Meet Pamela Permallo-Bass Head of Equality & Diversity at Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust
Meet Fiona Davis, the phenomenal business dynamo and Founder of 'The Brand Inspiration Company'. Fiona is applying her formidable business acumen and experience gained with brands like 'The Early Learning Centre' and 'Ann Summers' to helping businesses to "Re discover their mojo"! Be inspired!
Fiona you have recently launched 'The Brand Inspiration Co.’ ...great name: tell me the 'why' and the 'what'.
Thank you so much, I’m glad you like the name. I help customer facing businesses (re)discover the mojo. I work with my clients to re-energise them, excite the spirit, the swagger and the confidence in their business to really connect with their customers. This creates the difference between winning and losing in the market place.
Fiona, how much of a role has serendipity played in your successful business career?
I certainly haven’t worked to a career plan, rather I’ve been open minded to opportunities as they’ve arisen and I’ve followed my instincts about what has ‘felt right’ at each stage when I’ve had a choice to make. I’ve always been guided by my principles – I need to feel that I’m able to add real value, work with people I respect and trust and feel a sense of fulfilment whatever I’m doing. You could certainly call this serendipity, it’s worked for me.
Are there any individuals who have inspired you whether you know them personally or just by reputation?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with inspirational leaders at each stage of my career and I’ve also been energised and supported by many wonderful people in the other organisations/agencies I’ve worked with as well as my wider network. I firmly believe in giving as well as taking and as a consequence I’ve taken the opportunity to thank some of these people on my website: www.thebrandinspirationco.com. In addition, I listen and absorb the thinking of numerous thought leaders. I admire Rita Clifton (who was the driving force in ‘Interbrand’) and now heads up Brand Cap. And who couldn’t be in awe of the achievements of Angela Ahrendts while she was at Burberry, I can’t wait to see what she’s able to achieve for Apple! I’m also a great admirer of Ray Kelvin, Founder of Ted Baker whose business goes from strength to strength while retaining a firm grip on the integrity of the brand. The profitable growth of The Entertainer, led by the Grant family, in the very challenging toy market is very impressive. John and Mary Perkins at ‘Specsavers’ have done a fantastic job in re-shaping our view of a great customer experience in the optical sector. Mark Newton Jones and Derek Lovelock who are breathing new life into our baby children’s brands ‘Mothercare’ and ‘Mamas & Papas’ are certainly to be supported and admired.
How much do you think that your parents/upbringing have influenced the entrepreneur/businesswoman that you have become?
Definitely, our parents, siblings and families certainly shape the adults we become. I believe in the balance of nature and nurture. We then choose how we respond to the strengths and opportunities we find. I was blessed by parents (particularly my Mother) who believed in my capability and my right to have a fulfilling career without question.
What piece of advice would you share with aspiring entrepreneurs that you wish you'd been given?
Believe in yourself and it’s never too late to find your ‘inner entrepreneur’!
Fiona, you've held several leadership roles: what would you say is your leadership style?
I’m told that I’m insightful, empathetic and energetic. I like to feel that we have fun along the way.
In your experience, what are the biggest differences between the way that women and men do business?
I tend to find that making generalisations about male & female leadership styles can be unhelpful. So I prefer to talk about the characteristics of great leadership. For me it’s about having an inspiring vision (‘why’) for the business, supported by a clear (‘what’) and (‘how’). Ensuring a real connection with the customer and delivering a WOW customer experience is vital. Taking people with you so they fully understand and care about their contribution is critical to achieving this. I heard some research recently that demonstrated a balance between ‘goal centred’ (male?) leadership and a more collegiate (female?) style is the ideal combination for long term business success.
Have you ever been conscious of the 'glass ceiling' effect in any of your past roles?
Not really, although there have been hurdles to overcome, particularly when I had my children. I’m conscious that challenges remain for young women in many sectors including retail. I’m keen to make my contribution and as a consequence I’m loving my role as Trustee for Women in Retail, an inspiring and a vibrant and inspirational community of women in the retail sector. We are looking forward to extending our reach to the ‘emerging talent’ group and enable our accomplished members to support, mentor and give something back to the leaders of tomorrow.
Apart from quotas etc..how else can we effect a culture change in companies/ business's towards more diversity and less tokenism ( in some)
A big question: I feel I’ve offered some of the approaches for customer facing businesses. I believe many similar principles apply in other sectors. In the end, we are all people with families and personal responsibilities alongside our work lives. And in work we all have customers/clients to provide for. If we do not understand and reflect the diversity of our customers, our businesses are unlikely to reach their full potential. In other words, having an all male board and when 80-90% of the buying decisions are made by women just doesn’t make good business sense!
If you had to change something that you did or didn’t do in your life or career, what would it be?
I really wouldn’t change a thing! The highs have been high and the lows have taught me so much. And the highs have outweighed the lows by a long, long way…
What behaviour of yours would you like to get rid of?
The occasional nagging voice that tells me I may not be able to do something…
What quality/behaviour would you like to continue to develop?
To continue to learn and step out of my comfort zone; for example I never thought I would describe myself as ‘the author of the upcoming book entitled – “A profitable love affair, how to build and sustain a strong brand” - with a foreword written by a New York Times best selling author and a publisher in place.
That’s awesome! Fiona based on where you are now in your life, what would you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Firstly my children, Emily and Lewis, they are wonderful young adults and I’m very proud of them both. Secondly my friendships and thirdly my career.
Do you have a favourite book, that you revisit from time to time?
The book I re-visit is – ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ by Joan Didion. For anyone who has faced the death of the person they love the most, it’s nothing short of a lifeline.
Thank you Fiona. www.thebrandinspirationco.com