Name: Michael Liddle
Business Name: Western Brand Poultry Products (NI) Ltd
Business Location: Ballyhaunis , Co Mayo & Lisnaskea
How long have you been in business? As a family owned Chicken processing company, since 1954, in Lisnaskea since 2006
How many staff do you employ?160 in Lisnaskea
What would you say are your strengths? A can do attitude, and a network of people who can help us make things happen.
What would you say are your weaknesses? Biting off more than we can chew – although the previous answer usually means with hard work and help we get there in the end.
How has Covid-19 affected your business both negatively/positively? The first big change was our foodservice business vanishing overnight. About 20% of our throughput is destined for school meals. We are just now starting to see the first orders returning for this market.
As the foodservice side decreased, the retail side took a massive jump, particularly in the first few weeks of lockdown. Thankfully we were in a position to fill all orders – some of which doubled, and even managed several new product launches in early summer. Finding ourselves designated an essential frontline service added to the pressure we were under to keep the supply chain open – but our suppliers, production, technical, quality, HR, Admin and Engineering teams and logistics providers all rose to the challenge, and no-one was left wanting our chicken products.
What makes your business unique? In the recent crisis our rural location has proven to be quite unique in our industry. We know that we depend on the local community, as it depends on us, – after all we’re part of it, so it didn’t take much encouragement to ensure all guidelines were followed to keep us in operation.
Who has been the greatest influence on your life? (Aside from friends & family). In 2004 I heard a gentleman called Watt Nicholl speak at an Invest NI Go For It event in Belfast. I’ve bought and given away several copies of his book “Twisted knickers & stolen scones”. It was quite an influence at the time – but a previous employer Ronnie Steele, sadly now departed, of Silver Hill Duckling fame, summed up the content in far fewer words “you know lad, the impossible just takes longer“
What are your plans for the future? To make Western Brand the chicken of choice in Ireland and the UK
What would your advice be for anyone starting out in your industry? Always be your best, do your best and make your best. Work hard. Lead by example. Enjoy it
How do you like to relax? Cutting grass and kayaking
What would you do if you won the lottery? I have absolutely no idea – so I don’t usually buy a ticket.
We might be limited in our travel at the moment but where is your favourite holiday destination? Lately I’ve enjoyed walking the Camino in northern Spain. Bovec in Slovenia is an example of how tourism and nature can work hand in hand ( In the 3 weeks I have spent there I have never seen litter of any kind)
What do you miss most about Fermanagh when you are away? The water
If you could swap lives with someone who would you choose and why? A swap with Bear Grylls or Steve Backshall would have quite an appeal in the name of adventure and excitement. I do enjoy the outdoors, long hikes and whitewater , but truth to be told I’m quite happy as I am, although an upgrade to some of the creakier parts wouldn’t go amiss.
And finally take the chance to give a shout out to another local business who you think is doing great things: Crust & Crumb in Derrylin – apart from making the best Chargrilled Chicken Pizza ever, its another example of what is possible when you don’t believe anything is impossible.