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Image / Agenda / Business

My Career: Entrepreneur and fiid founder Shane Ryan


By Sarah Finnan
16th Mar 2023
My Career: Entrepreneur and fiid founder Shane Ryan

A keen believer that quick and easy doesn’t need to mean bad for you and tasteless, Shane Ryan set up fiid to help take the stress out of dinnertime. Here he tells us more about his day-to-day, how he destresses after a long week and the accomplishments he’s most proud of.

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
For as long as I can remember I wanted to be an entrepreneur so it was non-negotiable that I would go down this path. I really looked up to aunts and uncles of mine that spent years building businesses and wanted to follow in their footsteps. I saw how hard they worked but also how they got to enjoy the fruits of their labours.

In college, I studied… I studied Commerce and International Hotel Management at Shannon College of Hotel Management and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was able to travel a lot, spending two of the five-year degree abroad and thanks to this early career, I lived and worked in seven different countries before coming back to Ireland to start fiid. While my course wasn’t directly related to what I’m doing now, I felt like I was really set up for the world of work with the unique mixture of practical and academic education.

My most formative work experience was… I feel lucky to have had the work experience I did at such a young age. If I had to choose I think the most formative was my first internship with Le Meridien Grand Hotel in Nuremberg, Germany. I was thrown into a new country, culture and language on my own at 19 and had to adapt really quickly. I spent six months working in the kitchen there getting up at 5am for the breakfast shift and then balanced the rest of the time across the other various departments to get a really in-depth understanding of hospitality operations. It was tough but it taught me grit and the importance of hard work.

My first real job was… the first job I got paid for was delivering the Limerick Post newspaper door to door when I was around 12. I think I lasted about six months before I was let go for skipping the houses with the long driveways!

The most invaluable thing I learned early on in my career was… there’s no substitute for hard work so roll up your sleeves and get sh*t done. I also think my experience with some less-than-great managers has really influenced the kind of environment I created at fiid where people are really looked after. I’m trying to build the kind of company I wished I worked for in my early years.

A common misconception about what I do is… that it’s lucrative. For most brands, it takes years and years before there’s any real scale to speak of. There are obviously outliers, but they are the exception. It’s a slog for the vast majority of business owners and that slog lasts years.

My main responsibility in work is to… keep the show on the road, making sure we’re on track to hit our goals and supporting the team wherever I can. I love to get involved in most aspects of the business but I also know there are people in the business that are far better at things than me so I’m comfortable taking a back seat in those instances and letting them do their thing – that’s why I hired them.

Do you have a career mentor or someone you look up to/seek advice from?
Sam Dennigan, the founder and CEO of Strong Roots is an investor at fiid and is someone I often turn to for advice. He has supported me since the very beginning when I was still figuring things out. I really respect what he has built but am under no illusions about the sacrifice required to get there. He keeps it real which I appreciate.

 

The biggest risk I have taken in my career so far is… starting a business is a massive risk. I’ve spent the majority of my career in entrepreneurship and the personal cost is something that most people don’t ever see. In that sense, the things I’ve risked have been my own health and wellbeing as well as my relationships with friends and family. Thankfully, the most important people in my life have stuck by me and I prioritise my health and wellbeing now, but that wasn’t always the case.

I wake at… 6am every day Monday to Friday. I would love to wake earlier and get an extra hour when most people are asleep but the trade-off in the evening isn’t worth it for me I’ve found.

The first thing I do every morning is… wish I could have 30 more minutes in bed!

My morning routine is… extremely routinised! I train every morning next to our office in Stoneybatter and am at my desk to start the day at 8am. I put a few thoughts down in a journal and review my calendar for the day before doing 15 minutes of email and slack triage. Then it’s down to work on my priorities for a couple of hours.

I can’t go to work without… a plan. Running a startup, there is always something to do, but certain things are more important than others and it’s too easy to get stuck doing busy work while neglecting the big rocks that will actually move the needle for the business. Every evening I map out what my day will look like tomorrow, starting with the most important things. Everything else has to fit around those.

