It was a very great honour for me to become Patron of the Irish Association of Supported Employment.
Down the years I have acquired something of a reputation as an advocate of supported employment, but to be honest I am always a little bit embarrassed when people praise me for what I and my company have done in this area. They always assume that because of this interest I must be a very “good” person. Well, that’s not the reason I am such an advocate at all – frankly, my motives have largely been ones of self-interest.
It’s true that when Superquinn first started employing people with disabilities, many years ago now, we did it because we thought vaguely it was the right thing to do. But as soon as the first differently abled people started to come to works for us, we realised very quickly that whether it was right or not, it was certainly very good business.
First of all, because the people we took on turned out to be absolutely super employees in every way – eager to excel at their jobs, eager at all times to stretch their capabilities and eager to get on well with everyone they worked with. Without exception, they always proved a joy to have around the place!
Then we saw the effect their presence in our company had on other people. Other colleagues in our company were pleased by their presence, and many of them valued the opportunity to get to know at close hand people who were differently abled to themselves.
Our customers, too, were very impressed to see these people around – and always gave the company top marks for it.
All in all, the presence of these “different” people in our midst made our company a much better place – a more efficient place, a happier place to be. Their value to the business far outweighed any incidental costs that may have been involved in employing them.
So always, when I talk to my fellow-employers of the value of supported employment, I don’t spend any time trying to get them to look on it as a charitable act of some kind. Instead, I sell it to them as a hard-headed business proposition. This is an approach that, I argue, will show them real benefits on their bottom line. They should regard it as a wise investment like any other, and one that will produce a dividend for them in a very short period of time.
Of course, I add, it also gives you a nice warm feeling when you get up each morning, and you get to enjoy the praise of people who think you are doing it out of the goodness of your heart!”
– Feargal Quinn