Tell us about your background and how you became a Director at Clearhill.
I’ve been involved in the family business in some way since I was 5 years old, and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed being a part of. When I was studying my A Levels, a family friend and Clearhill’s accountant, John MacMahon, advised that it would be a good idea for someone involved in Clearhill to have financial expertise to complement the existing skills in the business. I was open to this because I was already interested and had been studying for A Levels in Business Studies and Accounting. After graduating from Queens University with a degree in Business Management, I spent 3-years working and training to become a Chartered Accountant at Henry Murray & Co. in Lurgan and then joined Clearhill in September 2011. My initial plan after completing my Accountancy exams was to continue working in practice for a few years. However, I felt the timing was right to join the family business and I’ve now worked my way up to the Director role I currently hold.
If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be and why?
I’m a big football fan, so being a professional footballer for a day, like Cristiano Ronaldo, would be very tempting – I’d love a deeper look into his mindset and how he can keep performing at the levels he does. However, I would have to choose Jeff Bezos, Executive Chairman at Amazon, as it would be great to experience working at that level in such a well-known global brand. Amazon undisputedly puts their customers first above everything. I am an Amazon customer, so I can relate to the peace of mind you get from ordering from Amazon. You can jump on the app to order something you need for next-day delivery, and it’s easy to return an item if it’s not exactly what you need. You can’t ignore the customer-centricity of their whole approach to business. The opportunity to work alongside such high-performing and genius executives would be insightful.
How do you manage your work-life balance in such a demanding role?
Since becoming a father, managing my work-life balance has become more critical to my daily life. In the past, I would have chosen to work beyond our finish time to push through various tasks. I have managed this transition quite well, even though working in a family business isn’t anything like a typical 9-5. Since my son’s arrival, who was followed last year by my daughter, I have become quite good at separating work and family time, allowing me to pick up the kids from nursery, get dinner with them and be present, but this takes discipline. Mobile phones are the biggest distraction, as it can be tempting to jump on to check emails or take a call, but I try to set this to the side now and give the kids my whole attention until bedtime. I also train 4-5 times per week, early morning or during lunch – this helps mentally as much as anything!
What advice would you give someone looking to follow a similar career path?
I would advise anyone looking to follow a similar career path to myself to be a good listener, be aware of what’s happening in the world and understand what interests you. I was lucky to be exposed to the family business at a very young age, so this fed my drive to work in business and one day work in Clearhill, but I know many people reach 18, 19 or 20 without knowing what they want to do – which is perfectly okay! If you find yourself in this position, take the opportunity to experience as many different types of jobs and experiences as possible to help you understand what interests you. Once you find your niche, find people in these roles, and gain valuable knowledge and exposure to their thinking. Technology has made the world and people a more accessible place in this way. Don’t forget to ask questions!
What is Clearhill’s biggest strength?
I think Clearhill’s biggest strength is our continual desire to improve across various areas within the business, as we feel there is always room for improvement. Lean has provided the ideal mechanism to encourage these internal and external improvements. We delight in serving our customers better and taking the time to listen to what our clients want. In the last few years, we have;
- Added new payment methods, like contactless payments, to our machine portfolio.
- Launched our mobile app to reward customer loyalty.
- Launched FunHub kiosks, improving the level of presentation to match the calibre that our corporate customers expect.
- Launched a Gift Card business to serve the same customer base – making life easier for them.
Where do you see Clearhill in the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years, I see Clearhill becoming a more dominant force within GB, reflecting our leading position on the island of Ireland. We are on the cusp of offering a new range of concepts in the shopping centre industry that we are very excited about. Retail is changing, and over the last five to ten years, it has required more than fashion and F&B to maintain footfall. As a result, leisure and amusement solutions for the shopping centre industry have had to evolve. We want to be right there with the solutions!