“Take risks: if you win you will be happy, if you lose, you will be wise” – Swami Vivekananda
I saw this quote the other day and it had me thinking about my approach to life and business. Taking risks really does sum up my approach to how I live my life and run my business. To move my business forwards, I regularly face my fears, difficulties and challenges, no matter how hard they may be and find a way to overcome them. With every hurdle (and there have been many), I have grown stronger and stronger.
I have learnt that you have to be willing to take those risks and put yourself out of your comfort zone to even get close to see what is possible for you out there.
My life is a perfect example of taking risks and growing from the outcome.
A strong work ethic has always been a huge part of my family. Growing up I was used to it while my parents worked long hours running their own business. I knew that hard work paid off and what was required of us in order to be successful. I naturally picked up the hardworking attributes that I admired from my parents and my life has been very work centric from an early age. I got my first waiting-on job when I was 14 as my parents were keen to see me work as soon as possible.
My parents had an amazing vision for a health club which was a new industry to them and a fast-growing market at the time. I was a receptionist there for five years until at 19, I became Duty Manager after seeing our small day spa develop into a 24-hour operation with 10 luxury suites, a larger spa and a fine-dining restaurant. Our workforce doubled and I got involved in all of the new procedures, operations and started to assist with sales. Work came first before my social life and I worked very long hours from the beginning.
I always battled against people’s judgement and felt that I had to over-compensate for being the ‘boss’s daughter’. In hindsight, it’s a shame that I felt that; however, the result was learning to manage people honestly and directly. In reality, I never had any special treatment, in fact quite the opposite! Proving people wrong was a huge motivator for me when I was younger, which has made me an incredibly determined person.
By the time I turned 20 I was promoted to General Manager. At this time I was at university full time studying International Spa Management – which of course, tied in perfectly! I did two placements at spas abroad in Malta and the Czech Republic. I was working full time, so as a result my ‘student life’ was non-existent. I think I may have had three nights out in the entire three years I was there. At the end of this, I received a 2:1 which I was disappointed with. However, taking my working hours into consideration, I knew it would have been harder to achieve greater. Therefore, I vowed to return to university at a later date to achieve the result that I knew I was capable of.
When the recession hit, we had to cut costs by 25% to remain profitable. Buyer behaviour changed suddenly and as a luxury business we had to react fast. Though times were hard outside, we remained not only profitable throughout the recession but the business continued to grow. This is a huge achievement considering everything we offer could be cut out by people watching their pennies. It was during the recession that I found my passion in marketing. Our Marketing Manager at the time moved on to another opportunity and we decided not to replace her as part of the cost saving exercise. I took a risk and picked up the role fully and taught myself all about marketing and the practical tasks behind it such as website management, design, newsletters and social media. I continued to manage marketing for over seven years and I am still involved on a daily basis now.
Due to the recession, after university I placed all of my concentration on work. We were trading through the recession after many changes and I was hands on in sales and marketing whilst trying to build a strong operational team. I wanted to get my head down and focus on our next venture at Moddershall Oaks which was weddings. We launched these in 2010 after a £1m investment. I was responsible for the market research, marketing, pricing and the operational procedures. Weddings grew and grew each year and eventually I built a small team to help with the sales and operations. Our events venue now turns over £1m a year and still has so much potential.
At 24, I became Director of Moddershall Oaks, looking after sales, marketing and operations. Everything that I managed, I had already worked in (with exception of the chef!) and if I hadn’t had experience working, I ensured I had qualifications or relevant training so that my knowledge was as required. At 25 I was accepted on to the MBA programme at Keele University and began my masters. As I expected, it was very much the same as my under-graduate degree where I was juggling working and studying at the same time. It was hard. But nothing worth doing is ever easy and I learnt so much!
I met some fantastic people on my course, but after a few lectures it was obvious that I was also judged by a few people because of my age. I was the youngest and sometimes the only female. There were comments, remarks and funny looks, which is outrageous. One Saturday full of lectures I received a comment about being tired because I had been ‘out on the lash’ the night before, when in fact I had been working a wedding until the early hours. This was only motivation to me. I told myself that I would show them all and not only get a first class-honours, but I would get the best result out of anyone in the whole class. I don’t like to set myself easy challenges, but when I turned 28 I graduated with a first class honours and the highest mark in the class.
It was a really valuable experience alongside being a Director at Moddershall Oaks. I learnt a lot, especially about people and myself. During this time I also won The Sentinel Young Business Person of the Year for Staffordshire and Cheshire which was an amazing experience. It was lovely to have my parents there supporting me too. The biggest milestone of mine was becoming a shareholder when I turned 30 years old and I have continued to work hard with my parents to grow and better Moddershall Oaks. We work well as a team with different viewpoints and attributes and I trust that we all share the same passion for the business. I am currently working on developing a senior management team as we now have well over 100 employees. Gone are the days when I was the line manager for all departments!
Behind all this however, was my health story which has since led me to launch MADE a brand new wellness philosophy in the heart of Staffordshire. The birth of MADE is a very personal one which starts with my health… more on that in part two!