Owner and MD of Meaghers Pharmacy Oonagh O’Hagan is passionate about women in business. Having overseen the rapid growth of Meagher’s Pharmacy, both online and instore, over the past few years, she is no stranger to success herself, but is keen to spread that expertise to others. Holding a lead role in the Going For Growth programme means that Oonagh is able to support other female entrepreneurs to chase their dreams and grow their businesses.
Ahead of her appearance at next week’s IMAGE Networking Breakfast at the Marker Hotel in Dublin, we sat down with Oonagh to chat about role models, accomplishments and the most valuable advice she’s ever received.
Who is your role model as a leader?
My mother is, without question, my role model as a leader. She is a perfect example of a woman leading the way in unlikely circumstances way before her time. She always worked when we were growing up and not only that, she worked in a very male-dominated sector – manufacturing. She ran a manufacturing plant, Courtaulds (an English company with plants in the North and in the UK), in the 80’s and 90’s, making bras and knickers for Marks and Spencer’s and leading a group of over 100 women. I spent many a day in that factory with her, watching the way she worked; how she interacted with people; how she adapted her style; soaking it all up. When I grew up, I wanted to be just like her. She taught me how to have courage and believe in myself and that I would get lots of no’s in life, but not to let them set me back. She taught me that rejection is normal and it teaches you something you didn’t know at that time, but when I got a “no”, then to always ask “why” so that I could learn from the experience and then next time I might get a “yes”. I guess it was my first introduction to always asking for feedback and it’s something I consistently do today. Without her coaching, encouragement and motivation, I would never have been brave enough to grasp the opportunities that turned up for me, nor would I have developed the resilience to overcome the challenges I have faced in business.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Firstly, I’d say I am very proud of the Meaghers Pharmacy business that my team and I have built over the years and how we have supported each other through the tough times and celebrated our successes together along the way. I’m really proud to share my working day with a group of people that I admire greatly and who have such energy and passion for what they do. People who want to make the lives of our customers and our communities better every day; be that a customer who visits one of our eight pharmacies or a customer who visits us online at Meaghers.ie. It’s very special to be part of that and to observe how their empathy and understanding in interacting with our customers quite simply can make their day. There is nothing that satisfies me more than seeing or hearing about those positive and magical moments from our customers.
I also love to be part of my teams professional and personal development and to watch them grow and flourish into incredible individuals who have a deep-rooted sense of purpose. Being a small part of their growth and contributing to that makes me very proud.
And finally, what I am most proud of is the work we have done within our communities and how all our team get so involved in the various initiatives giving back to those less fortunate than ourselves. This year, we teamed up again with Peter McVerry Trust to help those who have fallen into homelessness and collectively, our teams managed to raise almost €80,000 and to provide new homes for nine people exiting PMVT services giving them a fresh start and a second chance in life.
What has been the greatest challenge/s in your career and how did you overcome it/them?
Without question, the biggest challenge of my career was getting through those tough days during the recession here in Ireland. Consumer confidence had collapsed and retail spending fell off a cliff but much bigger than that was the introduction of FEMPI legislation, which radically changed our payments in pharmacy with very short notice. Our business model had to adapt very quickly in order for us to remain a sustainable business. There were very dark days and I truly believe that we came through those challenging times by engaging with our team in a very open and honest manner and listening to all the suggestions they had in overcoming the challenges we faced at that time. As a result of that engagement, we totally changed direction as a company and developed a very specific retail strategy with clear deliverables supported by a digital strategy to deliver this new model. We took a leap of faith but out of very difficult times, our E-commerce business, Meaghers.ie was born.
If you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to fail. I have learnt more from my failures than from my successes. Every single failure has taught me something valuable and given me greater insights into business and how people think. I have found that, unless you push the boundaries and give yourself and your team permission to fail, then we tend to stay in our comfort zones. We don’t take the risks we need to take in this fast-paced world and as a result, we don’t realise our true potential.
What is the most valuable advice you have been given?
Ask for help. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t know the answer. Being a leader in any organisation can be a very lonely place at times so it’s important to build a network of trust and support around you that you can lean on when the time comes. Most people are more than willing to help if you have the courage to ask. And don’t let your quest for perfection keep you back from progress. Nothing will ever be perfect; just go for it knowing that you will have to learn and improve things as you go.
Do you have any business mantras that you live by?
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get!” is one I use personally and with my team a lot in order to motivate them to always seek out new opportunities and push ourselves beyond that which we are comfortable with.
“ Everything happens for a reason” also gives me a lot of comfort when things don’t quite go according to plan. I always just think that I have just gone off track and that someone is trying to tell me something – to let me know I am going in the wrong direction so I need to pause, reflect and re-evaluate and try a different way.
What would you like to achieve next?
I’d like to continue to grow our pharmacy network here in Ireland through a series of acquisitions and perhaps opening some further stores in areas where we feel might be under-serviced at the moment. I’d also like to bring the Meaghers brand and customer experience to more customers globally by entering new markets with our e-commerce site Meaghers.com . But most of all, I look forward to meeting new people, developing stronger relationships with our customers and those we already work with, making a difference in our communities and having lots of fun along the way.
If you’d like to hear Oonagh and our other guest speakers discuss ‘Our Working World’ on Friday morning at the Marker Hotel, tickets are available now:
When: June 22nd
From 7.30am – 9.30am
Where: The Marker Hotel, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2
*Includes luxury seat gift
EMAIL [email protected]
Or book online