SME Agony Uncle: Bobby Kerr answers all your business and work-related questions


Each week broadcaster, entrepreneur and agony uncle Bobby Kerr joins Newstalk Drive to answer all your employment-related questions.

We have all been there.

Leaving your job can be stressful, it can be scary – and sometimes even upsetting. But let’s be honest, it can also be a huge relief.

Once you have decided to go ahead and take the plunge however, what is the best exit strategy?

The Exit Interview

This week we are taking a look at the “exit interview” phenomenon and asking whether honesty really is the best policy when you finally leave the day job in the dust.

Is this the golden opportunity to vent that pent-up rage? or is it best to just keep shtum and move on with your life?

Starting from the employer’s perspective, Bobby’s advice is that while it is useful to get feedback on why an employee is leaving – it is important to stay on your guard and take whatever is said with a pinch of salt.

“I think one of the issues around exit interviews is that they are often conducted at a time when somebody’s interest is elsewhere,” he said. “When somebody has maybe said, ‘I am leaving this business, I don’t really want any hassle and I am just going say everything was great and move on.’”

“There is a danger that people will not be 100% honest.

“What I am saying is that, as an employer, you need to take the feedback with a health warning that it may not be as sincere as you may think it is – but I still think the information is useful.”

Bobby’s advice to employees is to speak your mind “within reason” but always try to leave a job on the best possible terms.

“I think reputation is everything and reputation has a funny way of catching up with people,” he said.

“You are all going to be getting on with your lives in different scenarios so I don’t really see that there is any advantage with leaving a hand grenade behind you.

“What does it achieve from your perspective?

If an employer decides to run an exit interview process, they should be prepared for some uncomfortable responses.

For many companies however, particularly in bigger corporates, it is simply a box ticking exercise and Bobby’s advice is to be careful what you say and how you say it.

Franchising - Taking the Plunge 

I saw a great franchise at a trade show in Birmingham last week and I was thinking of trying to take the master franchise for Ireland, any thoughts on franchising? The good and the bad.

As the chairman of the Insomnia Coffee Company, Bobby knows a thing or two about franchising.

He remains a “big believer” in the concept – although there are positives and negatives to consider on both sides of the deal

“Franchising is a fabulous way to expand your business but there are a couple of caveats around it,” says Bobby.

“You get other people to bring capital to your business and expand it. They put in the money to open a new shop or a new print business or whatever it is so that is really the positive from a franchisor’s perspective”

There are however, two big risk factors here.

“If you pick the wrong person or the wrong location in a retail franchise, the damage that can do to your overall brand is absolutely significant,” says Bobby.

“If you get a guy operating as your brand in a town, doing a bad job, then everybody in that town will say that your franchise is rubbish.

“You need to be forensic around your franchisee selection number one and you site selection number two.”

The franchisee on the other hand is getting a tried and trusted business model as well as support and advice from head office.

“That is all very positive,” says Bobby. “The downside is that you end up working in a business format that is a little restrictive.”

“You can’t really operate the business as you see it. You have signed up for a particular format so there is an element of straitjacketing around it.

“As a franchisee - and this sounds a little bit callous - but you are not being paid to think.”

For Bobby, the franchise owner has come up with a formula that you have bought into and “you cannot allow individual thoughts on brand values.”

“I am not really interested in what type of bun should be sold west of the Shannon or otherwise - and that is the way it works,” he says.

“Otherwise what happens then by degree is that the guy in Donegal has a different vision to the guy in Waterford and you end up then with a bit of a mess.”

You can listen back to all of Bobby’s employment advice from Tuesday’s Newstalk Drive here:

If you have a business or SME related query you would like answered - you can get in touch with Bobby each week by simply sending a short mail to [email protected]

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