24/07/2014 12:56 BST | Updated 23/09/2014 06:59 BST

Be Yourself

'Be yourself' as Oscar Wilde said, you may as well be as everyone else has been taken. Being a woman in a very male dominated industry I am often asked has that been a hurdle, the answer is nooooo definitely not. In fact by and large I have always seen it as a distinct advantage.

For one thing I am often underestimated (always an advantage) and for another I tend not to take myself quite as seriously as many male colleagues. I also have a wicked sense of humour. This has, on occasion, got me into trouble but mostly it serves to lighten the mood somewhat.

There is never a better time to be a female in business and if you can make it easier for the next generation and that's something no woman should overlook.

Our enemy is self-deprecation from our clothes to our successes, for example "oh this old thing" or "oh it's not that important".

But those things are and don't be afraid to say so.

So yes, thank you I am honoured and delighted and even, dare I say it, just a bit proud to have won the First Women of Business Services Award in association with Lloyds Baking Group and I am proud of "doing it my way".

So what if I so want to like an espresso; it looks so cool when people are drinking it either on a road side café in the winter sunshine or after dinner. In fact it even sounds über trendy just to order one, "make that a double espresso please" ummmmm rather more exciting than I'll have a weak English breakfast tea oh and can it be very milky. But its not me!

The thing is I hate coffee of any kind but especially espresso, Yuk doesn't even nearly cover it and no matter what I can't bring myself to smell it even let alone drink. Clearly I will not look or sound trendy, at least on those occasions. Is it confidence or age and experience that allow me to conclude "frankly my dear I don't give a damn" as was famously said by one Rhett Butler.

I have offed voiced my position on the need for authenticity and nothing in this economy has changed my view on this. What I have noticed is that some use this virtue to allow themselves, not just in their own mind to be authentic, but actually to be downright rude.

As proud Yorkshire lass we are renowned for not mincing our words we say it as it is, BUT what is not acceptable is to do so in an unkind manner.

To be kind and empathetic is a much underrated skill in developing business relationships, in my business we have four key values they are in priority as follows;

Be kind

Work hard

Stay positive

Have fun

We live them and have quarterly peer reviews on their implementation; they have created a culture of respect and engagement with our internal team and also with our clients who we hope recognise this is a differentiator and not mere words.

It means we have to sometimes take a different approach to client issues than another more usual professional service provider would, but we are truly passionate about these points of difference and it's something despite pressure we never compromise on.

Be brave, be different it's part of a recipe for success.

Jo Haigh is head of FDS corporate finance services and the author of The Keys to the Boardroom - How to Get There and How to Stay There. You can reach her at