Jacqueline Gold CBE, CEO of Ann Summers, gives her 4 top tips for women in business exclusively to the BDLN…
1) List your achievements
Build your own brand equity by listing all the great things you’ve achieved in your life – the times you’ve been resilient, dynamic and entrepreneurial. Then, when you go into an important meeting or have a wobbly moment, you can read that list and boost your confidence. Women tend to forget how powerful they are and how good they are at what they do.
2) Drop the act
You don’t have to be a table-basher to succeed and you don’t have to emulate men to succeed. Stereotypes like the entrepreneurs on Dragon’s Den and The Apprentice make compelling viewing but you don’t have to behave in that way to get results. I used to do the whole power-dressing thing until someone said I reminded them of a politician. At that point I stopped and went back to being just me!
3) Don’t be afraid to make mistakes
If you’re in business you are going to take risks and make mistakes. The key is knowing when to pull the plug and not let it get out of hand. My biggest mistake was launching Bite magazine – a glossy positioned somewhere between Cosmo and Marie Claire. I lost around £1m. It was a mistake because Ann Summers was not familiar with the print industry. Also, because we were the publishers, people assumed Bite was a top-shelf magazine, even though it wasn’t.
4) Rise to challenges and face your fears
My biggest business challenge came when I received a bullet in the post just before opening an Ann Summers store in Dublin. It would have been easier to pull the plug but I hate the idea of being bullied and ploughed on. We then received a writ from Dublin Corporation on the first day of opening.
To promote the store and answer the criticism I decided to appear on The Late Late Show that evening – it was the first time I’d done media and I was terrified. But I was happy to receive support from women in the audience, who said: “How dare the council tell us where we can and can’t shop.”
Ann Summers Dublin is now one of our top three performing stores and is also on the tourist bus route!