People & Leadership

International Women’s Day: What’s the best advice you’ve used in your business?

A group of successful business owners share the best advice they've received. Discover what they have to say and get truly inspired.

What’s the best advice you’ve used in your business?

To celebrate International Women’s Day, on 8 March, we posed that question to a group of successful business owners.

Their answers may help you if you’re facing any challenges within your company and are looking for help, or you’re seeking inspiration to boss your business and keep things moving in the right direction.

Plus, there’s a bonus section, sharing the biggest lessons that have been learned as a business owner.

Here’s what they have to say…

Alison Parsons, Sage development manager at Albert Goodman LLP: ‘’Make sure you know exactly where you stand financially at any point.

“You have to know your starting point, in order to plan a successful route to where you want to be.

“Knowing where you are at present will allow you make the most of any opportunities which come your way, but also spot when you need to take timely positive action or seek advice to avoid getting into serious financial difficulties.

Cloud accounting is great for this, taking the stress and a lot of the time out of financial record-keeping.”

Antonia Chitty, founder of Family Friendly Working: “The best bit of advice I have had is to start networking.

“I have met a fabulous selection of business women, and lots of freelancers who have been able to work with me as we both grew our businesses.”

Amanda Webb, founder of Spiderworking: “Focus. I fell into one of the pitfalls that many businesses fall into.

“I was doing a bit of everything but not telling anyone what it was that I actually did.

“That meant I did a bit of social advertising, a bit of content creation, a bit of video editing, a bit of training and a bit of consultation.

“It was a bit random and although it was bringing in a good income, I was working all hours and didn’t really have a chance to focus on anything.

“It was during a training session that I got the advice.

“Focus on one product, package it and name it.

“It took me a while to develop the product but it’s been the focus of my marketing ever since and although I still do two other things (and they are now packaged too), it’s been much easier to focus on selling that one thing.

“I now have more time off, I finish work earlier and my income has increased.”

Joanna Booth, founder and managing director of Social Media Makes Sense: “The main thing, is to keep the main thing, the main thing.

“The more you rely on this, the more focused your business and mind becomes.

“This little mantra has saved me endless hours of distraction and helped me make hard decisions.

“It’s also how I pivoted my business to go completely niche.

“Once I started focusing on one key market, my business doubled – even though I had to turn away work.”

Janice B Gordon, founder of Scale Your Sales: “Oscar Wilde is said to have quoted: ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.’

“This is essential in business otherwise your customer cannot distinguish you from other similar businesses.

“The more me I am in my business, the more my customer will engage with me.”

Jennifer Stirrup, CEO and founder of Data Relish: “The best advice I’ve had, and can offer others, is to use your soft skills to increase your reach as a business owner.

“We need to have a wide, broad network of shallow contacts as well as a small network of deep, close contacts.

“What’s the best way to grow your network?

“Offer to help others.

“Whether that’s on LinkedIn, Facebook, or at virtual events such as the local Chamber of Commerce, you’ll increase your network and gain satisfaction from helping others as you grow. You’ll learn something as well.

“Lift as you climb!”

Jenny Garrett, founder of Jenny Garrett Global: “The best piece of business advice that I received when starting out was to really understand how much I charge.

“As a company that provides a service, it’s not possible to provide chargeable work 100% of my time.

“More likely that around a third of my time is spent on chargeable work and the rest on business development and administrative work, so a third of my work needed to provide a 100% of my salary.

“It was turning point for me to understand this and it helped me create a more sustainable business model.”

Noreen Cesareo, founder of Market Accents: “During my start-up years, a mentor advised: ‘Focus on your key skills and core offering and don’t waste valuable energy and time on what can easily be done with software and automated tools. Similarly, buy in services that make your life easier.’

“The thinking matched my own. So I did.

“I went virtual before it was a trend. I invested in software and then cloud, and used automated tools whenever possible.

“I have worked abroad and also on client-side, engaging with my team and international partners online.

“Today I run a business which is #virtual and #digital and they have never been an issue.”

Stella Holman, founder of The Connector Int Online: “I have regularly attended networking events since that have been offline at various national locations and also internationally. I have networked with other people who also offer similar services.

