Learn new things, have fun too
Be one. Inspire one The recession taught hotelier Deirdre McGlone how to make difficult decisions
Visionaries inspire us. For Deirdre McGlone, owner of Harvey’s Point in Donegal, it was brother- in- law Jody Gysling who had the vision to see how a rundown cottage on 27 acres of boggy land could be transformed into one of the country’s premier hotel destinations.
It helped that the poor land in question was in a perfect location – on the shores of scenic Lough Eske.
A Swiss national and globe- trotting businessman, Gysling had come to Donegal in 1983 in search of a holiday home. But thanks to the work that he and subsequently his brother Marc put in, over time the holiday home was transformed into a guest house, then a small hotel and, f i nally, i nto the award- winning four- star property it now is.
Along the way they recruited local girl Deirdre. A European studies graduate of the University of Limerick, she had worked in France, Germany and London and took a receptionist job as a stopgap, but never left.
She and Marc fell in love, married and began their family. In 1996 they bought out Jody’s share in the hotel and set to work building a strong clientele, mainly through great customer service and constant reinvestment.
“Jody had the vision and is the perfect blend of hotelier and builder with an eye for detail,” says McGlone. In recognition of the fact that women are the primary decision- makers for short breaks, he included such details as having good lighting and seating in bedrooms.”
McGlone is particularly committed to female empowerment and she’s been inspired by Paula Fitzsimons, founder of Going for Growth, a programme for women looking to grow their businesses, which is free to participants.
Like so many former participants Deirdre McGlone: “Too often women have a great business idea but not the confidence to convert that into a plan”. McGlone now gives back to it, acting as a lead entrepreneur for a sister programme called Acorns, which is aimed at early stage, female- led start- ups in rural areas.
“I’m working with my third Acorns group now and I just love it,” says McGlone. “I knew from participating in Be One. Inspire One, sponsored by Ulster Bank, is a series that tells the stories of successful Irish women and what it is that inspires them.
The series is being supported by Ulster Bank, which understands the need for flexible solutions for busy professionals.
“Ulster Bank Private Banking allows you the flexibility you need by saving you time and helping you to manage your personal banking from wherever you are, whenever you want, leaving you free to focus on the things that Going for Growth just how open and caring women in business are to one another.”
A combination of networking and positive peer pressure can help build confidence in women. “Too often women have a great business idea but not the confidence to convert that into a really matter in your life,” says Sandra O’Rourke, relationship manager with Ulster Bank Private Banking. ulsterbank. ie. sandra. orourke@ ulsterbank. com plan or the connections to turn that plan into something that works. It’s important for women to know that there are supports out there that can help them take an idea from the kitchen table to the boardroom.”
McGlone says she was never overly confident herself. “It’s only over the years that I have gained confidence. I always had a belief in myself, but how to bring that out I just didn’t know.”
Continuing professional development helps. “It’s very important to keep seeing what’s out there, building your networks,” says McGlone, who is also president of the networking organisation Donegal Women in Business.
Fun is important to her, as is a positive outlook, but she’s resilient in the face of failure too. “I’m the type that will dust myself off and look on the bright side. In the past I struggled with being assertive because I’d be naturally inclined to go with the flow.
“I’ve had to learn to be tougher than that as a business woman. The recession taught me how to make difficult decisions too, in order to protect my business.”
Harvey’s Point blends family and work beautifully, but it’s important to maintain a work/ life balance too.
For McGlone the key is having a good team around her. “I’m not afraid to employ people with better skills than me because it frees me up to look after the guests, which is what I love.”
It also frees her up to get out with her family in the great outdoors, hill walking and horse riding.
When it’s time to come back in she’ll do herself up, this time inspired by her mother. “She raised six kids and always liked to look her best and dress well. She took great pride in her appearance and passed that on to me,” says McGlone. “Fashion doesn’t interest me at all but I l i ke being appropriately dressed and groomed for the role I play. It’s what she taught me.”
PHOTOGRAPH: JAMES CONNOLLY