60 seconds with: JP Hughes

Business, Interviews | Thu 4 May | Author – Business & Finance JP Hughes, Friends First
JP Hughes speaks at the launch of the Business & Finance FDI 100 edition at The Merrion in Dublin

Friends First chief commercial officer JP Hughes takes the Business & Finance 60-second challenge.


Q. What was your first job?

I had a few shelf stacking and waiting tables jobs in early college years but also worked as an assistant to a private investigator for a summer. While it may sound glamourous and my friends referred to me as JP PI, with brushes with members of the special branch and car chases with walkie talkies across Cork city, I soon discovered this life was not for me and chose the more sedentary role within Barclays Bank’s management development programme in London.

Q. What would you regards as your greatest achievement to date?

I have two; firstly helping steer Friends First through the trouble and very choppy waters of the deep recession in 2012 and 2013 to now being a vibrant and successful Life company boasting the fastest growth rates in the Irish Life and Pensions market. 

The other is representing Ireland, albeit at junior level and now a long time ago, in golf. It still gives me a thrill to think back to that summer with the shamrock on my chest.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Culture eats strategy for breakfast! While clearly we can’t all go about our work without a goal or sense of purpose, engendering a culture of empowerment and can-do attitude amongst all those who work with you is far more effective than spending months ruminating over the finer details of your strategy. 

Devise your plan, set your goal and then ensure that everyone around you is both clear and enthused by delivering the aspect they are responsible for.

Q. In three words or less, how would you define success?

Exceeding through others. (I don’t like the word achieving, it is so limiting!)

Q. If you could step into the shoes of one business person for a day, who would it be and why?

Possibly Michael O’Leary or Richard Branson as they have continued to deliver growth in sales and profits in an extremely competitive market. It would also be interesting to see the creative processes of both of them and how they translate that into delivery through their organisations thereafter.

Q. How do you motivate yourself and your staff?

I try to ensure that our goals and plans are very clear at the beginning of the year and highlight how each team and member within each team will be contributing to exceed these goals. It is important then to regularly celebrate success and I must say we have a team who are always willing and able to celebrate!

Q. How do you relax?

During the summer months, when I can, I will try to fit in at least nine holes of golf during the evening. It is a great way of just clearing your head of all the work noise from the day and sometimes taking out any frustrations on a small white orb! 

Golf is also one of the best ways of developing really strong long lasting business relationships and amazingly in this ever changing high tech world, taking a few hours out with someone you would like to get to know a little better can be far more effective than dealing with them through a cleverly designed web portal (albeit if you would like more regular business through these relationships, you need both).

Q. What’s your motto?

I am not sure I have one but I do believe that hard work and keeping a positive outlook on whatever is thrown at you, will both see you through to a pretty positive place in most instances. Failing that, I resort to one of my age old heroes, JR Ewing: “Never give a sucker an even break!”

Culture eats strategy for breakfast!