Rory Williams is Managing Director of Countrystyle Foods Ltd. He is a member of the Chartered Accountants in Ireland having trained with Ernst & Young and qualified in 1992.
Following his qualification Rory went to work in Glanbia and worked for the period 1992 to 1998 as financial accountant for sites with turnover of €50m. Rory left Glanbia to return to the family business as Managing Director in September 1998. Countrystyle Foods is a long established (May 1985) food wholesale and distribution business based in Kilmacow Co. Kilkenny.
In addition to Rory’s work in Countrystyle Foods Ltd he is a member of the Board of Kilkenny Leader Development Company. This role led him to the Kilkenny People of the Year Awards and he has been delighted to assist the working group that run the People of the Year event for the past three years. This year Billy Gardiner stepped down as chairman of the group and Rory offered to take on the role of chairman for the 2019 Awards.
Rory and his wife Toni live in Kilmacow with their three children Caoimhe, Donnacdha and Cathal. With a busy household life doesn’t offer much time in the way of hobbies but outside of work he likes to help the local GAA clubs, in hurling and camogie. He is secretary of the Kilmacow Hurling and Football club and helps to coach the U7 hurling team. When time does allow Toni and Rory enjoy each others company and love to share meals out with their family and friends. Here is a glimpse into Rory’s world.
Rory, describe your typical day in running Countrystyle Foods…
Morning: Variety – loads of variety! Countrystyle is a family run business and Toni and I are lucky to have a great bunch of people working with us. Typically our van salesmen are out on the road to our customers by 5am everyday and our factory team start work at 8am. The day runs away with itself from there and every day seems to go by quickly taking customer orders, making deliveries and organising the work. We have a wide ranging customer base including all of the major national retailers, hotels, restaurants and take-aways – we have something for everybody.
Midday: A lot of my work is doing financial analysis and projections so the 10:30 tea break is always welcome and it’d be a poor day that I wouldn’t stop for lunch at 1pm.
Evening: As I said each working day brings a lot of variety and we can be fairly flexible with work times, our sales team are self-motivating and they can determine how to best manage their time on the road. At the end of every day the work is always done, and I even get to sneak out the odd time to a schools hurling game !
As well as MD of Countrystyle Foods, you have also undertaking the role as Chair of Kilkenny People of the Year Awards.
Yes this is the first year I have taken on the role of chairperson for the KKPAwards following on from Billy Gardiner very assured stewardship over the past number of years – as I said before it’s a little like putting the minor match on after the senior game. The role is a new one for me but there is a really capable team working on the awards and Christine Walshe, Mags Whelan, Mary Cody, Billy Gardiner, Brian Keyes and Gary Gordon work well together to present what I think is a unique little diamond of a project every year.
What’s the purpose of the awards?
To my mind the Awards are unique because they achieve two very notable things every year – firstly they give tangible support and recognition to the award winners that their contribution to Kilkenny is recognised and secondly through the generous support of our sponsors we can make a useful donation to local charities.
For 2019 we are again hoping to donate the surplus from the evenings event to the Amber Womens Refuge.
How do you raise funds for the chosen charities?
The Awards could not be as successful as they are without the generous and significant support we receive from our sponsors.
In 2019 we are being kindly supported by Kilkenny County & City Council, The Kilkenny PPN, Glanbia Plc, Highway Safety Developments, Kilkenny Leader Partnership, O’Neill Foley, O’Shea Farms and Countrystyle Foods. The event is also supported and contributed to by Electro City & the Newpark Hotel.
You also coach hurling in your downtime?
Yes since my sons and daughter became involved in Hurling and Camogie I have worked as a coach in Kilmacow. It has been a huge learning experience for me, one I thoroughly enjoy. Going to the pitch of an evening is a great way to leave the cares and stresses of commerce behind. The children rightly expect you to be there for them and to help them learn and working with young people keeps you young.
Did you play hurling yourself?
Never as much as I wanted to – I found this quote from Donal Og Cusack a while ago and it spoke clearly to me;
“I believe hurling is the best of us, one of the greatest and most beautiful expressions of what we can be. For me that is the perspective that death and loss cast on the game. If you could live again you would hurl more, because that is living. You'd pay less attention to the rows and the mortgage and the car and all the daily drudge. Hurling is our song and our verse, and when I walk in the graveyard in Cloyne and look at the familiar names on the headstones I know that their owners would want us to hurl with more joy and more exuberance and more (as Frank Murphy used to tell us) abandon than before, because life is shorter than the second half of a tournament game that starts at dusk.” (Donal Og Cusack)
What hurling I did wouldn’t take long to relate but I can say that hurling is one of the greatest ways I know of preparing young people for life – you cannot hurl, really properly hurl until you have an understanding of your own self, your strengths, weaknesses, how you cope with winning and losing – all great skills to take with you into adulthood.
What is your favourite food besides sausages?
We sell loads of other things besides sausages , I can recommend all of our sausages, puddings, rashers, bacon and cooked meats! But for whoever knows me that is reading this article then I have to declare I have a sweet tooth – I find it hard to pass any home-made cakes or buns or tarts or cheesecakes or trifles or pavlovas or…
When I asked Rory if food has always been his passion - I got a very unexpected answer?
It shouldn’t be what we are passionate about – I don’t like that question or expression. Being passionate about something or someone suggests a quick passing phase or temporary feeling. Instead we should ask “what makes your heart sing?”, “what makes you feel alive?, what makes you live?”
So Rory, what makes your heart sing?
For me, what makes me feel alive? – enjoying time with my family, watching my children learn new talents, going to hurling games and that wondrous instant when you know you’re going to win, that makes me live!
Is there anything you are afraid of?
Is there anything we don’t know about Rory Williams?
As a 50th birthday present last May my wife bought me guitar lessons.
Why at the age of 50 did you decide to take up the guitar?
I always liked music and felt slightly illiterate and incoherent by not being able to play an instrument.
Perhaps this other quote I picked up recently while on a trip to Germany with my daughter will help to explain. It is a quote from a German philosopher Shopenauer “the first 50 years are text, the rest commentary.” I love that suggestion that from age 50 onwards you get to add context and texture to your life.
That quote also tests people, I read it as a hopeful forward looking idea of growing and developing but I showed the quote to someone else recently and they viewed it differently – that the interesting new things happen in the first 50 years and that the remainder is reheats and repeats – what a depressing way of viewing things !
The Kilkenny People of the Year Awards are held in The Newpark Hotel on November 1st.