‘Characters in Conversation’ with Dr. Michael Smurfit

Dr. Michael Smurfit & Professor Ciaran O’Hogartaigh, Dean of UCD College of Business

UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School welcomed Dr. Michael Smurfit on Thursday November 12th to participate in a “Characters in Conversation” event with Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Dean of Business. This ‘Founders Day’ event is eagerly anticipated within the annual School Calendar and this year we were delighted that Dr. Laurence Crowley, the founding Executive Chairman of the Smurfit School was in attendance.

Pooja Dey from the FT MBA class and the Thought Leadership Club capably took on the role of MC for the event. Pooja welcomed Dr. Smurfit on behalf of the Smurfit School by thanking him for his undying commitment to quality education. She commented on what a privilege it was to be in the company of an iconic leader, a role model, and an inspiration to those in attendance.

Professor Ciaran O’Hogartaigh, Pooja Dey – Full-Time MBA & Dr. Michael Smurfit

Dr. Smurfit engaged in a Q&A session and students were afforded an opportunity to explore what inspires Dr. Smurfit, the challenges he has faced in his career, the critical success factors that led him to where he is today and his views on the global economic climate. Dr. Smurfit recognised Ireland’s highly educated workforce as being a primary strength in continuing to attract International Foreign Investment when asked by FT MBA student Elsa Heffernan about our country’s future as a Tech Hub. When asked by Diana Rodríguez Béjar, a FT MBA Exchange Student, which qualities he respects in his employees, Dr. Smurfit highlighted honesty and integrity, loyalty and business acumen as being the characteristics he values most.

John Ryan Full-Time MBA

When asked what advice he would give himself as a 21 year old Michael Smurfit, Dr. Smurfit mused that he would advise himself to never give up, don’t be afraid to take risks and to have a go. He advised that individuals should address stress by implementing a ‘Problem, Solution, Result’ approach to business life and to switch off from your job when not at work. Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh elaborated on this point by stressing the importance of pushing boundaries, to leave the world in a better place then you find it, something Dr. Smurfit has done by committing to the Smurfit School. Professor Ó hÓgartaigh quoted Seamus Heaney by saying “Faculty are here to develop capacities, your destinies are your own”. Very wise words for our MBA class….

Peter Hynes, Donal Ryan, Conor Mc Mahon & Carley Wasechek – Full-Time MBA

Yvonne Harding ~ FT MBA Programme Manager

A life worth living according to Michael Smurfit

Michael Smurfit and Lindsey Nguyen of the full-time MBA class

Dr Michael Smurfit arrived into the Laurence Crowley boardroom in Smurfit College on Tuesday Sept 30th where the noise filled room of curious MBA and business students immediately fell into a quiet hush. He took his seat next to the Dean and then opened with a self deprecating ice breaker apologising for the inadequacy of his book. Result? Everyone immediately relaxed and warmed to their college namesake. Dr Smurfit proceeded to give a fascinating account of how he developed his empire and set up the Business School and shared some lessons learned along the way. Our very own Lindsey Nguyen (Full time MBA) did a great job as MC and posed some carefully crafted but pointed questions to Dr Smurfit which he duly answered.

What became quickly evident was a lot of his success was down to doing the obvious, like cutting costs, managing stocks and being a forward thinker in a time when everyone was looking inward instead of outward. What is also interesting is how Smurfit took a small Irish company to the top of the world in the area of wood and wood products, beating off rivals from countries with significant wood and native paper industries.

As per his autobiography A Life Worth Living, Dr Smurfit was the first Irish mega tycoon, who built a small family business into Ireland’s first multinational company and one of the world’s largest paper and packaging companies. A particularly spectacular feat coming from a country with no indigenous wood industry to speak of. Dr Smurfit’s motto was “I must, I can and I will” and he did.

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