Seven successful women share top tips on how to get ahead at work

FROM a GP, a creative director to kickass businesswoman, we reveal the ladies who really show this girl can.

Now’s a pretty good time for a career pep talk, and we’ve got tips from the best in the business.

Jacqueline Gold CBE

Chief executive of Ann Summers and Knickerbox

The best advice: This came early in my career, when another company tried to steal our party ambassadors.

My dad told me: “There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself,” – a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt.

By investing time in my team and not worrying about the other company, they felt more valued, and some are still running their Ann Summers party businesses more than 30 years later.

And the worst: I was about to start filming ITV’s Fortune: Million Pound Giveaway back in 2007 and my publicist at the time told me to be like Sharon Osbourne.

I always refer to this when mentoring women who feel they should be someone else in the boardroom – the worst you can do is try to emulate others.

I couldn’t run my business without… Microsoft Teams – it’s been a game-changer for communicating and collaborating effectively from home.

Dr Zoe Williams

Fabulous’ President GP and former Gladiator

The best advice: At school we had a talk from Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut and woman in space.

She said: “Never be told you can’t because you are a woman.” Even now I whisper “you can” whenever I start doubting myself.

And the worst: I was advised to turn down the chance to be a Gladiator. I was a junior doctor in 2009 and a few consultants told me that I would risk losing the respect of my colleagues.

I could have missed an incredible opportunity just because of what other people might think.

I couldn’t do my job without… Nurses – they do incredible work and are
massively underpaid. The Covid pandemic has highlighted again that they are superheroes.

Sarah Beeny

Property expert, businesswoman and TV presenter

The best advice: My father told me to have a good attitude and work hard, do what you say you’ll do and focus on doing what you love to the best of your ability.

Also, to try to make other people’s day better for interacting with you,
and help others along the way without expecting or looking for anything in
return. The relationships you make pave the way for success or failure.

And the worst: I was told to focus on money. Ultimately, life isn’t about money, it’s about earning enough for the life you want to live, so I think you should focus more on what you already have, and you’ll find achieving things will work out much better.

I couldn’t run my business without… Xero, which helps me keep really good accounts. It’s great because everything’s online, so you can access it from anywhere.

  • Follow Sarah: @sarah.beeny.

Holly Tucker MBE

Founder of and CEO of Holly & Co

The best advice: It was from one of my first investors, Tom Teichman, when I was at the height of hiring for

He told me it’s better to have a hole than an arsehole. Any time I’ve rushed to hire, I’ve regretted it.

People are your most valuable asset and one bad employee can take your business back one year by the time you’ve realised.

And the worst: In the early days, I was told I had to accept comments such as: “It is what it is”, as an answer for people not delivering. It’s like trying to sweep under the carpet the people who haven’t worked hard enough.

I couldn’t run my business without… Computer programs such as to help run our projects, and Zoom for our meetings, now that we’ve become a home-working team.

  • Follow Holly: @Hollytucker.

Molly Gunn

Founder and Creative Director of the Selfish Mother Blog, Shop and Marketplace

The best advice: founder Natalie Massenet once posted an Instagram graphic showing success not as a straight diagonal line, but a jumbled mass of squiggly lines.

It helped me realise it’s normal to have bad days or mishaps, such as when we sold 250 badly printed “Mother” sweatshirts, and the ink came off.

One woman sent us a picture of it on her baby’s head after breastfeeding.

We replaced every sweatshirt – it was a logistical nightmare, but
these things happen!

And the worst: My sister hated the name Selfish Mother, and my husband looked at me as if I was crazy when I told him the idea of a T-shirt with the word “Mother” on it. They thought I should change it, but fortunately, I didn’t listen.

Now they both get it!

I couldn’t run my business without… Google Docs – it’s the best online sharing document system. You can access everything from any computer, tablet or your phone.

  • Follow @selfishmother_marketplace.

Sara Davies MBE

Funder of Crafter’s Companion and Dragons’ Den investor

The best advice: My friend and colleague Fiona Cruickshank told me not to let anyone intimidate me, especially as a young woman in business.

There are times where I’ve been the only female or the youngest in the room, but believing in myself and knowing what I have to offer has always stood me in good stead.

And the worst: This was advice I gave myself: I thought I could do it all myself.

Then my husband Simon started to take on the day-to-day running of the
business, allowing me to concentrate on the entrepreneurial aspects of the
company and business development.

I soon realised that to be a good business leader you need to accept your limitations and hire people who excel in what you’re not so good at.

I couldn’t run my business without… Google Meet and Chat for meetings and catch-ups – we have remote workers, as well as an office in the US.

  • Follow Sara: @Saradaviescc.

Lily Simpson

Founder and CEO of Detox Kitchen

The best advice: A life coach friend, Yvonne Wake, said to me: “When things are stressful, write down the worst outcome.”

Seeing it on paper makes you realise the worst is never as bad as you think.

Before we opened our first cafe, I did this – the worst being the cafe fails and we have to close – and thought about how I would feel and what I would do. And I realised I could deal with it.

And the worst: Someone once said to me that I couldn’t run my business on gut instinct.

But gut instinct isn’t just a hunch, it’s all the knowledge I have gathered over the years, the lessons learnt, the failings, wins and shortcuts, too.

I couldn’t run my business without… Slack, as it keeps communication
streamlined, reducing internal emails by 95%, while Trello is a great way to have several well-organised lists going at one time.

Women in business

  • 50% of UK women aspire to be their own boss.
  • 1/3 of FTSE 100 board members are female, an increase of more than 20% in less than a decade.
  • 2020’s Sunday Times Rich List revealed a record high number of women.

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