Alltech founder encourages young entrepreneurs to lead early

27 Feb 2015

Dr Pearse Lyons, entrepreneur, scientist and president of Alltech, listens at the ceremony in which he received a Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa from Dublin City University. Photo via Fotonic Photography

Dr Pearse Lyons offered words of wisdom to future entrepreneurs as he received an honorary doctorate yesterday at Dublin City University (DCU).

Become a leader earlier rather than later, lose the ‘energy vampires’ and expect the best of people on your team. Those were some of the words of wisdom shared by Dundalk-born entrepreneur, scientist and president of Alltech Dr Pearse Lyons, who yesterday received a Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa from DCU, alongside GAA legend and Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody and esteemed historian and activist Sr Margaret MacCurtain OP.

Delivering the citation for Lyons, Prof Martin Clynes from DCU spoke about how the biochemist set up Alltech in his garage in Kentucky and how he grew the company to be a global leader in animal health and nutrition, crop sciences, brewing and distilling.

Today, Alltech employs around 3,500 people globally, doing business across 128 countries, and Clynes commended Lyons not only for his habit of rising early to go for a run, but also on being a role model for Irish university graduates.

“He has demonstrated that someone from a small country like Ireland can make a global impact if they have ability, energy and vision and they are prepared to work hard,” he said.

Advice for entrepreneurs

In his speech, Lyons offered advice to young entrepreneurs and the leaders of tomorrow. He encouraged the many schoolchildren who were present at the ceremony in The Helix to think about the footprints they will leave.

“Will you be a leader … a ‘do-er’ or a talker?” he asked. “Remember, ultimately earlier rather than later you have to be a leader, because if you are not a leader the view never changes.”

He spoke about the need to clear away the ‘energy vampires’ and naysayers and he stressed the importance of investing trust in people.

“Create an atmosphere of trust – trust in your people, trust in yourself,” he said. “Expect the best and you will get the best, expect the worst and you will get the worst.”

Lyons also encouraged the audience to take note of key phrases.

“Don’t forget those great words ‘You did a great job’, ‘What do you think?’, ‘If you please’, ‘Thank you’, the most important word, ‘We’ and the least important word, ‘I’.”

Reasons for awards

Accepting the honours at DCU yesterday, Cody spoke about his experience of teaching and the importance of dealing with both failure and success, and ‘feminist nun’ MacCurtain was celebrated for shining a light on women in Irish history and for her activism in education.

DCU president Prof Brian MacCraith said the awards were bestowed not only for excellence but for the values espoused by the three recipients. He noted that positive role models are “critically important” in Ireland and told the new honorary degree holders that “each of you has demonstrated what can be achieved through courage, through dedication and a lifetime commitment to excellence.”

Dr Claire O’Connell is a scientist-turned-writer with a PhD in cell biology and a master’s in science communication