This Working Life with John Tuohy

John Tuohy, with his new business OOHPod features in Business Post

8 Apr 2022 - 5 mins read


Interview Credit: Fergal Phillips

Published: March 13, 2022. Download the article here.

"For me, in-person communication is the best way to achieve business goals"

John Tuohy, a veteran of the parcel business and founder of delivery service OOHPod, shares his relief at the return of in-person meetings and his admiration for the courage and leadership of the president of Ukraine.

I always had an interest in entrepreneurship, so I spent two years completing a "start your own business" course in the 1980s with Anco, which was the predecessor to Fás, the state training agency that is now called Solas.

I've been running my own businesses since 1992, and prior to that I held a senior management role at FedEx when I was in my early 20s. Back then my goals were simply to be as successful as I could be and to learn and grow from my experience on that journey.

While those goals are still hugely important to me, I quickly learned that with success and growth comes huge responsibility. You have a team working with you and that adds another layer of motivation to make sure the business succeeds, to keep them in employment, make sure they are happy, and help them meet their own individual responsibilities.

My mentors and people that I've admired over the years would be successful business leaders in Ireland and internationally. Lord Karan Bilimoria, the founder and chair of Cobra Beer, is a good example given his success in his business and the work he does for society generally.

Then there are Irish retail heroes like the late Feargal Quinn, the Dunne family and Joe Barrett and Bob Etchingham at Applegreen. They have run successful Irish businesses in what are probably the most fiercely competitive sectors, ones that are usually dominated by huge global brands.

Leading by example is the best way to create the right impression in the workplace. If you want an atmosphere of mutual respect and collegiality, it can be achieved by practising what you preach. Listening and being respectful of other people's views work, while poorly communicating your business objectives doesn't.

If you're keen to progress in an organisation, perhaps from one management role into a more senior one, be sure to prepare your successor. Ensure that you have identified the person on your team who is likely to replace you. Give them the reins and empower them from time to time. Test this when you go on holiday, so that you can be confident your number two has things covered.

Business really shouldn't be about politics and egos, but they tend to get in the way sometimes, especially in larger organisations. Everyone will have experienced situations where their ideas or suggestions are either not listened to or taken by others who then claim credit for them. This creates friction and can affect relationships between co-workers. Communication and due credit is key to ensuring that every contribution is valued and attributed accordingly.

My last job interview was in the 1980s. I remember having to go into Arnott's to open a store credit account so that I could buy a business suit, which I then paid in monthly instalments. At the time, lots of people did this.

Countless times over the years I've interviewed candidates who have not done any kind of research about the company, the sector or even the role they had applied for. My advice to interviewees is to give your best impression, be confident, always prepare in advance and do thorough research.

In a company, everyone should under-stand what is expected of them, but at the same time people need to be informed on how they are performing in a regular, structured way. If someone does a good job, employers should let them know. Performance reviews can sometimes be too focused on weaknesses and failure rather than successes and strengths.

It's important to ensure that poor performers, unreasonable personalities or people who just don't fit in are dealt with quickly. Hopefully their performance improves and attitudes are corrected quickly. If that's not possible or doesn't happen, then they should be removed from the team or business altogether.

Poor performers left unchecked impact on morale and can bring good performers down, or worse, drive good people out of a business. Jack Welch wrote about this in his first book From the Gut. It's an excellent read that I'd recommend to any business leader.

After two years of working from home, it's so good to be back in a working environment with colleagues. For me, in-person communication is the best way to achieve business goals.

It's so important to be open and honest in our business dealings and to ensure the highest levels of integrity.

Despite the excellent technology and tools that we have for remote working, it's just not the same. A mixture of both can be very successful. Spontaneity can be powerful in team meetings when it comes to new ideas and innovation, and that can be difficult to achieve over a planned Teams call.

Networking in business is essential. LinkedIn is such an amazing way to network online but events like trade shows and business functions are so important to meet like-minded people and gain new insights and ideas. Meeting people allows you build a better rapport than you would do on a phone call, so I'm really looking forward to getting back out there and shaking hands again.

As the old saying goes, "we only get one chance to make a first impression". It's so important to be open and honest in our business dealings and to ensure the highest levels of integrity. From that foundation, great and lasting relationships flow.

Right now, I can't think of anyone I admire more than president Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. He is the epitome of courage and leadership for the people of Ukraine in the most appalling and terrifying circumstances. He could easily have left the country to govern remotely. He chose to stay and lead by example.