Interviews

Supporting female entrepreneurship and the key factors in achieving success

10 min read

15 September 2015

Former editor

Nicola Green, head of direct sales for SMC at Bupa, sits down with Real Business to give her thoughts on the best approach for women wanting to set up a businesses by themselves and why Bupa has become involved with the First Women Awards.

(1) What is your career background?

I have worked at Bupa for over 20 years, and during this time I’ve covered a variety of roles throughout the business. I started working within the member services team, which could be described as the real heart of Bupa, listening to and helping people who need to see a consultant or receive treatment and supporting them through that process and to get the help they need.

I then moved into our provider services team, working closely with the hospitals and consultants who deliver care for our customers. 

My passion has always been to find the best solution for the customer. This led to me move into our sales team, working firstly with large corporate groups to support each in meeting the health and wellbeing needs of employees, before moving into my current role as head of direct sales for small and mid-sized corporates. 

(2) What does your current role involve?

I head up the sales team for small and mid-sized companies. We are dedicated to creating healthcare solutions for these firms to help support employees to keep healthy and well. We are all really passionate about the businesses we speak to and work with as each play such a vital part in supporting the UK economy.

It is our role to really understand the needs of our customers and their people, and to ensure we have the products and services to meet those needs and help them keep their people healthy and well. Research is key and I work closely with my team to contact and meet with customers and potential customers to gain their feedback and insights to ensure we really understand what it is they want and need. 

I thoroughly enjoy speaking to customers to get their honest and insightful feedback and I believe it’s vital to what we do. It means we understand their needs and as a result, can create products, services and solutions that are really tailored to them and SMEs more generally.

(3) How do you think the business space has changed for women in the last decade?

The SME industry has changed for both men and women over the last decade. We’ve seen an increasing number of startups launching during this time, with more investment being made in this space and a greater willingness to sponsor young and entrepreneurial businesses. 

We’re also seeing more small businesses recognise the importance of their peoples’ health and wellbeing and the role this plays in maintaining moral, attracting and retaining talent, and creating a sustainable business.

(4) Are there enough female role models these days?

There are a number of successful role models to inspire people into taking that first step to launching their own business, both male and female. 

Previous First Women Award winners such as Karren Brady and Clare Balding are excellent examples of women who have shown real strength and determination to excel within their industries and this has no doubt inspired many other females within the UK to do the same.

Read more about FIrst Women Award winners:

(5) Why do you think women are leaving larger companies to start up on their own?

Both women and men choose to leave larger companies and start up on their own for a number of reasons. From giving them greater flexibility and a better work/life balance, being made redundant to the opportunity it presents to explore a new venture or to be their own boss and drive their own revenues.

(6) What advice would you give to women who are thinking of starting their own business?

  1. Network: The power of getting out there and meeting people shouldn’t be underestimated. There are some great opportunities, such as the First Women Awards, to meet with other female entrepreneurs who have successfully set up their own businesses and to learn from them. And, as they often say it’s not what you know, it’s who you know
  2. Have confidence: Believe in yourself and your abilities. Look at the role models around you and they will inspire you that it’s possible. This is your dream and your idea, so believe in yourself and go for it
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask: Don’t be afraid to seek advice and investment from others. There may be so many people out there that would love to back or support you if they believe in you and your idea
  4. Attracting good talent: One of the major factors of a small businesses survival and success is to have the best people doing the right jobs. To do this you may need to convince them to potentially take a risk to join a small business. They may be used to the benefits of a larger established company so speak to them and consider what career opportunities and benefits they would really value. The health and wellbeing of your people shouldn’t be underestimated – it’s vital in helping keep your workforce happy, motivated and working productively
  5. Promote yourself: Marketing yourself and your business is key. Don’t be afraid or shy to promote yourself and your idea – whether it’s through PR, marketing, at events or on social media. Make use of the channels available to you and those that will put you in front of your target audience

(7) If you have employees, what do you need to consider?

Two way engagement is vital; talking to your people and understanding what they want from their role and for their future career development. This can be done through regular chats and one-to-one sessions. 

Their health and wellbeing is also very important for them, their family and for you. For small businesses in particular, people on long or even short term sickness absence can have a big impact on your business and the workloads of others so creating a proactive culture of health and wellbeing is crucial. 

If they are off sick they need to feel supported by you, and know that help and treatment is available. In turn, you want to keep your people healthy and well, and when someone is off sick, know that they are supported to get better and return to work as quickly as possible. 

Finally, develop and invest in your people, not just with their health and wellbeing but through their career development. Give them the opportunity to grow within their career and support them through the process – it can have a positive outcome for your company if you do. It will also make them feeling valued, motivated and interested.

(8) Why has Bupa chosen to support the First Women Awards?

There are over one million SMEs within the UK run by women, and the government says that if they started up companies at the same rate as men there would be at least another million. 

We believe that the First Women Awards celebrate the major contribution and impact that female entrepreneurs have on the UK economy, and Bupa truly supports and champions these businesses. Sponsoring the First Women Awards is a great way for us to show our support to them and other businesses within the UK.