Dressing the part
Anyone who knows me knows that I do love my clothes, and I go to great trouble to have nice outfits for the Ploughing. Now I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, so I think that’s an innocent enough indulgence. But it’s not just a frivolous thing. I firmly believe you have to portray a good image when you are representing an organization. It applies equally to the menfolk, and I would have a word with them if they weren’t well dressed for a presentation. They would always take the advice well and you’d rarely have to say it a second time because they know they are representing the Association.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression and your clothes are the first thing that people notice. In the past, I have told dignitaries to remove their wellingtons when they come on stage at the Ploughing. And I make no apology for that. I think there should definitely be a code of dress in Dáil Éireann. It shows respect for the people you represent. There’s no reason to look like the wreck of the Hesperus. It’s an insult to the people you are representing because you are saying that you don’t think enough of them to make an effort. and more, to speak at conferences and meetings about the success of the National Ploughing Championships and how I’ve managed, as a woman in business. I don’t know if I do anything differently as a managing director because I am a woman. I am a great believer in bringing people along with you, rather than dictating to them from on high, but I don’t think that’s a trait specific to women. I treat everyone the same and give them as much responsibility as I think they can handle. In my experience, people always rise to the challenge. So, of course, I’m also a great believer in delegating as much as you can. No one person, no matter how brilliant they are, can run the whole show. It’s not good for the organization, and it’s certainly not good for the person who tries to do that.
Being a woman in a role like mine has brought lots of awards over the years, too. I certainly never expected to be recognized as businesswoman of the year in the Veuve Clicquot awards in 2013. That was particularly interesting because I don’t drink alcohol. People who like the bubbly stuff will know that Veuve Clicquot is a premium champagne. The company started the awards for entrepreneurial women to honour Madame Clicquot, who took over the champagne house in the early 1800s after her husband died suddenly. She was only 28 and this was a time when women had no role in the business world, but she emerged as a formidable businesswoman.
As a non-drinker, I knew none of this when I got the call from Veuve Clicquot. I had a dilemma: should I tell them I didn’t drink, or not? I decided to be upfront in case there was a champagne toast and I found myself looking around for a plant to tip the drink into. Fair play to them, they said there was absolutely no problem and they went ahead with the award.
The name Veuve Clicquot probably rolls off some people’s tongues, but I had to practise pronouncing it a few times to make sure I got it right. Then they took me, and the eight other award-winners from around the world, to their vineyard in Reims, where they planted individual vines in our honour, with little name plaques on them. I saw the vines of previous Irish recipients, such as publisher Norah Casey, designer Louise Kennedy and chef Darina Allen. I was in very good company indeed.
It’s nice to think that the vine will be there for years, and perhaps some day the grandchildren will be in France and will decide to look up Nana’s
vine in Reims.
Award: Anna May is presented with the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year Award 2013 by Caroline Sleiman