Founding a business: What I learnt along the way

Lysa Campbell, CEO of Retail Marketing Group

Lysa Campbell is an experienced agency leader with a successful background in creating business growth and diversification. Lysa is now leading Retail Marketing Group as CEO for the UK, having joined the agency in 2018.

Here, Lysa shares what she has learned throughout her career journey and what founding a business has taught her.

Embrace the university of life

Looking back at where my career started, I see myself as being educated in the university of life. Coming from a small town and leaving school with just one O-Level, I had to decide the path that I wanted to take. At the time I didn’t know the world outside of my tiny bubble and would describe myself as being quite insular, so when I joined a world-leading film and entertainment studio in my early 20s, I was thrown into a completely alien environment.

The studio had an incredibly male-centric, ‘work hard, play hard’ environment. I benefited from having some brilliant role models and learned so much that still stays with me today. Yet, I also saw things that I knew I didn’t want to take forward into my own businesses, from bullying to sexism. Being passed over for a promotion in favour of a less experienced and qualified man - because I had just started my own family - was a turning point and I left shortly after. The experience taught me to stick to my principles regardless of how difficult the decision is, and this is something that was put to the test again in my next company. Moving from corporate to agency side, I had a much more senior role and enjoyed helping the company grow significantly to an £11 million turnover in the five years I worked there. However, with the company increasingly investing less back into the business - compromising my integrity with my team and clients - as well as difficult changes in my personal life, I saw an opportunity to have a fresh start. So, in 2008 I decided to start my own business.

The eight years I spent building and growing my first business were not easy. Through many mistakes and moments of doubt, I learnt that the most important thing that I could do was to make time for reflection. We can only learn in hindsight, so understanding how what you did yesterday will impact today and tomorrow, is an important evaluation for any leader.

Be a brave leader

I have experienced my fair share of imposter syndrome throughout my career, and I know that this is a common feeling for many women in particular. Moving into the technology sector, I doubted my abilities to lead my team when I had such a limited knowledge on the subject. Yet, I quickly learned that as a leader, it wasn’t necessary for me to have an in-depth, comprehensive understanding of all the technology in order to be successful; my team are the experts and my primary role is separate to that.

As a leader, one of the best things I can offer my team is bravery: showing my team that I am prepared to make difficult decisions, show my vulnerability and confront reality head-on. I had to prove this trait to my team early on in my career, when I had to make the choice to fire a client because they weren’t the right fit. My team had raised their concerns with me and it was my responsibility to listen, understand and act in order to show my loyalty to the team. At that stage, our agency was dependent on the revenue, however I was grateful to recognise the potential long term impact my inaction would have, including a negative work culture or losing the trust of my employees.

Being vulnerable, open and honest with your team goes a long way to earning their trust and respect. Doing so, as I have seen myself, will earn people’s loyalty for many years to come.

Embrace the ‘work-life balance’ cliché

In recent years, the advice that you should find a perfect work-life balance has become incredibly overused and clichéd. Most people know that it’s so much easier said than done, particularly when it’s your own business that’s at stake. However, I have learnt to remind myself that working all hours just doesn’t deliver results; great ideas come to me when I’ve taken a walk on my lunch break, or after I’ve taken a few days off work. A rested, clear head will mean you are wildly more productive and creative than if you’re living off a few hours sleep and swathes of coffee. Encourage yourself to step away regularly: it will pay off for both you and your company as a result.

Developing your career, starting your own business and achieving your goals is never going to be straightforward. But, by surrounding yourself with great people and embracing the mistakes whilst leading your team with integrity and bravery, you will be rewarded with loyalty and support: something that any business owner cannot do without.

Lysa CampbellAbout the author

Lysa Campbell is an experienced agency leader, with a successful background in creating business growth and diversification. In 2008, Lysa started her own agency with only two staff; seven years later, the agency had a turnover of £9 million and over 2,000 staff. Now, Lysa is leading Retail Marketing Group as CEO for the UK, delivering a sustainable business plan whilst constantly innovating and transforming its offering.

To find out more about Lysa’s work at Retail Marketing Group, visit: https://www.retailmarketing.com/

 


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