At Talent Garden Dublin we have recently launched a new initiative called Members Spotlight! Because of Covid 19 our members can no longer network the way they used to, we also recognise the ‘zoom fatigue’ and how overwhelming all the different online events can be. For us, our community is special and we are lucky to hear the amazing stories of our members every day, and we want to share them with our wider community! Following on from our first edition of Members Spotlight with community members Hauora, we had a virtual chat with John Treacy, Managing Director of Treacy Consulting.
One of our newer members at Talent Garden Dublin, John Treacy is a strategy consultant with over 20 years experience across EU & US. His consultancy firm, Treacy Consulting, specialises in corporate & organisational strategy, sales & marketing, strategic HR, and business advisory services. Along with being Managing Director and Founder of his Treacy Consulting he is also involved in many other projects including LuggageFree.com, Tribe 101, Rugby Players Ireland, and the Docklands Business Forum.
How did it all begin? How did you get to where you are today?
I studied commerce and law in UCD and got on the first flight to Chicago after I graduated. I worked on the Chicago Board of Trade (derivatives) trading floor which was crazy, and fun, but after a while, I just wasn’t loving it. A UCD friend I met in Chicago was in management consulting with a multinational firm. He was travelling all over the States meeting people, doing interviews, focus groups, data analysis and I just loved hearing about it. So when his company was hiring, I knew I had to go for it. It was a long process, about 7 interviews, but I got the job and have been working in consultancy ever since.
I was able to travel all over the States and ended up coming back to Ireland after 7 years and I joined another multinational here in Dublin. Again, I had the opportunity to work across Ireland but also Europe. In 2004, I took a leap of faith and went out on my own. I was able to pick up big clients like Sage and CapGemini and grew it from there.
What is consulting to you?
Consulting is a nice mix that suits me perfectly. I like meeting people, big presentations, focus groups but I also love analysis, so any project I do is a mixture of people and number crunching. At this stage I’ve worked in about 40 different industries and all organisations face similar income, cost and growth challenges – they all use ‘the same verbs, but different nouns’!
Our consulting space is strategy. So, research and planning, project management, change management, new markets, new products, and fundraising for startups. A simple example would be Calor Gas. We’ve helped them with their 5 year strategy for the island of Ireland. So we are now in the middle of a mid-term review and double checking the forecast and assessing the actual sales and cost growth, new products. For startups we just helped Brightflag and Evercam on recent fundraisings for example…two fantastic companies. Brightflag just hit a value of €50m, and Evercam is right behind them!
I also get more involved in different companies too, and I have been on the boards of different companies. I’m not working for a big multinational anymore so I can get more embedded in different companies. I am about to finish up a Non-Executive Director role with luggagefree.com following its successful trade sale, so I am chatting to a couple of TAG companies about maybe joining their Boards. (Thanks for the introductions Machaela and Nicole!)
Would you stay along with your client for the whole 5 year journey?
Yes, and longer. With any project you’ve got two clients – the company (shareholders, staff, management, etc.) but you also have the senior executive as a direct contact. Once you establish a ‘trusted advisor’ position executives, they give you a ring when they need you. For example, I just finished a project during the summer for a CEO who was my first client in Dublin in 2002…and he is CEO of his 3rd company now.
So you’re working with all the top dogs! Why did you choose the industry?
I love strategy consulting because you’re constantly learning new things, even in times of Covid. Everyone’s marketplace is constantly changing, including our public sector clients and non-profits. At the moment I’m working on a new Irish startup in the Covid-19 space. It is another great example of Irish innovation when it is really needed.
At this stage I have worked across about 40 different industries, and some of them did not exist ten years ago. I think my curiosity got me into this industry, and the constant change keeps me in it.
You said that you’re involved in many different companies and nonprofits. Can you talk us through why you like to get involved in so many projects?
We are constantly working on 4 to 6 live projects, some big, some small. So we see a lot of different opportunities and challenges. I have also completed about four Non-Executive Director positions now. They are great because you are a part of the business and you have to make your suggestions work and hit the bottom line.
My brother Stephen started a business called Tribe 101 in recent years. We were both into the Irish global network, especially when we were in Chicago together, and have always liked how Irish people look out for each other when we’re all so far away from home. In America there seemed to be a movement where Irish-American heritage was drifting from Irish heritage because of the huge population of 3rd+ generations of Irish Diaspora. We found that Irish history and culture wasn’t being captured and shared. My brother had the idea to do something to help Irish-Americans learn more about Ireland, essentially an “Ireland 101”. We started the hobby of Ireland 101 and kept it up.
