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My Business Journey, How I Got to Here

May 27, 2014 - 08.51.28 - 1058_12074Many people ask me to recall “my story” to them and when it was suggested I put it out in a miview “Really?

OK – here goes”

I left school at 16 with two highers, a handful of O grades and a job secured within the financial sector. I flew out to Spain for my first foreign holiday (including a trip to Barcelona) a far cry from the usual family two weeks visiting my Granny in Macduff, a small fishing town located in the north of Scotland.

After 15 years and four promotions within the Pensions division, my next promotion introduced me to the Life side of the business. I had to make one of the hardest career transitions of my life – from running a small team of five where I knew everything to a leading a larger team of around twenty five where I knew nothing about the work, the people or the culture. It was only two floors away in logistical terms, but worlds apart in the practicalities.

Welcome to the transition into management.

About ten years later, there was market crash – the endowment contract we were selling most of lost its credibility in the market with the downturn in interest rates and we were forced to take action fast. People change through inspiration or desperation and business is no different. A project team was assembled and our marketers went to work. What they came up with was the SELF ASSURANCE range, and the centralisation of the New Business administration from our twelve local offices would form part of the plan.

The project was hard work with coordinating the work and people round the country and then appointing and training a group of trainers within my team to ease the product launch. The successful launch saw an increase in New Business of 1000%, processing in one day what we used to do in a week. We were so successful we won awards for our product, for our service and became so attractive we were put up for sale.

That is when I panicked, “up for sale?” – That presented a threat, an uncertainty of my future. I had been attending Masterclasses in my endeavour to learn what I needed throughout the project and found myself at Salford University – studying for an MSc in People and Organisational Development, (Management Development) just incase I needed to prove myself in my later career, a kind of endowment policy for myself! My growth in learning was phenomenal and I remember laughing with my tutor – I came in here thinking I knew everything and I have learned so much. The more we learn, the more we realise how little we really know!

The takeover day had arrived, our board members had said their goodbyes the day before and we had received our maritime watches as a memento. In one day I went from being one of 1500 employees to one of 28,000. My role changed and I completed several projects to bring consistency within the two organisations, one to introduce a uniform approach to compliance across 28 managers in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and another to transfer the back office administration out to India. (I had a fall out with my manager when I refused to let my staff – who had volunteered – go without being vaccinated!)

I myself did not venture out to India, I had a team in Glasgow recruiting and being trained, I had my Edinburgh people who wanted to stay move to Glasgow and I was ‘running down the team in Edinburgh’ who would go when the others could handle the work. A project that finished three weeks ahead of schedule, may I add!!

My phenomenal week

One Wednesday in July 2004 I was on stage at Salford to receive my MSc, the next day I received my voluntary redundancy, handed back my mobile phone, laptop and car and took one last look around an almost abandoned office, one where I had been so privileged to be part of. On the Friday, I flew out to Canada for one month’s holiday with my family – just because I could!

There had been a party for us all in there too – when you work with people for twenty nine years, you become a lot more than friends. We heard of kids growing up, we were part of lives, attending many birthday parties, weddings, christenings and retirement events. We were a community; a country wide community.

I had made a decision in the chaos to take six months off work, after 29 years of 6 weeks holiday per year! To reflect on my journey and I realised that I really missed my university studies, so I took a diploma in Life Coaching where I met more lovely people. When my six months was up I applied for a couple of manager roles. As I posted one particular letter to Telford College I thought, I don’t want to go back to that. I had been rolling round the idea of going into business, the job centre advised to study plumbing as there were areal shortage of plumbers – really, I don’t like doing dishes as my hands get wet…..so back to the business, after the usual “Oh I couldn’t do that” I did, thinking if it doesn’t work, then I can get a job.

Here I am ten years later, still helping people in organisations to develop their business.

I’m battered, bruised and have a trail of business owners along side me that are so glad I didn’t go work for the college!!

I feel like I have left a legacy, it’s been a privilege so far, I am still on my journey and I’m not finished yet.

Enjoy your journey; I’d love to hear all about it!

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