Penny Power OBE started leading conversations in business wellness in 1998 when she founded the world’s first business online community, Ecademy.
She has been a business owner, speaker and author for 20 years. She was awarded her OBE by the Queen in January 2014 for her contribution to Entrepreneurship in the Social Digital World. Penny’s latest book, Business is Personal launched in January 2019. In the book, Penny discusses the importance of us holding onto our own beliefs and definition of the life we want to lead and live, in a world of ‘comparing and despairing’ that has been created by the overuse and dependence on social media. Penny boldly opens up about the trials of her own life and the observations she has of the way we are all being sucked into believing we lack, rather than having the confidence in our own values, skills and dreams. Penny is keen to ensure that business start-ups, self-employed, business owners and employed people are also guided and supported in a world of communication that not only impacts the mental health of teenagers, but very much impacts working adults. www.pennypower.co.uk/book
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role.
I have always called myself a torchbearer – I am a passionate person who has an ear to the ground and I am definitely an empath. I feel deeply the shifts and turns in business, technology and the impact it has on individuals. My first torch was for community and the power of online connections, my second was for digital skills and now my third is for the importance of mental fitness. Shining a torch and leading a movement or a group is a huge joy, and as a natural servant leader in life I love to shine the light on the experts in each sector that I believe can help others to lead the life they want.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Never! My first job was an accident and led to ten years of an IT career – the past 20 years have been as an ‘accidental entrepreneur’. I am led by my emotions and my heart and I try to gain the skills along the way to execute what I feel is needed for others.
Have you faced any challenges along the way?
Huge challenges. The loss of business and home, and the loss of financial stability and self worth. The loss of loved ones that have died too young and seeing the impact of an attack on a close family member, who is now the most amazing role model in my life. These are the significant defining experiences – however challenges are a fact of daily life. It is all about how you define the challenge, as a victim or as a student. I prefer to face them as a student and seek the knowledge and emotional and mental strength to overcome them.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
In my personal life it is my marriage and my children. In my business life it is the contribution I made through Ecademy; my first business that I started when I was 33 and impacted 650,000 business owners across the world as the world’s first social business network. This was beautifully recognised by being awarded an OBE in 2014.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Being emotionally led. I was told by my mother that I was too sensitive and by my first boss that I was too emotional for business. I knew who I was from a very young age and I have always been me – I cannot be anyone else, and maintaining that deep level of confidence that it would all work out if I remained true to who I am has been a huge factor in not only my success but also in my happiness.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
I have mentored many people, formally and informally. I think we all do it through our daily communication with people if we seek to have impact and are kind. I also believe in reverse mentoring and love being mentored by the younger generation. They have such a deep understanding of the world if you take time to listen to their values and skills. Mentoring is very powerful – as soon as you let go of your independent nature and ask for help, it is incredible. This requires you to face your own vulnerabilities and needs; it’s not always easy, but worth doing.
If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?
I think we need to be more open with our own experiences of gender, our family influences and role models. I don’t think we should throw stones at those who have difficulties in embracing a more equal world – instead we need to teach them to adapt to the way things should be. When you facilitate the conversation and questions that people have, you learn a great deal about the culture and attitudes that people can get attached to.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Ask for support. I was brought up with a level of emotional neglect. Emotions were not supported in my family as a young child. This forced me to manage my mind and coping mechanisms on my own. I became far too independent and while I loved to help others as I could identify with loneliness and internal pain, I found it so hard to listen to my own needs and allow others in.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I have two major projects at the moment. One is my book, Business is Personal – this is my own story of managing the emotional and mental aspect of being a businesswomen; sharing my lessons when I was forced to confront the type of depression I was diagnosed with. My second is the belief that business people need a social world they can be themselves in. I want to bring The Business Café to market and create a social space on the high streets across the UK and beyond that is a place for wellbeing and community.