Colm O’Brien is the founder of Carambola, amongst other things. He believes Limerick is edgy and that the city and region needs to embrace that edginess and market it to the world.
What’s your role?
Founder and MD of Carambola a school meals business that is 14 years in existence, with 130 staff, and a €8.5m annual turnover. I’m also the founder of The Sounding Board – helping SMEs and business owners scale sustainably and profitably; the owner of Colm O’Brien Motivation, inspirational after dinner and general motivation speaker for the Business Community; a volunteer chairman of the Board Lime Tree Theatre; and a volunteer board member of the Irish Chamber Orchestra.
What are you most interested in?
I am most interested in leadership. Leadership is an attitude, not a position. I regularly speak to groups ranging from 10 to 12-year-olds (5th/6th class) through to senior execs and SME owners and motivate them to get better, to lead by example. Our businesses can never outgrow us.
What are your ambitions?
To build something significant. Significant in terms of scale. Significant in terms of impact. Significant in terms of revenues. Significant in terms of Limerick and the Midwest. Significant regarding Ireland Inc.
“Leadership is an attitude, not a position.”
What drives you?
Contribution. We all have talents. I believe we should all use what we have. The world will be a poorer place if we hide our gifts and think small. I believe if we do the right job right long enough the rewards (including the few bob) follow.
Who do you admire in business?
Sir Richard Branson – he portrays himself as the epitome of casual success and seems to effortlessly attract and retain great business deals, by attracting and retaining great people. Also, the Collison brothers, Limerick boys playing on a global stage and JP McManus and Chuck Feeney. I love their philanthropy work.
“It needs to remain quintessentially and uniquely Limerick, and embrace itself, believe in itself and drive forward proudly.”
What are we doing well in Limerick?
We are getting better at attracting attention from some of the world’s leading companies like Uber, Regeneron, and Northern Trust. We are rising again culturally.
What way could the city improve?
We need to attract more people. The footfall is still not high enough. Everything is a function of footfall. All commerce relies on numbers. A rising tide lifts all boats.
What makes Limerick unique?
Limerick is edgy. It needs to embrace that edginess and market it to the world. It is not Galway, Cork or Dublin, nor should it try to be. It needs to remain quintessentially and uniquely Limerick, and embrace itself, believe in itself and drive forward proudly.