My Experience at The Real Deal – Aoife Dullaghan

On the 3rd of May 2023, I attended an event called The Real Deal in Goff’s, Co. Kildare. The event was organised by Fitzgerald Power and Renatus. I share my experience and some of the key highlights of the day below.

This was the 4th year that this event has taken place. The Real Deal is an SME event with over 900 attendees, all successful business people. It has a panel of high-calibre speakers who have achieved significant success in their line of business. Gene Murtagh, CEO of Kingspan was the Keynote speaker for the Real Deal 2023.

The Real Deal gives the attendees an incredible opportunity to learn from some of the most successful entrepreneurs in Ireland as well as meet and network with other business leaders.

The following topics were discussed on the day:

  • Legend of Business
  • Blockbuster Exits
  • Raising Private Equity
  • Growth by Acquisition

I was lucky enough to chat with both Vicky O’Toole, who was the MD of JJ O’Toole & Jacqueline O’Donovan, who was the MD of O’Donovan Waste Disposal, who were both speakers on the day on the topic of blockbuster exits after they both sold their family businesses. They are two extraordinary women and I learnt a lot from them during my time with them, especially that we ,as young women, shouldn’t be afraid to voice our opinion and go for big job promotions.

Each topic and speaker were fascinating and provided a lot of insight into their topics, but some key points that stuck with me from the day in Goffs from both hearing the topics and speaking to the speakers were the following:

1. Females in a male-dominated business world

I was always aware that the business world was more male-dominated, but it only really hit home after attending the Real Deal where out of approx. 900 guests in attendance, there were possibly 50-80 females. Although there is a massive effort that goes into trying to attract females to attend the Real Deal, it is still a challenge that is faced. It is clear from the talks in Goffs that females weren’t always taken seriously in the past, for example; Vicky O’Toole has said she was ignored until the conversation turned to playing golf when she first took over JJ O’Toole from her husband in 2010. Women are definitely seen as more equal today but there is still a much stronger male presence within the business world. I do think that it is up to all of us both male and female to change this, especially for the younger generations including myself and my peers that will come into the business world.

There is of course a broader societal issue in the world when it comes to both males and females, this is detailed in Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. The book discusses the fact that the majority of the unpaid work in our society is carried out by women and explains that the world is constructed from the male point of view. For example, expenses are even sexist, in terms of what can be claimed, a line from Invisible Women states “You can get $30 for takeout if you have to work late, or $50 for scotch so you can drink with a prospective client but you can’t get $30 for a babysitter as your wife is at home minding the kids”. I am extremely lucky that I work in a company that has a senior leadership team with an equal split of 5 females and 5 males. The drive, encouragement and support I get as a young female in my career is amazing.

2. Everyone gets nervous, no matter how big or successful you are

I always assumed successful people didn’t get nervous as they usually are well-spoken, have a good drive about them and are well-able to promote & lead their business confidently. It was only by talking and listening to the speakers at The Real Deal, I realised everyone gets nervous and needs that little bit of encouragement that they will do a good job and once they finish speaking they look for affirmation that in fact, they did a good job or that their talk was very good.

It was great to see that everyone is human and that we all have the same nerves and doubts regardless of the level of experience or how much success we have achieved.

3. Key factors in choosing employees: Drive, ambition, determination & willingness to sacrifice

Key factors in choosing to hire an employee and whether or not they are suited to the company should not be based on their qualifications only. Yes, they are very important but other factors are even more important such as their personality, for example, are they a team player?

Some people may not be able to afford to go and get a degree but if they have the drive, ambition and determination to succeed they could start off somewhere else in the company and work their way up with some support from their employer and by completing some courses. I do believe that if you have the right attitude, you can do anything.

To conclude, I think the Real Deal was an excellent event. It allowed me as a young female fairly new to the business world a chance to network with experienced people in the industry and learn some of the tips and tricks from their years in the business. I benefited from the event in many ways from growing my confidence, meeting new people, learning new things about the business world and many more. I would definitely recommend people to attend future events.

Once again, a massive congratulations to Stuart Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Power and Mark Flood of Renatus on a great day out.

Written by Aoife Dullaghan – Fitzgerald Power Team Leader

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