Tell me about your relationship with Ermenegildo Zegna's chairman, Paolo Zegna.
I have learned to respect the business culture of Zegna and of Paolo. It's very modern, fresh and efficient. I've learned many things from Paolo; to me, he is the mentor of my life. I may have never discussed that directly, but I respect him a lot. He has a very refreshing and decisive approach to business which stems from his objectivity.
He says the same thing about you.
Not just the respect between two businesses and two families, but also the respect between our personalities and the way we connected. I certainly respect his judgement, and that has allowed for the foundation between us to develop. Communication is important in establishing trust and foundations for a long, healthy business relationship. Apart from that comes making judgment calls, which we do together. Although we have different technical backgrounds, we rely on one another’s expertise to make the right decisions. He sees the helicopter perspective where I'm involved in the forests.
What do you remember of Paolo's first visit to Achill?
Back when we first met on the first day of our first visit, we connected. As part of my tour, I showed Paolo around and we eventually got to our annual planning calendar. I walked him through the processes and he looked at me and said, "So you plan your business like how I plan mine." [Laughs] And I thought, "On a different scale though."
As a sixth generation farmer, was there some apprehension coming into this joint venture, in terms of losing control of what you achieve, and how you want to achieve it?
I think that's the apprehension that would be of most found. However, we didn't look at it that way. For us, it was about getting to where we want to be faster; it is about a greater sense of purpose to what we can become through the joint venture. And it is more important than control. I mean, the opportunity to continue to develop and grow what we are passionate about, to better develop the demand for such a great product… it's such a great product. Those were my motivations. My involvement day to day is in some respects similar to what it was before, but comes with much more complements to what it was previously.