This year’s First Women of Business Services winner, and CEO of The Consulting Consortium and RecordSure, Joanne Smith, shares some secrets behind her business success.
Don’t sell, build relationships
Business is all about building relationships with everyone around you – be they peers, staff, bosses, customers, suppliers or influencers. People don’t sell, they build relationships.
When I was 16 I landed my first ‘proper’ job working for Royal Insurance in Liverpool. I had recently watched a TV programme which said that in order to get on in business you had to say hello to at least 50 people a day.
So I would walk around the office saying ‘hello, hello, good morning’ all the time, to everyone. After a few days, people started saying hello back. At the age of 19 I got my first promotion running a complaints department and managing a team of around 40 people.
Beware of snap judgements
It’s easy to dismiss an industry, company or person as boring. I’ve watched people’s eyes glaze over when I tell them I work in compliance for more than 20 years.
But compliance has recently become one of the hottest roles in the financial services industry and my team are now in high demand.
Compliance is ultimately about making sure customers are well looked after. And that should be interesting to every business owner.
Fake it till you make it
If you’re setting up your own business, then you need to set yourself apart from the competition.
When I founded The Consulting Consortium I wanted to provide a very different style of service to the traditional ‘Big Four’ consultancy firms – with tailored rather than “off-the-shelf” solutions.
I also chose to name the business The Consulting Consortium because it sounded like a huge company even though initially it was just a one-woman band. We now have 150 employees.
Thinking big and always looking five years ahead helps to keep me and the business on our toes.
Technology equals opportunity
Making decisions is key to running a successful business. I still remember how long it took to make important decisions when I worked for larger companies… and how frustrating that was. Now, I relish the entrepreneurial speed with which we do things.
When yet another mis-selling scandal hit the financial services industry in 2011, I spotted an opportunity to prevent more in the future – by creating a system that can record, store and analyse all conversations between staff and customers, even face to face conversations.
That system, which required high quality recording and artificial intelligence technology, did not yet exist. But after making the significant decision to invest I recruited a brilliant team to help make it a reality.
This year RecordSure signed its first customer to a five year-contract for a full suite of services – from recording and storage of conversations, to analysis and data insight.
Attitude is everything
Success in business is not about one person, it’s about what’s good for the business, so make sure you hire the right people.
For me, it’s about the energy that someone has; the determination and drive. I want someone who’s really committed to what we’re trying to achieve – that’s far more important than an Oxbridge degree.
Trust in your own ability
People often ask if working in the male-dominated financial and technology industries has hindered me in any way.
Unfortunately I have found it frustrating to see men occasionally underestimating the abilities of women. But I have also found it relatively easy to overcome whenever I’ve had an opportunity to showcase my ability. Don’t let anything dent your confidence. Always seek out opportunities to show what you are made of.
About the author
Joanne Smith has worked in financial services for over 20 years and is the CEO of RecordSure and The Consulting Consortium. Her expertise is in compliance related matters, across all sectors of the industry. Since 1990 she has worked in a number of financial services companies including Royal Insurance, HBOS and KPMG, as well as the Financial Services Authority.