I travel to work by… bicycle, it’s the fastest and most efficient way to get around Dublin.

On an average workday I… am in the office alone. The team prefers to work remotely four days a week and we all meet in the office on Wednesdays. Personally, I prefer to get out of my flat so I head in every day.

I start my working day at… 8am usually. I used to hate the mornings but over the years I’ve become a real morning person, much to the dismay of my other half who is very much not.

The first thing I do at work is… make myself a cup of tea. I drink Guayusa by an Irish brand called Nu Infusions as a replacement for coffee – it keeps me sharp and I don’t crash or get anxiety. It’s also delish.

I usually spend the first portion of the day… taking care of my priorities. I’ve asked my team not to schedule meetings with me before lunch so I can get some focus work done. It’s not always possible and flexibility is important but for the most part, it works.

I break for lunch at… I’ve just realised that I generally don’t take a lunch break and will mostly eat at my desk. I like to take a 30-minute walk at around 3pm though to give me a break before getting back to work.

The most useful business tool I use every day is… my iPad and Apple pencil. I hate to be the gadget guy but having all my notes stored in one place and being able to search by keyword or date is a game changer for me. At one point I had two or three notebooks on the go which was really inefficient so the iPad is a game changer.

I save time by… not sweating the small stuff. You can’t do everything so I’ve gotten comfortable with things remaining undone.

I rarely get through my working day without… laughing. We have some of the funniest people I know on the fiid team. It’s really special.

The best part of my day is… the beginning. I love a fresh start and rarely carry anything negative from the day before.

The most challenging part of my day is… I think for me, the hardest part is winding down and I really need to push myself to pack up and go home. It’s not something to be proud of and I’m definitely not proud of it but I do find it challenging if I am honest.

I know it’s been a good day if… I’ve had some sort of interaction with a customer either directly or via a review or comment. Just last week we got a handwritten letter from a customer in Wexford who had only recently discovered fiid, thanking us for everything that we do. Those kinds of things are really magic.

I usually end my day at… between 7 and 9pm depending on the time of year and what’s going on. Winter is a really busy period for us so my days tend to be longer. I am trying to be more consistent with finishing earlier though to have more balance.

I switch off from work by… reading fiction. I am a non-fiction fan but it doesn’t really give me a respite from work as everything I’m reading is often so applicable to a fiid situation. I had about 10 years where I didn’t read any fiction and got through 13 books last year. I love anything that pulls me out of my reality for a while. I think this is really healthy and necessary for me personally.

Before I go to bed, I’ll… journal a few thoughts again. I have three prompts that help me jot down whatever is in my head before sleeping. In the evenings it’s one win for the day, one point of tension, stress or anxiety and one point of gratitude. Journaling works for me; it makes me feel calmer and often helps me recognise things that I couldn’t identify but were bothering me in some way. This takes me three to five mins max so it’s a really easy habit to keep consistently.

I often prepare for tomorrow by… reviewing my calendar so I am clear on what’s coming up and where I need to be. People are often a bit taken aback when they see my calendar but the structure really works for me. Don’t get me wrong, there’s loads of room for flexibility and things often get moved around or changed – you can’t be too rigid in a business this size as there’s always an unexpected fire to put out.

After a long work week, I destress by… getting out in nature and eating great food – my two big loves in life. Dublin is such a great city for both.

The accomplishment I’m most proud of is… my team’s commitment to creating a better business. In 2022 we became Ireland’s highest-scoring BCorp (a business that meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose), we are now 100% carbon neutral and we feed children every single day in the Mazongoza School in Malawi. I have a lot to be proud of.

If you want to get into my line of work, my advice is to… just do it. You’ll soon find out if it’s for you or not and if you don’t try, you’ll never find out. There’s never a good time, so why not now?

I’ve just finished working on… our plans for the next three years and now it’s time to bring them to life!