Building Your Business
PLATO Invited to NI Family Business Forum Event in Craigavon Civic Centre

15 October 2017

Friday 13th can be unlucky for some but PLATO was introduced to the NI Family business Forum on Friday 13th October 2017 in conjunction with Harbinson Mulholland, Ulster University and Danske Bank.



Pictured Darren Mc Dowell, Partner Harbinson Mulholland

Not only did the event draw attendance from some of the Borough’s Key Family Business Leaders – the Irwins, McCanns and Wilson’s –  only 3 of the mainstay family businesses in the Borough but the keynote speaker was Mairead Mackle from Armagh, founder of homecare Independent Living who was shortlisted as the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of the Year Award.


Mairead and her husband Gerard formed Homecare Independent Living back in 1995 and over the past 22 years the company has become one of the leading private Community Health and Social Care providers in Ireland having undergone several expansions over the last 20 years.

Now, whilst Friday 13th October was only the Day after our southern neighbours celebrated National Women in Enterprise Day, as a female attendee Mairead could make you feel inadequate employing 1200 staff (over double that of their nearest competitor), mother of 7 children from 27 down to twins at 2.5years old, assistant farm manager, and multiple other business interests including a Charity iCare wishes – is there anything this woman cannot turn her hand at? Having been to many international academic conferences and global business events in my career, I have learnt to be forgiving of Speakers, but there was no need where Mairead was concerned not only was she accomplished and polished but she kept it real and relevant. Whilst Mairead had won the respect of each member of  the audience, given the social care nature of her work and the management of a large fast-growing company in such a restrictive environment her honest account of the journey its ups and downs  enthralled everyone on a Friday morning. The route to success was not straight forward – there were many twists and turns:-

  • Figuring out her first business in podiatry practice depended on her too much and growth was going to be restricted
  • BSE hitting the dairy herd created tough decisions for the family to sell out and move to Texas around the time Homecare was originally set-up, sacrifice but fun.
  • Working in social care industry attracting staff is a huge issue we need something like 40% of all graduates to go into social care jobs upon graduation, which is not going to happen, so technology is the answer.
  • Role of technology with homecare independent living – next steps for the company
  • Aspirations to set up a retirement village

Mairead mentioned that Margaret Thatcher was born on 13th October 1925 and something she said “If you want something said ask a man but if you want something done ask a woman!”…she then cited a number of quotations of relevance to any growth aspirational family business leader admitting that sometimes she thinks maybe I’m entrepreneurial or just a little bit crazy:-

-       “Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you”

-       “The definition of an entrepreneur is someone who stumbles from failure to failure without losing any enthusiasm”.

-       “There’s only one boss in a company and that is the customer” [Sam Walton. Founder of Wal-Mart Stores]

-       “The time is always right to do what is right”

-       “When folk are on their death bed, they don’t wish they had spent more time in the office”

-       “Don’t be too busy making a living to have a life”

-       “If you’re the smartest in the room you are in the wrong room”


Some parting tips were:-

-       Begin with an end in mind – it is about leaving a legacy

-       Focus on the bigger picture

-       Do everything with Integrity and Kindness

-       Feel the fear and do it anyway

-       Leave a Legacy – when you’re gone from the business what will be there then?


As Mark Twain once referred to Building something that outlives you, he said,

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

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