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Focus on change: Women in business

Even before Socrates there was a Greek philosopher called Heraclitus who was known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe. He is famous for stating that ‘change is the only constant in life’ – and this in 500 BC, well over 2,500 years ago…

The fundamental tenet – or principle - of what he was saying hasn’t altered and is today as relevant as it was back then. As a business, we are seeing fundamental shifts happening all around us, from the macro – for example Brexit and the #metoo movement – to the more ‘local’, like systems implementations and encouraging a more diverse workforce.

And it’s this final point we’re going to focus on in more depth. Clearly, diversity encompasses everything from gender, age, ability, ethnicity, sexuality, and so on, but for the purposes of this article, the spotlight is shone on gender and the need for more women in our sales teams…

CEO for Close Brothers Asset Finance, Neil Davies, gets straight to the point: “We have an obligation to encourage more women into sales because, frankly, they make very good sales people and it’s in everyone’s interest to have more diverse and representative sales teams.”

According to Government figures, around 1 in 5 small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK are led by women and around a third of all entrepreneurs in the UK are women.

“If you’re going to appeal to potential customers, our salesforce needs to reflect the changing society we are working in,” said Neil. “It’s also been proven that mixed teams bring out the best in each other.”

Hannah Tydd

One example of a woman who has been successful in a short space of time is Hannah Tydd, Sales Executive for Close Brothers Leasing. Instead of going down the university path, Hannah joined Close Brothers via the highly-regarded Aspire programme and has spent time with teams across the business, gaining vital client management experience.

According to Hannah, she gets asked two questions frequently: “Firstly, ‘what’s it like working in a male dominated environment?’. It’s something I’m used to and I don’t get treated any differently – we’re all judged by the same criteria in our team.

“The second is, ‘is age a barrier?’. Being only 21 years old has not been an obstacle,” Hannah stresses. “Your age is only a barrier if you let it be; I’ve been treated with the same respect and cordiality as everyone else. My experience has shown me that customers value professionalism, knowledge and confidence far more than your age.”

By way of example to illustrate the point, Hannah had only been working for Leasing for seven weeks, during which time she paid out in excess of £4m. “One of the largest deals was for a £3m car collection, that was structured to support our customer to amalgamate their existing finance agreements while releasing equity, enabling them to further develop their portfolio."

Evolution

As a business, Close Brothers Asset Finance has made progress addressing the gender imbalance by growing the representation of women from 5% a few years ago to 11% today. Clearly, more needs to be done but the framework is taking shape to encourage more women into sales.

“Close Brothers is most definitely a place for women, but, that said, I have sympathy with those who feel it’s male-oriented and might not be for them,” said Hannah. "If I have one word of advice, it’s to have confidence. Don’t be intimidated by anyone – your team members will be just as keen for you to succeed as you are!”