Barry Phillips Meets...Posted in : Podcasts on 19 January 2018
This podcast posits that although we may have every reason to feel despondent when we look at what is happening at Stormont, look elsewhere, in business, in the arts, in the community sector and we have every right to feel positive about the future of Northern Ireland.
Inspired by the Tim Ferriss and Desert Island Disks podcasts Barry Phillips Meets… is about finding and showcasing those in Northern Ireland who are making a difference, driving change, disrupting conventional thinking and helping propel us to a great future.
Published fortnightly, you can find out who is contributing to the “new Northern Ireland” by listening to the latest episodes either by subscribing to Barry Phillips Meets via iTunes (or Tune In) or by watching this page for updates.
The Early Poles of Northern Ireland
The Poles first came to work in Northern Ireland in big numbers when Polish citizens were granted the right of free movement as EU members in May 2004.
Many found employment here and were grateful for any type of work, which was guaranteed to provide more money than they could expect to earn at home. They worked as cleaners for Robinson Services or as labourers in Camden Frames, Sam Mouldings, on the assembly line at what was then Schrader, or in construction during the mini-boom in 2007-2009. Whilst some worked in the health service as nurses, carers or doctors, large numbers were overqualified for the jobs they first took. But with limited English and no contacts here, to many it was about getting on an early rung of the ladder and then making their way from there.
But the arrival of hundreds, then thousands, of Poles brought change to Northern Ireland. Suddenly, almost overnight, there was a sizeable third group of people. Northern Ireland did have other groups of people such as the Indian and Chinese communities, but these were small in number, well settled and accepted. Journalists commented that since the Good Friday Agreement, the two communities - Protestant and Catholic - so long in conflict, might need another enemy and openly worried that they would look for one elsewhere. The Polish Community had closer connections to Britain than they did Ireland... their role in the British RAF is well documented. But largely Catholic by religion, they may have expected a warmer welcome from the other side of the community.
What type of welcome did they get from us in Northern Ireland? And how do they remember their first years here? I set out to find out…
Dealing with Overwhelm in the Workplace - Lessons from Paul O'Mahony, Cal Newport & Tim Ferriss
In this keynote address for ASCL delivered at the Birmingham conference and events centre, Barry Phillips, gives his views on how to deal with overwhelm in the workplace. He talks about turning "FOMO" into "JOMO", practising a "Slow Yes and a Quick No" and finishes with his favourite five ways to ensure you're highly effective at work every day.
Marie has just been recommended by the Secretary of State to succeed Dr. Michael Maguire as the next Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
She was the Assistant Information Commissioner for Northern Ireland for five years and Deputy Ombudsman for seven. She became the first ever Public Services Ombudsman for Northern Ireland in April 2016. She is also the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards and the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Ombudsman.
In this remarkably frank interview, Maire explains how being wrongly suspected of theft at school led her to develop an early interest in justice and human rights. She talks about the pressures of taking big decisions that will impact on the lives of many people and how she deals with the very public criticism she has to face in doing her work.
What she has to say about leadership is fascinating and should be required listening for everyone, public sector or private, wanting to develop their leadership skills.
Padraig O Tuama
Born in Cork, Padraig O’Tuama was one of 6 children. He studied theology with an eye on the priesthood. It was in his teens that he first began to realise that his faith, his religion and his sexuality did not sit comfortably together and that very hard, very personal choices, lay ahead of him.
Still a deeply religious man, last month you may just have heard Padriag presenting BBC’s Prayer for Today on Radio 4. But you’re as likely to find him carrying a dictionary of etymology as you are a bible. For he has an almost nerdy interest even obsession with language or languages. His “In the Shelter” autobiographical work introduces the reader to many Irish phrases, it dissects and analyses English words and muses with Hebrew, Japanese, Zulu and even American Sign Language.
If he’s geeky about language, he has an equally geeky twin interest in story-telling. He’s co-founder of the Ten x 9 storytelling movement something that started in Belfast but has spread to Australia, Britain, the Netherlands and the USA.
Since moving north, Padraig has worked teaching in schools, as a chaplain and most recently as the leader of the Corrymela Peacebuilding Community headquartered on the North Coast. But first and foremost Padraig describes himself as a poet. His poem "Shaking Hands" capturing the moment Queen Elizabeth met Martin McGuiness is just one of his works that has received wide critical acclaim.
