Alison Ritchie is the Managing Director of Polar Ice Ltd., Ireland’s leading manufacturer of dry ice products since 1996. A serial entrepreneur, Alison established her second business Polar IceTech Ireland Ltd. in 2005, growing the business to become the market leader in Cryogenic Cleaning and successfully selling the business in 2016. Alison graduated from Dublin City University with a Business Degree (2002) and in pursuit of business excellence, trained and qualified as a Financial Account (CPA) in 2011 and most recently a certified Tax Advisor.
An ardent supporter of Women in Business, Alison acts as lead entrepreneur and mentors a number of Women led Start-ups, on two national programmes – ACORNS (2015-2018) and the DCU Ryan Academy’s Female High Fliers (2016). Alison, who is originally from Portarlington, Laois, was awarded the Ulster Bank Business Achievers Award for Women Led Business in Leinster 2015, named the Women Mean Business Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 and most recently the ‘Account of the Year 2017’.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
If you want to feel more comfortable in a leadership role, you can certainly learn to improve your leadership skills, starting with your own interpersonal skills – read up on personality types and behaviours, understand how others may view the world and by being flexible in your own approach to getting the right connection with people and then just build on that.
When you are filling a leadership role in your organisation what qualities do you look for from candidates?
A good strategist – they can assess a situation and identify all possible outcomes. A cool head – calm and steadfast when under pressure. A cheerleader – positive, supportive and loyal.
If you had to leave your organisation for 1 year what would you ask of your team and what advice would you give them?
I did leave for six months in 2014 and my team did an amazing job, increasing average monthly revenue by +23%. We worked hard in advance on our strategy and the roles each person would play. On the final day, I told them I trusted them and if they were ever uncertain on an action to take, to ask themselves what is the right thing to do by the company and they can’t go wrong.
What are you doing today to make sure your organisation will be relevant in 10 years time?
Investing in new equipment, storage, processes and automation to increase capacity and efficiencies for the dry ice manufacturing side of the business and investing in continuous improvement, education and training for the team.
What leaders outside your own organisation do you admire and why?
Through the Going for Growth programme, I’ve been very fortunate to have been supported by three leading women – Heather Ann McSharry (non-executive director CRH, Greencore, Jazz Pharma), Geraldine Kelly (non-executive director, Bank of Ireland) and most recently Margot Slattery (MD Sodexo Ireland). It always struck me how calm, focused, grounded, firm and fair each of these ladies were, with a real can-do attitude and positive energy.
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
The most recent book I read and would highly recommend is “The Art of Asking the Right Questions” by Caroline McEnery.