I believe in balancing give and take—a thank you from Fiona
In the process of setting up The Brand Inspiration Co., I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on my career experiences and, most importantly, the many fantastic people I’ve met. I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with colleagues, bosses and peers who’ve guided, encouraged and inspired me. I’ve learned so much from so many people, and I want to take the opportunity to recognise this. I believe in achieving a balance of give and take, so here I say heartfelt thanks to my friends and mentors. I can’t name everyone, but I want to mention some of the most significant influences on me and my career.
At Harvey Nichols, initially as a 17 year old Management Trainee, I was surrounded by many inspiring, glamorous, efficient women, who were there to guide me in a whole variety of ‘dos and don’ts’ including, for example, the protocol of serving members of The Royal Family on occasions. My senior Harvey Nichols colleagues shaped me and offered so much to aspire to, continuing to offer support when I achieved my first fully fledged appointment as Childrenswear Buyer at the grand old age of 23!
The buying office at Tesco presented a very different set of learning experiences, as I learnt about the cost of raw materials and met a far wider group of customers than I’d been exposed to in Knightsbridge.
When I moved to BHS, I was fortunate to work for an inspirational Marketing Director, Helena Packshaw, who, along with my McKinsey colleagues, really helped me understand the potential of truly listening to your customer and translating the insights gained into a compelling customer experience. I have Helena to thank for encouraging my transition, after more than 10 years as a buyer, to Marketing Manager—a move that shaped my career. Working with Helena was great fun too, we enjoyed a lot of laughter along the way.
In Wallis, My MD, Pat Burnett, was a wonderfully engaging, empathetic and collegiate leader. I loved the Wallis brand and enjoyed my experience there hugely. Pat taught me the power of trusting your instincts in many ways and, in turn, she trusted me.
Early Learning Centre was an unforgettable and altogether different experience again. The energy, resilience and determination required to be part of what it took to turn a business round from a £7m loss to a £10m profit, was something I’d not experienced before (or since). Thank you to Mike France for inviting me to be part of that team and for everything I learnt on the ELC roller coaster.
Ann Summers was an amazing experience in so many ways and I’m grateful to Jacqueline and Vanessa Gold for boldly leading the business to ‘fearlessly unleash its sexual confidence’. It was a privilege to be included in their family business for over 4 years. It is a truly unique and exciting brand!
At the University of Westminster, I was guided in my transition from retail leader to University ‘academic’ and Course Leader, for the MA in Fashion Business Management, by Lorraine Harper (Lady Neale), who had made a similar transition herself a few years earlier. In addition to providing fantastic support to my ‘navigating’ university life, Lorraine exemplified the power of networking, thank you Lorraine! My Uni experience allowed me to give something back as well as complete a circle of my own.
In addition to my closest colleagues and leaders, I’ve worked with and continue to work with wonderful people in my network of contacts, friends, agencies and collaborators. Each of you are outstanding people who stimulate my thinking and challenge me when I need it. You’ve helped and supported me so much, both before and since setting up The Brand Inspiration Co. You are all an invaluable part of my journey to help individuals, brands and organisations (re)discover the mojo! Thank you.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
A quote referred to by Angela Ahrendts — CEO, Burberry in her TEDx Hollywood talk The Power of Human Energy—click to view the talk