What We Learnt from Karren Brady …

Baroness Karren Brady is one of the UK’s most high-profile businesswomen and one of the regular judges alongside Lord Sugar on BBC1’s The Apprentice.

Determined, hardworking, ambitious, passionate, positive

Karren Brady has been called all of these and many more.

Along with a select few business leaders, John Staves and myself recently received an exclusive invitation to spend the afternoon with Karren Brady.

Expecting plenty of ego, we were disarmed by its absence. Instead we encountered a woman who is passionate for encouraging entrepreneurial spirit and is also a champion for women in business.

“It’s all about the balls and having the courage to go and do something – work hard and dream big!” was Karren’s main message

Karren talked about when in 1993 at just 23 years of age she became the Director of Birmingham City Fooball Club,

Birmingham city           Birmingham city

In the beginning no one at the club had any drive, or ambition, there were no computers and the wages were handed out by hand! It’s incredible to think that back in 1993 women were banned from the boardrooms and the Director’s box! It was the first door that she kicked down and she has been keeping it open ever since.

In 2009 Birmingham City was sold for 82 million pounds.

During the afternoon Karren talked about the six clear ingredients to being a successful business owner;

  1. Leadership – The Ability to Lead

Having the vision. Being able to articulate your vision and being able to inspire people. Being able to get people to follow your lead. Everyone is looking to the leader to make a decision. Everyone is looking for the path forward.

  1. Ambition – The Fire Inside of You

Working with Sir Alan Sugar on The Apprentice, he would be the first person in the office in the morning and last person to leave. One of the toughest things about being a success, is that you have to keep on being a success. You do that by leading from the front, by driving forward. That personal pride to do everything in your power to drive your success.

the apprentice

  1. Determination

You cannot put Karren down –she is irrepressible. Failure is going to happen but it’s how you respond to that failure that sets you on that path. If you cannot recover, you won’t be a success. If you can find your back bone, grit your teeth, put one foot in front of the other and keep going, then you will eventually get to be the success that you want.

  1. Attitude

If you don’t like something then change it. If it’s not in your power to change it, change your attitude to it.

One rule that sums up Karren’s  attitude to all decisions in life “if I do this, what is the worst thing that can happen to me?” in life if you can protect your downside, if you can truly assess the worst case scenario and you are comfortable with that, then that should judge your attitude to every risk, every decision you make.

  1. Direction – Disguised as Hard Work

“The whole world steps aside for the person who knows where they are going”. Everyone who works with Karren spends their first day with her. So they can see how she runs the business. It takes an enormous amount of determination, hard work , strategy , integrity, positivity, enthusiasm. All day.  Every day.

  1. Be Positive

True success is hanging on when everybody else has let go.

What’s Been The Most Difficult Thing to Manage?

Karren talked about having a family and a career. When her children were young, she spent a lot of time questioning whether she should she be at a Board meeting or a nativity play or a parents evening – not really knowing which one she should be at.

On reflection, when you change your attitude to it, just accept that you can only do what you can do, then things start to change.

It’s not the person who drops them to school, it’s about the lessons that you can teach your child by being a small business owner – you are doing something you love so you can teach them;

  • Independence
  • Holding the values of your opinions
  • Trusting yourself
  • Being the best version of yourself by running your own business

There are not enough hours in the day to do the things that you want to do

So you start to develop your “Operational style” – this is only apparent when you are under pressure – it’s who you really are.

It’s really about your core values. What makes you, you. The instinctive attributes in yourself that you rely on.

Karren talked about her core values, which are the same today as they were 30 years ago;

  • Ambition
  • Determination and
  • Integrity

If you can work out what they are early on in your life it’s much easier to stay focused.

Karren’s Brady’s Advice to Young People

Most young people are ambitious, they just don’t know which direction to challenge themselves – very few people know what they want to do when they are young.

If they don’t know what they want to do they should try visualising what type of environment they’d like to work in. What type of people they would want to work with? Do they want to work in an office? in a formal setting, or outdoors?

You will need to work hard and you can only work those hours if you believe in what you are doing. You get your passion by trying different things; it doesn’t matter if you fail. Keep going until you find something that you really love, something that doesn’t feel like work.

It’s about taking every gamble, every risk, pushing yourself to do things that you don’t know how they are going to turn out – having a go.

After all, what’s the worst that can happen ..?

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