Five business lessons from Jacqueline Gold

She’s been arrested - twice, and once received a bullet through the post (more on that later) in response to opening up a new store. As the CEO of Ann Summers Jacqueline Gold has faced prejudice and stigma at almost every turn - even from her own all-male board at times.

But, as she says on the podcast in her recent VOOM Podcast appearance, her childhood helped her to "push through adversity". So maybe she didn’t succeed despite all of the above, but because of it.

What can you learn in this blog post?

  • Why a lack of business experience can be an advantage
  • What Jacqueline has been through and how she’s (somehow) kept going
  • Why you shouldn’t necessarily think of yourself as a "woman" when doing business

If you'd like to subscribe to the VOOM Podcast then you can do so by heading over to iTunes.

Here’s what we can learn from Jacqueline Gold, one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs.

1. Work back from your "blue sky".

"There should be no limit to your ambitions", Jacqueline says. And she’s definitely proof of this. If you think of your "blue sky" - your ideal future, your perfect plan - and then work back from that, your ambition can be closer to limitless than ever before. The idea of this, of course, is to think about and anticipate what’s going to trip you up so you know how to deal with it - even if it’s something you can’t necessarily control. If you’re going to plan, if you're going to dream, what excuse is there not to dream of your "blue sky"?

Also: those barriers to your "blue sky" you’re now thinking of. Are they real, or do you just think they are?

2. A lack of business experience can be an advantage.

Jacqueline thought she had a massive disadvantage when she first started working at Ann Summers because, at 21, she had absolutely no business experience at all. But it turned out to be her biggest strength and most important competitive advantage. Why? Because "a lack of business experience forced [her] to rely on feedback from customers." She didn’t just want the feedback - she needed it, because she didn’t know any better.

You might want to start and run a business, but will it have any customers? Do customers need what you want to offer? There’s only one way to find out.

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3. The best data is a successful business.

"We were running a very successful party planning business that was growing 20 per cent year on year. That was the data."

And that’s why she expanded the business. That’s why she opened Ann Summers stores. Again, point number two comes into play: she saw and listened to the customer feedback. If a business is growing at 20 per cent, that’s a pretty good indication that you expand that business. It’s still a risk, of course, but less of a risk than just guessing, or expanding simply because you want to.

4. Keep going, even if...

...you get arrested, or you get a bullet sent to you in the post, or you get a man from your all-male board standing up during a pitch of yours and telling you that "women don’t like sex anyway!" Sounds like he had a great sex life, doesn’t it?

Any of those things could’ve been enough to stop Jacqueline. And, really, who would’ve blamed her? Maybe a "reasonable" person would’ve stopped. But it takes a somewhat "unreasonable" person to keep going in the face of this kind of adversity.

So, what’s your excuse for stopping? Have you been arrested, or had a bullet sent to you, or tried to empower a group of people and been completely shut down by out-dated nonsense? Does what's stopping you even come close to that?

It’s like Jacqueline says: "don’t let perceived barriers get in the way of your ultimate success".

5. Don’t think about being a woman - instead, know you have something to offer.

Starting a business or climbing the ladder at a company are still challenges that are weighted in favour of men . So how what advice would Jacqueline have for someone who is finding it tough to cut through?

"Join networking groups - because it’s empowering to see other women talk about their success."

There are plenty of examples of women like Jacqueline out there who have achieved an incredible amount of success, and if there’s any final advice she’d give - in terms of career and networking - it would be this: "stop underselling yourself".

What else you can hear on the podcast:

  • VOOM 2016 winner Toby McCartney, who’s tackling the world’s plastic problem one pothole at a time
  • Life advice from Jacqueline about how to not dwell on the past or be a victim
  • Why networking is even more important than you think

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