Did you know that entrepreneurs are starting businesses at a record pace of 80 an hour?
And did you know that this includes a record number of under 35s? According to HSBC Private Bank Essence of Enterprise report 2016, 59% of the UK’s entrepreneurs under the age of 35 are women. Wow! Women are rocking it!
My Page 1 Woman, a member of that notable 59% club, quit her prestigious job in a well-known US based coaching company and set up Write Business Results at the age of 29. Naturally, that decision didn’t come easy. There was the usual trepidation and self-doubts based on early parental guidance. But this Page 1 Woman was a bit of a rebel, stroppy, you might say, a non-conformist with her own ideas and a strong sense of self. This Page 1 Woman had the courage when aged 19, to defer university and take off solo to Australia, without telling a soul, ‘because I knew I would get told not to, and I didn't want the pressure’.
This travel adventure and several more since then, probably set the tone for her future, because isn’t it right that if you can take massive risks and shrug off other people’s influence, you can do it again? And what it gave her in establishing her business was ‘freedom to do the things that I wanted to do. Now, I understand where my limits are but also what I might be capable of’.
She’s young and blonde and is sometimes not taken seriously as a leader - by both genders. But this is a woman who isn’t fazed by such challenges. She definitely knows how to handle them.
Let’s hear it for my Page 1 Woman, Georgia Kirke, a woman on a mission to internationalise her business within 5 years and become the UK’s number one provider of business book services.
Here she is in her own words.
Describe your work?
Georgia: I’m the founder of Write Business Results. We write, design, publish, and promote business books for entrepreneurs, who care as much about helping others as they do about their own commercial gain. As a business coach, I’d worked with entrepreneurs who inspired me. I got to understand how they utilised their talents and entrepreneurship to create value for others.
When we started a couple of years ago, we focused on copywriting, blogs, and that kind of thing. But people were asking how to do books. So after researching it, I created repeatable process that allows commercial books on any topic to be produced and published in as little as 8 weeks. Once we could offer that, it got busy very quickly. Now, we focus solely on business books and book marketing, working specifically with entrepreneurs.
What essential steps did you take to get you to where you are today?
Georgia: When I eventually committed to the business full-time, I realised that I was doing what I’d always wanted to do. I've been writing since I was small - my seventh birthday present was a typewriter. I had little notebooks in which I'd write short stories. I went on to do English Literature at university so I feel very lucky to be able to turn my passion into a business. I also imagined I’d go into business. Now, I don’t write the books myself. The team handle it. I focus on growing the business, alongside writing my own content.
As you go through life things can happen that knock your confidence or you take your talents for granted. My biggest step was going back to my roots and considering what excited me when I was young, before people's criticisms and expectations distracted me. I kept returning to writing and having a business. I was 29 when I finally made it happen. I recognised that if I didn't realise my business it would remain a pipe dream. And I reached the point where I was ready to be more autonomous, work towards increased freedom and just focus on what makes me happy.
A much higher number of young people could be independent and happier running their own business. There’s a lot of mystery which makes it seem such a big deal, unattainable even. But if it were part of our school curriculum, and we were encouraged to focus on our natural strengths and creativity right the way into adulthood, I believe that more people would go straight from school into their own business.
What was the most significant thing you did that got you to where you are now?
Georgia: Making a commitment to my future. I used to get freaked out by planning, which I found restrictive. I like variety and adventure in my life. But through coaching I understood that planning enables you to get what you want. So I had to start looking at my future differently - daydream about the stuff I wanted, but putting sensible steps in place to guide me along the way. What emerged was deciding to design a business based on my passions, and working with people I love to work with.
I realised I would never feel truly ready, I just had to start and learn whatever I could. So I decided to jump in, hand in my notice at my job and make things happen. And if it failed I’d learn, pick myself up, and try something new.
