It might have been Friday 13th but there was definitely no bad luck for me! In fact I was lucky enough to end my first week at Zen not only being motivated by Nigel Botterill to design the life I want to lead but later after the ‘see if you can eat a beef stroganoff standing up’ lunch, we were all entertained by Baroness Karren Brady.
Whether you like football or not. Whether you watch The Apprentice or, like my husband, consider it like nails down a blackboard, you would have to agree Karren’s achievements in her 48 years are remarkable and truly inspiring.
In 1993 at the age of 23 when she took over as Managing Director at Birmingham City Football Club it was the first time she had been in a football stadium…but that was no barrier to the astounding turnaround she managed. From a club in administration – no roof on the fans’ toilet and an entire business run on paper and filing cabinets – to one sold in the autumn of 2009 for over £80 million – not bad hey?
She has already achieved a similarly impressive change programme at West Ham, where she has been Vice Chairman since 2010. She’s moved from financial turmoil on joining, to a club which now not only boasts the best stadium in the country (after fighting off Spurs to get the 2012 Olympic stadium) but in addition has the second highest number of season ticket holders and the best community programme in the Premier League.
And what about in her spare time? Oh well she is a life peer in the House of Lords, advisor to Lord Sugar on The Apprentice, has several newspaper and magazine columns, is on the board of Taveta Investments Ltd with Sir Philip Green, is an Ambassador for Barclays Life Skills supporting young people to get work experience, and is the Patron for the Life After Strokes Awards.
But the key question put to Karren in the hour-long Q&A she hosted, was ‘what do you think makes a successful business’. Her answer was simple and she says it was what she has instilled in all her companies: the right culture, great communication, and winning the hearts and minds of your whole team.
And this brings me right back to my first week at Zen Communications because I really think I have found a role in an organisation which has all the qualities the Baroness thinks are critical to business success. At Zen, the business goals and financial performance are shared with everyone, team meetings to discuss and agree plans together are held every month, and – whilst working extremely hard to wow our clients is at the heart of Zen – there is a balance to this too.
Everyone gets a day off for their birthday, can design their working hours to fit for their family, and can take part in regular team activities and nights out. So whilst we won’t need Karren’s help in running our company, she is very welcome to pop in anytime for a cuppa, or maybe as she told us she enjoys reading to relax, one of our book club sessions.