THE BLOG

Being A Woman, Becoming A CEO

27/03/2017 13:23

I'm the younger child from a Jewish family with parents who encouraged me to do the very best at everything I tried. With my mother being a phys-ed teacher, being competitive was encouraged. I've always had a natural cheekiness, perhaps a precursor to my fundraising abilities-beginning with rolling my big brown eyes at the photographer at my first dancing recital age six, saying my mother wouldn't let me have the $1 to buy my picture. He gave it to me.

I was bullied for two years age 11 and 12. That affected my desire to really achieve and my core values to be sensitive to vulnerabilities in others and to make sure my children did the same. I've always had a high level of energy-working in a dress shop and selling Avon in high school, taking pride in being the fastest cashier in the grocery store while in university. When studying for law and MBA degrees, I lived in a school of yoga getting up at 5:30 to meditate while holding down 4 jobs simultaneously cook, waitress, assisting doing books for eight related businesses, clerking in a law firm - all enjoyed for different reasons.

One of my continuing life patterns is always being on the edges of power and influence, the outside rung of the inside circle. I've always fought for the 'proletariats', pushing boundaries as I've felt strongly about issues, putting my head on the block and recovering every time it got chopped off.

I spent eight years specialising in taxation of Americans abroad gaining technical skills, client facing skills, learning to make presentations, and beginning to achieve success on operational, finance, organisational, management and leadership matters. I was headhunted by a client to be FD of an asset management company operating in 6 countries. This required other skills. It was a different, small environment instead of a large operation. When the company was bought out, I learned a little about humility. I thought I'd never be unemployed... It took a few months to find a new job. I did it by making networking a job, seeing 4 or 5 companies per day, getting referrals and having the discipline of going home, writing thank yous, writing letters to new prospects, and booking appointments. I then became Deputy CEO and Head of Operations at what is now called the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. That really required using my people skills. It was all lawyers and accountants, and my first venture into preparing for and presenting at Board and Committee meetings. I was let go after the best results which had ever been achieved.

It's with hindsight you understand why things which appear to be bad are just pushing you to the next life challenge. Learning from those knocks is crucial. Starting up In Kind Direct for HRH The Prince of Wales almost 21 years ago required all the skills I had picked up along the way, from legal minefields and negotiating, IT systems/personnel policies/salesmanship, writing, being a jack of all trades, to knowing when I needed help - plus passion, singlemindedness and the type of brain that never shuts down. I constantly see opportunities for In Kind Direct and for others whether it is when I meet people or read articles. The way my brain works is to figure out the end game and then what is the most efficient way of getting there.

Success does involve risk, but it is a two-sided coin. My life's lesson is learning patience. Sometimes I annoy people, but that tenacity has also contributed to the fact that In Kind Direct has worked with over 1,000 companies, helped 8,300 charities, and distributed to them almost £170 million in value of the new consumer goods they need for their operations and to give to the people they serve. We have for the past four years also been spreading product philanthropy to other countries through In Kind Direct International too.

For a small organisation certainly, you need all the skills in your bag of tricks - know when you need to be gracious or how to counter reasons why people say no. I love what I do. I still get a real buzz out of winning back former donors, succeeding in being granted new funding, convincing new donor companies to come on board, and hearing how what we do has made a substantial difference to people's lives and to the organisations working at the grassroots to help them. It's important to always be authentic and learn little tricks like giving credit to anyone or organisation giving support. It often helps matters along and encourages future giving.

I never spent much time worrying about being a woman and for much of my career it was very much in a man's world. I believe achieving results speaks for itself and usually protected my position. Don't kid yourself. At the end of the day it is all about hard work which requires lots of energy. My husband and I raised two daughters who are both well on their ways to success. I stay grounded by going home every night and doing my husband's books and banking for both his chiropractic practices. Given the most important thing towards becoming a CEO is doing a great job, one quality absolutely essential to achieving this, is being exceptionally good at and understanding that IT'S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS, RELATIONSHIPS; treating people with respect and dignity along the way and instinctively knowing when is the right time to be kind, sensitive, cheeky, understanding, challenging or tough.

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