The catalyst came when I was approached by a business owner acquaintance, who asked for help with writing a book. I said, "I'm not a writer. I can't do that." It took me back to when I was a kid, and my dad asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought, "I like travelling and writing." And so, I said, "I'll be a travel writer." He replied, "I know you love it, but that’s not a serious job. No-one will pay you to do it. You're good at arguing; you could be a lawyer." Dad was looking out for me but throw away comments can stop you doing what you perhaps should be doing. And that's when I realised the impact outside influences can have. While it made me consider the practical aspects of my hobby like how to monetise it, without that seed of doubt planted at a young age, I might have been a writer already. So, I decided to help write the book.
What was your greatest challenge on this journey?
Georgia: Managing my energy and my health. In the first year it was all consuming. 12 weeks in I was recruiting staff. I threw myself into it and then my health and fitness fell by the wayside. I reached a point where I was drained. I was sacrificing too much and became a slave to the business. Although it was going well, everything depended on me. So, I got help and began delegating. I returned to the gym, started getting out again and focused more on my health. I also picked up other creative hobbies that I hadn't done in a while. Now, I protect my free time closely and find it important to recharge regularly.
What was your greatest lightbulb moment?
Georgia: Everything you need in order to achieve is already within you. The temptation is to look externally. People sometimes don't understand their own power and lack confidence in their own capabilities. If you think you can do it, you can. Or even if you think you can't, you probably still can. For me it’s been about self-belief and just taking action.
Having a coach helps. I couldn’t run a business without someone to bounce ideas off, or tell me when I'm making a bad decision and give me praise and encouragement.
What resource was critical to your success?
Georgia: Being surrounded by people with a well-developed purpose, who focus on the bigger things yet still manage to live a happy and fulfilled life. That’s inspirational. I like people who are different, true to their individuality - entrepreneurs. Surrounding myself with people who continually create their own successes has helped me develop that side of myself.
What do you understand by leadership?
Georgia: I understand leadership to be a mindset rather than a set of actions or a job. When you believe that good things are all around, you see opportunities where you might not do otherwise. For me, leadership is about executing those opportunities.
I see myself as a leader in training! I focus on serving my clients and others in my network - when they share a problem I try to figure out how to solve it and encourage my team to do the same. Leadership is something I try to bring to my work every day, but it's something that I'll always be learning about.
What difference do you think it’s made being a woman leader?
Georgia: Having both women and men leaders can only strengthen our society and economy - it broadens the resource pool and self-actualised people are happier and more productive. Being in a leadership position and being celebrated for that is important. Not just in business. Motherhood, for example, is often ignored completely as a leadership role.
Being a woman leader come with its challenges. I was with a group of men leaders discussing a marketing campaign to get more young women into financial services. They thought pink would be the best colour for the campaign based on the logic that, “I don’t know what colour would work best - pink?” When I went to say something, they talked over me. I’ve been told I look too young and blonde to be taken seriously. I’ve been told, “It’s OK I’ll wait to talk to your boss - is he available?” when I asked a customer if I could help when they approached my stand at an event. I’ve been propositioned and touched whilst in professional environments and know from other women in business that it’s not at all uncommon.
With that said there are also great advantages to being a women leader. I can offer a different perspective and dynamic to business conversations. I’m not restricted by a “this is what women in business have to do” stereotype because there isn’t one. So I can do it my own way - and I automatically stand out from the crowd.
When I launched Write Business Results, I received lots of encouraging, positive, supportive phone calls from men in my professional networks, saying how great that I’ve taken the bull by the horns. Most of them became clients and mentors so I’m very grateful and have enormous respect for them. They help me grow my business and appreciate WBR’s coaching approach versus the harder, alpha approach of some of our competitors.
It’s important more women find a way to put themselves into leadership positions if that’s what they want.
What are your top three tips for women who want to be leaders?
Georgia: First, cultivate a positive way of seeing the world and yourself. Second, take care of yourself; don’t compromise your health. When you’re spinning plates, it can be hard to let some things go. And women tend to have more family responsibilities than their male counterparts. So don't feel guilty about putting yourself first - you have to be well in order to be there for others.
Third, seek opportunities and just make them happen. You’ll achieve things you never would have imagined were possible. If you don't push yourself out of your comfort zone, you'll just stay the same so you may as well go for it. And if you don't get the results you want, you'll have learned from it or might even gain something better.
Find out more about Write Business Results here.
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