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Developing Your Growth Potential – Summary

Published 18 May 2017

The NI Chamber held the latest in a series of events as part of their Learn Grow Excel initiative in the Ulster Museum on a sunny May afternoon. MKB Law Directors Maria Conway and David McAlinden were in attendance, alongside Marketing Executive Kym Horner.

Based on the theme “Developing Your Growth Potential”, the event featured two guest speakers, both pioneers in their specific areas; Dr Bill Wolsey, MD and owner of the Beannchor Group, and Cathriona Hallahan, MD of Microsoft in Ireland.

The event was opened by Ann McGregor, NI Chamber Chief Executive, to a full to capacity lecture room within the old wing of the Museum.

Ms McGregor explained the aim of the LGE initiative is to support, encourage and ultimately increase export activity within Northern Ireland. Currently, Northern Ireland has the lowest business export within the UK.

The theme of today’s event was ‘Leadership’ and with that Dr Bill Wolsey took to the stage to share his experiences and thoughts on what makes a successful business leader.

Mr Wolsey, a popular public speaker within the local business and social community, shares numerous anecdotes from his childhood which he believes helped shape the business leader he is today. “Leadership is not taught; it comes from qualities within us all that we can develop and grow,” he states.

After a brief history of his early experiences in the pub/club scene in Bangor (“It would be Stiff Little Fingers upstairs, and boys who would cut off your fingers downstairs!” he quips), the decision was made to move onto hotels.

Today the Beannchor Group portfolio is expansive, and includes the 5 star Merchant Hotel and boutique hotel, Bullitt – a bigger and better version of which will open in Dublin city centre within the next two years.

Mr Wolsey, who states that his Group has the highest staff loyalty within the hospitality industry, believes that to be a successful leader you must promote the culture that everyone is equal, from the Manager to the dishwasher, and that you should give your staff ownership of their role. Finally he sums up the three core elements of a good leader: passion, tenacity and making the right decision.

Next to the stage is Ms Cathriona Hallahan, the MD of Microsoft operations within Ireland. In addition to managing the business, Ms Hallahan also represents the company on all strategic policy, corporate affairs and communications issues.

Ms Hallahan joined the company in its infancy back in 1986 – the 24th employee of Microsoft Ireland! During her career 30+ year career, Ms Hallahan explained how she has taken on virtually all roles at the company, from tea maker to MD, and is of the firm belief (like Mr Wolsey) that every job within a business is important.

Ms Hallahan goes on to discuss how our world is changing; first it was the steam revolution, then electricity, then automation, to where we are today with the digital revolution. “What was once sci-fi is now reality” she states, and we must embrace and develop with this.

The talk concluded with Ms Hallahan identifying her core elements of what makes a good leader: personal values, a common purpose, and resilience. A short Q&A session with the speakers then follows, allowing both guests the chance to further discuss their own personal experiences.

MKB Director Maria Conway commented, “Thanks to the Chamber for an informative and engaging event. MKB Law has worked with Mr Wolsey and the Beannchor Group for over 20 years, and we have seen them expand and grow at a virtually unrivalled rate.

“Their journey has also reflected our own. As one of the leading commercial solicitors in Belfast, we provide a range of specialist legal services to businesses, new and established, within all sectors.”

The next event in the Learn Grow Excel programme takes place in the Canal Court Hotel in Newry on 24 May – under the banner of “Connecting for Growth – Meet the Buyer”.

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