Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently
I am the Founder and CEO of Streets Consulting Ltd, a fast growing business development, marketing and communications consultancy. We have teams in the UK and US working with financial services, technology and early stage/fast growth companies. I was really delighted to have been named one of Brummell Magazine’s Inspirational Women Entrepreneurs and last year they kindly named me one of their Inspirational Women on Boards.
I am also very proud to serve as a Trustee on the Board of Children in Crisis, a charity dedicated to improving the lives of children and their communities in some of the most remote, hard to reach post-conflict territories by providing a sustainable approach to education.
Finally, I am a writer and a stand-up comedian. I published a book in 2012 ridiculing the excessive use of corporate jargon, ‘The Lingua Franca of the Corporate Banker’ and I write the light-hearted ‘Watercooler’ column for FM Magazine, the official magazine of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. I perform regularly, mostly at corporate events, private dinners, MC’ing gala occasions and am a regular guest on BBC Radio Kent’s Drive time show ‘The Conversation’ talking about business, comedy and the comedy of business. All my material is based on observations of corporate life and more and more I’m also being invited to speak at women’s networking events, which I really enjoy.
Being part of a larger team, working on really interesting projects with the flexibility of a better work/life balance appeals, but it’s really important that the fit is right so that all our consultants work together really well.
What inspired you to start a business?
Back in 2006, I decided to take some time out. I had left a post as global head of corporate communications for (today’s) NYSE Technologies, which involved a pretty intense travel schedule. I say take time out, but I couldn’t just sit around. Over the years, too many people to ignore had suggested I should try my hand at comedy. I decided to dip my toe in, but not being a person of half measures, instead threw myself in at the deep end and wrote, produced and performed a show at The Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival.
When I returned from the festival my bank account was pretty much drained and I had to consider my next career move. The very day I planned to call a recruitment firm and get back on the market, I received a call from Instinet, the global equities agency broker. I had worked there a few years before and they planned to launch the first ever pan-European stock exchange. Would I like to work alongside the founders and as their marketing and communications consultant?
That was my first commission so I set up my company and since then we’ve grown and grown. I’m incredibly proud that we have never looked for a client. Every engagement has resulted as a direct referral from an existing customer, journalist or industry contact and every week I receive new business enquiries.
Stop thinking about it, stop talking about, do it! I always think that if I can imagine me doing something – if I can picture it in my head – then it is entirely possible.
What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?
Given my varied life, I have greater control over my schedule even if it means working late in the evenings on many occasions. I have a really professional team of experienced executives which allows me to commit to attending board meetings, comedy and speaking engagements.
The greatest challenge is getting the timing of new recruitment right. I’m always on the lookout for talented people, and planning ahead to find people in advance of when we might need them, so we’re always skilled up ahead of the next large piece of work. We operate as an entirely virtual business model so that our fees are spent on talent, rather than absorbed by expensive overheads. Being part of a larger team, working on really interesting projects with the flexibility of a better work/life balance appeals, but it’s really important that the fit is right so that all our consultants work together really well.
What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures
Stop thinking about it, stop talking about, do it! I always think that if I can imagine me doing something – if I can picture it in my head – then it is entirely possible. All it needs is for me to make it happen. I’m obsessive about planning and thinking ahead. Think about all the reasons that might stop you from being successful and then focus on removing, mitigating or just simply ignoring them (voices of self-doubt should always be ignored).
If you fail, at least you tried. What did you learn? What would you do differently next time? You can’t always get it right and stand up comedy has certainly taught me that. Every gig is different and I’m always asking myself why? Was it my delivery? My material? Was it down to the energy in the room? What do I need to do to improve? Should I deliver and engage differently, hone my material or emphasise certain points in another way perhaps?
How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?
I can think of three bosses in particular who have coached and truly inspired me. That said, I’ve also benefited from a number of other bosses from whom I learned how not to lead, behave, communicate or sell. It sounds harsh, but in situations where I’ve been unimpressed, yet seemingly stuck with no way out, I’ve treated this as a lesson in how not to do business. That’s also been incredibly helpful.
What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?
One of the best things I ever learned was that people do business with people they like. In a highly competitive world where many claim to offer similar services, being a person people want to be with makes a huge difference.
By networking, you can really promote yourself as an interesting individual, so make sure you learn to network comfortably. I’ve been to so many events where I’ve ended up talking to people who are looking over my shoulder while I’m talking to them, or are rattling out stock questions. Talk to me, ask questions, listen to what I am really saying and invariably I’ll want to talk to you. Every conversation is worth having. Something may not come of it today, but you never know about tomorrow. Finally, genuinely and sincerely nurture and support your relationships. What can you do for others? How can you help? It’s not all about you.
What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?
Be obsessive about recruiting talent and finding individuals with real potential. Reinvest back into the business, in your team and back into your customers. Try to create a culture of mutual support so that as the business grows your team have more than one place to go to for advice, help and share ideas. As a CEO, don’t become a bottleneck by being the main point of contact.
What does the future hold for you?
Who knows! I always say I’m like a coiled sponge. Every day offers new perspectives, connections and opportunities. It sounds clichéd, but I’m always observing and absorbing, challenging myself and growing. Who knows where that’ll take me.