A Day in the Life… Michael McQuillan, director of the Business Institute at Ulster University Business School
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ROLE, WHEN DID YOU TAKE IT UP AND WHAT DOES IT INVOLVE?
I have been Director of the Business Institute at Ulster University Business School, since August 2014. Our objective in the Business Institute is the development of people and through them, the development of organisations, communities and economies consequently growing the business and civic impact of the university. I have also been a board member with Tourism NI for almost four years, together we are tasked with ensuring Tourism NI fulfils the aims and objectives set by the Department, that Tourism NI’s policies and actions support the wider strategic policies of the Minister, and that Tourism NI operates with probity.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN HOSPITALITY/TOURISM?
Although it seems like yesterday, I graduated from Ulster University the eighties and spent twenty-plus years establishing several businesses, mostly in hospitality.
The most notable was The Streat a coffee chain that I co-founded with my wife Nikki in 1999 starting off with just one outlet, the business grew organically and then expanded through franchising which led to an acquisition by the Henderson Group in 2010. I also developed Manor House Catering Service’s during the late 80’s and early 90’s, with my brother John and had a spell launching and running the contract catering division of the Campbell Bewley Group in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Throughout my business career I lectured part-time at Ulster University and have been constantly involved in the development of tourism in Northern Ireland and the NI skills agenda.
WHAT ARE THE BEST/WORST PARTS OF YOUR JOB?
My role with the university combines two things that really enthuse me. Firstly, the encouragement and development of people and the subsequent impact that can have on their lives, their organisation, their community and the wider economy – this has been at the centre of every business I have been involved with. Secondly, in a changing world the university needs to grow its business – the challenge and excitement of ‘business building’ has got me out of bed in the morning for years!
My role on the board of Tourism NI brings the responsibility of providing guidance and challenge to the senior management team. They are a really focused and passionate team working to support, develop and grow tourism in Northern Ireland. It is a privilege to work with the senior team and fellow board members for an industry and country I am very proud of.
Quite simply there are no ‘worst’ parts of my job, sure there are circumstances out of my control in Northern Ireland that can hinder progress, lead to loss of opportunity, and while that can be frustrating, I’m very much a glass half full person. I look forward to the progress the business community will make in the coming years.
OUTLINE A TYPICAL DAY
At the university, I run the day-to-day operations of the Business Institute and SME Development Centre. I must also grow student numbers and income for the business school from our local and growing international client base. My average working day is usually long, with lots of productive meetings with the Business Institute team, existing and potential clients and client businesses, colleagues across the university and a range of collaborators in the public, private and third sectors throughout Northern Ireland and beyond.
Once per month I will attend a Tourism NI board meeting and I will have several engagements on specific tourism areas that I am working in partnership with the industry on. At the moment this includes some really constructive work on the future skills strategy.
PROUDEST MOMENT OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE
I am not good at singling out moments in my life outside of the important ones- my wedding day and the days when our children were born.
Career wise there were many memorable moments including being very proud on the night in the Guild Hall, London when The Streat became the first ever café chain to win a UK National Training Award. I was also personally proud and humbled when I was appointed as a Visiting Professor to Ulster University in 2010.