Inspirational Woman: Lisa Fleming | Founder, Make 2nds Count

Lisa FlemingI’m Lisa (38), mum to my little monkey, Cameron (9), wife to Euan and founder of UK Secondary Breast Cancer Charity – Make 2nds Count.

Prior to my diagnosis with secondary breast cancer at the age of 33, I spent 12 years working my way up within the hospitality sector. My last role being Head of Sales, Marketing and Events (and at some point hotel operations too which was interesting to try and fit on a business card!) for a large leisure operator. Life then changed and the last 4 years have been a steep learning curve – not only through living on treatment with incurable cancer but also having to adapt to running a charity!

What are the main challenges you faced along the way?

Finding the right structure for the charity has been a challenge for us over the past few years. Learning to look for the ‘right people’ in reality is easier said than done. Initially you may be blown away by an interview or a ‘pitch’ with a prospect offering the earth, moon and stars and this can be enticing. Especially within the charity sector when you are under resourced. It goes against the grain to turn down an offer of assistance down however in time I’ve learnt to step back and look at the big picture and evaluate where, how and if the offer in question will truly add value to us as an organisation.

I’ve always been a ‘hands on’ leader yet and initially when the charity launched, I struggled to step back from controlling every operational aspect. It’s something that I have had to work on over the years.

Knowing your weaknesses in business is just as vital as knowing your own strength.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Some would say staying alive! Life on permanent chemotherapy is physically draining! Watching how Make 2nds Count has and continues to evolve on a daily basis gives me a sense of pride. Knowing that you are making a real difference to others in the same situation is a very humbling experience.

Raising our first million within 3 years was a key achievement yet we are such an ambitious team that we are guilty of not taking time to really stop and look at what we are achieving.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in your achievements?

Passion and determination. Throughout my career I’ve always been driven by passion, working in the hospitality industry you don’t succeed in delivering exceptional service unless you are passionate about your role. Running a charity is exactly the same. Every day is a new challenge filled with innovation the determination to give hope to those living with secondary breast cancer.

What is the message you would like to share?

To me success isn’t measured by how hard you worked, how many hours you put in or how much you earn – it’s about how successful you are at making the important things in life count.

It took being diagnosed with cancer to stop and re focus my energy on what truly matters to me.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Personal development has always been a passion of mine. Mentoring is such a key management tool and mentoring someone can be extremely rewarding for you both. Regardless of your role within an organisation there are always mentoring opportunities that can be identified.

In my current role there’s many a day that I think I should look for a mentor – note to self I should really look into this.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Stand your ground. I worked in an extremely male dominated industry and looking back on the way I was spoken to and disregarded as I was the ‘young girl’ working at the same level, I wish that I had found my voice and felt empowered to stand up for why I deserved to be there.

On a personal level – check your breast regularly and educate yourself on the symptoms of both primary and secondary breast cancer.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Currently we are in the process of a business review to allow us to implement a 5 year strategy. It’s a large step for us operationally and I’m sure that it will lead to continued growth and success for Make 2nds Count.

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