Oonagh O’Hagan, Meaghers Pharmacy Group Talks Teamwork and Collaboration

29th January 2024

­­This week we hear from Oonagh O’Hagan, Managing Director, Meaghers Pharmacy Group.

Oonagh is the current Compass WMB Female Entrepreneur Award recipient. In this piece, Oonagh talks about the importance of a positive mindset.  She is also a firm believer in “collaboration and in working together to achieve a common goal.”

Q: At the young age of 25, you secured a bank loan for 2 million punts to buy Meaghers Pharmacy which was no mean feat. What motivated you to take this leap of faith?

It sounds very brave now doesn’t it but I guess when you are younger you have less fear and,

the truth is that I had a huge self-belief and I knew it would work.

I had worked for Pierce Meagher for a year and knew about the amazing work that he did within the local community. I also could see further opportunities that were not totally optimised at the time. I knew what brands and products customers were interested in purchasing and what additional services I could bring to customers. I was very confident that they would be well received and that I could grow the already successful pharmacy business.

Q: You have received many awards at the helm of Meaghers Pharmacy Group and are the current Compass WMB Female Entrepreneur Award recipient. How important is it to participate in such initiatives?

Yes, thank you for the recognition at the latest WMB awards, I am honoured and totally privileged to accept the Entrepreneur of the Year award. I think it is important to participate in such awards as it is important to ensure the work of the Meaghers team is recognised.

Being part of any awards process ensures that we are constantly pushing the boundaries and moving forward. We always gain insights from other participants which leads to continuous improvement and ensures we at Meaghers provide best-in-class service whether that is around our customer service, our people or our overall business strategy and performance.

Q: How would you best describe your leadership style?

I would think that I have a very open, transparent and encouraging approach. I ensure that I am always clear on our vision and I feel passionate about leading the way in the pharmacy sector. As such I would think my style would be transformational.

I am a firm believer in collaboration and in working together to achieve a common goal and I like to ensure all our teams are fully engaged and involved in the business.

I am a good listener and encourage feedback as I believe it is a gift and that we can always improve in an everchanging world.

I also believe in recruiting people who are much better than me and empowering them by getting out of their way and letting them help shape the business with me.

I love learning from others, that self-development really motivates me every day.

Q: Do you think enough focus and resources are invested in women’s health matters?

Absolutely not,

for many years we have seen an underinvestment in female health. It is incredibly disappointing and frustrating and as a result there is a further inequality when it comes to health.

We are starting to make changes when it comes to educating women around their hormone health from puberty to menopause but more needs to be done both in education and in making the resources needed available to the women of Ireland.

Q: Mentorship is something that you are passionate about. How important is it to ‘throw back down the ladder’?

Yes, I am a firm believer in “if you can see it you can be it”. When I started out in business 22 years ago there were very few female role models and I was very often the only woman in the room.

I am so lucky that I had the ultimate role model in my Mum and she has always encouraged me to be a catalyst of change. She always asks me –“If not you Oonagh, then who?”

I never want my daughter or nieces to feel that sense of discomfort that I often felt starting out and so I believe I need to step up, be accountable and ensure that I am leading that change where I can. This is why I have been involved as a Lead Entrepreneur on the Going for Growth program for the last eight years. It is an amazing program that supports female entrepreneurs to realise their growth ambitions both here in Ireland and beyond.

Q: What does success look like to you?

Success for me is feeling happy and fulfilled in my personal and professional life.

Success in my personal life is being content and happy in myself, being the best Mum, wife, daughter, sister and aunt that I can be. Feeling like I am constantly learning and developing and improving as a person for myself, my family, friends and in my community.

When it comes to work, success to me is leading a positive change within healthcare and making a true impact by improving the lives of our customers and communities through the service we offer and the products we supply. A big part of this is education for me, sharing our knowledge so that we can empower our customers with information that allows them to make more informed decisions on their health and well-being.

Q: Do you believe that a positive mindset is a prerequisite for success?

I believe a positive mindset is critical for not only success but also for when we make mistakes which give us insights and key learnings to improve upon.  What I mean is,

it is always a fear of failure or an overly critical response to failure that makes us stay within our comfort zone where we experience limited growth.

Failure is a natural part of life and if you are in business and innovating in your field you will inevitably fail many times, I believe what’s important is to positively react to failure – take the learnings and improve continuously.

Having a positive mindset around failure allows you and your team space to learn, grow and know that we live in an imperfect world.

Q: As a mother of two what advice would you offer other working mums when pursuing their passions?

My two children are now teenagers, so it is a little less stressful than when they were small. I feel like I am a little wiser to the area of mum guilt. It is the most ridiculous thing to expect working mums to be able to do it all.

Unfortunately, this country has very poor supports for not only female entrepreneurs who are raising children but also for the female workforce.

What I found to work for me and what I would encourage others to do is to lean on those who support you, ask for help if you need it and don’t be ashamed of needing it! The reality is we are up against more than our male counterparts and much of my work was completed after putting my children to bed. I would offer the advice that you need to find what works for you – if early mornings are better or late evenings where you can focus on your to do list, take advantage of any and all help. I promise it gets more manageable as they get older.

My children make me proud every single day and I am proud to have raised them to appreciate the value of hard work and pursuing your passions…just like my mother did for me.

Q: What does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion mean to you?

Diversity for me is about recognising and celebrating our differences.

Diversity only adds to an organisation – our customers are a diverse group from different ethnicities, backgrounds and lifestyles. It would be doing them a disservice not to have our team reflect all different walks of life on my management team, across our store teams and our support teams.

Q: You’re a pharmacist and an entrepreneur – how do you maintain a healthy balance given your busy schedule?

My family are my reason for working hard and driving myself in my career. It’s important to me to be healthy and present when spending time with my children and husband. I try hard to look after my physical and mental health so that I can enjoy the time with them and be truly present as a mum and a wife.

Q: What advice would you offer your younger self just starting out?

Ask for help! Take the leap and don’t ever lose focus on your people or your customer when faced with challenges in the business.

Q: As women, how can we effect positive change?

As women we need to support one another and share our experiences to enable others to have the same opportunities we were afforded. I am very passionate about collaboration and learning from others, if we all pool our resources, we can help other businesses grow and gain valuable insights into our own businesses.

I also feel women are well-equipped to bring empathy and understanding into businesses which can only be a positive thing.

Q: In the year ahead, what will be your main focus?

My main focus this year is to run several initiatives to promote the role of the pharmacist in enabling our patients to live healthier lives.

We really are the gatekeepers of the healthcare system and our knowledge and expertise are not always recognised.

My team of incredibly knowledgeable experts play such a key role in not only medicine management but also in educating the customer about other areas of health that will enable them to make the positive changes needed to live happier and healthier lives.

A little bit about ‘You’

If you were a superhero who would you be?

That’s a question I’ve never been asked before!! You know I kind of like Storm from X-Men! Her ability to control the elements and lead with wisdom is pretty cool!

Alternative career choice, no limits?

It would definitely be something within the area of medicine, maybe a research scientist or a surgeon.

The person who has influenced you the most?

My mother Elizabeth O’Hagan

Name three things that you’re passionate about.

Being a great mother, proactive and preventative healthcare and The Gut Microbiome!

If you had a magic wand?…

I would give everyone in the world access to free, excellent healthcare.