Inspiring Voices #1

– – part of the Creating PPP series – –

It gives me great pleasure to be featuring insights from my first guest blogger of this series.  Please let me introduce you to…

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Michelle Ramsey  |  Director  |   Ventura Group

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About Ventura, Michelle says…

Developed from extensive experience in the travel, events and hospitality sectors Ventura provides consultancy for HR, talent management and learning and development and offers a dedicated event service. The company aim is to provide collaborate support that works with the needs of companies and individuals for organisational and career development. Our event arm provides full cycle event management working with corporate and private clients and providing staffing to third party agencies. Find out more about Ventura here…

About herself, Michelle says…

My experience started at the entry level of the travel industry – stamping holiday brochures in a local travel agent. Whilst I had achieved at school to A-Levels I never really considered myself particularly academic and always wanted to ‘get out there and get on with it.’ I didn’t strive to be in management and took what could be considered by some a fairly mundane route to business ownership, through hotel sales executive for 4-5* London properties, resort operations for a number of UK tour operators before realising that ‘employment’ wasn’t for me and taking the freelance route into event management, consultancy and training for the sectors I enjoyed most. This route gave me a huge amount of exposure to what a good business looks like – helping me identify what I did well, what I didn’t do well and where my preferences were, all underpinned by a passion for all things travel, events and hospitality (although I have now opened up my mind to other sectors which I may not have done previously). The business started out focused on training but developed firstly into HR, then talent management and in 2006 I indulged my own passion by setting up an event company which works directly with clients and third party agencies – it allows me to unleash my creativity, develop strategy but equally allows me to be the practitioner and actually deliver (which is really what I like to do and probably do best).

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Insights from Michelle

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Elaine…  You have been a business owner for many years, what do you love about it?

Michelle… Quite simply the freedom, the flexibility and the fact I have responsibility for my own successes, failures and the future. I also think I make a bad employee – too vocal, have high expectations of those in management positions and looking back I must have been a nightmare to manage!

Elaine…  Nightmare to manage? You? Never!  So that’s what you love.  How about what frustrates you?

Michelle…  Two things – a business is a business regardless of what size it is, providing it is successful. People have a perception that because you choose to keep your business small you are not ‘entrepreneurial’ or have no vision to develop further. Secondly, I get frustrated by businesses and people who don’t offer a quality service – in recruitment especially the level of service can be shocking and these businesses continue to thrive but tainting the rest of the sector. Actually, I’d like to add a third – it’s a myth that everyone can run a business (regardless of size) – it takes a unique skillset and resilience – we don’t just turn up and take a wage!

Elaine…  For as long as we’ve known each other you have been a business owner. When and why did you decide this was the route for you?

Michelle…  After nine years of working in resort operations I decided to make the move. I always got a good ‘appraisal’ and progressed well from entry level resort staff to area manager but realised I need to have more control of decisions, directions and how and with who I wanted to work.

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Elaine…  Building on the business theme, you have an impressive portfolio, how do you decide which businesses to create and develop?

Michelle…  It’s really driven by my own interests – with the exception of HR, which was more of an ‘add-on’ to the training. I really focus on my own interests which remain travel, events and hospitality. If I don’t like it I quite simply don’t do it and that’s the freedom of business. I don’t follow trends, patterns or really sector guidance. As an example, I’m always being asked to develop recruitment and HR apps and software – I don’t have an interest or passion for it so why do it! I was recently told I won’t be successful without an app!

Elaine…  I wish I could have been a fly-on-the-wall for that ‘app’ conversation!  What have you learnt that enables you to keep evolving?

Michelle…  Do what you like and don’t get hooked up on your competitors (I have NEVER done a competitor analysis!), but do be flexible and remember the customer isn’t always right, but they are the customer! If you want to be in a customer focused business then you can’t just follow your own path – you have to consult with them and deliver to their needs. Having said that in business, if you don’t want to work with a customer the choice is equally yours to say no.

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Elaine…  You have extensive experience in the hospitality and travel sectors and have successfully moved into engineering, automotive and pharmaceutical sectors.  Thinking about transitioning into different sectors, what did you find the most challenging and why?

Michelle…  Probably the personalities and approaches of the customer – engineering, automotive and pharma are quite ‘serious’ by comparison and very driven by academic achievement. The terminology is a learning curve and it took a while to be able to recruit engineers and present a certain level of knowledge to assess their competencies – I felt a bit like a fake initially when interviewing and engineering a first-class honours degree graduate. I could now however, build my own robotic arm so things have moved on!

Elaine…  People often get hung up on sector experience and can use it as a barrier to change for themselves and others.  What universal skills enable you to be successful in differing sectors?

Michelle…  Communication definitely – it is key to what we do. Honesty – if we can’t do it we say we can’t do it – very often this honesty gets us more work as clients like it and want to give us a chance. The willingness to keep learning about new sectors If you are transitioning to a new sector but can’t be bothered to learn about it, its challenges, its vision and its terminology – don’t bother. You are not doing yourself or the client any favours!

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Elaine…  I am going to ask this but I know you’re not going to like it.  Please could you share one of your proudest moments from your career / business adventure so far.

Michelle…  I always find this a difficult one to answer as there is not one defining moment that stands out. It is more about the longevity of the business and how I have remained true to what I set out to do in relation to building a business to meet my needs.

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Elaine…  One of the areas Ventura specialises in is recruitment, what would be your top 3 tips for anyone considering a career change?

Michelle… 

  1. be realistic in what you are trying to achieve – whilst the current thinking is ‘you can do or be anything you want’ – this is has to be supported by actions/events to make it happen and sometimes you just physically or mentally cannot achieve what needs to be achieved to make that career change.
  2. think about your preferences – if you hate being customer facing in your current role, the chances are you are going to hate being customer facing in your next career. It’s more about preferences for me than transferrable skills.
  3. ask yourself do you really want a career change or just find a different job in the same field, a more challenging role, a new company or a different working pattern.

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Elaine…  Not divulging your secret cunning plans, what’s next for you?

Michelle…  Continue to work on my existing areas of the business, although I do have a new five-year plan that has a very different and challenging financial goals. Will my headcount increase? possibly, but I am not sure what that will look like. I have two more travel/hospitality ventures that I would like to set-up – I won’t be re-inventing the wheel, but one will allow me to indulge my passion for events and the other will be offering a different customer experience for a tried and tested sector of the travel industry……. 😊

Huge thanks go to Michelle for her honest, interesting and valuable insights.  Learn more about Ventura here…

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