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Image / Editorial

#IMAGEinspires: Lessons Learned From Some Of Ireland’s Most Successful Businesswomen

by Jennifer McShane
07th Nov 2017

Getting to the top of one’s industry isn’t necessarily a straight ladder. #CareerGoals take years. Yet on the way up the ladder, people in charge tend to have amassed a crazy amount of life lessons. As a result, all this experience has made them better businesspeople and leaders. But even getting to that part – where you have utilised that wisdom and knowledge that you are on a journey unique to you – can take years.  I always remember American Horror Story actress Sarah Paulson recounting the words of advice she repeated to herself: Don’t be Julia Roberts. “I was so busy wanting to be Julia Roberts that it never occurred to me that my career could be something else. And that it could be equally rich, and the most important thing it would be mine, whatever it was.” You don’t need to emulate Julia Roberts; you simply need to be yourself, on your own path.

On that vain and ahead of our IMAGE Businesswomen of the Year Awards on November 20th, we asked some of Ireland’s most successful businesswomen (who also happened to win awards at our previous ceremonies) to share the words of wisdom and life lessons they’ve learned along the way.

Feedback is so important

I’ve learnt the importance of asking for feedback to constantly improve. In Meaghers, we are always seeking feedback from our customers and team to see how we can do things better. But it’s also enlightening to apply similar principles in your personal life; you learn so much about how you interact and engage with those closest to you. I have learnt that communication is the number one challenge when it comes to business – be that with your team or customers and if you can focus on improving how you communicate with everyone around you it leads to better business and better relationships all around.


 Oonagh O’Hagan, founder and MD, Meaghers Pharmacy

Self-belief is vital if you want to achieve success

Nothing impacts your life more than what you believe about yourself. You can’t plan for success while secretly believing it won’t happen. Everyone has failures. You think you’re the only one facing challenges and then you read biographies of great business leaders and realise that they too suffered setbacks and failures. I have met some incredible women in business through attending the Image Businesswoman of the Year Awards and have always believed that the most successful people are those who build relationships before they need them.
Marissa Carter, founder and CEO, Cocoa Brown

Passion and drive go a long way

There are no “no’s” only “how can I”. Once you have a great idea you need to have the passion and drive to push it out in the world.
Kasha Connolly, director, Hazel Mountain Chocolate

Remembering where you started will always be crucial

Leading people in a consultative fashion is so crucial. Never forget where you started and who helped you and remember not to pull up the ladder after you! Being open to change and not blocking it is so important. As is to keep learning, reflecting and being open to feedback.
Margot Slattery, country president, Sodexo Ireland

A hard worker is not always a smart worker

As a business owner, I have learned that just because you’re working 16 hours a day doesn’t mean you’re efficient with your time. Of course, you need to work hard to succeed, but you also need to be working on the growth areas of your business rather than busying yourself with the admin we can all so easily get bogged down in.

Timeout is necessary for success

Like many business women juggling a career and family is no mean feat. However rather than viewing your family time one other item to tick off your ‘To Do’ list, instead embrace the time with your children on the school run and use it to reconnect with them and then yourself as you make your way into work. I have stopped doing emails and work calls in the car and choose now to take this precious time as either ‘time out’ for myself or ‘time in’ with my children. It’s amazing the perspective and clarity you can apply to your company’s strategic growth when you are not eating, sleeping and living your business 24/7.

Follow your gut no matter what

Anytime I have ignored my gut instinct I have regretted it. A woman’s intuition is a powerful resource and one we need to listen to and learn to trust.

Money doesn’t buy happiness

I started my career in my teens, always on the look out to earn money and pay my way through school and college. I come from a large family, and a strong work ethic was instilled in us all from a young age. The value of money should be respected, it certainly makes life easier, but it doesn’t buy happiness. The most successful business people love what they do. I am big believer that if you focus on doing what makes you happy, you will achieve the ultimate success in both your career and life.

Sandra McKenna, co-founder, Sheology Digital

Don’t just do your job, go the extra mile to do it well

Apply that to all aspects of your life. It might look difficult at the start but break it down into small achievable goals and reward yourself when you achieve them.

Make sure you schedule time for family and yourself

This should be a priority as without either you can’t perform at your best.

Don’t try to do everything yourself

Nobody will appreciate that person, and it is not viable in the long term.

Never be afraid to express your own view

Managers will take note.

What doesn’t break you will make you stronger

…and more resilient in the long term.

Fiona Flannery, CEO, DEPFA Bank plc

Be patient

I’ve learned that things in business that are supposed to happen in a month often take six. I have also learned to trust my instinct and not to focus on what other people are doing around me. I think once you have a strong business plan and strategy it is important to stick to it and not to get distracted by current trends or fads.


Sara Mitchell, co-owner, Poulet Bonne Femme

Success is never deserved

Never ever feel you deserve anything that you haven’t sweat for. And Eat the Frog; every day,  get stuck into the worst tasks on your to-do list, the day can only get easier.

Bernadette Kinsella, CEO,

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