: TONI FORRESTER
DonegalDaily: What is your career and what do you do?
Toni: I am Chief Executive of Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce responsible for all aspects of the Chamber operations. The Chamber represents over 200 businesses in the Letterkenny area. We lobby locally and nationally on issues pertinent to the business community, we run network events, and deliver a range of services to our members and the wider Letterkenny community.
DonegalDaily: Tell us about your first job and how much were you paid?
Toni: My first job was as a management trainee (glorified supervisor) in a clothing factory in Ligoniel, Belfast. It was an old mill and very old fashioned. I was paid £6,000 per year and we had to call the management ‘Mr’.
DonegalDaily: What was your first success in business?
Toni: It’s hard to say – I worked in the clothing industry after leaving college and really every new line that went in to production smoothly was a success. I always had a great sense of achievement when I saw our products displayed in the stores. More recently watching groups I worked with in various leadership programmes develop and gel and seeing their influence stretching way beyond their own remit and authority and knowing that I contributed in some way.
DonegalDaily: Name the one local or international business person you look up to?
Toni: Internationally I would be a fan of Aiden Heavey, Tullow Oil for his excellence in business but also his commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.
DonegalDaily: What has been your biggest mistake in business.
Toni: Not asking the tough question.
DonegalDaily: What is the most valuable piece of advice you have ever been given?
Toni: It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.
DonegalDaily: What advice would you give to someone starting out in business today?
Toni: Do something you’re passionate about. That way you’ll love doing it and those you have to convince will feel your enthusiasm.
DonegalDaily: What one item would you take with you to a desert island and why?
Toni: I would need a radio. At weekends and every morning I listen to talk radio and it’s been a feature of my life since I was very young. I would miss not being able to hear voices and not being able to pick up information that I may never use. The radio is on but doesn’t interfere. I can interact when I choose.
DonegalDaily: What item can you not do without?
Toni: Can’t do without pen and paper. Always have a pen with me, you never know when you will be inspired.
DonegalDaily: What item would you prefer to do without?
Toni: Would prefer not to have to wear glasses.
DonegalDaily: What do you do in your spare time (if you have any)?
Toni: I walk to keep fit when I can and do jigsaw puzzles.
DonegalDaily: When will you retire?
Toni: I will retire when I win the lottery.
DonegalDaily: What’s your tip to surviving the recession?
Toni: Be thankful and grateful for the little things and focus on these everyday. Try to see the positives and don’t watch those panel programmes on RTE every night.
DonegalDaily: What one thing would you do if you were Finance Minister to help business?
Toni: Reduce the burden of rates on small businesses and inject money back in to the market so that businesses can access working capital. Remain committed to the A5 road and move forward on the roads infrastructure around the North West. Scrap Metro North and look to the North West.
* Interview by Greg Harkin