Sunday 19 November 2017

Oprah Show star is turning firms around

Tom Prendeville

Marie O'Riordan travels the world transforming the fortunes of companies and the lives of individuals. And it works.

She has acted as a consultant to Fortune 500 companies such as Johnson & Johnson, a royal family and several Olympic champions. It's an impressive CV – and one which led to an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The former radio producer and journalist started her lateral thinking, out-of-the-box consultancy, Ideal Business Intelligence, when the economy sank – and she hasn't looked back since.

"I started the business in the recession when I hit my 30s. When I meet people I don't do technical; to me it is all about simplifying everything. If they can think outside the box and come at something from a different perspective or angle, anything is possible," explains Marie O'Riordan.

One company that took her advice managed to generate an astounding €1m in new business in 17 days. Eurotech Heating in Castleblaney, Co Monaghan, had been designing and manufacturing pioneering low-cost heating systems for the past 30 years.

However, like most other companies, it was finding it difficult to escape the general business malaise which has stymied the home market.

Eurotech MD and founder Gerry Duffy takes up the story.

"We were so long in business that we could not see the wood for the trees, and very quickly Marie O'Riordan could identify that. Within two hours she said to me, 'We have a very big problem – the place is far too quiet.'"

Marie O'Riordan and her business partner, scientist Dr Naoise O' Reilly, looked over everything from the location of the factory, which was in a very remote area and far away from shops and cafes where staff could pop out for their lunch, to the firm's product manuals and sales literature.

The first step was to improve morale.

"When I walk into a space I am able to see an environment unlike anyone else, and when I saw the environment of Gerry's where the people were working, I thought, why are there so many people staring at blank walls? There were no windows and no place to make a cup of coffee – they brought it to their desk."

Within 24 hours she set aside a special recreational chill-out room where the staff could enjoy their lunch. The next step was to tear up the company's 28-page sales book which was full of obtuse technical jargon.

"People do business with people, not with an instruction manual; we shrank it down to four images and a script so he could say to customers: 'This is what I do,'" explains Marie O'Riordan.

It's a simple solution, but one which worked wonders.

"I can now sit down with a client and rather than spending four hours explaining things, I can go through things in half an hour and they understand. Before that I was simply confusing them," says the Eurotech chief.

"We were giving them technology and they couldn't get it, whereas in reality we were giving them comfort at a very basic minimum cost which could not be bought anywhere else. We never made that point clear," explains Gerry Duffy.

Dublin-based technology start-up firm, Cashguard, which markets a security cash management system that does away with traditional shop tills, generated €103,000 in sales in 2012.

However, when founder David O'Brien got Marie O'Riordan on board, he generated €114,000 in just one week during February.

"She basically short circuited our selling sales cycle from six months to one week. She totally changed our mindset and told us to close any new deal within a week rather than hanging around for six months. I really am delighted," says Cashguard's O'Brien.

Irish Independent

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