25 May Leadership & Entrepreneurship in Ireland – Day 11

Extremely jam-packed day in Belfast, and it’s late here, so I will be a bit brief, but not because the content was anything shy of extraordinary!

Dr. Norman Apsley is the Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Science Park, and he took time out of his busy schedule to provide a personalized tour of the docks where the Titanic was built.  Norman did a great job of explaining the innovative spirit of Belfast and how it inspired him to create the Science Park to foster innovation, and entrepreneurship.

Next up was Steve Orr, Director of NISP Connect.  Steve is a very successful entrepreneur two times over, and is now committed to giving back based on a model he learned about in San Diego.  He’s looking for “wantapreneurs” that may have been missed by the traditional schooling system.  He said they have plenty of ideas, but need to build on their ability to commercialize.  It seems to me we have the opposite problems in the states.  His values were elegant in their simplicity:

  • Do what you say you were going to do
  • Do the right thing, always
  • Be opportunistic – when in doubt, do it
  • Be selfless – leave your ego at the door (common theme in Ireland)
  • Have the craic (fun)

Professor James McLaughlin, Director of the Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials Institute and NIBEC addressed the class as well.  I think we could spend a month with Jim, and never cover the same topic twice.  He reminds me of Arlen Meyer, MD from the University of Colorado – boundless energy!

Colm McGoldrick, CEO of MailDistiller, presented an extraordinarily honest account of a start-up that almost went bust if not for shear grit and determination to not let down clients, investors, partners, friends and family.  His lessons learned:

  • Take control of your business
  • Take responsibility
  • Talk with creditors
  • Don’t need a seasoned pro – you know your business best
  • Bring sponsors with you
  • Don’t be afraid of hiring a remote globally dispersed workforce
  • International expansion is possible form anywhere!

Want to read about something better than the best HBR Case Study?  Check out Andor.  The CEO is Conor Walsh, and they have posted a 13-year CAGR of more than 30%, and they’re up 42% this year alone.  Profit is up 510% since 2004, and share price is up 654% in the last two years.  The understatement of the year was, “Success leads to opportunity!”  Conor’s lessons learned:

  • Proactively manage the business culture
  • Be obsessive about execution
  • Spend money to make money
  • Innovate and strive for superior positions
  • Never be afraid to say, “I don’t get it” (takes courage and confidence).

Lastly, I have to say, my favorite so far was Bryan Keating.  Bryan has an absolutely extraordinary story, as his life really didn’t start until he was 30.  He’s had a brilliant career, and currently sits on 5 boards, and is an angel investor, and mentor-extraordinaire.  You don’t become a holder of the Queen’s lifetime award for enterprise promotion by not being productive and proliferative!  Bryan gave a talk on risk taking in life in general, and I know he made us really think about our station in life.  His bottom-line – “Life is not a dress rehearsal.”  His definition of leadership:

  • Confident
  • Motivated
  • Realistic
  • Tenacious
  • Courageous
  • And have a bias towards action (with analysis) while taking calculated risks.

Bryan also provided a brief tour of Belfast, which was informative and inspiring.  Another great day in Ireland and back to Dublin in the morning!

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