SAC Consultant of the Year

In this episode of Interlinks, David Ogilvie chats with Patrick Daly, founder and principal consultant at Alba Consulting, and your regular Interlinks host, on his career in business consulting on the occasion of his being awarded the Society for the Advancement of Consulting, Corrie Shanahan Memorial Award for Consultant of the Year.

In this episode of Interlinks David Ogilvie talks to Patrick Daly, founder and principal consultant of Alba Consulting about how how he started and progressed in the business and profession of consulting.

Alba Consulting is a boutique consultancy based in Dublin, Ireland since 2005 that works with clients all over the world in manufacturing, distribution and logistics services on all aspects of supply chain and logistics.

Patrick has worked with clients on strategy, tactics, operations and processes in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, food, medical devices, consumer goods and third party logistics services division in countries as diverse as Uruguay, China, India, Spain, Egypt, US, Malta, Croatia and UAE.

In this conversation, David explores with Patrick his background and experience and how he came to the profession of consulting and what his thought are about the business of consulting at the current time.

Click here to read transcript

David Ogilvie:

Hello. This is David Ogilvie, and welcome to Interlinks. Interlinks is a program about connections, international business, supply chains, and globalization, and the effects these developments have had on our life, our work, and our travels over recent times. I know I’m an unusual face to be introducing this podcast, but today on Interlinks, we’ll be talking with Patrick Daly who is the principal of Alba Consulting. Patrick founded Alba Consulting and his central business goal is to improve the condition of his clients, and to leave them and their businesses significantly better off in tangible, measurable ways. He operates out of Dublin in Ireland and has helped many national and multinational corporations, and sectors such as natural resources, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, food, electronics, and transport to achieve their logistic and supply chain goals. Patrick is this year’s winner of the Society of Advancement of Consultant’s Corrie Shanahan Memorial Award as Consultant of the Year for 2022. Patrick, delighted to have you with us here today. Congratulations.

Patrick Daly:

Thanks, David. Delighted to be here on the other side of the table today.

David Ogilvie:

Yes, I bet it’s an unusual feeling. It certainly is unusual for me to be on this side.

Patrick Daly:

Okay.

David Ogilvie:

Well, Patrick, please share with your listeners a little bit more of your background. Because I’ve heard you talk many and interview many other people, but I’m sure they came to learn a little bit about your background.

Patrick Daly:

Yeah. So I’ve started my professional life as an engineer working outside of Ireland. I live in Ireland now and I’ve come from Ireland. But I started my career in Spain working as an engineer in the manufacturing company and a very technical background. We were manufacturing steel storage equipment like pallet racking, and shelving, and stuff like that. So it was all about testing, breaking stuff, doing calculations, designing new parts, designing the manufacturing processes for that. So I was there for eight years, and because we were manufacturing equipment that went into the logistics industry with storage equipment, I became quite interested in the whole world of logistics and supply chain. And eventually, it became a little bit bored with the engineering side of things and more interested in the logistical side of things. Because I always had an eye to what’s going on in the world, and the flows, and geography, and trade, and history, and all of that type of thing. So it was a nice meeting, maybe, of all of those disciplines.

And I went to Spain in 1986 as a 21-year-old. I came back to Ireland in 1996 as a 31-year-old and worked on contract here with another manufacturing company for a couple of years. And then towards the end of the ’90s, I started doing consultancy work first with a couple of partners. And as you know yourself, when you work with partners, sometimes it doesn’t always work out. So we lost our partnership and we lost our friendship as well. And then I decided to continue again on my own from about 2005 which is the current incarnation of my business, Alba Consulting, but now branded under my own name, Patrick Daly. And I’ve been very fortunate to work with lots of major corporations, because lots of them are based here in Ireland and they have major supply chain requirements, big manufacturers in pharmaceuticals, in medical devices, in beverage, and so on.

And as time has gone on, my work, which started as being quite technical, lots of designs and layouts, and stuff, it’s become quite strategic over the years as I’ve matured and the relationship with the clients has matured. So now, we do work that sometimes doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with supply chains, or warehouses, or transport, but it’s just about the strategy of the business, looking at what’s going on in the world in terms of the events, and what’s going on in the world in terms of the trends. Blending those together with the challenges that clients are looking at and coming up with ways to do business that’s going to leave them better off in the long run.

