Rethinking the organisation essential for business to thrive


FROM TIME to time businesses need to stop and reflect on their future. This realisation struck Colm Lyon of Realex Payments four years ago.

The result, he told participants at the latest Irish Times Innovation Roadshow at the UCD Smurfit School of Business, is that his company is experiencing substantial year-on-year growth and is expanding its team.

During his keynote address, he described the process of radically shifting Realex Payments’ level of ambition and culture.

Lyon launched Realex in 2000 after leaving a senior role at Ulster Bank and it had grown into a small but successful payments processor by the late 2000s.

His experience on the Enterprise Ireland Leadership For Growth Programme promoted him to change tack, and think deeper about what Realex could be, and how it functioned internally.

One result was Realex’s ambitious venture into the current account business with Carapay. Another was an internal culture shift.

Senior staff underwent a lengthy process of personal coaching and adopted new systems of decision-making and for exchanging feedback to build, in Lyon’s words, “a management team rather than management group”.

The organisation also began to build space and structures to allow for more creative thinking. Lyon gave the example of the three “ring forts” built within the company’s new headquarters at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay in Dublin. The “forts” are circular discussion spaces bounded by 7ft walls, simulated stone exteriors, and whiteboard internal walls that staff use to work out ideas.

Attendees at the event also heard from Brendan Cremen of NovaUCD, who outlined the various funding mechanisms available to start-ups, and to established organisations seeking to work with universities on RD.

The funding discussion was followed by a presentation from Dr Laurent Muzellec of the UCD Smurfit School, who outlined the challenges for businesses attempting to leverage the internet.

The next roadshow is on Friday at NUI Galway. See business/innovation/roadshows