April 1, 2015, by brzwc1

Playing to win: ambition, grit and a great pair of heels.

She’s Sir Alan Sugar’s right-hand woman, Vice-Chairman of West Ham Football Club, a former Business Woman of the Year and Most Inspirational Woman of the Year. She was the youngest managing director of a PLC in the UK in 1997 and was awarded a CBE for services to women in business and entrepreneurship in 2013. Karren Brady proved the ideal candidate to give our chancellor’s lecture and provide our own apprentices with some valuable insights into life, business and success. Here’s a flavour . . .

“Experience has taught me that opportunities will always come along, you just have to open your eyes to see them, you have to have the energy to grab them and do it. There’s nothing worse than not giving it a go in the first place.

If you want to stand out in the graduate market I think it starts with your CV. Anything that sets you apart is really important. The biggest transition you will ever make in your life is when you come out of education and go to work. Getting the job you want is the start of your life.

If you get a career you love it really makes a big difference to everything that happens in your life. So having a brilliant CV, being able to articulate what you want and why you want to do it, being confident, doing your research is important.

Anything relevant to the job you’re applying for is important and that’s what stands out to me. I tell job candidates they can ask me anything they want and I will ask them two questions and at the end of those questions the interview will either be over or we’ll carry on. Those questions are: tell me something about my business I don’t know and tell me how you’ll fit in.

I find when I work with young people is that the biggest barrier to them following their dreams is a lack of self-confidence and when things are not working out the way you wanted or expected it’s easy to quit. Before you become successful you will suffer defeat and failure but it’s what you do at that point which is the measure of who you really are.

If you don’t champion your career no-one is going to do it for you. If you don’t find the path to success, no-one will find it for you and no-one will work hard for you – only you can achieve the kind of things you want to achieve.

I left school at 18 and didn’t have the pleasure of going to university. At 18 I was working at Saatchi and Saatchi and at 19 I was selling advertising space. Today I’m CEO of a business I love. To run a business takes a lot of hard work, drive, ambition and balls. Business is all about finding that really fine line that you walk between risk and reward – finding it, walking it and driving it are the things that keep you motivated.

When I left school all I had was what I call my core values, principles that I believed in and things that made me who I was – these are the values that underpin my life and they are my guide. I had a determination to be successful – I would have taken any job anywhere and done anything in my search for independence. The second thing I had was a great deal of enthusiasm – it’s what I look for when I employ people. It doesn’t matter what qualifications they’ve got, I look at their enthusiasm because people do business with people and having a personality and being able to communicate that is so valuable.

I had a very basic education but I worked hard, I was determined, I stuck to my core values, I was dedicated, I took risks and I stepped outside my comfort zone. I was the first person to arrive at work and I was the last to leave. If someone asked how to do something I would put my hand up even though I had no idea what it was and that’s how you get on.

Entrepreneurs are typically self-motivated, they risk their own money, and they’re driven despite the fact that people tell them it’s too risky. An entrepreneur is not afraid to learn their skills on the job and build, develop, diversify and maximise. Lots of people have a good business idea but not a lot get them off the ground.

Small business owners are the champions. Britain is a great place to do business if you’re an entrepreneur – every piece of infrastructure you need is here to help you. But I think people underestimate the hours that it takes, the sacrifices that you make, the hours that you give up in terms of family time and personal time.

Challenges are just testing how good you are.


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