Since taking the baton in 1990 from his father, James, who started the cleaning business in 1972 David has increased turnover from £1million to £17million with Robinson Services now employing more than 1,700 workers making it one of Northern Ireland’s top employers by staff numbers.
Employees out on site find him affable and approachable and notice that he knows them all by name. Colleagues in the office say he’s personable but a tough decision taker too and very good at taking and managing risk.
David is a rare example of a business leader who does organic growth just as well as he does it by acquisition.
He doesn’t really appear to care too much about his own personal brand but his non-negotiables of strong business values, a focus on employee welfare, giving back to the local community and quality family time in abundance say everything about him.
The Legal-Island Story (Part 2)– The 5 Cornerstones of our Business Growth
In the second of 4 episodes tracing the development of the multi-award winning Legal Island, its founder and chairman Barry Phillips talks about a key mistake he made in developing the business, decision taking in business, networking, how to develop as a business leader and entering partnerships.
Introduced by MD Jayne Gallagher, this series of episodes (to be released over the next 6 months to mark Legal Island’s 21st anniversary) is a must for all those with an interest in business start-ups and development, managing people and leading a company.
Ellen Murray is Executive Director of Transgender NI a not-for profit organisation that campaigns for the rights of transgender and non-binary people in Northern Ireland.
Born in 1993 and raised in West Belfast, she founded GenderJamNI a trans youth group and three years later set up the Belfast Trans Resource Centre the first such centre in the UK and Ireland.
Ellen is herself transgender having begun her own journey from male to female in 2003. In a BBC documentary recorded recently, she said: "I probably wouldn't be alive today if I hadn't transitioned".
In May 2016, Ellen became the first transgender person to stand for election to the Northern Ireland Assembly as a Green Party candidate for West Belfast.
Although now firmly in the arena as a human rights campaigner originally Ellen had very different plans. She studied Electronics and Electrical Engineering at Queen's University Belfast and, by her own admission, has a number of nerdy interests including amateur radio, urban motorways and street lighting.
This episode captures her story and her contribution to the new Northern Ireland.
Michael Cameron is a former Northern Ireland Civil Servant turned playwright.
Born in Belfast in 1965 Michael left school in 1981 with just 2 O Levels and joined the Civil Service the following year. He soon worked his way up the ranks working towards the end of his career as a Political Liaison Officer and Private Secretary to various Ministers witnessing first hand some of the most turbulent times in recent British/Irish history.
In 2015 he left the Civil service for health reasons and began his career as a writer.
His first major work is the play Ruby! About the Belfast singer Ruby Murray which opens in February to sell out audiences at The Lyric. It received rave reviews in its preview following its preview last year and there’s already talk about Michael scripting a movie about her life.
The Legal-Island Story (Part 1)– From concept to start-up to industry leader
In the first of four episodes tracing the development of the multi-award winning Legal-Island, its founder and chairman Barry Phillips talks about what prompted him to set up in business, his early challenges and some of his biggest mistakes.
Introduced by MD Jayne Gallagher this series of episodes (to be released over the next 6 months to mark Legal-Island’s 21st anniversary) is a must for all those with an interest in business start-ups and development, managing people and leading a company.
Paul Roberts is CEO of the Ashton Community Trust in Belfast.
Born and brought up in North Belfast, Paul and his nine siblings grew up during the Troubles in an area that suffered one of the highest levels of violence of anywhere in Northern Ireland. It includes many areas synonymous with the conflict – the New Lodge, Ardoyne, Rathcoole, Ballysillan and Woodvale.
In the 25 years he has been at the helm, the Trust has grown from a small community business into a highly successful regeneration social enterprise. It employs over 250 people and turns over more than £7 million. Ashton is involved in a wide range of community service delivery focusing on childcare, employability, mental health, community development, youth services, arts, Fablab and the North Belfast Lantern Festival. A large percentage of its employees are from the 20 most deprived areas of Belfast.
In 2017 Paul won the prestigious NI Third sector Inspiring Leader Award organised by CO3.
The Iron men of “Norn Iron” - Motivation, Self-Discipline & Optimum Performance
In this special episode Barry Phillips sets out to see if what he remembers about his own Ironman journey sits with what other ironmen learnt about themselves when training for and completing extreme endurance events.
