Life Force mentors Global
Episode 11

Mary McKenna: A story of travel where resilience reaps rewards

Allan Beechinor published on

Mary McKenna opens up about her incredible journey over the past 23 years of building the travel business that we all know and love Tour America and Cruise Holidays. 

This year Mary was selected as a finalist on the EY Entrepreneur of the year program with 23 other business people. Mary expressed her tremendous pride in this achievement and discussed her relationship with her Father and how he Mentored her, before mentoring was cool or emotional intelligence was a thing, he advised his daughter to ‘find what you love’ the passion and do that. Her father passed away in her early 20’s and it forced her to grow up overnight. Mary’s sister was involved in a horrific car accident and during this time their Dad went to hospital for a procedure and tragically passed away. 

Mary maps this moment to the beginning of her resilience and as the knocks came in business as they do she learned to take them and get back up again and again. 

These blows involved 9/11 where her business took a massive hit and she was forced to let 11 staff go. She does admit to feeling sorry for herself for a few weeks. Then she decided to launch Cruise Holidays and hired 10 of the 11 back. I think the cool term for this is a ‘Pivot’

Resilience is a must to survive and Mary urges us to work on the Business not in the Business. Everything is about the core values of the Company and creating the right company culture. Culture starts with the leader, be happy in your work and be kind to each other, leave moods at home. 

In 2012 Mary hired through JobsBridge a government scheme which was abused by other businesses, Mary reminds us that you ‘only die with your conscience’ and gave her team the freedom to be creative and to innovate. 


Some more knocks later more ups and downs Mary did not follow the crowd during the recession instead of making staff redundant and cutting Marketing she doubled the spend on Marketing and grew sales by 70%

Finding opportunities during the recession Mary purchased an amazing premises for
The Cork Tour America branch. 

So much gold in this Podcast Survival instincts, a very serious car crash 50/50 chance of surviving. The Ash cloud hits the travel industry. 

Mentoring is a passion for Mary she is actively involved in mentoring programs. A female program called Going for Growth’ and on the Task force of Dublin Chamber. Mary has a habit of achieving her goals, she writes them down and ticks them off one by one. Today family values are top priority, the team are encouraged to work hard but not to miss out on key family events. 

Tour America has achieved Deloitte best managed company 9 years running. As a leader she is constantly working on inspiring her team. Her advice to her 20 year old self is to not sweat the small stuff, self care and Health are paramount to success. She compares the connections between Sport and Business on having a succession plan and talent spotting. 

We just had to give Mary a massive LifeForce Mentors Pat on the Back. What an amazing journey and an absolute lady, so generous and supportive of other entrepreneurs. A life changing 52 minutes from a LifeForce Mentor. 

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