Tuesday 23 January 2018

Daddies' girls... fathers and daughters in business

Five daughters talk to Andrea Smith about working with their dads

Aoibhin and Eugene Garrihy of Dubin Bay Cruises
Aoibhin and Eugene Garrihy of Dubin Bay Cruises
Bill and Laura Kelly, Photo: Patrick Browne
Louis Grubb and Sarah Furno Photo: Brian Gavin, Press 22
Richie and Joanne Clifford of Limerick's Total Body Workout
Keith and Katie Finnegan of Galway Bay FM
Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Every young girl knows how to wrap her daddy around her little finger, but what happens when they're all grown up and working together? Ahead of Father's Day tomorrow, we meet five fathers and daughters who are in business together - and asks which of them is the real boss…

Richie and Joanna Clifford

Fitness trainers Richie and Joanna Clifford are from Lisnagry in Limerick. Richie, known as Ireland's Mr Motivator, is married to Carmel and has four children and four grandchildren.

Richie started his career as a runner, which led to his path into the fitness industry, where he coaches and gives classes and advice. He and Joanna teach classes called Total Body Workout together at UL Arena.

"We love to see people happy and healthy, and we both have compassion for people and their goals," says Joanna. "We put a huge focus on happiness and mental health, because if you can change your mindset, your body will follow. Dad brings expertise and experience to the business and has amazing energy and motivation, and because I have travelled a lot, I bring great variety to what we do."

Growing up, Joanna went everywhere with her dad and wanted to do everything he did.

"He always encouraged me to be myself, and his belief in people and his positive outlook on life are what I admire," she says. "Dad has an unbelievable energy and motivation, and is extremely loyal and loving. He's a sneaky eater though, because I know he eats packets of biscuits and hides the wrappers."

Richie laughs at his animal-loving, vegan daughter. "Joanna says, 'Dad, I made you this sugarless, dairy- and gluten-free cake that will be good for you', and I often wonder if I'd be better off shortening my life than eating her cardboard," he says. "She has broken me down to becoming vegetarian, and doesn't know that I secretly dream of black pudding and a fillet steak. Joanna always wanted to change the world for the better from a very young age, and has a wonderful, kind heart.

"She is full of fun and laughter, and is always standing up for people's rights and personally feeding the homeless of Limerick. My wife and I are extremely proud of the work she is doing."

The pair say that they spend most of the time at work laughing, but do they ever clash?

"Well only on diet, politics, morals, psychology, science, religion, gender roles, responsibilities, humour, travelling, make of cars, icons, who has better hair (Dad always wins), general knowledge, music, movies, who's stronger, who looks older and what you'd take if stranded on a desert island," laughs Joanna. "You know, just a few little things!"

Louis Grubb & Sarah Forno

Louis Grubb, 71, is from Silverfort, Tipperary, and he founded the Cashel Blue cheese company with his wife Jane. He is managing director and their only child Sarah, 40, is general manager.

Louis says that becoming a dad was very exciting, although it was frightening knowing that you were suddenly completely responsible for a tiny creature. He recalls how Sarah would rush to the milking parlour and pretend she was milking cows as a child.

"Sarah is caring and determined, and does not walk away from responsibilities," he says.

"She is also untidy and scatty, but gets away with it. She has her mother's appreciation of good-quality food and concern for other people, and possibly her father's problem of having too many ideas and wanting to have a go at them all."

Sarah went away to study in Wales, which is where she met her husband Sergio, and then lived in London before coming back to join the company. "I look after all the day-to-day running of the business together with Sergio and my cousin Louis," she says. "It's an honour to get the opportunity to work with my father, and I have great respect for his way of critical thinking, ability to take a calculated risk and manners - not forgetting his charm.

"My advice is never to tell him you're going somewhere though, as he'll give you a list so long you'll never get a minute to yourself.

"Last year, we set off to Somerset for a cheese show together in Dad's ancient and very basic camper van, which he insisted on driving all the way. He thoroughly enjoyed the show, watching dancing sheep and chatting to the man running the traditional carnival, while frequently coming to check that I was OK and resuscitating me with his homemade flapjacks and tea."

Sarah's three children, Luca (11), Anna (8) and Leila (2), have a great relationship with their granddad.

"Dad was just thrilled every time I told him I was expecting, and my children love spending time with him," Sarah says.

"He has a good relationship with Sergio although they are very different, but my dad, who is reserved in his praise, told me he thinks Sergio is a great father, which means a lot to me."

Bill & Laura Kelly

Bill Kelly, 52, is MD of Kelly's Resort Hotel & Spa in Rosslare. He is married to Isabelle, and they have six daughters, Laura, Clara, Eva, Anna, Faye and Grace. Eldest daughter Laura, 28, is a manager at the resort, with an operational and HR focus.

For Bill, becoming a dad was an amazing experience, even though in retrospect, he reckons that he and Isabelle must have been "half crazy" to have six daughters under 10. "Laura was a very determined, competitive and independent little girl," he recalls. "She walked at 10 months, with a lot of encouragement from me, which taught me a lesson - I didn't push the other children to walk as quickly.