Barry asks them about how they maintain their levels of motivation, how they get the best out of every training session and what they do to reward themselves for consistently high levels of input and output.
Barry concludes by sharing what he learnt from his Ironman training including the development of his own “six pack”. Six things he would do every day before he went to work to set himself up for optimum productivity.
Special Episode - Leadership – 5 Key Development Areas - 5 Quick Wins – in Association with ASCL(NI)
This special episode recorded at the Titanic Hotel, Belfast (18th October) is taken from the annual conference of the Association of School and College Leaders. Barry Phillips covers five key areas of leadership, identifies quick wins and aims to leave the audience of head teachers with homework to do. For he argues that conference “Takeaways” should really be “Workaways”. Changing the habits of leaders in any field requires application and hard work.
The five key areas are:
- Decision Taking
- The Skill of Saying No
- Single Tasking
- Leadership Wellbeing – Mindfulness & Journaling
Liz Weir MBE
Liz Weir MBE is a businesswoman, festival director and children’s author, but perhaps best known for her role as a professional storyteller sharing stories of Ireland’s past not only locally in libraries, pubs, prisons and at festivals but on the international stage as well..
In 2002 she won the inaugural International Story Bridge Award of the National Storytelling Network. Many more awards were to follow helping her travel the world with her craft sharing her stories in countries as far away as Russia, Singapore, South Africa and Australia.
She is the author of some 27 children’s books, currently the Story Teller in Residence for Libraries NI and former presenter at Radio Ulster of “Gift of the Gab”.
She’s owner of the 200 year old Ballyeamon Barn near Cushendall which hosts a story telling evening on Saturday nights as well as tourists from all over the world in the adjoining hostel.
Liz was recently engaged by InvestNI to show them how best to use the power of story telling when delivering presentations.
Conor is an entrepreneur with his finger truly on the pulse in terms of business activity going on in Northern Ireland having worked for many years in commercial property and more recently in debt management and alternative funding for those in business.
In August 2007 he was formally diagnosed with MS. His response was to hit the illness head-on. He self-medicated, he followed a plant only diet and started competing in endurance races.
He’s the author of two books. He has delivered countless keynote conference speeches on motivation and managing a severe illness and has completed five half Ironman races and two full Ironman competitions in the past 3 years.
This episode is a bit different...
We thought it’s time to hit the pause button and review some of the most popular content thus far. So sit back and enjoy hearing from Bill Wolsey OBE, Mary McKenna MBE, Judith Gillespie CBE, Gavan Wall and many others.
Hilary Woods is Principal of Belfast Royal Academy which is widely recognised as one of Northern Ireland’s top post-primary schools.
Her teaching career began at Ashfield Girls School, and continued at Wallace High School and then Victoria College where she was Deputy Principal by the time she left in 2014. Her first permeant tenure as Principal was at Antrim Grammar school during which time the school topped the GCSE league tables in Northern Ireland with 100% of pupils gaining 5 GCSEs grades A-C.
In 2017, she became the first person in almost a century to be appointed principal of BRA from outside of the school and, significantly, the first ever female too.
Her guiding mantra in life is “do what is right not what is easy”.
She has been described by former colleagues as “fearless” with “boundless energy” and as a “women with great vision but also a first-class implementer /finisher”. Another peer said of Hilary: “I’ve never worked with someone who has had such an important impact on my life”.
Michael Bruce, with his younger brother Kenny, founded Purple Bricks which, in just a few years, has become one of the UK’s leading estate agencies. It shot to fame by offering to sell your house in the UK for a fixed fee of just £845 inclusive of VAT, significantly less than the commissions charged by conventional estate agencies. Purple Bricks was recently valued at £240million.
Michael, and his younger brother Kenny and four older sisters were brought up by their single mother in a council house in Larne in the 70s and 80s. His first experience of work was when he was still a schoolboy doing a milk round in the morning and collecting glasses in a local pub in the evening while his brother did the Coal Run.
In this fascinating interview Michael says: “We didn’t want to rush to market. Many entrepreneurs think when they’ve got a website, they’ve got a business. We spent two and a half years building the business first.”
Now in Australia and the USA there is no holding back these two brothers from Larne. When asked for final advice developing a business he simply states: “Have a dream and be relentless and wise in pursuing it.”
