Telling the truth about SME life today

Britain needs more risk takers, says Annoushka Ducas

1. Which businesswoman do you most admire and why

Natalie Massenet, for her unique approach in creating Net-a-porter. At the time, it was considered a risky venture but she stayed strong to her beliefs and has changed the way women shop today. It is this approach which I admire so greatly and is something I have always strived to do in my businesses, firstly with Links of London, which was considered ground-breaking as nothing similar had existed before, and now with Annoushka. I am always keen to push the boundaries and create something that is special but effortless.

2. How do you juggle the work/life balance Any tips on staying sane

I have been lucky that my husband, to whom I have been married for 24 years, is my business partner as well and handles much of the strategic aspects whereas I am passionate about creativity and design. Another beneficial aspect is that this provides us with greater flexibility in terms of looking after our four children and making sure one of us is able to attend those important dates such as cricket matches and performances. I think it’s important to have an “off-switch” and make sure you find some time for yourself, be it an early morning walk or a yoga session. Taking time out can really help to focus the mind.

3. Biggest career setback and what you learned from it

After 9/11, the business had a very difficult time and we had to make a number of people redundant which I found incredibly difficult. Equally, I knew we had to do it for the survival of the business.

4. What makes you mad in business today

Not enough people willing to take the risk and try something new, and a lack of what I consider a proper work ethic; nothing comes without really hard work and dedication. With all the options available to us through technology and e-retail, this is the perfect time for budding entrepreneurs to make their dream happen. Even if it doesnt work, you learn so much from the experience, which will help in your next venture. Too many people choose to stay where they are and just dream about it, instead of actually doing it.

5. Boardroom quotas: necessary or nuts

This is something I am passionate about. In 2011, I was invited to sit on Lord Browns steering board for the Women on Boards report by Lord Davies. I feel that the targets outlined in the report are essential and hopefully can be achieved without the implementation of mandatory quotas. We must remember that women continue to be indispensable to their employees across all areas and levels of business.

6. Your one tip on negotiating a pay rise

Show your value to your employer. Do you have a great way of developing relationships with clients that translates into sales Do you go over and above in your job and get great results Show them the facts and explain why you deserve the additional money. No-one can argue with facts.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years

I would really like to drive more business through our website, which is growing at a rate of 150 per cent this year and something we see as integral to developing the business.

8. Your advice to young women starting their careers

Work out your strengths and play to them in any role to make sure you achieve the maximum results. And dont be afraid of hard work!

Annoushka Ducas, founder of jewellery brands Links of London and Annoushka, has been shortlisted for the 2014 First Women Awards, held in association with Lloyds Banking Group. This year’s event takes place at London Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, on June 12. Read more about the event and book your tickets here.



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