20 May Leadership & Entrepreneurship in Ireland – Day 6

Great day in the West of Ireland in Sligo!  Feargus Callagy was a gracious and generous host, and our day started with a tour of Protek Medical led by Eamon O’Connell, Director of Design & Business Development.  We learned about the challenges of balancing investment risks with scalability to attract foreign investors.  Interestingly, they seem to regret that they weren’t even more aggressive assuming risk when the company started 16 years ago.  They also said the key is getting the good people on board soon so talent is the base upon which all good things are built.

When asked about how they keep production people motivated, they said they cross train folks so they change jobs every two hours, and it’s actually been shown to enhance productivity.  In addition, they only set team goals – never individual goals for production output.  Sales, on the other hand, “should be mostly commission to keep the focus on new revenue!”

The leadership at Protek also believe that if they were start another venture in the future, they’d “do things ‘less wrong’ in the future!”

We then visited IT Sligo – a regional hub for education, innovation and entrepreneurship where 6,000 students and 550 staff work on behalf of Ireland and Irish businesses.  We met with Niall McEvoy, the Head of Innovation, and he represented the institute quite well with his energy and passion.  They have a great track record for incubating successful companies, and have direct ties with many US companies like Abbott and Coca Cola with heavy ties to tech and pharma.

Next up was Shane O’Neill, Commercial Manager, from Lotus Works – a $42M company with 352 employees.  Shane is another guy full of passion for his work, and spoke eloquently about the global interests of his firm.  They do a lot of work for pharma and medical device, but have very diversified interests – basically five arms:

  1. Construction management
  2. Construction services
  3. Technical services (the focus in Ireland)
  4. Energy systems
  5. Partnership services

They’re also well acquainted with Denver’s own, CH2M Hill.  Shane’s lessons learned:

  • Get the right people -first and foremost
  • Visionary leadership is required
  • Need knowledgeable and curious employees
  • Ongoing analysis and research is crucial
  • Calculated risk taking and change is a must

In addition, other key attributes to strive for include:

  • Careful planning
  • Ability to multitask
  • Strategic marketing
  • Continuous research
  • Know where you are

Gerry Moore (pictured in the center of the photo above) welcomed us as well, and commented on all the recent press regarding the Queen and the upcoming US President visit, and how it’s sure to boost US and UK tourism.  He’s not only the general manager of the Sligo Park Hotel, but the President of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce and spoke eloquently about the need to be positive.

Feargus Callagy also spoke to the students about entrepreneurship, and learning from failures.  He’s a great guy, and the students really appreciated his candor, and the fact that he was a tremendous host.

Individually, I also met John Nugent, Business Development Executive for IDA Ireland, and Janette Gillen, Innovation Centre Manager.

With some luck, we also met Marian Harkin, an Irish Member of the European Parliament (picture below).  She had just come from an event with the Queen in Dublin, and was very interested in our business in Ireland.  She was a school teacher before getting involved in politics, and is quite interested in increasing volunteerism throughout the world.  She’ll be busy in Brussels and New York next week.

It was another great day in Ireland, and we’ve settled for part of the weekend in Castlebar where we’ll meet some relatives tomorrow.  The students are off as well for the weekend, and we’ll meet back up in Derry on Monday.

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