David Ogilvie:

Wonderful. So when you did decide to go into consulting, what was it that attracted you to the profession?

Patrick Daly:

Well I guess, to be honest, you can make up a great story here, but I fell into it by accident to be honest. And then after the accident happened, the light went on. So what happened was when I transitioned from Spain back to Ireland, the owner of the company I was coming to work with who was offering me the job, he said to me, “Listen. Instead of you becoming an employee, why don’t you become a self-employed consultant and work for us on that basis?” And I was young, I was 30, 31. I didn’t really have a lot of experience actually.

And I just said, “Yeah, okay. Fine,” so we did that. So after a while I work, I said, “Okay, so I’m not an employee here. I’m a consultant, so that means I can work for other people.” So the light went on and then I started talking to people about that, and all of a sudden I started getting these little gigs around the place. And then I said to the guy, “Actually, remember you said to me I’m a consultant?” “Yeah, yeah.” “Well, I’m only going to be here a couple of days a week because I’ve got other stuff going on.” Now he wasn’t altogether pleased with that, but it worked out. And then eventually, that relationship ended, and I had lots of other things going on and it just went on from there. So it was an accident, to be honest.

David Ogilvie:

They are often the best ways. So, Patrick, what’s the best part about being a consultant and working for yourself?

Patrick Daly:

I had another friend who did the same thing and I asked him the question, and he said, “I sleep a lot less, but I have much more fun when I’m awake,” is what he said. And that was true, I guess, at the beginning. But now I sleep fine now at the moment. But the best thing about it is… There’s several really good things. One is that you get to see multiple businesses, large and small across different sectors, and you get to understand how business works and you get to be able to help people across sectors with things. Say, they might be doing in pharmaceutical, that they’re not doing in-tech and vice versa. That’s one aspect of it. The second thing is, some of my clients, when the relationship was strong and when it was in the early days, and I was starting out, they’d say things like, “Oh, I’d love to do that, but it feels a bit insecure.”

You’re out on your own, and I’m here in the corporate fold, and I have a regular salary, and all this type of thing. And I used to think to myself, “Actually, I have lots of clients so I can’t be fired by anybody, because I’m resilient in that way.” And some of these people over the years were made redundant by their companies. And they might have been in their 40s, might have been in their 50s, and all of a sudden that corporate cushion is gone, and you don’t really know how to swim anymore. So in that sense, I find this quite resilient.

And probably the third thing is that you literally get to design your own life in this profession. So you can determine how much you want to work, you decide when you’re going to have your own breaks, and holidays, and so on. You structure your own working day, and you decide strategically what things you’re interested in and where you’re going to take the business in the future. So for me, it’s been an absolute ball to be honest. It’s living the dream. So for me, it’s the best of all worlds.

David Ogilvie:

I know how you feel. So, Patrick, how are clients better off after having worked with you?

Patrick Daly:

I think they get new insights into how to get things done. A lot of people speak to me when they say, “I really feel like things are moving now.” So it seems to be that whatever it is, whatever my presence brings, it seems to unlock, often, barriers that people have, that they’ve been thinking about doing things, and they’ve been in some loop, and they’ve not been able to take a decision and make a move. And I think, often, what I bring is just a bit of clarity to that confusion that they have in their mind and say things like, “We have a number of options here. Here are the pros and cons. Let’s do a quick evaluation and let’s start moving.” And I think once people move from what if, what if this, what if that, to the other to, this is what we’re doing. The whole energy changes. And I think that’s what I bring and I think that’s what people often appreciate or that’s what they tell me they appreciate.

Speaker 3:

93.9 Dublin South FM.

David Ogilvie:

Now here’s an opportunity for you to actually have a little bit of a brag, if you don’t mind. Can you walk me through a project, what do you think is the best results?

