Natalie Reynolds is the Founder and Managing Director of advantageSPRING (www.advantagespring.com) and is a recognised thought leader on effective negotiation and the benefits it can deliver for individuals and organisations. Natalie has trained clients all over the world how to negotiate more effectively including Schroders, the European Investment Bank, DLA Piper, Mayer Brown LLP, Deloitte, KPMG, MasterCard, Invesco, Lloyds Banking Group, Goldman Sachs, ETF Securities, Capital One and HSBC.
Natalie and the advantageSPRING team work with a range of global companies to develop internal negotiation capability through coaching and training, often generating huge savings, increased revenue or efficiencies for their clients. Natalie also coaches senior women on the topic of salary negotiation, writes regularly in the national press on the role that negotiation can play in tackling the gender pay gap and delivers keynote speeches at conferences worldwide on effective negotiation.
What inspired you to start the business?
I believe passionately that negotiation is one of the most empowering and practical skills that you can have in both business and life. We negotiate every day…it’s the way that human beings co-exist, business gets done and solutions, agreements and settlements are reached. I had spent three years at a now rival negotiation training firm and I had been thinking for a while that there might be an alternative, more flexible way to deliver negotiation training to clients… but it was only when a senior manager at the firm told me that they didn’t want to be seen to be doing ‘the woman thing’ (I had been exploring with some clients whether gender played a role at the negotiation table) that I decided to take the plunge.
I believe passionately that negotiation is one of the most empowering and practical skills that you can have in both business and life.
What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?
For me the greatest challenge is knowing when to switch off! I am also terrible at delegating and take on too much (I have just got a fabulous new PA who I hope is going to help me with this!). The greatest reward is seeing our workshops empowering so many people…as well as having the freedom to make major decisions about the direction of the company and who we work with. A great example is our commitment to pro-bono work. We provide training to charities and NGO’s such as the NSPCC, the United Nations and Human Rights Watch as part of a commitment we have made to supporting vulnerable people or marginalised communities with their negotiation skills. Being the boss has allowed me to embed this ethos into the business.
What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures
In relation to goal setting I always try to have smaller, bite size goals alongside bigger, more life changing ones. I like to be able to tick things off my list and by having smaller goals that I can address and achieve more quickly, I don’t feel overwhelmed by the larger, more aspirational goals that might take me longer to achieve.
In relation to managing successes in business I think it’s essential to celebrate and recognise it. When you run your own business you are often so caught up in what tasks you need to complete next, you are flying from one thing to another and it can be easy to gloss over what you have achieved. Every now and then you should stop, look around, take a deep breath and soak in what you have created and achieved.
My advice in relation to managing failure is to make sure you are not held back by it. We should instead commit to examining our failures, learning what we can from them and then moving on.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?
The biggest challenge has been finding the right kind of people to join the team. I am notoriously picky about who works for us as a consultant and really put people through the mill to test that they have what it takes. This can be very time consuming as you take people through what can be a very lengthy and demanding induction period. Thankfully we have now refined the process and I have others to support me with new starters…Im glad I was so strict in the early days though as this has helped preserve our brand and reputation.
In relation to goal setting I always try to have smaller, bite size goals alongside bigger, more life changing ones.
How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?
I have been very fortunate to have had a number of hugely influential, supportive and inspiring formal and informal mentors throughout my career. As a 23 year old recent graduate I was lucky enough to have a female boss who pushed and encouraged me to take on senior roles and challenging projects and I believe that gave me a huge amount of self-belief at the start of my career. More recently I have benefitted from the friendship and guidance of a woman I met by chance at a training course. I can always rely on her to give me a boost, ask the difficult questions…or just to tell me to go for it. As someone who has benefitted so much from mentoring I have always tried to support other women in the same way and have the pleasure of mentoring two fantastic younger women who are on their way to achieving great things.
I believe successfully scaling a business requires you to know your strengths and weaknesses and use/ address them
What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?
There is so much value to be had in having a strong network and for me it’s about knowing that if I face a problem there will always be someone who has faced something similar and can give me advice. As a firm we also don’t engage in cold marketing, so for me having a broad network to help us with word of mouth recommendations is also fantastic.
What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?
I believe successfully scaling a business requires you to know your strengths and weaknesses and use/ address them, understand and cultivate your USPs and to also look after existing customers in the same way you would your brand new ones. It’s also essential to understand what your competitors are doing…but don’t be defined by them or just try and mimic them. I love the saying “Why copy what everyone else is doing when you have the choice to completely reimagine it?’. There is a pretty established way of doing things in the negotiation training field and we are committed to offering a fresh and flexible alternative. Our growth strategy is based on understanding which clients and markets would be attracted to our concept and then engaging with them in a way that inspires and excites them. On a more traditional note, I think the advice ‘only hire when you feel the pain’ has been useful for me as the business has grown!
What does the future hold for you?
I have a book coming out in 2016 called ‘We Have a Deal’…I would love for that to be a success…we are also re-branding and launching a new site later this year so that’s exciting. In the long term I want to grow advantageSPRING to be the world leader in negotiation and influencing training, working with the top corporates and governments around the globe. I would like to be able to continue to speak on the topic of gender and negotiation and empower women of all ages to ‘just ask’. Personally, I want my family and friends to be happy and healthy…and if I can make time to get back to my yoga classes more regularly then that would be great!