Donna Ahern talks to Patrick Woods, managing director of Linwoods Health Foods
How would you describe your role?
I have just moved into my new role of managing director of Linwoods as my father, John, has recently stepped aside.
I was previously in the position of commercial director, which gave me great experience in dealing with many aspects of our business, from procurement through to key account management and marketing. Now, as managing director, my role has become more strategic.
I am currently working on our organisation’s positioning and future plans, both in the short- and long-term.
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it?
I was born into Linwoods, and from a young age we were told that we would have to start at the bottom and work our way up.
That was certainly the case for me, as my first job was picking up litter and rubbish around the site during the school holidays.
Officially, though, my first job was as a production operative, which involved manually weighing and filling our cold-milled flaxseed in a very small factory when we first entered the health food production market.
Linwoods Health Foods was in its infancy and we weren’t in a position to invest in automatic packing machinery.
I weighed out packs of milled flax, sealed them up, and got them ready for our customers. This gave me a great understanding of the business.
There were some long days, but it taught me how to communicate with my colleagues and to create an efficient workplace. It also taught me about paying attention to detail when performing tasks.
What do you enjoy most about your current job?
There are two aspects of my role that I thoroughly enjoy. Along with the team, we have recently agreed our three-year vision for Linwoods and we
are now constructing the plan to help us achieve the goals. I really enjoy being creative, and the planning element of this process, as it allows me time to think about the business and its likely future direction.
The second area of my work that I enjoy is our team. I love working with people, and I believe that an important part of my role is to support our team and help them achieve great things within their working lives. I derive great satisfaction from seeing so many people contributing to a common purpose — something we hope to continue to develop here in Linwoods.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
Hopefully, still as managing director of Linwoods Health Foods, a growing company at the forefront of health foods and nutrition throughout Europe.
What is your advice to people starting out in the industry?
My advice would be to believe in yourself and your abilities. Secondly, try to find a career in something that you are passionate about and enjoy.
What was your worst job, and what was so bad about it?
I was a bread man on one of our vans for a short period and the early mornings were tough going. I had to be up before 3am to beat the traffic around Belfast, so I was exhausted every evening.
What three business people do you most admire, and why?
My dad would be the first one. He built a great business and led it for 60 years, which is an incredible achievement.
I admire the Collison Brothers for what they have achieved in growing their Stripe business.
They are 214th on the Forbes World’s Billionaires List, with an estimated fortune of $9.65 billion each, yet they have remained humble, even though they have built a world-leading business in their sector.
James Timpson of Timpson Group in the UK is another person I admire in terms of how he leads his business, with a particular focus on looking after his team and ensuring that everyone is happy in their roles.
What advertising campaign have you most enjoyed in recent months?
I think the longevity of the Comparethemarket.com Meerkat campaign, and the constant evolution of that campaign, has been amazing.
What was your favourite grocery brand when you were growing up?
I have a sweet tooth and loved Cadbury’s Dairy Milk as a child.
Who would come to your ideal dinner party (living or dead)?
Roy Keane would have to be there, as would Lee Evans for the craic, and Gordon Ramsey to do the cooking!
What is the best piece of advice that you’ve ever received?
It can take years to build a good reputation and seconds to ruin it.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy family time with my wife Laura and three-year old daughter Aoife.
We are huge GAA fans, so if we are not at our local club Madden Raparees, of which I am chairperson, we are following Armagh and hoping they will progress through the back door system this year.
Aside from that, I dabble a little in cycling and running. I like to keep fit, as it clears my head and sets me up for whatever tomorrow might bring.
How much time do you spend on social media in an average week?
Very little – I only use LinkedIn for work purposes. Our marketing team take me through the company social media accounts regularly, but it is not for me on a personal level.
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