Patrick Daly:

Well, let’s see. There’s one recently, which was a little bit like that. So it’s a multinational pharmaceutical company. When COVID hit, their business boomed. And they were caught out quite badly in terms of capacity, all sorts of capacities. But one aspect of capacity was their warehousing capacity at the plant, just to be able to hold the raw materials that they needed. So some of the products they were making literally doubled or tripled in demand within a period of months. And again, they had been in one of those tumble dryers, “Should we build the warehouse extension? Should we outsource our warehousing? Should we get some developer to build a warehouse for us on campus or off campus,” and all of these types of things. So we got together, and like that, you could see when finally they decided to bring me in, the relief, in the sense, that they knew they were going to get moving.

So we worked through some of the options, and eventually, we decided that they would extend on their own property, and they would operate it themselves. So that was the first strategic decision, this is what we’re doing, and then the next aspect of it was to say, “Well, how are we going to do it? What size should this thing be? What should we have in it? How should we lay it out? What kind of technology?” And we work through that, so we now have finalized design, and now we’re in the process of implementing that infrastructure. So that project actually started in… I think 2021, building will start soon and it’ll be up and running in 2023. So when you see a group of people who have, one, I guess got out of the tumble dryer they were in, in terms of making a decision, and then you see that manifest reality as a working operation in the manufacturing plant that’s making a pharmaceutical product, that’s helping people who have been ill with COVID, and many other things. That’s not the only thing they do. It’s very satisfying both for me and for them.

David Ogilvie:

Yeah, that’s good to hear. So talk to me then about SAC and the award that you received, because that would clearly have been satisfying too, to be considered as the consultant of the year.

Patrick Daly:

Yeah, consultant of the year. So, SAC is the Society for the Advancement of Consulting, which is a body that was founded in the US by Alan Weiss. It’s now run by two ladies who are consultants in their own right based in California, Lisa Anderson and Linda Popky. And I became involved with SAC some years ago, and I became one of the European ambassadors. There’s a couple of us here in Europe setting up events and so on. But I became more and more involved. We have a supply chain special interest group that I chair, which brings together consultants among than yourself from around the world with an interest in supply chain.

So I guess I’ve been doing a lot of connecting, a lot of contributing to the organization. And I guess somebody in there nominated me for this prize and we went through the selection process, which is quite rigorous. And I was selected for this year’s Consultant of the Year. And it’s interesting that the prize is a Memorial Award to Corrie Shanahan. And Corrie Shanahan, like myself, is a Dubliner. Sadly, she left us too soon. But the award is in her honor and it’s great to be, if you like, one of her co-citizens, if you like, of this great city here in Dublin. And she’s the memorial award and I’m the winner for this year, so it’s been really good.

David Ogilvie:

Well, and you share very common values. She was definitely a wonderful lady.

Patrick Daly:

She was, yep. Yeah.

David Ogilvie:

So mate, looking into the wider world at the moment. We’ve got lots of challenges with the aftermath of COVID and we’ve got your war in Europe at the moment. In my neck of the woods, we’ve got our tensions between China and the US, and so forth. What do you think are the major considerations or risks and I guess opportunities that business should be thinking about in 2023?

Patrick Daly:

Yeah. Again, I think about this in a particular way. I think a lot of people, you get a lot of confusion, a lot of worry and concern about what’s going on, because it seems like things are happening, popping out of nowhere, shocks and events, whether the pandemic, the war, Brexit, the election of Donald Trump, all of these things happening. And the way I like to think about it is there are events and shocks that happen on one level, but there are big trends that are operating on a different level. So for example, demographics, societal change, the emergence of a multipolar world, those big trends are unmoved by these events. Some of those trends maybe are driving some of the events, but not necessarily. So, what I like to do for myself and help other people to do is to try to see those shocks and events in the context of these big changes.

Because these big changes point to the threats and opportunities in the long run regardless of the shocks. So when a shock happens, you’ve got to react and you’ve got to do what’s right at the time. Sometimes it’s just an avoidance measure or some contingency, maybe, that you have planned before that you bring into operation. But if you’re thinking strategically about the future, look at these big trends and just take one, say for example, demographics.

