Business guru advocates developing a Midas touch
Pádraic Ó Máille is an expert in productivity whose business therapy sessions counsel discipline. His new book aims at helping the indebted regain control
Padráic O’Máille in Galway. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy.
An article in Forbes magazine in 1988 predicted that, because of advances in technology, we would all be working four day weeks in 25 years time, finishing up around lunchtime on Thursday and going back to work on Monday morning. We would become members of the “leisure society” that one of the founders of modern economics, John Maynard Keynes spoke of in his famous 1930 essay, Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren, when he predicted that we would be working 15 hour weeks by 2030 – for the same pay.
However, 25 years on from the Forbes prediction, Galway business guru Pádraic Ó Máille points out that the vision of the utopian leisure society seems further from reality than ever as the advent of email, smartphones, mobile devices and social media mean most of us are working longer hours than ever.
“Instead of us having more leisure time, the antithesis has happened. Many people are so swamped by modern technology that they are under more pressure than ever before. We are accessible by email and phone 24 hours a day, this technology permeates our entire life and impacts our stress levels.”
Ó Máille has just written a personal development guide in the form of a parable called The Midas Power which he claims can get readers “from powerless to powerful in seven days”. Having worked with some of Ireland’s most successful business people, athletes and leaders over the past 25 years, he has learned that attitude, more than any other factor, is the prerequisite to success in any endeavour.
“With the right attitude you can move mountains. With the wrong attitude you will be overcome by a grain of sand,” he asserts.
Business in the blood
A commerce and marketing graduate from University College Galway, Ó Máille was born with business in his blood. His father, Pádraic senior, opened the iconic shop Ó Máille’s on Dominick Street in 1938 and was the first retailer in Ireland to trade in Aran sweaters.
“My father saw a niche market back in the 1930s to sell tweed to the people of Connemara and the Americans. Although it was regarded as poor man’s cloth at the time, it was very appropriate for farmers and fisherman as it did not retain water. Providentially, my father got the contract to make the clothing for The Quiet Man in 1951, opening up the whole US market and the export market is where the business is today. My cousin Ger runs the business now and I am not involved any more but I am very proud of the connection.”
Having worked in a number of general management positions after college, Ó Máille became very interested in the area of productivity and time management. He went to Canada to train in time management and became one of Ireland’s first time management consultants back in the 1980s. He began working with business people like Pádraig O’Ceidigh of Aer Arann and Pat McDonagh of Supermac’s who were at the time just starting out.
During the Celtic Tiger years, Ó Máille found there was a great demand for his skills as a business management consultant. However, it was with the demise of the Celtic Tiger that his business really started to take off as his skills were increasingly sought out by people feeling the desperation and desolation of being in debt.
It was in direct response to the pervasive negativity in Irish society precipitated by the recession that he set up the Smacht business therapy programme which, as the title suggests, stresses the importance of discipline for success in business and life. There are no shortcuts, no “get rich quick” schemes, he says. Discipline is a very powerful strategy that he feels should be taught in schools instead of being feared.
Ó Máille describes Smacht (an acronym for strategy, money, attitude, communications, health and team) as being like AA or WeightWatchers for business people. A great believer in the power of group therapy, he explains that the Smacht meetings give people the opportunity to discuss their business difficulties with other business people, many of whom are in the same leaky boat, and to get advice on how to move forward.
“One big aspect of stress for my clients, particularly for men, is that so many of them don’t know what to do to get out of the mess they have found themselves and their businesses in. They can’t talk to their bank manager, they can’t talk to their accountant and they can’t talk to their partner but as our mothers used to say, a problem shared is a problem halved. There is a real need for men in this country in financial debt to share their problems and, as we are all aware, there have been some tragic endings where this has not happened.”
The three main steps that Ó Máille advises his clients to take to deal with their debt issues are:
1. To increase their earning potential
2. To eliminate debt.
3. To develop the habit of saving and investing money for compound growth.
There is a lot of talk at the monthly Smacht meetings about Shag s and each client gets a Shag tracker, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with their sex lives (unless one of their goals in life is to spice up their sex life). Shag stands for Smacht hairy audacious goal and the Shag tracker is a planning and accountability tool to help each person reach their Shag. The programme helps people to develop clear goals and a plan for achieving those goals for which they are held accountable.
It was over Christmas 2011 that Ó Máille got a text message from O’Ceidigh asking: “What one thing if you achieved it in 2012 would make a significant difference?” He was very clear that writing a book would make a big difference to his life and even though he didn’t get started until October, he had the book written and edited by the end of 2012.
The Midas Power tells the story of Ruairí, an overworked, burned-out and deeply in-debt business person who is thrown out by his wife and given an ultimatum to sort himself out. In desperation, he flees to Inis Óirr, off the west coast of Ireland where he (rather fortuitously) meets a wise and kind mentor who guides him from a hapless, hopeless place in his life to a place of self awareness, self confidence, courage and vitality.
“Like many of my clients, Ruairí is stressed, in debt and unsure how to get out of this dilemma. The island is a metaphorical place of refuge, a place where he can reflect on his life. The message of the book is that with discipline and the right mentor, you can achieve anything. The most successful people I work with have great mentors. There are outstanding mentors out there if you ask for help but you must be prepared to be mentored, to have somebody who holds you accountable in your life,” says Ó Máille.
For stockist information or to order The Midas Power go to themidaspower.com or omaille.ie.