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Flashback to 1984: Catching up with Alan Hyde

Fri, 04 July 2014

In 1984, Alan Hyde won a Shell LiveWIRE award with his business, Protoplas. We caught up with him to find out more about his entrepreneurial journey…
What can you remember about your involvement with Shell LiveWIRE?
I remember it well, the late James Grew was my mentor, and he was a wonderful man with so much experience. We had regular meetings and he gave me weekly tasks to complete and made my first introduction to 'THE BANK' for me. His advice was invaluable and I was so pleased for both of us when we won the first ever Northern Ireland Shell LiveWIRE Final in May 1984. The ensuing PR exposure and response to that win shaped my business career and life from that day on 28 years ago.

How have things changed for you since you won your Shell LiveWIRE award?
Well, I was a single 23-year old then and now on the high notes at 50 and on my second marriage and with five children, so my whole life has seriously changed since 1984! Basically when I joined Shell LiveWIRE I was totally focused on creating my new business and future, my world was my oyster (as they say) and my target was to become a millionaire by the age of 30. I have had a wonderful business life experience since that day in May 1984 when the Right Honourable Jim Prior, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, gave me my Shell LiveWIRE award.  Well, my attitude now has more of a focus now on the next 15-20 years and into retirement, but I know 'there is still life in the old dog yet' and I feel I have at least one other winning business idea in me before I quit!         
 Alan Hyde of Protoplas (Centre)
How have you had to adapt as an entrepreneur over the years?
Firstly I had to experience being an entrepreneur (and spelling it)! The first thing was to control the enthusiasm and to control the mistakes (there were a few/several)! As your entrepreneurial experience develops, you’re prepared for the first mistake and we become loss/win victims – enthusiasm is still there but considerably more controlled. So you learn and gradually develop a more mature approach to business, but remember there is still that wee opportunistic business devil in your conscience – mad keen to get stuck in for another go.
What has been the biggest obstacle you have overcome in business?
This is really a difficult question because personally I have had many, and they all were seriously critical at one time or another. Maybe the question should be ‘how have you dealt with the biggest obstacles you have overcome in business’. I have experienced issues that would fill page upon page, including taking shareholders/directors to court, dealing with trademark infringers, banks wringing my neck to recover debts, government agencies wanting to recover grants paid, and the most difficult, just surviving for 28 years. In short, the biggest obstacle has been survival – that is what small business is really about over the long-term because the obstacles that SMEs face on a regular basis are really unbelievable.                                                               
What are your top three tips for a young entrepreneur who is about to set up in business?
  1. Have you got a product/service/creation that is better than what is currently available in its market? If you have, progress the idea, if not, forget it. 
  2. Cost/price your product/service/creation competitively so that you can continually generate profitable sales now and in the future.
  3. Create a (minimum) two-year business plan and make sure it really stacks up and has a viable proposition.
Shell LiveWIRE UK has been running for over 30 years. If you have been involved with the programme at any point and would like to share your story, please contact Emily Carlson at


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