Aspira is a consulting and enterprise IT company, which eagerly provides its clients with the resources and technology they need to deliver their projects. Following 10 years’ successful delivery of project management and business analysis using software development, testing offerings and IT management across multiple technologies, it is safe to say that Pat Lucey, Aspira CEO, has built an entrepreneur’s dream.
What drives you?
There are two different things that drive me; curiosity and fear.
The curiosity piece shows itself because I am very keen to learn about new things. If there is new technology, I love to figure out how we can use that technology to make life better, for us and for our customers. Also I love learning about new industries, both how they can benefit from good practices in other industries, and how they have some unique challenges to overcome.
And fear of failure is also a driver. We cannot afford to become complacent, we always have to remember that it is our clients who pay our salaries and we need to maintain that edge in order to deliver superior performance.
How did you come up with the name for your company, Aspira?
Aspira is a shortened version of AspiraCon, our original name, because we Aspire to Conquer the World! We are an Irish company with global ambitions, and wanted to declare it from day one. We shortened the name to Aspira when we acquired another company, as it gave us a nice opportunity to rebrand and make the name less of a mouthful, while retaining the aspirational qualities of the name.
What was your mission from the beginning? Has it changed?
Our mission was to build an Irish company that could compete with – and beat – the major international IT consultancies. While that has not changed, we have refined it to focus on specific market sectors, such as:
- Project Management
- Business Analysis
- Software Development
- IT Consulting
How do you best network?
We find membership of professional bodies is best. Whether that is geographically-based bodies like the Little Island Business Association, where we get to interact with the neighbouring companies on the island, or indeed professional bodies, such as the Ireland Chapter of the Project Management Institute, where I am currently serving as the President, each body offers us the chance to interact and engage with like-minded people and seek mutual benefit for our businesses.
Tell us about your best and worst days at work.
The best days are those days when we deliver a project to a client. Many of our projects involve either development of brand new software, or configuring existing software systems to solve a client’s challenges. On the days we deliver those solutions, and see the system actually working as planned, it creates a real buzz!
One thing I do hate is getting stuck in traffic, so as someone who has to commute via the Jack Lynch Tunnel, I dread the start of each school year when the 15-minute journey switches to an hour-long commute again.
How do you generate your innovative ideas?
I attended a talk once in CIT by Edward de Bono, the Creative Thinking Guru, who has written many books on the subject, including Six Hats, where he says to be creative you need to “put on different hats” to think about a problem in different ways – six ways to be precise. He also said creativity is like humour – a good joke is one where you cannot predict the punchline, but when you hear it, you ‘get’ the joke immediately. In the same way a good sign of a creative solution is one that you would never have thought of yourself in a million years, but as soon as the idea is explained to you, you ‘get’ it and wonder why nobody has thought of it before.
What trait do you most value in a business connection?
I think that trust is the key thing that must exist between two connected parties. It can be hard to build trust, but very easy to knock down. I choose to take a positive view of people, and assume they will behave in a trustworthy manner. The vast majority of times people will value that trust and live up to your expectations. There is the odd time you will be disappointed, but I prefer to behave his way rather than go around in a negative manner treating people with suspicion.
Can you describe or outline your typical day?
I spend a lot of my time communicating with people – either in face to face meetings, video-conferencing, phone calls, or via emails. I much prefer meeting people face to face, whether it is planning a new software development project, meeting companies who are interested in our project management training courses, or meeting clients who need our help providing them with a PM, or business analyst, or IT expert, to fill a gap or solve a challenge they may have.
Every week or two I will deliver a talk on an aspect of project management or business; current topics I speak on are ‘How to Overcome Inertia to Make Change Happen’, ‘Influence without Authority’ and ‘Removing the Blindfolds – How to really manage Risk’. These are topics that can really help people be more effective and I enjoy the interaction that comes with those sessions.
What would you say are your core values and how do they affect how you do business?
Three core values that we espouse are loyalty, empowerment and helping people reach their potential. It’s when things go wrong that you know who your friends are, and I believe that to be true in business more than ever. If one of my colleagues needs help, they know it’s there for them.
I try to ensure that I am personally available and that the management team in Aspira are all expected to do more than manage their own function. They are also expected to work collaboratively and help out their colleagues.
Empowerment is where we let people run with their ideas, and make the decisions that fall within their remit, without being second guessed. Sometimes I say I prefer a wrong decision than no decision, because at least if you make a wrong decision you will recognise it and – hopefully – fix it. But if you delay and delay and never make a decision, that’s the worst option of all.
Finally I believe we owe it to all our staff, whether it’s an intern coming in for six months’ work experience, or a senior manager, to ensure they are working on interesting things, are learning and developing, and are happy that they are on the path to achieving their career goals.
Do you believe there is some sort of formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
I firmly believe that success is earned, not won. Luck can play a large part, but in order to be lucky you need to be in the game, and to stay in the game requires a lot of hard work.
The other piece of advice I was given that sticks with me is that if you want to go somewhere fast, you should go alone, but if you want to go far, you should bring a team. I think that successful entrepreneurs need to be able to bring a team with them, and help that team develop, so that it can deliver far more than any one person could.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
In 2017, we celebrated our tenth anniversary since starting up, and had a big party in the Radisson Hotel in Little Island, where we invited all staff, past and present and invited a bunch of customers. I was particularly delighted that all the staff we had in 2007 were able to be there again 10 years later.
There was also a great sense of achievement this year when we were acknowledged by the Financial Times as one of the Top 1,000 companies in Europe, based on the growth we have achieved in delivering consulting and IT services.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
- Build trust within your team and with your customers.
- Make decisions; strategic thinking is all about making decisions. It can be easy to get overcome with anxiety that your decision may cut off future options, but instead of causing paralysis, let that anxiety provide a shot of adrenaline to keep your business moving.
- Be positive. There will always be problems and challenges, but you have to look beyond them to create a shared vision of the future.
1102 Euro Business Park, Little Island, Cork
021 235 2550
Eastgate Village, Little Island, Cork
021 435 3976