Is there a piece of feedback that has followed you around your entire life?
Don’t walk before you can run has followed me everywhere. I can trace it back to many a time in my life. I have always hated the feedback, but can recognise the sense in it. The good intentions of the feedback. Sometimes I listened, other times (read as most times) I didn’t.
September 1994 – University decision time
I was really good at maths. It came naturally to me, I enjoyed it and found it easy. I was studying my maths A-level and I was doing pretty good. I decided that I was good enough to go onto university to study maths and where better than Cambridge. That was it, decision made, I was off to Cambridge.
I sat down with my maths teacher Mrs Dangerfield, an interesting character, eccentric, super intelligent, long grey wiry hair, wore a lot of brown. Think Sybill Trelawney from the Harry Potter films. She was direct, and also a graduate from Cambridge. ‘No Lynn, you are not good enough for Cambridge, you are doing well but not that well, don’t run before you can walk’
Ah okay then, thanks for the vote in confidence. To be fair it was good advice, harsh and direct, but fair. I wasn’t good enough for Cambridge. I didn’t get the 3 A’s that would have been required to reach the dizzy heights of the best university possibly in the whole world to study maths.
Instead of going for the top university I targeted the next best universities, the likes of Warwick, Bristol, Brunel. I ended up at Brunel, very happy with my choice in university to study Maths with Statistics and Management. I did good.
May 2002 – I become a qualified accountant
After graduating from university I started a job with HSBC as a finance analyst. Whilst I worked in the customer and product reporting team I studied for my CIMA management accountancy exams. It was a really good job, I was earning 25k at the age of 22 in the city, living the best life ever, drinks every Thursday and Friday.
I spent a couple of years doing my exams, they were pretty easy and I sailed through reaching qualification after 2 1/2 years sitting as many exams as I could every six months. But then I got itchy feet. I moved jobs to a different finance department and still had itchy feet. I had an appraisal with my boss at the time and they told me to calm down, I didn’t need to change the HSBC finance world, don’t run before you can walk.
My reaction, was to resign! A knee-jerk reaction then ensued. I decided finance wasn’t for me, and a few short months after qualifying as an accountant I quit to become a recruitment consultant. Yes I actually did this, I quickly found a job (I have never struggled finding jobs!) and started working as a recruitment consultant. I must point out at this point I didn’t have a Mrs Dangerfield person in my life to tell me I was making a potential crazy decision.
It wasn’t the right decision to quit the world of finance and three months later I had quit the recruitment consultant job and got myself a brilliant job at Tesco working as a finance manager. And that mistake disappeared from my CV never to appear again!
A Tough Job at Tesco & EE
Through out my corporate career I did various tough roles. I worked at Tesco for five years, then Threshers for two years (whom went bust) and then EE for five years. Each role I did was initially great. I would be ultra excited and motivated. I would run around like a crazed thing sorting out all the issues, changing things for the better. Then I would run out of exciting things to do and get caught up in the routine of monthly reports, budgeting of quarterly communications meetings. And after I had done these meetings for a period of time they just got boring. Or I would face the same barriers as the month before or the month before that.
There were many appraisals and 360 degree reviews from those above, below and around you. I remember one in particular from a man whom was director of retail finance. Lynn you are up and down emotionally. When you are up you are great, you take everyone with you, you motivate and lift the team. but when you are down you have the opposite effect. And when you are up, you run and run and run, and sometimes need to think more before taking an action, ‘don’t run before you can walk’.
The same piece of feedback keeps reappearing throughout my life.
Now I am Self-Employed
Of course now I am self-employed and I have no more appraisals (thank the lord) and no more people telling me what to do. This has its advantages but also its disadvantages when I need some guidance or advice with a tricky decision. You see I tend to take the risky decisions without too much thought process and get carried away with the success of an idea or business.
This caught me earlier this year. I thought my business was headed in a certain direction, money was flowing comfortably and it felt like the right time to expand with staff and products. This meant investment, and looking back it was a lot of investment. Enough money that could have paid off my outstanding debt (ouch lets not think for too long about the amount of money I spent). I didn’t do any thinking about the investment, chances of it paying off, of recouping the money. I just made the snap decision in the hope that it was for the best.
Looking back now its was too hasty a decision, I was running before I could walk. I decided to invest a considerable sum of money without a back up fund stashed away. But I can reflect back and realise what a valuable lesson I have learnt. The investment was scaled back and the fonudations were built up again. Money is being stashed away into a safety fund, safety for the business and the drawings of the business. And the next time I am presented with an opportunity that will cost much, I might think again about the likelihood of the potential rewards and not invest the money.
Then again I am a risk taker, and you’ve got to be in it to win it;-)
Despite the lack of financial control I take comfort in the fact that my turnover is up 40% year on year. I am doing good and am so proud of what I have achieved with my business! But I really should listen to the recurring piece of feedback!