Siobhan Byrne Learat

Siobhan Byrne Learat joined the IoD in 2008 and is the Owner and Director of Adams & Butler, an upscale private travel designer offering authentic travel & people experiences worldwide, providing clients with the means to not only see, but do, feel, and engage. Siobhan holds post-graduate degrees in business and Arabic & Middle Eastern History, as well as an MBA from the Smurfit Business School.

She is the only Irish person to have been acknowledged as a Travel + Leisure A-Lister Agent.

Why did you decide to join the IoD?

Basically, I joined because I wanted to up my game. I had experience and I had my MBA but I wanted to make sure that I would stay up-to-date with pertinent issues and continue to develop and grow. I knew that joining the IoD would tick all these boxes.

What is the most important business lesson that you have learned in your career to date?

Shortly after I set up Adams & Butler I realised that our culture is paramount to our business and ethos. It enables our team to buy into our vision, mission and values. It makes them proud. Our team is fundamental to our business. They are empowered and are the essence of what Adams & Butler is all about. It is imperative that there is a good fit with our culture and it is the first thing we think of when we interview. We hire for the person not the skills nor qualifications. However, saying that, almost 30% of our team are MBA graduates. We understand that we don’t sell vacations as such, rather we create memorable moments and experiences for our clients that last a lifetime.

Where are the biggest changes you’ve seen in business over your career?

Nowadays people do put family first and seek a much better life balance than before. However conversely, in our industry, technology means we are always on and so many of our clients check their work emails every day, even on their days off and expect you to do similarly. On the positive side, I think that strong robust personal relationships with your clients and suppliers are easier to maintain through social media and there is often a blurring of the line between your private and work personas which facilitates this.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

For me the most important characteristic is the ability to listen. By listening to the industry, you learn about opportunities and threats in the marketplace. By listening to your team, you learn what works and doesn’t work in your operation. By truly listening to your clients you will understand their needs better and build a solid nurturing and steadfast relationship with them that will stand the test of time. 

How do you think business leaders can best prepare for the future?

Leaders can never rest on their laurels. Success in the past does not guarantee success in the future. You need to continuously learn and grow. You need to be open and embrace change which is the only thing that is constant in this world. You need to be nimble. Too much analysis can lead to paralysis and a golden opportunity flit away. However, you should also be positively reactive, when a strategy doesn’t work out cut your losses quickly.

What do you particularly value from your IoD membership?

After I did the Chartered Director Programme in 2013, I had a renewed respect for my own role within the company and this permeated throughout the organisation. The team noticed a difference, and they reciprocated. My enthusiasm was contagious. I initiated more regular management meetings. I enrolled the senior team on a Performance for Growth Leadership programme with Enterprise Ireland, followed by a Lean Programme. A disparate bunch of highly productive individuals became a finely-honed strategy-focused team with a shared vision. 

What advice would you offer to new or aspiring directors in Ireland?

Join the IoD and do the Chartered Director Programme. It covers everything you need to know and will enable you to hone the most important skills you need as a director. You will also learn so much from engaging with your classmates, and grow a new network. It’s a win-win.