A few years later we invested about €400,000 to give it a proper platform and then last year we raised €220,000 to grow it with Enda O’Coineen, the owner of the Business Post. Stephen is the driving force behind it and it’s become bigger than ever before. We built a bigger backend and now we have about 250,000 visitor sessions each month now, with 50 countries on it, like Ireland101.com. It’s all about helping people around the world learn more about where they came from whether it’s through games, facts or surname research.
“I’ve played rugby all my life, so I decided to take my passion for rugby and for strategy into
the heart of Irish Rugby…the Players’ Association!”
I’m involved with Rugby Players Ireland for almost over 8 years now. I’ve been working with Johnny Sexton, Rob Kearney, Paul O’Connell, and all the guys. Early on, I put on my strategy hat and we did some research on players associations around the world and quickly realized that we weren’t on a par with New Zealand, South Africa, or Australia. Over the years we worked improving things year on year and we grew it from 2.5 employees to 13.5 employees, from 6 figures of income to 7 figures. We got into smarter sponsorship schemes, mental health (Tackle Your Feelings App), a network for past players, more secure funding, agent accreditation, and working closer with the IRFU. There has also been a lot of work behind the scenes to take better care of the younger Academy players. Don’t get me wrong though, things are really tough at the moment given the Covid19 restrictions, but they will bounce back.
You sound very busy. Does it affect your work/balance?
Yes and no. It can be tough, and Covid19 has turned everything upside down for all of us, but certainly over the years I am really happy to be self-employed. I think when your kids are growing up you have a small window to spend time with them as kids. I see my friends who are burnt out on a Saturday morning and the last thing they have is energy for the kids. My daughter is 9, ‘going on 16’. That window is getting tighter and I’m already seeing that ‘Dad is not cool’ anymore, so I am glad I have the flexibility to spend time with them while they are young.
What’s been your proudest moment so far?
Professionally, we’ve always done pro bono work or deeply discounted work for non profits. I’ve worked with DRCC, Little Fitness and Jigsaw. I was also on the board of Docklands Business Forum which was operating in one of the most exciting business geographies in the world, the Dublin Silicon Docks. Minister Phil Hogan appointed me to the local government council too and we were able to change some outdated legislation around the docklands.
Personally, my rugby club (Old Belvedere RFC) and certainly Rugby Players Ireland which I’m very proud of. My family is included too of course! I had the loveliest time yesterday when I had my whole family at my rugby club and it was such a nice moment to have the family together supporting each other…and then tackling each other!
How is Talent Garden slotting into your work?
It is great here. I’ve been here working late and early which is so handy. I’ve been really impressed from day one and that’s all down to you guys. I just think the team are so professional yet great personalities you can have a chat with. The webinars, the introductions, the resources, this interview, I just think the building and the whole offering is really smart. I also reckon I will pick up 3 new clients here.
“I’ve been chatting to my neighbours a lot. It’s you guys here that join the dots and help create these connections.”
That’s what we’re all about! What was the most surprising thing starting a company?
I think it’s an Irish thing that we can punch above our weight. When I worked in the two multinationals I found it hard to fully deliver because we were always chasing deadlines and overloaded. But when I went out on my own, I found that I could price things better and find the time to over deliver and add extra value on projects. We’ve always had really good clients and some strong brand names, and some small clients that started off as nobodies but have become big names. For example Brightflag were working quietly inside Ulster Bank on a paid pilot. Now they’re all over the world. And we did about three strategy projects for Realex Payments over the years, and the first one was when they were smaller. They sold for circa €200m a couple of years ago.
Do you want to pass your business down to your family?
Only if they would love to do this work.
I am regularly asked for advice on careers, especially with some of the professional rugby players who are worried about like after rugby. The players don’t realise how tough it can be when it is their time to finish up. I have one simple mantra:
“If you can find an industry that you love, or a role you love, or the right size/type of organisation for you.. …just getting one of those things right and you will be happier than most people in the workforce.”
When it comes to educational courses, selecting project work topics, taking elective subjects, etc., pick the topics you naturally love and are genuinely interested in. Every industry is competitive now, so finding something you enjoy makes everything easier…and life is too short to do something you do not love.
“For my daughters, I want them to work in areas that make them happy because,
in my experience, that’s where you will be most successful.”
“When you enjoy what you do, success is easier to achieve.”
I keep my girls busy. I have one of them helping out on a project now, and have them all involved in rugby…so not only are they playing rugby but they’re part of the management team learning to be responsible adults! They all want to play rugby for Ireland, so I have that to look forward to.