How influential do you think women are in North East business and how does George F. White support equality?
Holly: You just have to look at the number of women focused entrepreneur and business organisations that exist across the North East to realise how influential women in business are.
Sally: The North East sets a great example in providing opportunities for women in business and I believe that’s down to the values and environment that companies create for their employees, to shape their development and help them achieve their career goals, regardless of gender. Such an environment exists at George F. White. The business has continued to grow and evolve since it was established nearly 40 years ago. Following successful growth year-on-year, the business is now a multi-disciplined and diverse consultancy that employs more than 120 people in six locations from the Scottish Borders down to North Lincolnshire. George F. White puts its clients and its people at the heart of everything it does and, as a result, the team is always committed to delivering high quality professional work, whatever their discipline. The people-led ethos has provided the ideal environment for us personally, and other employees, to grow as individuals and lead as members of the senior management team.
You both hold board level roles for being relatively young, how have you achieved that?
Holly: I was taken on as George F. White’s first non-surveying graduate and given the opportunity to explore areas for the business to develop, internally and for clients. This led me to my role today, which is to identify and deliver opportunities for growth which have included revenue sources, people and new geographical areas.
Sally: I joined George F. White two years ago, following a number of senior roles in marketing agencies across the North East. Six months into my role as head of communications, I was asked to join the board. I set and manage the internal and external communications strategy for George F. White, focusing on reputation and growth. My position is very commercially focused too which is where our roles complement one another. Both Holly and I steer the performance and delivery within the George F. White business and that also involves setting growth objectives across every arm of the business, including GFW Letting.
Do you think your success has largely depended on the business you work for?
Holly: I think success is a partnership between a business and its people – values need to be aligned and a vision needs to be attainable – where this works, we see success across a range of North East businesses.
When you value your own contribution and you know it’s valued in return, that’s when results are delivered. Success is about being brave and finding your opportunity to be your best.
Sally: I don’t think a business can define your success, if you have a strong skill set and ambition then it is about working out where your opportunity lies. Having said this, working in a business, like George F. White, that provides genuine opportunity for development is important as it means you will always have access to such opportunities because of the people focused ethos and nature of the business, where leaders want its people to grow and continue to evolve to reach their professional and personal potential.
What has been your biggest lesson so far?
Sally: You should always listen to those around you. I mean really listen. It’s not just about what people are saying but interpreting the sentiment they are delivering a message with, reading their body language and observing what they do. Essentially, it’s about building meaningful relationships and being attuned emotionally and professionally.
Holly: Without a doubt, I have always learnt most from my mistakes. I have realised that you should naturally trust your instincts and business intuition, but make sure you can back them up with an informed decision. Do your research, ask the right questions, and always understand the story the numbers or financial performance tells.
How do you rate the region in providing opportunities for more women in business to attain senior leadership positions likes yourselves?
Holly: I honestly believe there is significant support within the North East business community towards both females and males. I think what we actually need to do is concentrate on engaging with the region’s young talent and reduce the number of young people leaving the North East to find opportunities elsewhere. This has to be a priority as recruitment is one of the hardest aspects of business – we all need to work together to make the North East a brand itself.
What have been the biggest challenges that you have faced in your career?
Sally: Challenging other people, especially those more senior than you, is a test both Holly and Sally have faced. One of the key aspects of our roles is to challenge those around us. We never sit still and settle – we are constantly thinking ahead. It’s important to innovate and prioritise the needs of a growing business to get the best results for everyone. Sometimes you need to be brave enough to challenge and not choose the path of least resistance.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Sally: It’s ok to ‘have a wobble’. We are after all only human but these are the situations in which you learn your own value and you need to go through them to come out a better, stronger version of yourself.
Holly: Don’t fear failure, this is when you learn the most, and always be humble and grateful for the time people invest in supporting you.
GEORGE F. WHITE provides agricultural and rural services to commercial and residential property, planning and development and the energy sector.