Jo Fleming is an award-winning entrepreneur and innovator.
She is MD and owner of two recruitment businesses which she set-up from scratch after quitting her job at one of the UK’s largest plcs.
Recruitment specialist Jo Fleming really did feel like she had to fake it till she made it. A single mum to two children by the age of 20, Jo didn’t take her first step on the career ladder until she was 27. Yet now at 42, she is the driving force behind one of Yorkshire’s most successful recruitment companies – a continuing business success story that spurred her on to launch a second company focused on the digital sector.
“Confidence was something that didn’t come naturally to me when I first started in recruitment all those years ago,” said Jo. “I was working in a very male dominated industry and as an on-site recruiter, often bore the brunt of the frustrations of managers and workers.
“At that time, I didn’t have the experience to confidently diffuse situations. I thought the solution was to take on more than I could manage, which was very much to the detriment of the time I needed to spend with my daughters.”
Although Jo’s strategy of attempting to do everything may not have been right, her role did give her the opportunity to develop the skills she still uses as an entrepreneur today.
“It became apparent that I had a natural ability to manage staff, client expectations and to ensure profitability for the company I was employed by,” said Jo. “The experience I was gaining allowed me to grow in confidence and to hold productive conversations with senior managers who knew they could rely on me to deliver.”
Confidence remained an issue, however, until Jo found a solution when faced with a highly stressful situation. She was just 12 months into her career, and with her manager off work ill, Jo had to step in to chair a meeting with senior managers of a large blue-chip plc.
“I can recall being awake the night before, practising my presentation repeatedly,” said Jo. “I felt so nervous I could have thrown up, but I didn’t, I took a few deep breaths and went for it. I was authentic, I knew my topic and came across well. So much so that I was asked to chair many more of these meetings whilst at this company.
“What this experience taught me was that it’s ok to fake it till you make it sometimes, but if you’re not authentic or using your natural capabilities then you won’t succeed, you will always have to over think and this will only put you under stress.”
Despite running two business, Jo admits that to this day she still often questions her abilities.
“I left a highly-paid and secure job to start my first business more than seven years ago and although owning your own company is exciting and liberating, it can also at times leave you feeling lonely and out of your depth,” she said.
“It takes a lot of hard work, passion and commitment and each day is a learning day. Of course, people will try and put you down because if you’re the one who takes the risk to enhance yours and your family’s future then that’s out of the norm for many.
“I would always advise other women in my position to surround themselves with people who inspire them, with those they respect and who are authentic and to stay well away from the haters! I know people say things behind my back and won’t let me forget I was brought up on a council estate and was a teenage mum. What they don’t understand is that this has made me a strong businesswoman, something I am very proud of.”