What has motivated you to become a Rare Birds Ambassador?
I started as a Mentor to support Female Founders & emerging female leaders in Business (which I wished was available to me 25 years ago) and the more I learned about all the initiatives Rare Birds was involved with I was keen to have a much larger role in their impressive mentor community, and their long term ambitions.
As Gandhi says, be the change you want to see in the world. I have 3 daughters and I want them to be the beneficiaries of more opportunities in entrepreneurship and leadership for women…which is the primary mission of Rare Birds.
And the (17!!) Core values were very well aligned with whom I choose to be affiliated.
What do you think are the key traits of a good leader?
Humility, authenticity, resilience and good communications.
What was happening before the pandemic, like everything, has been exponentially accelerated.
I was inspired to witness and contribute to the empathic, servant leadership style becoming more prevalent around the world. With the pandemic moving everyone and everything online, consumers are now demanding authenticity and transparency for their loyalty, and leaders are needing to build resilience and clear communications in times of ongoing uncertainty.
Leaders with humility focus on problem-solving and team dynamics much more than self-promotion. They embrace imperfection, making room for innovation and creativity.
And with the perspective that success is not the result of just one, but many, they are able to attract, empower and retain some of the best talent. Developing emerging leaders within their organisations!
People buy into a leader before they buy into the vision. It’s not enough to have a vision; the power is in articulating the vision with clarity, passion and authenticity. And with everyone on the same page, the momentum takes flight.
Why is strong leadership important in business?
Leaders are invaluable when it comes to formulating and communicating new strategic directions, as well as communicating with and motivating employees to understand and achieve the goals.
Brilliant visionaries are not always the best leaders. I’ve worked with many savvy Founders and owners that are not great leaders or communicators. Recognising their limitations and working to their strengths was the best thing they ever did. By building a multidisciplinary leadership team, it allows people to do what they love, and the business to achieve goals more seamlessly.
What has been your biggest ‘aha’ moment in business?
I’m a huge evangelist of prioritising employee and customer experience as the key business strategy.
You are only as good as the people who work for you.
The goal is not to be the smartest person in your company.
By serving the employees of a company, you are serving the customer.
What is your driver for helping people to grow their business?
With professional advice and support, you can skip the line, dodge the bullets and save a huge amount of money and heartache.
After 20 years owning and running businesses I am confident that my biggest asset is the foresight that comes from all those experiences. I get a genuine high out of sharing the proven process and tools that I know will make a difference to people that love what they do, but need help with the ‘other’ things that are critical to success and scale.
What is the secret to sustainable growth?
Being agile and engaged with your target audiences. These are the ground rules of innovation. It’s not optional, it’s survival.
The needs of the business and the needs of the consumers must be aligned, and the only way to get it right is to engage with your customers and employees, get feedback and experiment. We are business people, we should know the odds of how many get it right the first time!
What was your experience?
In my first business, we were going to sink a large investment into what we thought our clients would love. Our advisors recommended we float the idea with our 5-10 top clients before taking such a big leap. The resounding response was ‘that’s nice…but what we need more urgently right now is xyz.’ It was a game changer for our trajectory. We didn’t spend money on the wrong thing, and by giving them what they needed we were able to secure our primary position in the marketplace. And won the EY Entrepreneurs of the Year award off the back of the innovative idea. Which wasn’t even ours!!
What advice would you give to someone whose business is stuck in a rut? What can they do to create a catalyst for positive growth?
Be vulnerable, ask your peers what they have found to be helpful with their business successes or failures. Keep an eye on your competitors, always stay informed about your own differentiators and the ever changing landscape. The most insightful people to engage with for inspiration are the ones that know you, trust you and buy from you – your customers and employees. Creating feedback channels that ask them what is working well, and what could work better can start some very compelling conversations.
Which sources of business wisdom do you turn to when you are stuck?
I am a big believer in preventative measures. We all experience ruts, it’s more about ensuring how far (or not) we fall down that rabbit hole. I recommend subscribing to online content that keeps us informed of trends and global news regularly. I love my Harvard Business Review and Forbes online subscriptions; regular digestible content sources that drop into my line of sight to keep my mind fresh and aware of what’s going on outside of my hectic bubble. I am also a Business Coach that has a business coach. Inevitably we all have blind spots. Having a coach and feedback channels are invaluable to getting unstuck.
What would you say to someone considering becoming a business mentor?
The impression of mentoring insinuates a 1 way communication – imparting your knowledge and experience to your mentees. I continually emphasise the amount of knowledge and wisdom I receive in return from the relationship. I have found it to be rich, rewarding and challenging – keeping me sharp and informed of trends – a definite win win!
Anything else you would like to add?
Finding any way to give back is food for the soul.
If you would like more information about becoming a Rare Birds Ambassador, please contact our Founder and CEO Jo Burston: firstname.lastname@example.org