Julie Kenny is the Chairman and Chief Executive of Rotherham-based Pyronix, providers of security products with two manufacturing sites in the UK. She started out as a secretary for a law firm and in her spare time trained to become a lawyer, building up Pyronix using £28,500 equity from the sale of her home, before going on to give up her job at the law firm in 1986 to work on the business full-time. Julie was voted Businesswoman of the Year at the Private Business Awards in 2014.
“…I remember in the 1990’s recession, we were growing, cash was tight and the banks wanted to reduce their risk. We were put under immense pressure from our bank such that my bank manager made me cry. Did I give up? – No! – I went out and within three months I had found a new bank manager and I was able to give notice to the old bank…”
Set out the culture that you wish your business to be recognised by
It is really important that as a leader you set out the way in which you wish your business to be perceived in the market place and you must model and lead in those values and beliefs.
At Pyronix in partnership with the staff we have modelled our values to include:
- Providing exceptional customer service
- Having effective communications skills
- Having honesty, integrity, tolerance and respect
- Being team players
- Having a can do attitude
- Having perseverance – never give up
- Taking ownership – deliver what you promise and be challenging and forward thinking
This is what makes a Pyronix person and together with these values we can build our business.
Unlock the talent within your business
The most valuable asset that your business has is its people. Invest in your people and your business will succeed.
One of my early employers gave me the chance to train and offered me day release. I grabbed the opportunity with both hands and some years later qualified as a lawyer. I never looked back. He believed in me and as a result I was able to progress in my career.
I look for people like I was who wish to develop. I offer day release, paid training, internships, work experience and apprenticeships and we offer development opportunities to staff on our factory floor to become R & D technicians or to work in the office. All staff who wish to progress up the career ladder have the opportunity to do so.
I find unlocking that talent in your business provides the best way to grow your business by developing your own talent and promotes loyalty and long serving staff.
A business is only as good as the staff it employs – this would be my first tip after the culture of the company.
Never give up
This is really important in business because there will be hard times when you think you cannot carry on or the problems seem too big to cope. They rarely are!
I remember in the 1990’s recession, we were growing, cash was tight and the banks wanted to reduce their risk. We were put under immense pressure from our bank such that my bank manager made me cry. Did I give up? – No! – I went out and within three months I had found a new bank manager and I was able to give notice to the old bank. You might have times when you need more orders. Never give up – dig deep – make a plan and execute it. Be positive and go out and make it happen.
Believe in yourself
Women in business typically have more self-doubt about their own abilities. Remember we cannot possibly know everything but there is always a person that does. I have learned my technical abilities on the job and now I know how to sell my products, but if I do not know something I have someone at work that does!
Even if you do not have all the abilities at work there will be accountants, lawyers or other advisers who can help you. Believe in yourself because you can do it.
Get involved – bring your learning into your business
Every day of my life I learn something new. I have found by being involved in other voluntary work outside of my working life I have been able to bring the learning from other organisations back into my business.
I would recommend others to give some time to be a school governor, or a trustee of a charity or museum – there are lots of other organisations who wish to appoint women to help them run their business. I promise you that you will learn new practices, procedures and processes and how to influence the debate such that you can bring that learning back into your business AND be a force for good in the local community too.
The Business is GREAT: Women in Enterprise webpage covers topics from finance to childcare and mentoring to networking, sets out the government’s advice and resources alongside the organisations offering their support.