take 25% of the pension fund, within certain limits, totally free of tax.

This comes to 25% of €463,000……… €115,750.

With the tax saved of €96,000 added to the 25% tax free cash it comes to tax reliefs and tax free cash of over €211,750.

And of course not forgetting the main purpose of the exercise which was the creation of a nice tidy pension fund.  The residual value after taking the tax free cash will be €347,250 which is now available alongside the tax free cash fund of €115,750 to fund ongoing income for life. Happy days!

Go on……….Pay some money to yourself each month!

Ted Dwyer Family Business

Oct 2016




Fungi the Dingle Dolphin

After the Dingle Marathon this year we decided with a few of our grandchildren to see if we could find Fungi. The deal from the Dingle boatmen is a boat trip of about an hour’s duration around the beautiful Dingle harbour in search of Fungi the friendly dolphin. If you don’t get a good view of Fungi then there is no charge for the boat trip. No Fungi no fee!

Well that sounded like a good Kerry deal to me and so I volunteered to pay as I felt there was very little chance of Fungi showing up.  I should have known better!

So far so good no sign of Fungi! Could this be a free boat trip?

Who is this Fungi they are all talking about?

Still no sign all is well

The skipper announces over the loudspeaker that Fungi has been spotted close by.

Fungi appears and swims alongside the boat. What a wonderful sight well done Fungi and well done to the boatmen of Dingle for providing a wonderfully exciting boat trip for young and old in a beautiful place.

Pay up Ted!

Ted Dwyer Family Business

October 2016

Little Island

There are three islands situated in Cork Harbour east of Cork City. The biggest of the three islands is Cobh where the Titanic and other famous liners sailed from. On the way to Cobh you pass Fota Island and between Fota and Cork City is the island of Little Island where a unique and wonderful golf course is located.

Nowadays the three islands are reachable by road but like Valentia Island in Kerry they continue to have the peaceful and serene island feeling.

The golf course at Little Island came about when a few Cork businessmen were sailing their yacht down the river Lee from Cork to Crosshaven when they spotted on their left hand (port!) side the limestone quarries at Little Island. This land is situated 5 or 6 miles downriver from the city. They thought that the land might make an ideal site for a golf course and they were proven to be absolutely right.

View from 4th tee looking downriver towards Fota and Cobh

In the early days many members at Little Island were also members at The Royal Cork Yacht Club which is situated close to the mouth of Cork Harbour at Crosshaven. It used to be said about the members at Little island that it was dangerous to be seen playing golf at Little Island in the summer months in case people might think they didn’t have a yacht!

In those days the limestone land was an active limestone quarry and limestone from the Little Island quarry was used in many famous buildings in Cork and America.

A wonderful golf course was built on the site over 100 years ago, designed largely by Dr Alister Mc Kenzie. The golf course has two distinct parts; The holes that meander between the limestone quarries from the second hole, where the tee shot needs to carry a quarry, to the thirteenth hole which is a short par three, again over another of the limestone quarries.

The other part of the golf course which is called the park is from the fourteenth to the eighteenth and includes the first hole. These holes are built on land that was purchased in more recent times and is more parkland than quarry land.

Naturally because most of the golf course is built on limestone land the drainage is really good, similar to the wonderful links free draining golf courses that we have dotted around the coast of Ireland where sand blown up from the nearby beaches provide sandy grass land with great drainage.

The old bunker/magazine where they used to store explosives when the area was a working quarry can still be seen on the right of the 11th fairway, and as you look from the 11th fairway over the short 9th par three you can see the old now disused limestone quarries in the background.

I love the quietness and the peace of Little Island on a summer or a late autumn evening, and on a lovely calm September evening last week as the darkness was approaching, there was just me and a few sea gulls enjoying the quietness and tranquillity.

As I walked towards the 11th green I passed the Spanish Chestnut tree planted to mark the spot where Sevy’s tee shot finished on his visit to Little Island in 1983. With the Ryder Cup fast approaching I am sure that his memory will again be motivational to both teams as the players do their best to win a tournament that he helped to rejuvenate. Rory Mc Ilroy’s win over the weekend surely gives a great boost to the European team.

Sevy’s Spanish chestnut tree planted almost a third of a century ago now in full bloom.

Photo of the Spanish Chestnut being planted in 1984

Sevy, at Little Island the members and the local people still remember with pride and fondness your visit that day in 1983 and the wonderful exhibition match you had with local golfing hero Liam Higgins. Gone from this life but definitely not forgotten.

Ted Dwyer Family Business

September 2016

The one that got away

For the last 20 years we have held an annual father and son golf outing and over the years we have played many different courses. Last week we played Dingle (Ceann Sibeal) on Thursday and Dooks near Glenbeigh on Friday. Definitely a couple of Irelands golfing gems build on truly wonderful golfing sites and in this part of the golfing world, arguably the best golfing value available.

