Louis Byrne is founder and Managing Director of LB Retailing Limited, a Tralee based company operating 3 retail convenience stores under the SPAR brand. Byrnes’ stores have an enviable reputation in the provision of top class customer service and fresh food retailing and are regular winners of national awards within the retail industry.
With over 20 years experience in the sector, Louis has represented retailers’ interests on various national forums. Having previously held the roles of Chairman of the National Council of SPAR Retailers and Director of the Convenience Store & Newsagents Association, Louis is currently on the Board of Directors of RGDATA, the Retail Grocery Dairy & Allied Trades Association. RGDATA is the representative association for over 4,000 independently owned stores providing advice and support for retailers whilst representing the interests of independently owned shops to government, media, regulators and policymakers. Originally from Limerick, Louis is a graduate of GMIT and now lives in Tralee with his wife and business partner Colette and the couple have 3 children.
Can leadership be taught? If so, how?
I believe leadership itself is a combination of several different skills and attributes. The attributes are often part of one’s nature or personality such as a positive attitude or optimistic outlook, a willingness to take risks or an ambitious streak in a person and the skills may involve risk assessment, “selling” of an idea or concept to others, strategic thinking or big picture planning etc. Certain skills (or more specifically the lack of certain skills) once identified, can obviously be worked on and taught but some students will be more successful at learning certain leadership skills than others. A good leader will require knowledge and skills which can be taught through standard traditional formal training techniques. The moulding of a potential leader’s outlook and attitude is a much more difficult challenge and may be more achievable through mentoring by an effective leader or by reviewing other successful leaders behaviour and achievements and even more importantly reviewing where leaders have failed and what led to that failure.
When you are filling a leadership role in your organisation what qualities do you look for from candidates?
A caring attitude to people. A positive attitude to change. Any identified skillset that is weak or missing within our existing organisation.
If you had to leave your organisation for 1 year what would you ask of your team and what advice would you give them?
Run the organisation as if it was their own. Work as a team using our team members’ usual roles and decisions. Take decisions as a team but also ask each management team member try to envisage “What would I do if I was there?” then “Why would I do it?”
What are you doing today to make sure your organisation will be relevant in 10 years time?
I constantly monitor developments in our industry in other jurisdictions (particularly US where trends are 5-6 years ahead) with regular study tours to competitor stores in these areas.
What leaders outside your own organisation do you admire and why?
Richard Branson – a disrupter of several different markets and industries who has succeeded, failed and succeeded again in several areas. Never afraid to shut down or kill off an idea that didn’t work, never afraid to start again, was initially a David v Goliath war in the airline business against BA and has a spirit of adventure and exploration to boot.
I like his quote “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”
What are a few resources (books, blogs, podcasts, courses etc) you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?
“Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell