5 minutes to read.
Interviews can be hard. Ryanair CEO and national treasure Michael O’Leary was interviewed on the Late Late Show last night. As usual, Michael played the part, but the questions should have been better.
We found a 2008 online transcript from then Pobalscoil Neasain transition year student Danielle McKay who did a wonderful job interviewing Mr. O'Leary. She even asked about profit margins and got an answer about oil prices. Well done Danielle!
We reprint here without permission but with full credit and thanks to the author.
1. Where did you get your idea from? It was actually Tony Ryan’s idea originally. He got the idea from the low cost American airline Southwest Airlines.
We took the operations that had been put in place with the American airline and took them to the next level by offering even cheaper flights via the internet.
2. What characteristics do you think make an entrepreneur? I believe that if you are hard working, you will most definitely make it as an entrepreneur.
I also believe that you have to be somewhat of a revolutionary and a risk-taker to make it in business.
It is important to recognize the mistakes that you have made and fixing them as fast as possible.
3. What motivates you? I suppose in a weird way competition motivates me. Not only do I try to keep up with my competitors but I also set out to beat them and to become the best.
4. How much time do you spend working? On average I work 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Since I got married I usually take one holiday during the year. When you love what you do even the bad days here are interesting and challenging.
5. What barriers, personal and professional, have you encountered? The incompetence of the Irish government has been a huge barrier. They can’t even build a Luas, never mind run a country.
They put operations in place to prevent entrepreneurship from flourishing and they support and protect gross inefficiencies in the public sector.
6. How did you overcome these barriers? I haven’t yet but I believe the way to overcome it is to get rid of the government from business.
Monopoly situations don’t work, competition does. We should privatize everything in order to create more competition.
7. How did you recognise the opportunity? It was Tony Ryan that recognised the opportunity.20 years ago an airfare to/from Ireland would cost the average person about two weeks wages.
People usually travelled by boat so the opportunity was always there it was just a matter of time before somebody discovered it and exploited it.
8. What kind of market research have you done? We haven’t carried out any market research as I believe that what we offer is self-explanatory. There’s no research needed for choosing the cheapest fare.
9. How do you market your business? We market our business based on price. We do very little advertising but we do create a lot of controversy to raise awareness of the company. For example, I dressed as a leprechaun this week to promote the opening of twelve new routes.
10. Has the media influenced your business? If so how? We need the media for exposure and promotion but other than that the media doesn’t have much of an influence over the company.
11. Why did you choose this specific location to set up your business? Why did you choose/not choose Ireland? We chose Ireland simply because we come from Ireland and there was an opportunity to set up the business here.
12. How did you source finance? Do you have investors? If so, what sort of relationship do you have with your investors? Yes we do have investors as we are quoted on the stock exchange in Dublin, London and New York. Between 1997 and 1999 we raised about €400 million from investors.
Therefore, now we have no need to raise further finance. Any finance we need is taken from the companies profits. Ryanair has a good relationship with its investors and we maintain that relationship by growing our share price and by growing more profits.
13. How much involvement do you have in managing and controlling company finances? Intimate.
14. How do you set your prices? We allow the passengers to set the prices on our flights. We often open up cheap seats in order to get a full aircraft and will accept whatever customers are willing to pay us.
15. What is your profit margin? Is it always stable? The company’s margin is about 20 per cent however, it is not always stable. I fear that the current increase in oil prices may affect the company by reducing our margins.
16. Is there anything you would do differently? There are obviously many mistakes which I would have preferred not to have made but I believe that we have realised and corrected our mistakes before they became too serious.
17. Is there one incident in your business career that has taught you a valuable lesson? Every mistake that you make teaches you a valuable lesson. There’s something new to be learned from every mistake. Make more mistakes.
18. What advice would you give to someone starting off in business?It’s all about working hard, working harder, working even harder, and then working even harder than that!
19. Do you operate an autocratic, democratic or laissez faire style of management? Why do you think this style of management suits the type of work you do? I operate a democratic style of management although many people mistakenly believe that I operate an autocratic style.
I think democracy suits the Irish personality.
I involve our people in decision making and ensure the environment they work in is a relaxing and casual one. I have Monday morning meetings every week where I consult with managers on the goings on within the company.
20. What measure did you put in place to ensure that the company became profitable? We always keep our fares and costs low and we always try to beat our competitors’ prices. I am also constantly trying to increase the company’s sales.
21. What has been your proudest moment during your time at Ryanair? My proudest moment has to be in May 1997 when the company was floated on the New York stock exchange. At one point the company had virtually been bankrupt and then to see it turn into a huge success made me extremely proud.
22. A big part of business is keeping up with your competitors and in 2004 over 60 new low cost airlines were formed. How do you gain a competitive advantage over all the other low cost airlines? First of all, we don’t keep up with competitors we beat them. We beat them thanks to our lower costs and the lower fares we offer. Also, out of the 60 new low cost airlines that have been formed only about 8 of them still exist today.
23. Would you ever consider adopting Japanese styles of management such as empowerment or TQM? No, definitely not I prefer Irish styles of management.
24. How do you keep your employees motivated and happy? (Laughing) Fear — no seriously I motivate them by offering high rates of pay but I expect higher levels of productivity in return. We have a somewhat flat hierarchical structure within the company.
25. Is it true that the company does not recognise trade unions? The company does not recognize trade unions because Ryanair offer higher rates of pay than unions will bargain for.
Our employees are paid more than the employees at Aer Lingus.
I don’t feel trade unions make any positive contribution to a company. We also have a huge HR department to deal with problems and hold monthly meetings to ensure employees are happy.
Full transcript is available on http://www.psn.ie/ty/michael_oleary.html