“This was a great way to learn by listening to wisdom and guidance of others who have made mistakes and learn ways of correcting them, also to get some new ideas and discuss new ideas with others.

“Build advocacy when others are confident that you are the real deal. 

“I agreed and continued with the ethos of open, random and supportive. 

“Which I got by communicating and sharing articles via Twitter and joining in with various conversations on Twitter and used the #hasthtag #UKBusinessLunch where I hosted a lunchtime chat with others over a period of three years.

“This then migrated on to my own hashtag #theconnectorint and weekly hashtag #EngagORS chat organised by a business connection, which encouraged others who are interested to mix social and business networking online.”

Alina Cincan, managing director of Inbox Translation: “Not exactly what Miguel de Cervantes had in mind (in fact, I am sure he was not thinking of business, at least not in the traditional sense) when he wrote: ‘The man who is prepared has his battle half fought.’

“But it is good advice nonetheless, and it can be applied to basically anything in life. I have applied it in my business, and it helped.

“To be more specific, in order to prepare for the unknown that Brexit was going to be, I set up a second business in my native country (in the European Union), in addition to my UK one, so as to have as little interruption as possible.

“Time will tell if it has made my business prosper, but what it did was give me some peace of mind, which in turn allowed me to focus on my business instead of worrying incessantly.”

Erika Watson, founder of Prowess“Don’t try to do everything yourself.

“I’ve found that my business moves much more quickly and successfully when I focus on what I’m best at and outsource, partner or hire in for the rest.

“When I am working solo on a project, I try to find a support team and have used peer mentoring and masterminds to great effect.

“Going it alone doesn’t need to mean being on your own.”

Bonus section: What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a business owner?

“Let tech take over the hard tasks”

Noreen Cesareo, founder of Market Accents: “As a small business owner, and a woman entrepreneur, the biggest lessons learnt were to let the technology take over the hard tasks, and to use it to its maximum advantage.

“There are many tools out there that can make business life simple – and once mastered, they are skills for life. It’s worth being digital and training staff to understand the benefits and be digital too.

“I have also found that having a strong network to support me can help me to focus on the business and develop it for growth.

“We all need a supporting community – and once you have found one, be active and the rewards will be long-lasting.

“In the time of the pandemic, we also learnt the value of communicating digitally and this has been another boost to myself as a woman entrepreneur.

“It brought us in touch with a wider global community, supporting, working and breaking the bias together.”

“Don’t undersell yourself”

Antonia Chitty, founder of Family Friendly Working: “My biggest lesson as a female business owner is not to undersell myself.

When I started my PR agency, I really underpriced what I offered and I’ve seen other women do this too.

“It took a helpful comment from someone else in the industry to show me I was worth more than I thought.

“Now my advice is always aim high.”

“There’s no one right way of doing things”

Grace Marshall, head coach and chief encourager at Grace Marshall Coaching and Training“Your business evolves as you grow and learn about yourself, and the best lessons are often in when things don’t work out.

“In fact, I write about that in my book, Struggle.

“When you’re not sure what you want, when all you have is an inkling of an idea or a general direction, conjuring up some imagined fantasy is hard.

“And sometimes what we end up with is a stereotypical caricature of success, based on what other people have said over the years, of what a good job, or a good life, or a good client looks like.

“In truth, my personal definition of success has grown incrementally over the years, with each decision, each project, and each client.

“When something chimes well, I grow a little bolder and shine a little brighter.

“But when something jars, that sharpens my clarity like nothing else.

“That’s when my understanding grows exponentially.”

“Articulate how your add value”

Jenny Garrett, founder of Jenny Garrett Global: “My biggest lesson that I learned as a business owner is to articulate how you add value to clients/customers, so they know what the service you offer is truly worth.”

Final thoughts

Inspirational stuff from a group of business owners who are truly bossing it. They’ve learnt a lot on their business journeys and are putting the advice they’ve received into good practice.

So back to the original question: What’s the best advice you’ve used in your business?

Feel free to share your answers in the comments below.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in March 2021 and has been updated for relevance.

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