The future is “more for less”

Success in the future will be measured differently, said Ruby McGregor-Smith, who became the first Asian woman to run a FTSE 250 business when she stepped up from CFO to CEO of the £1.7bn group.

Speaking to eading businesswomen at the launch this morning (1.2.10) of the 2010 First Women Awards, in association with Lloyds Banking Group, McGregor-Smith said that achieving "more for less" for your clients will be the objective for all businesses, especially when public-sector cuts come.

"When public-sector cuts come, we’ve still got to offer more for less," she insisted. Meeting such tough challenges requires an appetite for total change, she said. When she took over as CEO, few believed that MITIE could top its £500m revenues. Today it’s aiming for £5bn within the next five years.

Such growth has been achieved by changing everything – including the board and the group’s structure. The group has moved away from traditional single contracts to large PFI projects. "It can be done," she said.

Other highlights from today’s launch of the FIrst Women Awards, which are hosted by Real Business and the CBI:

– Emma Scott, managing director of Freesat, advised companies not to get too far ahead of their customers when it come to technology. "Ninety five per cent of people in the UK still watch live TV, not catch-up," she reminded guests. She also described media studies as an "utterly useless" degree, pointing out that she’d graduated in politics.

– Sandi Rhys-Jones, director of Engineering UK, observed that innovation in the construction and engineering sectors is being driven by privately owned family businesses. "They don’t have to look over their shoulders and they tend to be cash-rich," she said. Change is coming in these traditional sectors, pointing out that the four major industry associations are now run by women, including RIBA president Ruth Reed. Also environmental and green considerations are driving the sectors towards change. "Get your young, creative people in front of customers," she advised.

– Helen Alexander, the first female CBI president, said that "the single most important thing a leader can do is to get the right people into the right jobs". In future, she believes, effective succession management will become part of the assessment of management success.The First Women Awards are held in association with Lloyds Banking Group. The Science and Technology award is supported by BAE Systems.

Nominations are now open. Visit the awards website.

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