Jim Garvey

Jim Garvey is a Director of the Garvey Group which was founded in 1965 by Tomas Garvey from a corner shop in Dingle, Kerry, but now comprises of nine Stores – and is one the biggest Supervalu operators in the country as well as two award winning hotels in Dingle. It employs over 750 people.

This year the group won Best Store of the Year in Ireland for its store in Tralee, the first time a grocery supermarket has won it. The group also holds awards for Best in Fresh with Checkout Magazine and Best Family Hotel for the Dingle Skelligs Hotel.

Can leadership be taught? If so, how?

Absolutely, in fact we have become much more proficient in the teaching of leadership in our third level institutions over the past decade. We also have lot more access to a lot of great leaders around the world who are willing to share their leadership experience and insights. I do think that leadership is a description of your relationship with people and it is your people skills that determine how good a leader you are. Some people are so natural with this while others need to learn or experience it.

When you are filling a leadership role in your organisation what qualities do you look for from candidates?

I look for a person who can build a team and get the maximum performance from them, who recognises their own limitations and brings people along with them who have alternative skills, a person who has excellent people skills and who leads by either example or encouragement. Listening is now a key skill for any leader which is much under appreciated. I’ve been fortunate to work with some great leaders and their ambition and vision along with the ability to communicate this in a way which motivates the people alongside them is what sets them apart.

If you had to leave your organisation for 1 year what would you ask of your team and what advice would you give them?

From a leadership perspective I think it would be about returning to a better organisation than that which you left. I think that would be truly satisfying and a great endorsement of your own management and leadership ability.

What are you doing today to make sure your organisation will be relevant in 10 years time?

We regularly visit the major cities in Europe and America trying to see what new trends are coming and how can we adapt them. We also bring a lot of our senior team along with us so when we return the buy-in for change is across the entire management team. The key in retail at the moment is how people are shopping and how they will shop in the future. It’s trying to understand and predict the trends that are coming and which will be a success and those which will not. Clearly technology is having a huge impact on retail but so is health and wellbeing and how we eat and prepare foods and its provenance.

What leaders outside your own organisation do you admire and why?

For me it would have to be Pat McCann of Dalata Hotels. We were involved at the very outset with Dalata Hotels and how Pat in particular managed and saw opportunity in the height of the recession was incredible and was the key to the success Dalata is today. I would also say Hugh McKeown of the Musgrave family who has managed a family company to become the biggest retail operator in the country today and his vision has also allowed Irish entrepreneurs develop and drive their own business through the likes of Supervalu.

What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?

For me it’s about talking to people who have been great leaders in their respective fields and don’t be afraid to doorstep them and get some time with them. Spending a half hour with somebody like Pat McCann is worth more than 20 books !