View of 9th green at Ceann Sibeal Dingle

On the way from Dingle to Dooks I stopped for a walk on Inch Strand which is a wonderful walking beach about 15 miles on the Killarney side of Dingle. Cars can drive on to and park on the beach, which is about a mile long, and a super walk when the tide is out. Across the water from Inch is the village of Glenbeigh on The Ring of Kerry and the wonderful golf links at Dooks.

View of first green at Dooks..yes one ball on the green well done David Russell!

Whilst I walked along Inch Strand my eyes kept looking inland even though there are wonderful views out to sea. The reason my eyes kept wandering is that all the way along the beach there are these most magnicent looking enormous sand dunes that I just know would make the most wonderful site for a links golf course.

View of sand dunes at Inch

I am not the first person to think that and indeed my old friend Dr Arthur Spring from Tralee who sadly departed from us last year had a lifelong ambition to create a true links course on the site. There may be other similar brilliant sites available in Ireland but I have never seen anywhere a site as good as the one alongside Inch Strand.

View of Inch Strand and dunes from Dook’s Golf Club

Arthur Spring was an interesting man and designed many fine golf courses including one at Castlegegory just over The Conor Pass on the Tralee side of Dingle. Arthur was born in Tralee and just loved that part of Kerry.

Arthur was a medical man before he became a golf architect as indeed was the renowned Dr Alister Mac Kenzie the designer of Augusta, and in Ireland, Lahinch ( Tom Morris did the original layout) and Little Island in Cork along with many other famous golf courses around the world.  Like Dr Mc Kenzie, Arthur decided that he too would prefer to spend his time designing golf courses rather than looking after medical ailments.

Arthur was very passionate about the unique site at Inch feeling that it could be turned into a great seaside golf course. He also felt strongly about the tourism benefits that it would bring to the area.

Unfortunately for Arthur planning permission for building golf courses came in just after he became involved in its design. The need for permission as far as I remember came in around 1995 and ultimately he never did get approval. There were objections in relation to the protection of the wild life on the dunes similar to Doonbeg and perhaps like the Old Head of Kinsale there were some right of way problems involved. Planning permission was always required for a club house, but back then the planners felt that a golf course protected the wild life rather than interfering with it.

And so probably the most magnificent bit of natural golfing terrain, possibly in the world just lies there unused but magnificent.

The next time you are passing Inch Beach on the way to Dingle stop off for a walk on the beach and view the dunes and let me know what you think.

Ted Dwyer Family Business

September 2016


The Dingle marathon

We spent last weekend in Dingle where Eamon was doing his second marathon and son-in-law Rossa Mc Mahon was doing the half marathon.

The route for the Dingle marathon is around Slea Head, one of the most spectacular roads in the world with views (on a good day!) of incredible beauty. The run starts in Dingle town and then travels though Ventry past the Bee Hive Huts and on to Dunquin where the half marathon finishes.

Photo of Rossa (1963) legging it past the church near Paudi O Se’s pub in Ventry

On the way the runners, assuming that they have sufficient energy levels, will experience truly magnificent views in the distance of Skellig Michael, and closer to shore, the majestic Blasket Islands. As they leave Dunquin and head for Ballyferriter, Coumeenoole Beach made famous by the film Ryan’s Daughter can be seen below. Yes it is a truly wonderful and historic place.

The runners then go through Ballyferriter up quite a severe climb at about mile 21 which takes them to a straight gentle downward straight stretch of at least a mile in length. This bit of straight road is also demanding and daunting and must seem never ending to the majority of the, by now, totally exhausted marathon runners. Then it’s over the bridge and into Dingle Town to the finish line.

Never have I seen so many runners so happy just to finish, whatever about the time they did. Glad to be finished and looking forward to some well-earned food and a few drinks in the splendid restaurants and pubs that make Dingle so loved by visitors from all around the world.

Photo of Eamon enjoying the last 100 yards with his family, so pleased to have them with him at the finish and so so pleased to have done it.


By all accounts it is one of the toughest marathons with two severe climbs and all along the route the runners are exposed to the winds coming off the Atlantic Ocean. For the runners, it is a unique and wonderful place to be allowed to run with the road closed from the time the run starts at 9am to 3 pm to allow the runners a safe road to run on.

If I have a gripe it would be that the spectators like me who are trying to give support and encouragement and liquid and other refreshments to the runners, that we found it difficult to get to suitable vantage points.

The evening before the marathon Eamon and I did a bit of cross country reconnoitering to try to find a few spots we could access along the way. The road was closing at 8:45am on the morning of the marathon so we would have to leave Dingle before then. The first spot we selected was just past the church in Ventry pear Paudi O Se’s pub which is about 6 miles along the way.

