Home » Women in business » Why ‘people businesses’ are leading the way

Fiona Matthews

Managing Director, Applegreen Ireland

Kerri Hill

Senior Financial Reporting Manager, Applegreen Group

Businesses that value and support their people are destined for success, say Fiona Matthews and Kerri Hill, two senior leaders from a major roadside retailer.

Why should companies aim to be ‘people businesses’?

Fiona Matthews: In order to succeed, businesses must value and invest in their people. Applegreen genuinely supports entrepreneurial spirit and ambition and offers progression opportunities to women and men alike.

Kerri Hill: When I joined the business, I immediately saw strong women in key leadership roles, which was inspiring. I’ve always been treated fairly and felt I could progress.

Can graduate schemes be a way to broaden talent in a company?

FM: Absolutely. Our graduate programme is in its third year now and is key to our growth because it’s shaping the future leaders of the business. We’re fast-growing and have to develop a talent pipeline to support our expansion.

KH: I recognise myself in the graduates coming into the business. Early on, I felt apprehensive about putting myself forward for promotion. Luckily, the company pushes people — men and women — to be the best they can be.

What sort of company initiatives and culture promote inclusivity?

FM: Work/life balance and wellbeing are so important. Happy colleagues make for a successful business — so initiatives such as maternity/paternity leave, supporting women returning from a career break and flexible/hybrid working. Plus, a strong sports and social culture, because having fun is part of Applegreen’s DNA.

KH: A culture of empathy is vital. During the seven years I’ve been here, I felt that the senior management team have really cared, taken the time to check in with me and allowed any flexibility I needed.

It’s been thought of as a male-dominated environment in the past, but it’s great to see many successful women in the sector now.

Kerri Hill

Why should women want to join your industry?

FM: It’s an exciting time because we’re going through so much change, with forecourt retailing evolving into a hybrid of hospitality and retail — and technology advances such as the move to electric vehicles.

KH: It’s been thought of as a male-dominated environment in the past, but it’s great to see many successful women in the sector now.

What’s your advice to any woman starting out?

KH: Believe in yourself. Women tend to underestimate themselves, but I’ve been pushed outside of my comfort zone and learned that I’m far more capable and ambitious than I realised. Ambition is encouraged here in Applegreen.

FM: Be true to yourself. Figure out what makes you tick, what you enjoy, what your strengths are — and build from there.

Next article