Lindsay Loxley is the managing director of the Women In Business Network. Here she explains the benefits of joining her organisation and how to succeed when running your own business.
First, can you tell us about your career?
Lindsay Loxley (LL): "I'm an independent financial advisor and started my own business, Compass Financial Management LLP, in 1996, from a spare bedroom in my home. We now operate from a three-story building in Hertfordshire and four more financial services companies have been added to the Group. I'm also managing director of the Women in Business Network, which was founded in 2005. Early on, I joined as a member, wanted to buy it, but had to settle for running 10 areas. In 2011, I finally acquired the organisation."
So, what is the Women In Business Network?
LL: "It's a membership organisation for female entrepreneurs who want to meet, get support learn from and share knowledge with other business women, whether they're an employee or run their own business. We have a diverse membership made up from women from different backgrounds and professions. Networking leads to new commercial relationships for our members, whether that's finding new suppliers or customers. Our members support each other by collaborating and sharing contacts and opportunities. We have approximately 2,000 members."
Tell us about your local groups?
LL: "We have a network of local groups in England, the Republic of Ireland and North Wales. We welcome approaches from those who want to start a group in their own area. We have a 'one-profession-per-group' policy to ensure that each member gets the very best targeted help from the other members. They meet every month and get the opportunity to network and feel supported. Our meetings take place between midday and 2pm."
What happens during the meetings?
LL: "First half an hour is open networking. Then we sit down and swap business cards and marketing literature, before each member stands up for one minute and talks about their business. Then two members will talk more in depth about their business and their specific challenges. We then have lunch and conversations carry on. Although our members aren't banging each other's heads for referrals, it's not 'a nice ladies lunch club' either. It is about business, and we're all there to support and help each other."
Why is offering such support so important?
LL: "Starting and running your own small business can make you feel very lonely. There are many challenges and overcoming them can seem much tougher if you have no one to turn to for support. At our meetings business women can learn from others who've faced the same challenges previously. We help our members to find a solution. It's also about establishing good relationships between members – they can make many really useful contacts. We run training for female entrepreneurs who want to improve their networking skills. Networking isn't simply a case of trying to make sales all the time. One of our main aims is to support our members' professional growth, and other members are key to that."
Is sexism still a problem in business?
LL: "Personally, I don't think it affects me. Years ago, it was much more of a problem – and that's not to say it isn't still there, of course. I was talking to a member recently, a lawyer who went to client meeting with a junior male colleague. The client said to the female lawyer, 'I see you've brought the boss', because he assumed the man was her superior. When he was corrected, he replied – 'what's she doing your job for?'. It still exists, and there are much worse examples. There are other issues, such as the lack of women on company boards, the gender pay gap and affordable childcare. It's improved a lot, but there's still work to be done."
What lessons have you learned about running a small business?
LL: "That you shouldn't see things as problems, see them as challenges. It takes commitment and drive and you have to always focus on customers. I'll go out of my way to make sure I don't let down clients. You must do the very best you can, and it's important to be honest, because customers and employees respond to that. You also have to build a good team around you and support network, because you can feel lonely at times. Being prepared to reach out for support can make a big difference."