So the population of the world reached 8 billion this week, and a lot of people are concerned about population growth, but population growth is slowing. And in the developed world, populations are already decreasing. Many European countries, Japan, China’s going to start declining soon. Maybe even the US will start declining in some point in the future. So I think people need to start thinking this is just one example, need to start thinking about how does population, aging, and decline affect our business? So regardless of whether there’s another war or another pandemic, or whatever, that’s going to happen, and there’s nothing anybody can do to change it. So those are the types of things, maybe, I think that companies should be looking to, to try to think about where they’re going as a business in the future.

David Ogilvie:

So, Patrick, that’s a lot about work and things. What do you like to do in your spare time?

Patrick Daly:

Oh, I’m very keen on physical activity. I’m just, I think, one of those people that if I’m not physically active, I’m out of sorts. So most days I’ll walk, maybe, something between 10 and 12 kilometers. Every second day, I’ll probably run five of those 10 or 12 kilometers. So I like to be physically active like that. I like to be outdoors, which is challenging at this time of year in Ireland because it’s nighttime at 4:00 PM, and it’s windy, and it’s rainy, but I go out regardless. So that, on the physical side. And on the more indoor side, I’m a keen read, I read a lot. Other big thing about learning foreign languages, because since a kid, have been very interested in history and geography, and other cultures, and the fact that people do speak different languages, and have different accents, and have different ways of, eating, or playing, or marrying, or all of that kind of stuff was always fascinating to me.

And I went to live in Spain, as I mentioned earlier. I was there for 10 years, so I learned the language. My wife is Spanish and so on, but I’ve learned other languages as well. So I’ve learned Portuguese to a fairly high level. Spanish, obviously I speak Spanish fluently. I’ve learned Portuguese to a high level. I’ve learned French and Italian to a decent level. And I’m currently struggling with German, because my son lives in Berlin. He plans to stay there and if he’s going to make a life there, well, I may end up with German-speaking grandchildren at some point. So I’m struggling with German. But of all of those languages I mentioned, I found German the most challenging of them all.

David Ogilvie:

Interesting. Well, I always knew you were an avid reader. But let’s be honest, you’re also an author. So, people need to go out there and have a look at your book. But getting back to reading, is there anything that’s really caught your eye of late or anything that you’ve listened to, podcast or audiobook, for example?

Patrick Daly:

Yeah. I listen to a podcast which is two guys, two British guys. One is from the Labour Party or historically from the Labour Party, and the other is from the Conservative Party, but they’ve come together to make this podcast. So one is Rory Stewart, who’s a former minister in the Conservative governments. And the other is Alastair Campbell who was an advisor to Tony Blair back in the day. And they make this podcast which is called The Rest Is Politics. And obviously, they deal a lot with UK politics, but they deal a lot also with world affairs, and I find that really good. And because they’re coming from two different political backgrounds, it’s great to get the contrast. Reading at the moment… I’m reading all sorts of stuff, but one of the things I’m reading is the latest book by François Hollande. And François Hollande was the former president of France. And I never really knew, but he’s a really, really insightful guy.

And he’s writing about the New World Order that we’re living in at the moment. It’s published very recently, 2022, only in French so far, but it will be, I guess, translated into English in due course. But he has met all of these big players who are out there at the moment, all the big beasts. So he’s met Putin, he’s met Biden, he’s met Xi. He’s met all the major players and he’s talking about this great firsthand reporting of his interaction with those people, and also setting that in the context of where we are in the world, where we’re going, where we’re likely to be headed. So I found that quite interesting and quite insightful.

David Ogilvie:

Fantastic. And that’s a great explanation of why you’ve won Consultant of the Year, my friend.

Patrick Daly:

Okay, thank you.

David Ogilvie:

So time has beaten us once again, as it always does on your podcast. Thank you, Patrick. It’s been a pleasure. Wish you the very best for the future, both professionally and personally. And thanks again to all of your listeners for tuning in. And so until next week, when Patrick will be back in the chair, keep well and stay safe.

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Patrick Daly Interlinks Podcast

Interlinks is a programme about the connections, relationships and supply chains, that underpin the globalisation of our modern world.

In each programme, we interview people from around the world including entrepreneurs, executives, academics, diplomats and politicians to get their unique perspective on globalisation as it has affected them both personally and professionally.

There is a little bit of history, a dash of economics, a sprinkling of business and an overlay of personal experience both from me and from my interviewees from around the world.

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