Posted on Wednesday 25 January 2017 by Ulster Business
Some of the most interesting people to interview in the business world are those who have had a career which has followed a less-travelled path, or take diversions at various stages into unexpected territories.
A good example is June Burgess, an entrepreneur who has been a landscape architect, a property developer, a world-class equestrian, an executive coach and, as the opening quote suggests, a hotelier.
If forced to pick, it’s her latest venture – Inner Horsepower – which is the most diverse and one which Ulster Business wants to know more about first of all.
Delve a little deeper and it’s clear that business and personal development coaching using horses as the conduit makes perfect sense.
“There is a great deal to be learnt from the way horses move in a herd,” June told Ulster Business. “Leadership is moving to a much more collaborative structure where it’s key to get everybody working together for the good of the team.
“The structure of the herd demonstrates that really well, from changing positions within the herd, how they react to change, crisis management and how they ‘get back to grazing’ really quickly and don’t hold grudges.”
The courses, already commonplace in the US and Europe, address the full gamut of issues faced by professional people in work or in their personal lives - from leadership to motivation to career development – and involve participants working directly with June’s 12 horses and have proved hugely popular.
From an equestrian point of view, June’s credentials are impressive having competed internationally in three-day eventing across the Republic, UK and Europe and obviously a horse fanatic.
“My priority throughout my career has been the horses,” she said. “I have always worked to live and even in the early days my top concern was being able to do the things I wanted to do; that has meant making sure there was always time for riding.”
It can’t have been easy with a career schedule which packs a lot of achievements into a relatively short period of time, one which started in the world of landscape architecture.
For starters there is Clarendon Dock, the very development where this article is written and where June came for this interview, partly to check in on landscaping which she had installed in her role at BDP when the site was developed in the 90s.
She is able to reveal which type of stone the cobbles outside Ulster Business towers are cut from, remembers bringing in the trees which line the complex from Holland and, more importantly, meeting her husband on the project.
When that project ended, June set up her own landscape architecture company carrying out work across Northern Ireland and in England.
At the same time, she was competing at the highest level on horseback, running Ballygraffin Horse Trials (an annual event of 5,000 people which was televised on Sky for four consecutive years), acted as chief executive of Tyrone Crystal and was involved in property investment.
It was through the latter venture that the decision to build a hotel came about.
June owned the site on the corner of Great Victoria Street and Grosvenor Road and running it as a car park, but and had looked at a number of options for development before making the decision to build a hotel.
The Fitzwilliam opened in 2008 - an inauspicious time in financial history - and shortly after this reporter sat down to interview June who had been intimately involved in the building’s development and despite the prevailing economic wind, made sure the venture was a success.
“We got through it but because we made sure we were making the right decisions as we went along. I’m very big on holding on to the overriding vision, focusing on it and not getting side tracked.”
That focus obviously worked and June sold the hotel last year.
She’s now putting her energies into Inner Horsepower where she’s combining her passion for horses and her experience of business gained throughout her career.
That’s a heady cocktail and one which is sure to prove as successful.