Inspirational Woman: Pip Wilkins | CEO, The BFA

Pip Wilkins

With 20 years’ experience in the franchise sector, Pip has worked her way up within the Association, gaining insight from all areas of the business and the franchise industry.

She is well-known and highly regarded in franchising for her dedication and depth of knowledge.

Pip regularly speaks at conferences and seminars both domestically and internationally, as well as writing on franchising matters for national, local and franchising trade press. Pip is also a judge for the annual bfa HSBC Franchisor and Franchisee of the Year Awards.

Pip represents the UK at both the European Franchise Federation (EFF) and World Franchise Council (WFC). The bfa has grown to be one of the largest franchise associations in Europe, and one of the most successful associations in the world.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My first job was at the British Franchise Association at just 19 years of age, beginning as an administrator. I loved being in the franchising industry so much as we are all very much connected and collaborative, so I wanted to experience everything the bfa had to offer.

I worked my way up the ladder, working in different areas such as events, business services and operations until 2016, when I became the first female CEO of the British Franchise Association.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

When I began my career at the bfa, I had no idea where it would lead me, and that I would devote my entire professional life to the franchising industry. But my success in each of the varying roles made me sit down and think about what it was I wanted in life, what I wanted to achieve, as well as what I wanted to improve.

I never particularly thought of myself as a natural leader but I decided that I really wanted to explore leadership, as I wanted to develop and learn in these areas. I completed a diploma in Applied Business Management in which I gained many valuable skills in areas of leadership, strategy and client relationship management and marketing. These helped validate a lot of skills I had already applied over the years.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

You have to tell yourself that you deserve this position, and it’s been achieved in your own right. I’m sure this is a similar scenario for many women. So I suppose in this sense the biggest challenge can be an internal battle with yourself. The franchising industry at large has been exceptionally supportive over the past 20 years.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Eight years ago, when I was Head of Operations at the bfa, I wanted to create an event for women in the franchising industry to unite and talk about workplace and personal challenges, share our experiences and feel empowered doing so.

Empowering Women in Franchising was born. After many years, I realised that most of what we highlighted and discussed was identified by businesswomen across the UK. So I decided to rename the event Empowering Women in Business (EWIB) and open the event up to all women, enabling us to mix and learn from all industries, roles and experiences. I feel proud that I have created a space for women to openly discuss their journeys and become inspired by our diverse speakers.

Years ago I would shy away from public speaking and being the leader of an association that is nationally and internationally recognised, it seemed inevitable that it would have to be a large part of my job. EWIB seemed the perfect place to tackle this, and last year, I gave a speech on my journey to leadership, and what it has meant to me.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

An excellent team, supportive family, and of course just the grit to keep going even in the face of adversity. If there is one characteristic that women have that truly make a good leader is grit!

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

In all seriousness, it would be to focus on what it is you want to achieve, and don’t let anyone say you can’t do it, including yourself. Go for it.

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

The bfa is the leading educator in franchising. I want to continue promoting the industry to enable the next generation to find a lifestyle and career in franchising. It’s a wonderful industry, and one that can truly make a difference in people’s lives. To do this, we will continue to champion the growth of the UK franchising sector.

I am also looking to develop our educational and training programmes so people within the industry can demonstrate their experience, understanding and ethical approach to franchising. I am passionate that people in and out of the industry receive the right information, so it is essential that we promote and lead in best practice.

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