Business

High Flyers: A piece of (French) cake for optimistic pragmatist Louise

Louise Skeath

In the High Flyers spotlight this week is Louise Skeath, chief executive Armagh-based specialist construction supply company SDG

What was your first job?

Picking mushrooms at 13 years old for a local mushroom farmer. It gave me a true appreciate of the value of money.

What qualifications do you have?

I am a qualified food technologist. In business terms I have undertaken an Emerging Leadership course with the William Clinton Institute, hold a Diploma from MIT Sloan School of Management in Interpersonal Communications, and recently participated in the Leader Program and Leader Team Program with Invest NI.

What do you attribute your success to?

I have a strong value base, and believe in doing my best at all times, and staying positive regardless of the challenge. It’s something I have taken through my life and career, and as a wife and mother. Being driven, team focused and wanting the best for the business and the employees has helped me get to this point.

How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?

I am an optimistic pragmatist. My mother taught the value to be authentic-always, be honest in my dealings and don’t burn your bridges as you may my need to travel back over them again!

Who do you look up to in business?

When I was 21 my father took me to London to see Brian Tracey at a business event. That was the start of my love of business. During one of the seminars Brian spoke about mirroring - when you want to be the best in what you do.

His advice was to seek out people who are at the very top of their game and go and speak to them, ask them to tell you their story and learn from them. Mirror their success essentially.

Ever since I have sought out the best advice. I enjoy Warren Buffett for his simplicity of life and lack of regard for materialistic possessions - his unique attention to detail in his business world is unprecedented. And Christine Legarde is someone I admire, her decorum during the economic crash and her measured control calmed a very volatile economy.

How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

Engaging with my team on a one-to-one level. Find out their pain points. What's going well for them and what’s not going so well for them and helping them work through to getting a positive result.

If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?

We need a much clearer identity for Northern Ireland within the GB umbrella. Sometimes I feel it can be difficult to trade as a Northern Ireland business sitting under the umbrella of the UK, it tends to overshadow the competencies and quality of the brilliant range of skills local business can bring to the marketplace.

What website or app could you not do without?

My most visited website is Harvard Business Review. We have just developed our new website, so I keep an eye on it on a regular basis too.

What was the last book you read?

“The Education of an Idealist”, by Samantha Power. Currently reading “Shoe Dog” by Phil Knight-the creator of Nike.

What car do you drive?

Hybrid Jeep

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I love French cuisine and baking - especially patisseries, and painting. I have attended a couple of weekend oil painting courses in Dublin, and loved them.

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

For me being mentally and physically strong goes hand in glove, I enjoy keeping myself healthy, and use strength and conditioning training as part of my weekly routine. It makes me feel strong, and in many ways gives me the resolve and stamina to work through any issue.

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