How honoured I was to have won the First Woman of Business Services award in 2013. Like most women on and off that stage, I had fought and won many battles.
I left school aged 15 without any qualifications. I’ll never forget my final school report, which read: “I hope Jan’s future employer sees more of her than we have”. However, missing out on this early education did hold me back.
There have been times where I felt inferior to, and intimidated by, educated people. I decided that I had to educate myself. I expanded my vocabulary by reading the Reader’s Digest and embarked on an MBA course which I completed 1990. I quickly learnt the value in continually learning.
When I started out with PJ Care, no less than seven banks refused to fund my neurological care provider company. None of the bankers – notably all of whom were men – took me seriously. In their view I was a nurse, not an entrepreneur. They looked down on me and could not comprehend the possibility that a nurse could present them with a valuable business proposition.
However, I had immense belief in what I could achieve. I had a dogged determination that enabled me to persevere through several obstacles and eventually achieve success. Over the years, I have shared the key points below countless times with burgeoning entrepreneurs. It is easier said that done, but practice makes perfect.
Persevere to overcome obstacles
Enduring the process can be extra difficult, particularly when you are frustrated and find that you continue to encounter the same obstacle, whichever way you try. This is when you need to take a step back, re-evaluate the obstacle and see it as a hurdle not to jump over but side step and find a way to work around.
The key here is to carry on, be persistent and remain determined. Do not give up the struggle or take no for an answer. Look for the alternatives, as there are always options and you just have to find them. Leave no stone unturned by speaking to mentors and colleagues, who may just turn the right stone over for you.
Believe in yourself and your skills…
…And do not accept negative feedback. Listen and explore the comments presented but do not let these dampen your motivation or belief in your own abilities. If I had listened to several bankers who told me that I was just a nurse and who knew nothing about the care business, I would not now be the very proud owner of my multi-million pound company.
As you go through life you will add to your well of experience. This is not just in business but in everyday life. When you are with family and friends or work colleagues sharing life’s experiences both good and bad they all go into your well of life’s experience to be drawn upon at any time. Never be afraid to say I do not know and then learn what you need to and add it to your well. We all learn from each other’s experiences and how the experiences were managed. Be aware of this, note and evaluate their management then add it to your well.
Be strong and hold your position
It’s still a man’s world, and some men still feel threatened by women in senior positions and even as entrepreneurs. Enter awards to receive the accolades that you truly deserve and be proud of what you have achieved. At the same time, it is important to recognise that there is a difference in the male and female approach to business and never try to mimic a successful male. The best thing you can do is to be yourself, be feminine and be proud to be a successful women.
Katja Hall, chief policy director of the UK’s leading business lobbying organisation, the CBI, said the First Women Awards winners are “true role models for future generations of women” and “are proof that the sky really is the limit when it comes to achieving.” Inspiring words indeed – both for me and other women.
About the author
Jan Flawn CBE is founder and chair of PJ Care Ltd, a leading and award-winning provider of specialist neurological care and neuro-rehabilitation. She set up PJ Care in 2000 after seeing young people with neurological conditions living inappropriately in care homes for the elderly.