My career began when I decided to study hotel and catering management in college. My first job was in a five-star hotel in the centre of Dublin. it was an “old world” hotel with an exclusive clientele, which prided itself on the amount of repeat business it was able to capture. The hotel motto was “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Excellence was the key business driver, and it was a good grounding for me so early on in my career.
I moved into the contract catering side of the industry at a time when ireland was chosen by many firms as a successful location for Foreign Direct Investment. Global companies were beginning to outsource their employee catering, and I had stepped into a growth area in the industry. I enjoyed the challenges and innovation that came with delivering an outstanding solution to the varied clients in these companies.
I was lucky to have a mentor and supporter in my early years with Campbell Catering (which is now Aramark Ireland). He was a focused, driven visionary who set out and executed demanding goals, while also being a positive motivator who actively encouraged me to step outside my comfort zones.
The initial challenge in my career was achieving a good work-life balance. I was managing a home with two children and a career at the same time—an ongoing issue for many couples. There were times when it was overwhelming, but the positive support I received, and my passion for the business, ensured that I was able to keep moving forward. Winning my first major contracts was a turning point for me. I soon transferred to the U.K., and experienced the integration of four Campbell Catering companies into the Aramark organisation. I then returned home and was appointed Managing Director of their Ireland operation.
My advice is that, no matter what position you fill, you need to understand the financial drivers of the business and be uncompromising in maintaining standards and good ethics. Be prepared to challenge yourself to broaden your knowledge and experience. Be open to change and embrace it—“If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten!” seek out a mentor, someone who will give you feedback on your performance and management style, as this will also help you to understand the organisation and its structures.