What does your business do and what is your role?
Surrey Chambers of Commerce is a business membership organisation connecting, promoting and supporting companies, who are based or work in Surrey. I am the CEO, leading the organisation, which employs 10 people and have held this role for 16 years.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I really like interacting with people! It is really exciting to see the impact we can have by providing support, an introduction or just some key information needed by a business. In order to be able to help a business we need to understand the likely issues they are facing and every day is an opportunity to learn something. From data protection to customs requirements; from LinkedIn to 5G technology my job is to learn constantly. Having a team of nine other people who love what they do and are passionate about helping people makes for a really enjoyable workplace and the interaction in the office is really positive and vibrant. I also have a Board of Directors who are members of the chamber so I have first-hand input into any strategies we devise.
What was your biggest break?
I think it goes right back to gaining a sponsorship to study a Business Studies degree from Metal Box - a major packaging company at the time. It was called a thin sandwich degree which meant I worked six months and studied for six months across four years. By the end of the four years I had worked in every department including running a production line and learnt an incredible amount from people at around 10 different factories and offices.
How do you manage the work/life balance? What interests do you have outside work?
I took on my role at a time when my two daughters were heading to secondary school and I foolishly thought it would be a good move allowing me more free time than my previous international marketing role. The role was much more challenging than I expected but I managed to work around things so that I rarely missed a school show or sports day. Having access to remote IT played a great part in this and needing to be at Chamber events at all times of day and evening allowed me to slip out in the day if necessary. I walk most mornings at 6.30am feeling very smug as I see everyone else’s curtains still closed and I try to go to two hot yoga classes every week. Many of my interests and activities revolve around my daughters, one a musical theatre actor and one training to be a doctor, who never cease to amaze me with their tenacity and love of life. Keeping up with them is what keeps me fit and jolly!
What are your personal and business ambitions?
Even though I can’t believe it I am technically at the end of my career. However, I still get up every day with a sense of anticipation and total enthusiasm for the day ahead. I hope that sometime in the next three to five years Surrey Chambers of Commerce will be crowned Chamber of the Year by the British Chambers of Commerce so need to get working on that!
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Be curious and ask questions, always offer ideas and don’t watch the clock. Hard work is usually what leads to success and a positive attitude is hugely important and effective. Being able to communicate face to face and on the phone as well as electronically sets successful people apart.