Then we went cross country to Dunquin which was a very important spot as it was just past mile 13 where the half marathon finished and we wanted to see Rossa and the other half marathon runners finishing there. From Dunquin we travelled to Ballyferriter about mile 18 where Eamon reckoned he would need some gels and more water and maybe some food even though he knew there would be plenty of water spots along the way. From there we would then make our way back to the finish in Dingle.

The morning of the race however proved problematical as despite confirmation beforehand that the back road to Dunquin would be accessible, the organisers had in fact blocked the road some two miles from Dunquin so we had to go directly to Ballyferriter and so we missed the finish of the half marathon which was very disappointing and had to wait a long time in Ballyferriter before the marathon runners eventually reached us.

My suggestion to the organisers is that more consideration should be given to accommodate the families and supporters of the runners as the runners really need all the help and encouragement they can get, to help them complete this most wonderful but very demanding of marathons.

When entries are made clear instructions should be given to the runners as to where and when the supporters can get to certain spots to be close to the runners along the way. The obvious places would appear to be Ventry, Dunquin and Ballyferriter and this could all be done cross country so that the main road can remain closed for the safety of the runners.

In fact as the majority of runners were doing the half marathon only, the road from Dunquin onwards and back to Dingle could probably be opened with cars and the buses bringing the half marathon runners back to Dingle, allowed on one side of the road, and the runners on the other.

 Ted Dwyer Family Business 

September 2016

One down one to go!

Some time ago I wrote a little rant against the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s decision to impose a pension levy on the prudent people of Ireland who were saving money into their pension plans to provide income for their retirement. I called it “daylight robbery” see blog post 26th of Feb 2014.

Thankfully eventually that disgraceful appalling tax/levy was removed. That tax was wrong and should never have been imposed. It should be repaid in full.

Today’s rant is I think just as important and hopefully with your help, it too will have a successful outcome.

As a parent of four children, now thankfully grown up I listened with alarm on the radio to the debate as to whether loans should be readily available to college students to enable them to borrow long term to pay for their college education. Perhaps as a last resort it is better for them to be able borrow for fees, rather then not going to college at all.

There could be and should be however, for most people a much better solution, and again I am appealing to the Minister for Finance to do something positive to help parents and perhaps grandparents to save money on a regular basis to fund future college fees for their children or grandchildren.

The way it was

When I started in business 45 years ago if we did a savings plan in Ireland we received tax relief on the premiums paid. When the savings plan was encashed, the proceeds were paid out without tax, even though a small amount of tax was deducted as the profits accumulated year by year within the savings plan. I think that the tax deducted was at a rate of 23% on the profits. The tax relief on the money invested offset most of that small taxation figure.

The way it is now

Today it is very different. No tax relief on the amount of money being saved on a regular basis. Instead a levy of 1% is charged on each payment made.

The money being paid out is no longer tax paid. The profits instead are taxed at the staggeringly high rate of 41%. Not good enough Mr Noonan!

Today Mr and Mrs Prudent Parent of say a one year old child decide that they want to save some money each month into a college fee savings fund for their child to go to college aged 19.They want to create a college fee fund of €50,000 at that time which they feel would cover most of what the costs might be.

By investing their money each month in line with their attitude to risk which is average and taking into account the long term nature of the investment i.e. 18 years, it was agreed that a net return of around 4% whilst not guaranteed might be feasible.

To achieve a fund of €50,000 in 18 years and getting an average net return of 4%pa requires a monthly investment of just €158.43 per month. They were absolutely delighted as they felt it was quite affordable and, that when and if, baby number two came along they might be able to do something similar.

Then I had to tell them some nasty bad news compliments of the same Minister for Finance Mr Michael Noonan.

And so I had to explain to Mr and Mrs Prudent parents that they would have to pay a 1% tax on everything they invested. They were taken aback. I then had to explain that there would also be a tax payable on any profits their savings plan generated at a current rate of 41%.

As per the above example the amount paid in would be €34,220 and the final estimated fund is €50,000, so profits of €15,780 would be generated, which would then be taxed at the current rate of 41%. The tax deducted would be €6,470 (tax is deducted every 8 years and on maturity).

Surely this is just plain stupid. Ireland is already a highly taxed economy and before most people invest money into a savings plan they have already paid tax on their incomes at the standard rate tax of 20% or in many cases at the higher rate of 40%.


My suggestion/proposal to the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan is that in the upcoming budget of 2016 is that he gives some positive news for a change to parents who are really struggling to fund their children’s college education. My proposal is that he should create a new type of savings plan whereby any money saved for the payment of college fees will, from this budget on, be totally free of the government levy of 1% and the current draconian exit tax on profits of 41%.

Come on Minister do something positive to help our young people to a higher level of education so that borrowing to fund college fees doesn’t become the only option for our college students.

Ted Dwyer Family Business

August 2016