A business breakfast with one of Ireland’s leading businessmen, Michael O’Leary

At Friday morning’s TES Talk, the CEO of Ryanair addressed a full theater of early-risers on the company’s new “nice” initiative and the importance of striving above mediocrity

trinity-lifeMichael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair and a graduate of BESS, found himself back in a packed Ed Burke theatre once more, as he addressed a crowd of students at half seven on Friday morning at an event hosted by the Trinity Entrepreneurial Society.

The event kicked off with a welcome address from Andrew Burke, Dean of the Business School and Chair of Business Studies, who briefly reminded all present of the prestigious status Trinity’s Business School holds. It is not only the fastest growing business school in Europe but equally the most entrepreneurial.

O’Leary, both humorous and pragmatic, found himself reminiscent of his student life as he reflected back to his own 9 o’clock lectures on Mondays and Tuesdays, lectures that he did not attend.  He held the crowd’s attention as he spoke with incisive wit whilst making snappy remarks, sharing that the great philosophy of a business student during his time in college was “drinking coffee and chasing girls”.

O’Leary took questions from the audience which ranged in topic from Brexit to shares, offering free flights to those who posed the most interesting or ego-inflating questions. When answering on whether Brexit is likely to affect Ryanair he replied that if they remain in the single market it would hopefully not create ripples with Ryanair.

Ryanair’s growth is rising rapidly thanks to new policies adopted by the company, placing them in the number one spot in most European countries. They will soon overtake Easy Jet in the UK and have spread all over Europe bar one country, “the North Korean Republic of France”.

At the end of September 2013, Ryanair made changes to create a softer appearance and more customer friendly. Previously known for poor customer service, O’Leary revealed his intentions at the time to implement a new and revolutionary initiative where they try to “actually be nice” to customers. This has proved effective as recent reports and reviews of Ryanair suggest that customer care is rapidly improving, and in turn leading to greater revenue intake for O’Leary and his team.

When O’Leary received a question about the environmental implications of his company, his response was that climate change has always been happening. He argued that we are moving away from coal in our society and will be using solar energy as an alternative. The government have recently passed legislation which states that Ireland will not be getting involved in nuclear energy or fracking. “[It is] pretty hard to fly planes on turf’’ O’Leary retorted.

Any students who are looking for transatlantic flights will be disappointed to hear that Ryanair has put those plans on-hold. But students will be happy to hear that the 9.99 flight sales will continue and O’Leary has plans to make seats cheaper and cheaper. O’Leary spoke of the recent quo a student had made about the airline, that the one euro flights could hardly be profitable. In O’Leary’s view, it is “better than we had an empty seat at zero revenue”. It also might entice customers to return to Ryanair having had a positive experience.

O’Leary also spoke of his vision for an ‘Amazon of travel’. This digital platform would supply customers with a broad range of facilities to enhance their Ryanair experience. On ryanair.com, one will be able to not only book flights but rate and review their journey, book hotels, hire cars, purchase concert tickets, discover new restaurants – all based on the incentive that “each booking will knock money off the cost of your next flight”.

Drawing parallels between O’Leary as a business leader, and the business-savvy president-elect Donald Trump, a question was asked on whether O’Leary will ever contest the Irish Presidential election. His answer was a concrete “no”. He believes himself to be a proud and successful businessman who has plans to double the size of Ryanair in the next eight to ten years, with no desire to join the Irish political scene anytime soon.

O’Leary continued to aim his words at the students aspiring to become Ireland’s next success story. “When you leave here, don’t settle for mediocrity.”, he said, urging students to grasp every opportunity that comes their way. He feels that people in Ireland frequently lack ambition and he implored students “not to  piss it away on doing drugs and riding each other”, further adding that “you have brains and ability to conquer the world. You will be astonished by the successes you will achieve.”