Having faced and recovered from a huge range of setbacks throughout her life, she is a model of determination and resilience, the perfect example of success within the cut-throat world of business. Having developed a profitable business from scratch, Sharon now delivers motivational talks and workshops across the UK and overseas, from No. 10 Downing Street to The Los Angeles Chambers of Commerce. Ellie Sowden, final year English student at the University of Nottingham, sat down with the Managing Director of Vision Development Consultants as she spoke of her experience at the head of a successful company, her journey from start-up to success and her new role as iNSIDEONE’s business editor.
Vision Consulting is an award-winning and internationally recognised company that has been operating successfully for over 16 years now. As Managing Director, what would you say are the company’s core values, and how would you sum up the most important decisions you’ve had to make to maintain the success of the business?
At Vision we strive to work with integrity, commitment and focus. As a company we develop a whole range of people, projects and products, supporting businesses in moving out of their comfort zone and building the tools necessary to strengthen their services. I’ve had to make some really tough decisions in the past. One of the hardest would have to be deciding which people you don’t need to work with, and disassociating yourself from them. In developing your business it is crucial to stay focused; you have to decide what it is in your life that you are going to have to sacrifice. In building a successful business I realised that something was going to have to give, and that I simply didn’t have the energy or time to maintain all aspects of a busy life.
After a humble start in life, you now have 16 years of experience in business and professional development under your belt. What qualities did you have to possess and build upon in order to develop such a prolific company?
Something I learnt along the way to a successful business was that you can have the best degrees in the world, but if you haven’t got the commitment, focus or drive, then you’ll never succeed. I left school at 16 with no qualifications, never dreaming that in a world as big as this I’d be giving talks at number 10 Downing Street, or in LA. Dream big; be prepared to fail at times, but be prepared to fail and get back up again. Resilience is key within this world, and you learn to realise that there are no quick fixes.
I began my first business at the age of 11, not through choice but for survival. I would go round to people’s houses and take anything that they no longer needed. I would lay them out on my dad’s bric-a-brac table and sell them to factory girls as they left work. What I learnt was that you have to have drive and persistence to own a business. You will be dealt a lot of knockbacks along the way, but it is your resilience in bouncing back that will determine your success.
Alongside Vision’s work in the business sector, you deliver motivational talks and workshops across the country and abroad. What would you say are the biggest challenges currently facing those who want to succeed in the world of business?
Quite simply there just isn’t enough funding to ensure that every start-up business can grow. Because of this you need to be honest with yourself, and question whether your product or service is going to be needed by potential clients. Surround yourself with truthful people who can help you make this decision, and make sure that the evidence is there to support your choice. As long as you are creating something of value that can help other people, others will naturally sway towards you and your business.
In 2012 you won ‘Female Achiever of the Year’ in the East Midlands Diversity awards, following this up in 2013 with a hugely success Celebrity Women in Business event. As the number of women in business is constantly growing, what advice would you give to those who strive to develop a successful company?
Ultimately I would say ditch the guilt. Realise that you have just as much of a right to be sat at that boardroom table or have that contract as anyone else. It is also important to accept that you can’t please everyone, and that you shouldn’t be trying to. So many people in business delay taking their business to the next level for fear of what others will think. Integrity is central to the running of a business, but at the same time you need to put yourself and your company ahead of helping and pleasing others.For Vision it was a great challenge and success to host our Celebrity Women in Business event in August of 2013. When we decided to organise the event, many said that it simply wouldn’t work because of its position in the school year, and yet we created an amazing, inspiring event. If anything, it taught us to trust ourselves and to rely upon our own abilities as a company.
Vision have recently set up their own business club. What does it aim to achieve for businesses within the East Midlands?
Over the 16 years that Vision has been in business, we’ve developed multiple networking groups alongside a vast database of clients. During this time our client base has evolved, and we now deal with Olympians, actors, and TV producers and presenters. We identified the need to protect our new clients whilst being aware of those who just wanted a free ride on the services of others. The Vision Business Club has been created for those who are ready to fully commit to themselves and to their business, and aims to provide a quality and secure business networking environment in which to share and connect with likeminded business people. We will be having four seasonal business networking events alongside themed training seminars.
As an individual you promote the importance of adapting to new circumstances and bouncing back after a fall. How do you feel temporary failure can be turned into something positive that can strengthen your business?
Every successful individual in business that I have met has experienced huge failures and setbacks. Success is about finding a way to make sure these setbacks do not stop you. This requires a daily commitment to yourself, and planning a clear strategy to make your business work. Business is like playing chess, you have to be tactical and always anticipate your next move. It is often a case of trusting your own knowledge and your own ability to deal with problems. Becoming self-reliant comes with time, but creates a world of good within a business.
As the new business editor of iNSIDEONE magazine, what are you looking forward to within the coming months working as part of the publication?
At Vision we’re really excited about working with iNSIDEONE. As a magazine it has an emphasis on business whilst maintaining a community edge, and oozes integrity and passion at the same time. Every month we’ll be having some fantastic features on successful business people not only in the East-Midlands, but across the UK and overseas. I hope that in interviewing successful business professionals and looking at how they’ve achieved what they have done, we can inspire those who are starting up, as well as raising awareness of the benefits of the magazine.
Article written by Ellie Sowden and Photo credited to Chris Terry Photography.