Padraic O’Maille is a marketer who has worked building brands such as Supermac’s and Aer Arann. Today he helps businesses be heard in the age of information overload. This is his story.
In ’79 I began studying Commerce in NUIG with the ambition to be an accountant. However, early in second year, I met Jim Ward, the newly appointed professor of marketing, who has since become a hugely positive influence on my life. He had just arrived back from America, and said, “Marketing is going to be the next big thing in business”. It was Jim’s words that sparked my initial interest and helped ignite a passion within me for marketing.
After graduation, I worked for Heritage Knitwear, a startup in Castlebar which specialised in jumper design. During my year there, I opened up 35 new accounts across Europe and Japan; it was a wonderful immersion. I learned more about selling and marketing in that year, than a lot of people could perhaps experience in twenty.
I was then approached by the Mayo Co. Development Board and ended up with, another half a dozen clients to look after.
In February 2011, during the depths of recession, I also set up a business called Smacht (discipline). It was an organisation that rose in response to business people’s needs, as lots of people were in trouble. It provided a support platform and a network, with regular monthly meetings. Over the course of the next three to four years, groups were established countrywide. They came together, set goals, developed discipline and reviewed progress with their Smacht chara or accountability partner. Around 300 people went through the program and I am happy to say, that about 280 of them are still in business.
“There is a feeling out there, that storytelling is wimpish and arty. On the contrary, it’s what gets the deal across the line.”
For over 35 years, I helped brands and award winning businesses such as Pat McDonagh of Supermac’s and Padraig O’Ceidigh of Aer Arann.
However with ever-increasing digitisation, I could see that the old traditional forms of marketing, were not working as before. Worse still, my clients were also beginning to question those exact same techniques. Then one evening, whilst soul-searching and anxiously struggling with this question, I stumbled across a very interesting video clip on YouTube. The clip in question provided an important insight and an alternative approach to the business of marketing.
“Stories appeal to both the logical, creative and emotional sides of the brain. They appeal to the mind and the heart.”
It was a simple story that I heard on YouTube. A wonderful man called Doug Stevenson, a business storyteller, recounting a story about trying to give his dog a pill. However, the dog kept spitting it out and in desperation he rang up a good vet friend of his, who advised to hide the pill in peanut butter. The dog absolutely loved it; licked it up and swallowed the whole pill down.
For me this was a real game changer, because in business, in order to get the message across, i.e. the pill, you need to hide it in peanut butter. In this particular case, the peanut butter being, a brilliant metaphor for story. I am now using this game changing methodology, to help business people throughout the world, to stand out, in what has become a very crowded market place.
“I now focus on helping business people, tell their unique business story, in a way that delivers results.”
I was recently interim CEO of an organisation. What struck me is that there are so many business opportunities being missed, so many poor presentations, because people do not understand the power of impactful or purposeful storytelling.
However there is a difference between a good story and a great story. Many business people haven’t had the discipline or the coaching to sit down and begin collecting and structuring their own story.
Storytelling for business is the new marketing. I now focus on helping business people, tell their unique business story, in a way that delivers results. For example, I am working with Supermac’s and have done so for the last 24 years. The goal is to make Supermac’s renowned for excellent customer service. We recently started to gather brilliant stories, and it’s amazing how it has started to influence the company’s culture.
“You are the average of the five people you are surrounded by, most of the time.”
An example of a great business storyteller
A great example would probably be Tony O’Reilly, and it’s a very humbling story. He began with Bord Bainne (Irish Dairy Board), and so much of O’Reilly’s fame and fortune was based on his ability to tell compelling stories. He developed Kerrygold, into one of the most successful, iconic Irish brands of all time. Nevertheless, there is a feeling out there, that storytelling is wimpish and arty. On the contrary, it’s what absolutely gets the deal across the line. It’s that ability, to tell stories, whether online, on the podium and in print that ultimately counts.
“I have sat through so many board meetings, company meetings, where it has been death by PowerPoint.”
Tips for entrepreneurs
Firstly, it is important to remember that you all always have a choice. And what I do, is help business people make choices. Secondly, you are the average of the five people you are surrounded by, most of the time. The third philosophy would be the story philosophy. So for business people, I am helping them ‘hide the pill in the peanut butter’.
I have sat through so many board meetings, company meetings, where it has been death by PowerPoint. Stories appeal to both the logical, creative and emotional sides of the brain. They appeal to the mind and the heart. In the future of business, I have absolutely no doubt that we have to win both the hearts and minds of our customers. And that’s what storytelling does, and everyone can learn to do it.