Ahead of next week’s annual British Chambers of Commerce conference on International Women’s Day, Thursday 8 March, we welcome their newly-crowned Business Woman of the Year, Fleur Sexton, Managing Director of PET-Xi Training to share her six top tips for aspiring business owners and leaders.
1. Build your network
Networking is about building long-term relationships and a good reputation over time. It’s about meeting business leaders with whom you have some synergy, getting to know people who you can assist, and who can potentially help you in return.
Look up your old contacts and give them a call. If you are setting up a new business a personal referral from a former colleague or client to a new customer can do much to help fast track your business.
There is also truth in the phrase ‘it’s lonely at the top’ when tough business decisions need to be made, decisions which aren’t appropriate to discuss with staff. Surround yourself with other business leaders who can provide you with the support and advice you require as a problem shared is a problem halved. Always be prepared to return the favour.
2. Don’t be surprised when things go wrong
Don’t be surprised when things go wrong, it is part of the journey. Be resilient. If you fall down, get up, find a solution rather than wallow in despair. Businesses are not sanitized and both good and bad things will happen.
3. Empower yourself
Be resilient and be prepared to re-invent yourself. What worked today won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Time moves on, trends, policies and issues change, make sure you have the solution to meet the current challenges facing your clients.
4. Champion women in business
Real queens fix each other’s crowns. Don’t lock horns with your fellow business women; create alliances to help each other be stronger together.
Support your female staff and accommodate the needs of working mums. One size does not fit all so reinvent the rules if need be. 20% of our staff at PET-Xi Training are working mums. All of them have valuable skills to bring to the mix so we make a concerted effort to try and make their life easier by providing free childcare on a daily basis. This has done much to strengthen camaraderie and loyalty.
5. Make rules to fit the people
Make rules to fit the people rather than find people to fit the rules. If you make rules to fit your staff and ensure you have a good work life balance it will be significantly easier to create a happy and productive workforce. Stressed staff working long hours typically don’t deliver long term. According to a report from Warwick University happy staff are 12% more productive.
6. Invest in training
Most employees have some weaknesses in terms of their workplace skills. A well thought out training programme will enable them and you to develop and strengthen those skills helping employees to feel more valued, confident and happy.
And please remember the ‘return to work’ mums; those who have had a career break to look after their children. Everyone has something to give but some just need a little help to sharpen up their skills. Train them and you can create close allies – and remember happy employees make happy clients!
Established in 1995, PET-Xi Training is a nationally renowned education training provider, working with hundreds of businesses and schools across the UK.
Fleur Sexton will be one of the panellists for the Diversity in Business discussion at next week’s conference for you to hear more advice from her and other business leaders. You could put top tip #1 into action straight away by building your network among all the advisors and attendees who’ll be there. The British Chambers of Commerce are offering a whopping £230 saving on tickets – contact Rose Averis: email@example.com to get signed up.
The British Library’s Business & IP Centre has been a partner of the British Chambers of Commerce for over 12 years and we have long worked together to help small businesses access the support and advice they need. Giving women entrepreneurs the networks, role models, skills and confidence they need is equally important to us and our Women Mean Business in the evening of the 8 March with Hilary Devey, Dessi Bell of fitness fashion brand Zaggora, and Precious Online founder Foluke Akinlose, will be webcast for free online so you catch it after the conference!