"She was great fun and was more into sport and football than dolls, although maybe it was because I had no sons to play football with me. She was also happy to work summers in the hotel, which was encouraging for the future. We never really clashed, although I normally left all that challenging, hormonal stuff to poor Isabelle, and would only get involved if something very serious occurred."

Kelly's was always a huge part of Laura's life, and while her dad worked very long hours at the resort when she was growing up, he made sure to spend every free minute with his daughters. With six daughters, one might imagine that Bill would be strict around boyfriends, but Laura says he was "surprisingly cool".

"The girls were afraid to bring anyone home, as I joked that I needed to interview them first," says Bill. "We also have a long drive to our house with lots of potholes, and I assured Isabelle it was just to keep the boys out."

Laura admires her dad's passion for business and extreme drive to succeed, and says his faults include being stubborn and always thinking he's right. He might come across as tough and matter-of-fact in business, she says, but everyone knows that he's a very kind-hearted person.

"Family, staff and even hotel guests constantly comment on how alike we are, apparently in everything from our mannerisms to our way of thinking," she says. "I feel extremely lucky to have the dad I have."

Bill says that Laura has a very warm and very caring personality, and is also very much at ease and confident around the hotel - much more than he was when he started working there. "What drives me mad is that Laura, like her mother, never orders dessert, something I cannot resist," he groans. "However she has this awful habit of eating mine!"

Eugene & Aoibhin Garrihy

Eugene Garrihy, 55, is married to Clare and has three daughters, Aoibhin, Ailbhe and Doireann. As well as being a successful actor, Aoibhin, 27, works with her dad on Dublin Bay Cruises, which offers twice-daily cruises between Howth and Dun Laoghaire.

Aoibhin has always been very close to her dad Eugene, and says that he's someone she looks to for advice and inspiration, as he's very level-headed.

"He's always up for a laugh and I love to be around him," she says. "When I got my place on the acting course in Trinity College after a rigorous audition process, I remember my dad picking me up in his arms for a giant hug of sheer delight."

When Eugene set up Dublin Bay Cruises in 2013, Aoibhin came on board as the sales and marketing manager, and is very proud to be part of a really exciting new business that has already gained a huge amount of recognition and awards in the Irish tourism industry. "Working with my dad has really brought us even closer," she says. "We have each other's back, and as I get older I realise what a great person he is. He's incredibly positive, and his ability to pick himself up and dust himself off is really the most inspiring thing about him. What drives me mad is his tendency to be slightly disorganised, as we all have to run around picking up the pieces after him. He's working on it though!"

Aoibhin also runs her drama school, Actors and Reactors, in Ennis, and spends half of the week in Clare, where her boyfriend John Burke runs the Armada Hotel in Spanish Point. So what was Eugene's reaction when she started bringing boys home? "I don't think he minded the male company, as it was probably a break from our house full of women," she laughs. "John and my dad get on great, but because he introduced us, he's partly responsible."

Eugene says that his beautiful daughter shares his 'glass half-full' attitude, and inherited her common sense from her mum.

"Aoibhin has a very bubbly personality and is always willing to give her time to worthy causes," he says. "Our relationship is very strong, but what drives me mad is when she starts checking up on me, asking where I am and what I'm doing next."

Keith & Katie Finnegan

Keith Finnegan, 53, is a radio broadcaster and CEO of Galway Bay FM. He's married to Joan and has two children, Katie, 24, and Aidan, 22. Katie works as the producer of The Keith Finnegan Show which airs weekdays.

"Ever since I could talk, I've only ever wanted to work with Keith, as he has always been my hero," says Katie. Last year, her wish came true when her dad's producer of 10 years moved on. Having acquired two master's degrees in journalism and digital media, Katie had also worked part-time at the station for years - providing holiday cover for her dad's previous producer - so she was a natural successor.

"Katie always has a great eye for a story," Keith says. "There is a huge trust thing with our listeners phoning in to tell me their stories, and having another Finnegan in the camp encouraging them to come on helps that. Katie is very persuasive."

Keith adds that Katie is very generous, and will make a coffee cake for him at home if she thinks he's had a bad day. She's very structured and organised, and once they're on air, she's the boss of the show.

"I'm very lucky to get to spend so much time with my dad," she says. "What I love about him is that he's very compassionate and giving with people."

Katie still lives at home and Aidan is in London, so she and her dad had to agree not to talk about work at home in fairness to Joan. "Mum and Aidan are the fun ones, and Keith and I are the boring ones," she smiles. "I know what makes Keith tick, and we work well under pressure and never panic. We debate about some stories and try to bring each other around if we disagree on them, but we only fight if I make his tea too strong at 10am!"

The pair say they know how each other thinks, and Keith only has to give Katie a look or flick his wrist in a certain manner when he's on air, and she'll know instantly what he wants.

"We're a two-person team producing three hours of live radio every day, so it's very challenging and a fantastic experience. I couldn't be in a better position starting off my career," she says. "Keith always looks out for me, and he and Mum go for dinner with myself and my boyfriend Ronan once a month, so we'd be friends as much as father and daughter."

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