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.
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.
By any stretch of the imagination Bill Wolsey 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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