Sarah made her name as a journalist who got the most out of interviewees by giving them a full blast of her positive energy, charm and charisma. But how would she get on when in the hot seat herself?
Full of glamour and style and never short of words Sarah Travers shares a huge amount in this podcast. From her big secret she kept from her bosses at the BBC to how she dealt with imposter syndrome in the early days of her TV career when still in her mid-twenties, this interview is full of revelations. For her top tips on reading out scripts well, speaking in public and dealing with anxiety this episode makes for essential listening.
Judith Gillespie CBE
Before joining the RUC as a police constable Judith Gillespie was rejected twice by the organisation she was to go on and lead with distinction years later. She once stated “When I joined the force in 1982 men were issued with firearms and women handbags things were very different then..." Not only did Judith Gillespie face institutional discrimination but also misogynistic treatment from some male colleagues. How she responded is just one of the many remarkable revelations in this extraordinarily frank and honest interview.
Judith explains how she used her “Five Anchors” to get her back from the really low times when serving in the RUC/PSNI during the height of The Troubles. She talks a lot too about forgiveness and admits that she’s still a bit to go before she has forgiven completely everyone who was out to see her fail but she says “You mustn’t let people live in your head rent free either”.
When asked how she felt when she cleared her desk for the last time and left the force she replied “I left with peace in my heart”.
For those interested in how leaders take the big decisions that really matter, how they motivate themselves and colleagues and push for success whilst remaining true to their own values this episode is simply essential listening.
For this very special episode we’ve produced two versions; a short version which features content mainly about Judith’s career in the PSNI and the full unedited version. Enjoy!
Gavan Wall (Part II)
He’s back by popular demand – head of the Wall Group Gavan Wall was one of the first people to be interviewed for this podcast and the response to his interview was phenomenal. Many people emailed in to ask for more about his journey which is why we’re publishing this as a “Part II” to his interview in association with Fleet Financial. In this recording, Gavan talks more about his early struggles as he transitioned from barrister to shopkeeper/entrepreneur, how he lost everything but refused to return to a successful career at the Bar and finally made it into the big time.
Gary McCausland is one of the UK's most successful property developers with a string of successful prestigious developments to his name, mainly in London. Recently, he decided to "come home" and develop here beginning in earnest with The Gallery - a collection of 58 apartments on the Dublin Road, Belfast along with a café/bistro. In this fascinating interview, Gary explains why he believes that Belfast is now not only a safe place to invest but a good one too. His next project, One Bankmore Square, in Belfast aims to provide the city with the kind of accommodation Google employees would typically expect. It's a £65million gamble.
Bill Wolsey OBE
By any stretch of the imagination Bill Wolsey OBE is a remarkable man. Born to staunch socialist parents in Belfast in the 50s Bill borrowed all the money his parents had to start his first pub in Bangor. He now has a portfolio of pubs, restaurants and hotels including of course, the five star Merchant Hotel in Belfast.
“Give people a product or service your staff are proud of and you’ll keep both your staff and your customers” he claims.
This podcast reveals Bill’s amazing journey and a man that hasn’t forgotten where he came from. He’s clearly, someone who believes in the importance of good parenting and helping people that didn’t have the start he had in life.
When he bought the dilapidated building that was to become The Merchant Hotel, the Tourist Board advised him that Belfast wasn’t ready for a hotel of such splendour. Now, it’s championed as one of the great hotels of the world….
"I found Bill to be contrarian in his thinking, irreverent, a maverick and a thoroughly beautiful human being." Barry Phillips
Aged 25, Niall McKeown started Ion Technologies creating what was at the time the world’s first email marketing engine with customers including Reuters, The European Bank. Goldman Sachs and Apple.
Today, he makes his living as a digital disruption expert/educator helping people throughout the world understand digital development strategies and how to use them to find new space. He is co-author of the book "The 7 Principles of Digital Business Strategy" and a Visiting Professor at the University of Ulster.
In this rapid pace wide-ranging interview, Niall explains why digital disruption is more about leadership than it is technology, why it's essential we stop believing anecdotes over evidence and why the electorate is to blame for the current mess at Stormont.
Richard was born in New Zealand and raised in a family of six boys and one girl. He studied in the US before embarking on a career playing the Bassoon for the Halle Orchestra, Manchester. It was here that he began his career in orchestral management which also took him to the Royal Northern College of Music and to the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra where for ten years he worked as general manager.
