Why Professionals Never Lose and why “They Is You” – this week’s “Coffee with Colm” comes via Kilrush, Co. Clare on the Wild Atlantic Way

Kilrush, Co. Clare – West Clare, on the Wild Atlantic Way to be exact – was the beautiful backdrop to a talk I gave during the week.

The dynamic Kilrush Town Team volunteer group invited Yours Truly to be a guest contributor, along with David Fitzsimons, Founder and CEO of Retail Excellence. at ttheir launch event on Thursday evening. It was wonderful; great turnout, great energy, really happening event! Congrats to all involved.

For me, two themes stood out which I felt were worth repeating in this week’s “Coffee with Colm” installment and both are found in the title; Professionals Never Lose and “They Is You”.

Complete the following sentence: “Sometimes I win and sometimes I l…”

To find out why you were wrong if yours ended with the word lose, watch the five minute video, listen to the 5 minute podcast or read on below…

Sometimes I win and sometimes lose is what 99.9% of people say when faced with that statement, and 99.9% of them would be 100% wrong and the assembled good and great from West Clare didn’t disappoint when I presented them the statement to finish collectively – the resounding response was lose. But they copped on quickly.

You see professionals never lose. Professionals either win or they learn!

Think of a professional sports team. If they go out and don’t put enough points on the board to be deemed winners on the day, they don’t suck their collective thumb and go crying home to mammy saying the world is against them. No. Instead, professionals go back to the dressing room (or the board room) to analyse the play (or the pitch) blow by blow, frame by frame, to see where they could’ve done better, to LEARN from any mistakes they made so they can improve their game, giving themselves the best opportunity of prevailing next time out.

Professionals never lose. Sometimes professionals win, sometimes they learn. The professional response for you in future is “Sometimes I win and sometimes I LEARN”.

“They Is You”

I have to admit to being a tad sneaky (shneaky in West Clare) in my presentation. In cahoots with Charlie Glynn, Irene Hamilton and Martina McGrath, founding or early members of Kilrush Town Team (#KTT) , I had arranged that all attendees (there was a fantastic turnout despite the beautiful evening) would be given pen and small piece of paper when they arrived. The reason became clear as my talk unfolded. At the appropriate juncture, I put it to the audience that I was confident they each had at least one good idea they felt Kilrush would benefit from and now was the proper time for me to stop talking for 30 seconds so they could note same on their handy pieces of paper using their KTT supplied writing instruments. They duly complied.

The room buzzed with chat and many heads bowed as they scribbled ideas as to how Kilrush could be even better in future. I counted it down, “20 seconds…10 seconds…ok, stop” I’m sure people could have written more but the idea was simply to capture the moment, not to solve the problems of the world. They all once again kindly gave me their attention as I drew towards my closing remarks over the last remaining slides.

I had already told them of my proud years as General Manager of Bewley’s Cafe on Grafton St. Dublin so it was no surprise to them to see that slide re-emerge. The difference this time was I told them that as GM I felt the business would struggle if I didn’t step outside its four walls and get the ‘street’ working together. Dublin’s city centre at that time, early 1990’s, was beginning to experience the early challenges of the famous ‘donut’ effect as first the Square in Tallaght, the M50 and other out of town shopping centres (with free parking – always a bone of contention) began to pop up.

My belief was, if Grafton St. had a roof we would treat it as a shopping center, market the street as the destination and we retailers would all benefit from increased footfall – a ‘rising tide lifts all boats play’.

I was therefore a founding member of the Grafton St Traders committee which set about that very task. One of my proudest moments was when the ‘Street’ took out a full-page, full-color ad in the Irish Times listing all the contributing retailers in alphabetical order, same font type, no logos. Collaborative success.

It worked.

Roll on a decade or so and I found myself in my own Bewley’s Cafe franchise in Limerick, Ireland’s third city at a time when millennial-generation tastes were veering away from Bewley’s fare, foot and mouth disease had decimated trade in the cities and 911 had kept the usual cohort of American tourists and business travelers grounded meaning Shannon Airport was deathly quiet.

So it was subsequently no surprise to see the slide of my failed cafe business a second time either. The difference this time was I told them what I had done as part of my strategy to save it. I, once again, stepped outside of my four walls and got involved  What did I do? I became a founding member of the LCCBA, the Limerick City Centre Business Association.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

The feckin’ Celtic Tiger was the term given to the economic lunacy that grabbed our country pushing paper value of properties to stupid levels. Fear and greed did its work, as it always does, and the property bubble kept growing until it had had enough, then… pop! Game over. Values tumbled.

Meantime our rent had skyrocketed to €313,000 per annum, €6,000 per week, €1,000 per trading day with a further €48,000 p.a. rates, effctoivley killing our business. Painful and all as it was, in hindsight I am glad it happened because of all the great opportunities it has afforded me since.

During that period I became involved with Limerick Local Heroes and founded and ran lunchtime Theatre at the Savoy with friends Maeve McGrath and Pius McGrath (not related) for three and a half years. All of this to help Limerick city center recover from the decimation caused in the wake of the feckin’ Celtic Tiger.

The reason for the stories was to show the assembly that they needed to do more than just look after their own patch, they needed to step outside their four walls and get involved.

The trap was set! Then I brought the hammer down.

I told them, “They Is You.” It means that if you ever hear yourself saying, “They should…” or even better, “If I were them, I would…” then you are being challenged by the Universe to do something about it, not just point fingers (or write notes on a bit of paper)

I have to admit to enjoying watching the amused and some bemused (and indeed some horrified) looks when I asked everyone who had written something on their ‘ideas’ paper, to now SIGN IT, add a mobile number and email address and  volunteer to help bring it to life!

That changed the mood for sure. All of a sudden it wasn’t a simple question of telling someone else what TO do,  but being challenged with being PART of the doing!

I promised them a rising tide WILL lift all boats and that they should consider Kilrush first in terms of their business aspirations.

It worked.

Not sure how many people contributed, unsure too how many pocketed their unsigned slips, but I watched one of the committee members collect a healthy bunch of ‘ideas’ slips. Job done. Well done Kilrush.

So, my friend, in this next week remember Professionals Never Lose and “They IS You.” I repeat, if you ever hear yourself saying, “They should…” or even better, “If I were them, I would…” then you are being challenged by the Universe to do something about it, not just point fingers. (some of you are not happy to have read this!)

Ps. VISIT Kilrush. Send the Kilrush Town Team a positive note here. And see what amazing things Trip Advisor says are the top ten to do when you visit Kilrush


Thanks for thinking with me.

Yours truly.


Watch | Listen | Read | Think.

Did you enjoy that? Fancy a sip of some of my recent “Coffee with Colm” Blog posts:

  • What Breaking the Sound Barrier (and Yours Truly jumping out of a plane) can Teach Leaders – click here.
  • Is there Life Before Death? Or what, when, where, who are you waiting for before you start living? Click here.
  • She was 8 when the Good Friday was signed. On its 21st anniversary, Lyra was murdered. What now? Click here.

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LINKEDIN. Perhaps the thing to do right now is simply to hook up professionally on LinkedIn – if that’s of interest, click here.

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