‘I took over the business from my father – we embraced tech in order to survive’

26 May 2022

Perigord CEO Alan Leamy. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

For two decades, Perigord’s Alan Leamy has been tapping into the changing needs of the life sciences sector and transforming his family’s business with tech.

Alan Leamy is the CEO of Perigord, a Dublin-headquartered company that has become one of the global leaders for providing labelling artwork and other services to life sciences companies worldwide.

With operations in Ireland, Germany, the US and India, Perigord has gone through many transformations since it was first established. It now operates in more than 100 markets and produces artwork for 10 of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies, helping ensure that pharma packaging complies with local and global regulations.

It has also moved into tech space, enabling life science companies to digitalise and integrate their supply chains with software and services. In March 2021, digital transformation and consulting business Tech Mahindra acquired a 70pc stake in Perigord.

Over the past two decades, Leamy has led the company as it has gone from a family business to a 500-person organisation achieving $30m in revenue. He now plans to continue growing the Perigord workforce in Ireland over the coming years as the company expands into new markets.

‘It was important that we embraced tech instead of running away from it in order for the business to survive’

What are the biggest challenges facing your sector and how are you tackling them?

What we have observed over the last decade is that there are many challenges facing our sector and our clients, one being sustainability and the other is the amount of company product data that exists across our clients’ business. So Perigord has been working hard alongside our clients to develop services and software to support these two areas.

Today we have our GLAMS (Global Labelling Artwork Management System) Interchange software to help our clients manage all of their content and assets in a single source. We have also developed a SaaS system to help our clients measure and control the carbon footprint of their packaging portfolio – the software also allows them to scenario-plan the effects of changes and optimisations with their portfolio.

What are the key sector opportunities you’re capitalising on?

A key opportunity that we are capitalising on is the move towards sustainable packaging. Companies must be seen to be taking initiatives in order to make their products more sustainable as addressing the climate crisis moves higher on government agendas.

Our goal is to reduce our clients’ carbon footprint in the context of their supply chain. Perigord uses its comprehensive knowledge of packaging, the supply chain and sustainability to help our clients rethink their packaging and to look at their carbon footprint and ways they can reduce it while remaining within their margins.

What set you on the road to where you are now?

I joined what was my father’s company, Litho Studios, when I was 17 years old. At the time I did an apprenticeship in graphic reproductions.

During this time I would regularly travel between Ireland and the US. I would often do up to three trips over seven days to transport images that featured on the covers of National Geographic, Time and Life magazines. It was incredible.

I then took over the business from my father in 2002, which was a very different one from what I started in because of technological advancements. When Apple developed the Mac computer and then Photoshop was introduced, it made Litho’s skills redundant.

In the end, we brought technology into the business and began to reskill employees. It was important that we embraced tech instead of running away from it in order for the business to survive. In 2003, I decided that Perigord would no longer be a family business and from there we rebranded and expanded into new areas such as pharma and life sciences.

Then jumping to last year, 70pc of the company was bought by Tech Mahindra and here we are now! We are entering a new stage of the company that is pivotal to its growth. Since the acquisition, we were able to grow Perigord into new sectors in Ireland such as consumer goods and marketing departments of pharmaceutical agencies. I am really looking forward to seeing what the future holds.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

In order for the business to survive, many risky decisions had to be made. One of the risks I took was deciding to move from the realms of a family business to focusing on scaling the business globally. This was tricky!

Working with family can be hard and often there are emotional ties to the business, but because of the industry that we are in and the ever-changing landscape, remaining a family business was not possible.

What one work skill do you wish you had?

Detail! I am a big-picture person – I love strategy, envisioning future states and creatively solving problems and challenges.

I also love detail – but having a busy life, it’s not exactly my greatest attribute.

How do you get the best out of your team?

I believe learning is important for teams to grow professionally. I find that learning from your peers is where you learn the most and I encourage this among all my teams at Perigord.

I experienced this first-hand when I attended a course at Stanford University in 2011. The group participating in the course was mostly made up of other CEOs and entrepreneurs. The course was interesting in itself, but I felt that I learned most from the others doing the course as well.

Sharing experiences is very important as we can learn from each other’s mistakes. I am still very friendly with the group and we often lean on each other for guidance as we continue to grow our businesses.

Have you noticed a diversity problem in your sector?

We are a very lucky business as we have sites in Ireland, Germany, India and the USA, which highlights the breadth of people, skills, ethnicities and culture that we are grateful to have in Perigord.

People are what make Perigord and we will continue to embrace the strengths of our diversity across all of our colleagues. Each plays a vital role in making our business the success it is today.

What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

One of the main takeaways from the Stanford course was, ‘Just listen to the client and build what the client wants.’ I took this piece of advice home with me and from then on applied it to my efforts of scaling Perigord into what it is today.

Also, don’t sweat the small stuff!

What books have you read that you would recommend?

The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters. The understanding gained from reading this book absolutely has made my decision making better and more informed – I highly recommend it.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

Sleep. The consistency of getting regular sleep enables me to manage my week. Without it, my performance drops, no doubt!

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