Richard accepted the post of Managing Director of the Ulster Orchestra in February 2016 at a time when there were big questions hanging over the financing of the orchestra.
Richard gives a fascinating insight into what it is like to manage so many creative and able people who have to work together in such a confined space. “Orchestras” he said “to be successful have to be “of the place”. His mission is to see that the Ulster Orchestra is “of Northern Ireland”.
Born in Whitehead June Burgess attended Belfast High School before studying Landscape Architecture in Gloucester. After a brief spell in Swansea as a surfer by day and a singer in a band at night she eventually re-located back to Northern Ireland to work as the lead consultant on the landscaping for Clarendon Docks a £3million state of the art re-development project.
In 2006 she established the national horse jumping trials in Northern Ireland which developed into an international event for a while afterwards covered by Sky sports and attracting competitors from all over the world.
In 2008 she and her husband began plans to change an old concrete car park on a street corner with Great Victoria Street into what was to become Belfast’s first contemporary look five-star hotel. The Fitzwilliam Hotel sports a Manhattan Manor House style in its 120+ bedrooms and remains to this day the preferred choice of clients for many of Belfast most celebrated visitors.
Tune in to find out the one thing June would change about Northern Ireland first of all, how she smiles “with all four cheeks” and just how she prepared for her Tedx Talk at Stormont.
Mary McKenna MBE
Mary McKenna MBE co-founded successful Northern Irish e-learning company Learning Pool following a long public sector career and a spell as a Silicon Valley dot-commer. She now invests in early-stage tech startups, is Entrepreneur in Residence at Catalyst in Belfast and she was recently voted into the Maserati Top One hundred entrepreneurs currently disrupting the business world.
Her journey is fascinating. Her weekly work schedule exhausting. Never one to hold back, this interview is a must for anyone wanting advice on how to start a business and make life a success.
Famed for her presence on social media (she tweets an average of 25+ times a day) she explains she was person No.5 in the UK to own a mobile phone whilst working for BT. “It had a battery that took up most of my car boot” she explains. But that was her hooked on mobile communication. “I live my life online” she says “online is the real world”.
And guess what she had to do to get that selfie with Michael Dell? Listen to find out…
Martin Gilchrist is probably one of Northern Ireland's best-networked professionals. He has a huge following on social media and is known for saying there are so many networking events going on in Belfast that "you could eat breakfast, lunch and dinner for free every working day".
As an accountant, he specialises in business start-ups and SMEs in Northern Ireland and has worked closely in this same field with Business in the Community, Digital Circle and the Social Media Association for Business, of which he was a founding member. He's a former Chairman of the Board of Down Business Park and lives with his wife Michelle and son James not far from Strangford Lough.
In this candid interview, he explains why it is he aims to ask the first question every time he attends a seminar or workshop and just how he manages to go "off grid" from the world of social media in his own very special way.
Born in Sri Lanka Sheree was raised in Coalisland, County Tyrone, after she and her brother were adopted by an Irish couple at just 3 weeks old. In 2013 Sheree introduced “Women who code in the UK” founding the branches in Belfast, London and Bristol. Women who code is a global non-profit, with over 100,000 members designed to attract more females into the coding industry. She has spoken at numerous international conferences most recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Sheree is just 26.
In this frank interview she talks about the treatment of women in the tech industry, dealing with nerves when public speaking and how you can be a great leader at any age.
Born in Belfast, Tina McKenzie failed her 11+ and went on to become a multi-award winning business leader in Northern Ireland. As MD of Staffline, she has led them from a cold start to £40 million turnover in less than four years. In this interview, she talks about how she takes her big decisions in life, reflects on what happened with NI21 and outlines her plans for the future.
A successful criminal defence barrister for many years, Gavan is now a serial entrepreneur owning a stream of SPAR and Subway stores across North Belfast. In a remarkably candid interview, Gavan talks about the only defendant ever to truly scare him, paying protection money and dealing with employees who steal. What he has to say about how to walk into the house every evening, even after a long hard day at work, is advice every parent should follow.
David was head of the CBI in Northern Ireland when he gave this interview. Never one to shy away from saying what he’s thinking David, shares his controversial views on how to build a Belfast that really packs a punch. He provides an insight into how he manages to hold down so many senior roles in both the business and community worlds whilst being a parent to eight children.
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