Getting To Know You: Martin O’Rourke, Commercial Director, Birchwood Park


Martin O’Rourke joins us to talk about what defines his way of doing business, and what advice would you give to someone just starting out

What do you currently do?

As Commercial Director at Birchwood Park, the North West’s largest single-owned business park and home to some 6,500 people and over 165 companies, my role is as wide ranging and varied as the clients we look after.

Whether it’s getting stuck in with the hands-on side of the role in overseeing the day-to-day running of the Park and ensuring our occupiers are able to enjoy the best in facilities and amenities, through to dealing with lettings and liaising with potential and current clients interested in vacant space on the park. A large part of my role is also making those strategic business decisions regarding the future of Birchwood Park – every day really is different!

On the park, we can boast a jam-packed events calendar for our occupiers to enjoy, and one of the perks of the job is being able to get thoroughly stuck in with them all when it comes to participating in our various charity fundraising days and events throughout the year. It’s a point of difference from any role I’ve held previously, making my job completely unique.

What’s your inspiration in business?

My inspiration in business are those companies and people who have it all together, and at the end of the day I believe this comes down to a sense of feeling rewarded in work, maintaining great work-life balance, and getting rid of those unnecessary hoops you have to jump through so often in business – essentially it boils down to making life easy! Life is far too complicated as it is, so why not try and make life a little easier in every aspect that you can.

I not only strive for ease in aspects of my own job, but to also make sure this is passed on to the team I work alongside and our occupiers on the park – making life easier is key, both from a company perspective on behalf of the businesses based at Birchwood Park, and for the individuals on site. Getting rid of unnecessary, time consuming and hand-holding processes means they can get on with running their own businesses without too much interference, giving them more time towards innovating and hopefully running a successful business.

Another huge part of what we do here at Birchwood Park, which I find particularly inspiring, is to provide our occupiers with the perfect tools to promote greater wellbeing in the workplace. From our onsite gym, to free fitness classes, regular events which encourage people to take time out from their day and be social, and our biannual dedicated Wellbeing Weeks, we like to think there’s something for everyone.

Who do you admire?

There have been many different people over the years who have influenced how I approach things and deal with matters which present themselves in business, and who I take inspiration from in the ways in which I do business. I wouldn’t say there is just one person who I would say has particularly inspired me – I like to gather inspiration from many pools. That said, I do admire anyone who is willing to step outside of their comfort zone, reaching for solutions which are a little more ‘outside the box’ and constantly looks to innovate and stay ahead of the curve in business – staying safe can certainly be boring!

Determination and dedication are also key attributes for anyone in business and leadership, and I definitely admire those who don’t allow an obstacle to get in their way. I suppose you could say that one such example is Alexander the Great, who, when confronted with the Gordian knot, simply cut it without fuss. It’s this kind of lateral thinking and solution-driven approach that is highly admirable.

Looking back, is there anything that you’d differently?

I like to think there’s nothing during my business career which I would do differently; I’m a very strong believer that everything really does happen for a reason, and will lead you to where you’re meant to be. You cannot look back in retrospect and wish to do things differently, otherwise you’ll find yourself living with regret and dwelling in the past. It’s far more productive, in both business and life, to look forward and strive for making improvements on your mistakes. Every mistake, however big or small, is an opportunity to learn and try not to repeat again.

I encourage my team to do and think in the same way, and I would always encourage other business leaders to follow suit – it really can be the make or break between driving a business forwards and being able to grow, innovate and make more informed decisions if you change your mindset to be forward thinking and progressive.

What defines the way you do business?

Being able to have fun, and smiling! I’ve mentioned before it’s all about the work-life balance, and I place huge importance on enjoying what you do as part of this. And not only do you find yourself more satisfied, but it also helps to make business more enjoyable for others that you work with too.

I also encourage people to adopt a more flexible approach to working, as a way of improving productivity. I myself like to work alongside people in more informal settings, and that’s something we’re aiming to promote at Birchwood Park through our EngineRooms – a central area dedicated to meeting, eating, and working which is brand new to us this year. People can use the space free of charge for meetings and working throughout the day. I think sometimes stepping away from your desk is the best way to focus the mind.

Trying to keep things simple is also a key way I like to carry out business. Cutting out unnecessary waffle and trying to keep down undue regulation wherever possible is another thing that’s up there on my list – it just acts as a barrier for people making decisions, so essentially, cut out the crap!

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

There are several pieces of advice I’d give to anyone starting out in any field of business, not just my line of work.

  1. Be honest – it really is the best policy, and by being honest you’ll gain respect in return.
  2. Keep things simple – I’ve already mentioned it, but there’s nothing worse than doing something for the sake of it and hindering business as a result.
  3. Get to it – You never know what’s coming up around the corner, so just get on with it. There’s no better way to make something happen than your own proactivity.
  4. And most importantly of all, when making a decision in your field of business, imagine it’s your own money involved and treat it that way! It may be that you’re venturing into setting up your own business, so it really is your own money on the line, but in either case by treating money as your own you will learn to respect it on a far greater level, handle it more carefully, and make far better informed decisions as a result.