Havering McDonald’s franchisee Gerry Byrne gives advice to potential Local Business Accelerators entrants

“We’re looking for people who are sensible and have a good idea and a good work ethic, who understand the product or service they’re providing and have a realistic ambition to pursue.”

That’s the word from Romford business guru Gerry Byrne, who will judge and mentor local entries to this year’s Local Business Accelerators scheme.

If that sounds like you, you could win free advertising from the Recorder, mentoring and advice from McDonald’s franchisee Gerry, and a chance to work with Dragons’ Den star Deborah Meaden.

The scheme, run by the Newspaper Society, sees local papers across the country searching for the most inspiring and unique start-ups.

If your business is between one and five years old, you’re eligible to enter, which you can do by visiting www.accelerateme.co.uk by Friday, November 16.

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Gerry, who won the Mayor’s civic award in 2007 and the Havering Businessman of the Year award in 2008, says working with the local community – including local media – is key to building a successful business.

“You need to make an effort towards being part of the community and meeting business leaders locally,” said the 44-year-old. “That’s something I’ve been very committed to in the last five years.

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“If you make yourself part of the business community, you get a lot of support back. You get back the time and money you put into charitable causes and taking an interest in local issues. You develop good relationships with the council, the police and MPs, and local newspapers and radio.”

Gerry’s mentoring will be invaluable to anyone who is starting small but thinking big – because he’s been there.

These days, he owns five McDonald’s branches across the borough, and has seen turnover in his restaurants double in the last five years.

But the entrepreneur – who by his own admission has “always been ambitious” – wasn’t always top dog. After leaving school at 16 he had five ‘O’ levels and no plans for further education, and after seven years working at a bank he was made redundant.

He managed to secure a trainee manager job at McDonald’s – and has since worked his way up, buying his first franchise in 2002 and adding four others in the next five years.

So how did he get to be where he is?

“You have to be pretty single minded when taking on a business,” he said. “You have to be willing to put in the hours.

“Building relationships – not just with the people within your team, but within the local community, businesses and politicians – is very important.”

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