Business wisdom from the desk of … TRIONA BYRNE, Finance Manager, Cloetta
Triona Byrne qualified as a chartered accountant with KPMG before founding her own small accounting practice. She then joined Cuisine de France at its very beginnings and remained there until it was sold in 1997. A career change followed, which involved buying into a shop fitting company which she sold profitably. She then worked with Gem Pack Foods Ltd as financial controller, after which she joined The Jelly Bean Factory, which was acquired by Swedish company Cloetta.
Cloetta is a Swedish confectionery and nuts company, founded in 1862, with 13 factories in six countries and products sold in 50 markets worldwide. In June 2014, it acquired Dublin-based Aran Candy Ltd, which includes The Jelly Bean Factory brand.
Describe your role:
I am responsible for the day-to-day operation of the company’s finance function and the preparation and presentation of accurate and timely management accounts. My role at The Jelly Bean Factory was slightly different to what it is now. Being a plc there is much more internal control in the financial management of the company.
Highlights and challenges during your tenure?
In the early days of working at The Jelly Bean Factory we struggled with securing finance. And while the sale of the company was a challenge in itself, it was also a huge professional highlight. A highlight during my tenure at Cloetta has been learning how to operate within a much larger international organisation.
Did anything in your family background influence your journey to your current role?
Both my grandfather and father worked at Batchelors. Then my father Pat Loughrey and Ronan McNamee set up Cuisine de France where I was financial controller, so the business of food was a constant topic in our family.
The accomplishment you are most proud of?
I am the third generation of my family to work in the Irish food industry and I am incredibly proud of that. I am also proud that my husband and I have raised two hardworking children and we now have two gorgeous granddaughters.
How you approach difficult situations?
I am usually calm in conflict. I try to find a sensitive way to get my point across so things can move forward. I don’t play the blame game – my attitude is that we are all in this together.
How long does it take you to get ready in the morning?
Not long – my thought process is all about how quickly I can get out the door and beat traffic.
What keeps you awake at night?
Very little! I have a very busy social life. My husband and I are involved in the yacht club and we like to go to restaurants with friends. I enjoy travelling too – but I always check my work emails, even at the weekend. Staying connected keeps me sane. I enjoy my work so much I don’t feel I need to get away from it.
A characteristic you believe a business leader should possess?
A good leader should lead by example. I admire people who are prepared to start new businesses and take on all the associated risks.
What is the most useful way to engage clients?
In the context of a global food business, I believe exhibitions are best. They provide a valuable platform to engage potential customers and discuss new products and ideas with existing customers. We exhibit at events worldwide under Bord Bia’s Origin Green initiative, where we showcase the sustainable high standards of Irish products. Making valuable connections is about quality not quantity, so I will email selected people beforehand to arrange meetings.
Advice to women who aspire to be in leadership roles?
Work hard and never hide your ambition. I have learned that it is important to develop not only myself, but also the women I work with. If I was giving advice to my younger self, I would say don’t worry, and enjoy all the experiences work throws at you. There can be good times and bad times but if you keep looking you will find the right role for you.
THE WAY I DO BUSINESS
1. Work/life balance: I like to take small breaks often. I’m lucky that at this stage in our lives my husband and I can take off – we had our family young so we are enjoying our freedom now.
2. Strengths? I’m tough but fair. I’m currently using my management skills to ensure integration into the Cloetta way of working happens smoothly.
3. Weaknesses? Reaching out to all aspects of the business rather than just finance is a weakness which I am working on.
4. Looking the business: My style is what Americans would call “business casual”. I usually wear trousers and jackets or a dress maybe once a week. I like Irish designers such as Louise Kennedy and Helen McAlinden.
5. Planning for the future: I plan to keep working for a long time. At my BComm reunion, John Teeling said to keep in mind that the next generation are most likely going to live to be 100, so we need to focus on our own long lives and plan accordingly. I manage my funds for retirement myself so the fees are minimal.
This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this, don’t miss our December issue, out Thursday, December 1.
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