This was the statement that headed up the entry for York Press Business Awards “Business Personality of the Year” and which resulted in me being shortlisted down to 3! I’ve been overwhelmed by the messages I have received in the last few days since the award was announced and just wanted to put together a few words about my journey that has led me to be writing this blog tonight!
About 8 years ago, I found myself disengaged from the organisation I worked for and was unhappy both in my work life and my home life. A dear friend gave me the opportunity to spend a leadership day working with horses in Warwick. I was intrigued. I went. The learnings from that day changed my life forever!
I made a bold decision which had some significant consequences. I had always wanted to set up my own business but felt trapped and needed to do something about it. So, I decided my passion and determination would be enough to make it work, and in 2011, I did it!
Pro-Development saved my life
Again, another bold statement, but setting up Pro-Development was the scariest but most thrilling step I’d made in my career. I felt more alive than I had in many years. I spent time creating a vision and purpose and quickly established that I wanted to work with SMEs in Yorkshire, helping to support their growth through focusing on the engagement and development of their people. I was excited!
Six months in, I became a single mum! Not part of the plan, but my husband no longer wanted to be part of the journey I was taking and it was clear our values were not aligned. A very tough time but it certainly gave me a renewed focus on making the business work!
I networked! And networked some more! I love Yorkshire and quickly made some amazing connections and friends along the way. I have been inspired by the generosity of time and kindness from others who have been a part of my journey.
Within a year, I had grown the business enough to ensure that Pro-Development could bring on board a wonderful colleague I had worked with previously. Sue was very keen to get involved, and so Pro-Development became the dynamic duo.
The power of Networking
Networking was one of the things that kept me sane in the early days. Meeting other like-minded people, the help and advice, the connections, the partnerships and friends I made. The benefits for me were endless. And, guess what, it did win me business! Apart from the client we won through our kids at school (yes, honestly, our biggest client came about through the children asking for and swapping business cards in the playground), we have secured some of our best clients through people we have met at networking. And, best of all, I get the opportunity to give back to others and spend time with them, understanding and helping them to achieve their goals and make the connections they need. The icing on the cake? Being approached by York Professionals to join their Board of Directors earlier this year and then last month being asked to take on the Chair. What an honour and privilege to be part of such a fantastic team of people who work so hard to raise the profile of professionals in and around York. Love it!
Employee Engagement is the key
Whilst working in a previous organisation I had become interested in employee engagement and also became involved in the work of Engage for Success.
So, for the last few years, I have run workshops, volunteering my time to help raise this important issue and bring it to the attention of local business owners. Last year alone, over 150 businesses attended our workshops and left with action plans for how they were going to make their business a great place to work. This year, the team challenged me to reach over 200 businesses and to speak at 20 different events. Becoming a speaker was certainly never part of my plan and was something I felt very uncomfortable doing, but the challenge was set. I overcame my demons, and now have done over 20 speaking events this year. I am even starting to love doing them!
How have I achieved this?
Since I’ve started speaking at events, a number of people have come up to me afterwards saying they have been inspired to do something different and asked what inspired me. People inspire me. Since setting up the business I have been delighted at the amazing people who have come into both my personal and work life. I know that I am at my best when I am surrounded with inspiring people. My team inspire me, with their ideas, their work ethic, their honesty and commitment. My children inspire me, every day and keep me grounded. A boss I worked for in my 20s inspired me, he saw potential in me and encouraged me to undertake my degree despite leaving school after my GCSEs with the no big aspirations or career plans. People are where I get my energy for life and the determination to make a difference to other people and businesses.
Is exciting! Pro-Development continues to grow; moving from the back of the garage to our lovely office near Fulford; tripling our amazing team; adding new systems and processes; creating new products and services; working with more fantastic clients; and lots of inspiring partners. My life has changed beyond all recognition over the last 7 years: long may it continue!