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Taking control of your life is the first step to finding your own success


Margaret Nelson. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Margaret Nelson. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Margaret Nelson. Photo: Caroline Quinn

HIGH-FLYING FM104 chief Margaret Nelson is straightforward about her success.

In her mid-20s when she found herself in a career she didn't enjoy, Margaret took control of her destiny. She upped sticks and moved to Dublin, got into the radio business and has never looked back.

"You have to run your life the way you want it to run. You can't let life run you," Margaret explains. "I think that a lot of us use a lot of excuses to not take control and organise things."

Margaret is a master multi-tasker. The busy CEO and mother is also on the board of directors of the Irish Hospice Foundation.


She is the type of woman that can hold two conversations at once and have both parties feeling like the only person in the room.

However, she bats away any such compliments with a humble shrug. Margaret is a straight-laced, no fuss, hard-working person.

"I'm a working mother. I have two children – Johnathan who is 16 and Isobelle is just 12," Margaret says. "It's complicated for every working mother, but it's slightly more complicated for me because my husband works in London from Monday to Friday and he comes home on a Friday evening."

The businesswoman is fond of her routine and believes it is the secret to a happy family life. Although she and her husband live apart during the week, they have found a way to make it work.

"I'm the only happily married woman that I know who lives in a different country then her husband!" she laughs. "I mean it, I've got my routine and I also have never known any different. Joe has never lived in Dublin and I have never lived in London, bar maternity leave, so my working life has always been structured the way it is and my married life has always been structured the way it is."

Margaret is a born leader, but is also one of life's natural nurturers – half an hour in her company is a masterclass in people skills and likeability that few of us can boast.

"I think that being in control of things is something that was instilled in me at a very young age through my father, who had a great work ethic," she explains.

Despite sitting in her chic docklands office, surrounded by smiling family photos, Margaret is adamant that there is no such thing as the perfect work/life balance.

"My work is very important to me but my family are my priority; the kids and Joe are my priority," she says.

"You just have to be organised. I have weekly goals as well as weekly and annual goals. You have to be organised if you are running a house, you have a family and you're running a business as well."

"I try and have a date night with Joe every weekend, but I have been known to actually bring an agenda with me to a restaurant and say we need to talk about this, this and this," she laughs.

In work, Margaret is equally as structured. And although she is the epitome of working hard and playing hard, she knows that her staff are just as important in the operation of the business.

"Obviously we're a very successful radio station, we employ nearly 90 people, we're 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We're always open for business so that has to be structured and organised well," she explains.

"I give 100pc to everything. I say it to the kids all the time and I say it to the guys in the office as well 'just do your best and take advantage of the opportunities that life gives you'.

"The people in my office are hugely important, because the success of FM104 is dependent on the people. We're not McDonalds, we don't have an award-winning recipe for a burger in the corner. We're all links in the chain."

Like so many women at the top of her game, Margaret has ignored any reference to a glass ceiling in her career and, by doing so, it has ceased to exist for her. When she was appointed CEO of FM104 in 2008, following the station's purchase by UTV, few were surprised.

"I'm a CEO of a very successful radio station, I just happen to be a woman," she says.

"I think life changes when you have children and that's when the difference comes in, trying to manage children and school and home and work, but if you don't have aspirations and you don't have a plan, life is just going to plod along and life is going to go by.


"I always wanted to be in control of my own destiny, I always wanted to be really good at what I did and I always pushed myself and that goes back to my parents and the work ethic they gave me," Margaret explains.

"When I was leaving home I was 17 and my father said two things to me. He brought me into my bedroom and said 'this is your bedroom and you'll always have a bed in this house.' The second thing he said was 'work hard, salute anything that moves and polish anything that doesn't.'"