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A little bit about myself:

I have now been a Company Director for over 33 years spanning property, construction, retail, healthcare, technology and professional services. While I qualified as a Chartered Accountant with PriceWaterhouse I was always attracted to the creation of value and running businesses. I have been a founder director of several not-for-profits with a common theme of bringing people together to solve big challenges, whether that was retailers in the City Centre, through the creation of the Business Improvement Districts, or as President of Dublin Chamber to gain infrastructure for our capital or as part of the Euro cash changeover working group.

In my career, I worked with McInerney Properties plc across the group’s divisions and subsequently joined Clerys where I was CEO until 2012. It was also a great experience to Chair software start-up Ocuco which is now one of the global leaders in practice management systems for opticians.

Five years ago, I brought The Alternative Board ® TAB to Ireland. We assist forward-thinking business leaders around the world to grow their business, increase their profitability and improve their lives by leveraging local business owner advisory boards, strategic coachingproprietary tools, strategic services and an international community.

My tips on building a strong quality culture within this industry…

  1. Diagnose before prescribing.
  2. Seek and act upon feedback on everything you do.
  3. Hold each other accountable for the standards you commit to achieving.
  4. When examining results, play the ball not the man. i.e. focus on the objective, the tools, the resources, the training etc first. I learned from Michael Cheika that it is human to screw up, but how fast you recover is the culture that wins.
  5. Continuously sharpen the saw. Practice, improve and reiterate.
  6. Align on the basis of your strengths and outsource your weaknesses to the professionals.

My secret to driving change through challenging times…

  1. Work hard to communicate why the change is necessary.
  2. Start with the end in mind and keep reiterating the future vision.
  3. Build alliances and trusted communication channels for delivering the right messages.
  4. Ensure that communications can stand the test of time and be centric to the recipient.
  5. Be ruthless in concept but generous and respectful in implementation
  6. Lead by example.

My secret to becoming a true partner to our clients…

  1. Set out expectations of both partners from the start and exceed your side of the bargain.
  2. It’s not about the job, it’s about the trusted relationship which must endure.
  3. There are always new ways to find win-win strategies for both parties.
  4. Never take your service level for granted, always ask, how are we doing and what could we do better.
  5. Behaviour is what irritates, so look deeper at mutual motivations which can be hidden and not so visible.
  6. Do whatever is required to become a trusted advisor rather than a vendor of a service.

The biggest challenge facing my industry today…

The war for talent impacts our members who compete with global players for talent. An ineffective housing market makes it a challenge to enable an efficient labour market to work. Loss of key personnel is hard in any business, but it can be a crisis in a smaller business. We continuously help our members to adopt many of the best practices of the global companies in their operation so that they can level the playing field. If our members are fighting staffing crises, they are not working on the business. It’s our job to ensure that they work on the business not in it.

The greatest opportunity available to our industry today is…

If the government were to adopt a market facilitation model for the provisions of business assistance services to SME’s like what operates in many parts of the world. Today, government procures and dispenses as it believes best. The current model has delivered a situation where management by best practice by indigenous SME’s is one of the lowest of developed nations, so clearly, a change is required. We have a wealth of talent, much of it created by the multinational sector and there is a huge opportunity to lift all sectors of the indigenous private sector economy. It is not just an opportunity, it’s imperative if we are to de-risk the dependence we have on US Multinationals.

My view on key concerns to look out for moving into 2019…..

We have the known risks of Brexit, Trump, Italian banking and Chinese Banking risk. However, we don’t know the unknowns. The local economy has been in catch-up mode for several post-crash years now but that acceleration has slowed significantly and we can see slower car sales, slower top end house price increases.

The nature of a slow-down is that the pull-down factors exceed the push-up factors. Our construction members tell us that there is still too much of a gap between market demand prices for housing and total construction costs to make a significant impact on supply. That means more labour shortages and wage inflation which diminishes our competitiveness. Could it be a long slow growth period or might some other unknown factors cause a problem? An ash cloud or a flu? Who knows? However, the future arises invariably from the emerging shoots of today. The financial crash may well have sowed the seeds of political unrest and populism we continue to witness. Another Euro-exit could be one of those unknowns that cause a much bigger problem. On balance it would appear to me that the number of risks are growing and it might be time to take the conservative approach to budgeting in 2019.

Articles by Lorraine Bolger