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Unlocking the Secret to Success in Business & Love | E133 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Unlocking the Secret to Success in Business & Love | E133".
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Could you do me a quick favour if you're listening to this? Please hit the follow or subscribe button. It helps more than you know, and we invite subscribers in every month to watch the show in person. I remember my first away game, and I turned up, and I saw hi, could you tell me where the boardroom is? And he said, "Dear, you don't understand. "The director's why I was going in the ladies room." And I said, "No, I don't think it's you, understands. "I am the managing director." Baroness Brady. She's one of Britain's most successful businesswomen. I'm the kind of person that never hears the word "no." I hear, find another way to get what you want. Leadership is about vision, and your art as a leader is to persuade people to believe in your vision. I remember reading the story about your son telling you on holiday and saying, "I wish your blackberry would blow up." Working mother is the best title for me. Sometimes you don't get it right. You can only do the best you can do. Ambition is that spark. It's that fire inside of yourself that won't let you settle for anything other than what you think you deserve and what you want. What will you say to those young women that are starting out in their career? I would say... So without further ado, I'm Stephen Bartlett, and this is the DiR over CEO. I hope nobody's listening, but if you are, then please keep this yourself. Karen.
Career Journey And Business Lessons
Early years (01:21)
Hello, Stephen. I've spent the last couple of days listening to your interviews and reading a lot of interviews you've done in newspapers and things like that. And as I got further and further and further into your story and further into your childhood, there was this question which I wasn't able to answer despite all that I'd read. And it's you clearly from a very young age had this real deep desire to have freedom, which resulted in this independence and also resulted in this wonderful young person who had this ability to like stand up for themselves. But where did this deep desire to be free from the control of others? Where does it come from? I don't know. I mean, my mother always tells a story that when I was four, that my grandfather was looking after me at home, and my parents had this drinks cabinet, and it was sort of open down and it had all these like bottles of beautiful bottles and little glasses and things. And she tells this story, and I don't remember it at all, that I got a chair and I climbed up and I opened the drinks cabinet. And they had these little cherry glasses and I poured all little bits of liquid from it and I started to drink it. And my grandfather said, "Don't do that, you'll be sick." And I said, "You leave me alone, I'll do what I want. I won't be sick." And then of course, drank half of the drinks cabinet and wasn't sick. And my mum said, "You were always defined. You always had your own mind, wanted to do your own thing, thought you knew best, cut my own hair. When I was six, we had a school photo the next day. And I decided the only person who could cut my hair was myself. And you should see the picture. My friend sort of starts here and sort of goes like that and it's got all lumps cut out of it. I guess I kind of thought, if I didn't stand up for myself, no one would. And I was very happy to stand up for myself and in life as you go through life, one of the things you realize is that if sometimes you've got to find your backbone and you've got to use it and simply put in one foot in front of the other and keep going is one of the philosophies I've had in my life. But no, always defined, always stood up for myself, never took anything lying down. Yeah, I don't know. Defying feels like the perfect word. And I was trying to figure out where it came from because usually when I sit with my guests, they can like, even if it's incorrect, they can look back in hindsight and pinpoint a moment. Some kind of trauma or pain or negative experience which shaped them to be a bit of an anomaly in some way. So I was like, where did this defiance come from? And I couldn't quite figure it out. I don't know. I have no idea. It's not part of any trauma that happened to me. I just, I guess I always felt that I had something to say. And even at a young age, I wanted to say it. And I didn't care who heard it or how, you know, I just felt I wanted to stand up for myself. I have no idea. I've never really thought about it. I know it's definitely a part of my personality trait, the defiance, this, I'm going to prove people wrong. I'm going to do what I want to do, how I want to do it. But I never really thought about where it came from. What's this story about your first day of school and your mum being concerned that you might be shy and then finding out that you dropped some kid off the chair? Well, that's another story. I mean, I don't remember any of these stories, but my mum said the first day of school, she was very worried if I would be shy or would I want to go home or whatever. And she went to pick me up from school and she said to the teacher, "How was Karen?" She said, "Oh, your daughter's caring." She said, "Caren, shy." She said, she went up to a boy in the chair and she went, "That's my seat. Get out of this." So, but I don't remember it. I don't remember any of these things, but all these little stories, they always have one thing in common. I had this sort of level of defiance and this, you know, determination to stand up for myself. One of my suspicions when I was trying to piece together this little bit of defiance puzzle was reading about your dad and how much of a sort of hardworking, autonomous man he was and how hard you said he worked. I was wondering if they'd given you a bit of a kind of avoid of independence when you were growing up that led you to create this kind of independence in yourself. Was they like present and were they on you? No, definitely not on me in that way. They weren't, you know, tiger parents pushing you to the front. Although my grandmother used to always say, "Be first because it's the best place to be." She used to always say that to me. So, my dad left school at 14, didn't have much of an education and worked really hard to get where he wanted. And I guess the lesson from him was, you know, nothing compensates for hard work. And if you don't try, you know, if you don't try something, you'll never know how good you are at something. So, I think maybe that sheer resilience came from his model of working hard, doing your best, trying everything, pushing yourself forward. And would he give you advice? Would he impart knowledge onto you? Or was it you learning by his example of watching him work so hard? I think almost definitely the second one. I don't remember him ever sitting me down and saying, "Do this and you know, your life will be better or more enriched." I think it was just learning from examples, from seeing the hard work. And, you know, we went from Edmonton to a little bit further up to another little place in Edmonton to a bit further up. And our lives sort of got slightly better. And my dad's desire was to give my brother and I a really good education because he hadn't had one. So, he really wanted us to have a great education because he felt that was a big part of what was missing in his life. And I guess he maybe he thought, "If you have a great education, you don't have to work so hard. You don't have to start so much at the bottom." I think that was a real driver for him. And your mother? My mother was a housewife. Okay. So, she had no ambitions for work. Very smart woman, very nurturing in everything that she did. My dad was away working a lot so she was a lot on her own. But equally fun-loving and stylish and, you know, spoke her mind too. And you at this age didn't have big ambitions for what you wanted to do in the future in terms of specific ambitions about career options. There's a quote which I read, "What you said, I wasn't gifted in anything. I wasn't academic. I wasn't the best at anything. In fact, I was a very average child who really didn't know what she wanted to do or where she was going to go. The greatest gift that my parents gave me was self-esteem." Yeah. I think you're very lucky if you know what you want to do. If you have a vocation or a calling at a young age, I think that is a remarkable thing that you should channel. I didn't know what I was good at. I didn't feel I was particularly good at anything. It wasn't as though I had a particular panache for, you know, anything. And I wasn't particularly ambitious, but I know I wanted to do something with my life. But I didn't know what. And I think ambition is something that sort of creeps up on you slowly when you realize you're good at something. And you think, "Oh, actually, I'm quite good at this." And then you think, "Actually, I might be the best person in this room at this, or I might be the best person I know at this." And that inspires you to keep going. But I left school at 18. I had O levels and A levels as they were in those days, but I had no qualifications. But what I had worked out is something really important. And that is I'd worked out my core values. So at 18, I had worked out that I was ambitious. I was determined. And I had integrity. And core values are the things that sort of make you who you are. They are the things that lead you to make the decisions you make for yourself, and the way you make decisions. And at 18, I knew those things about myself. And at 52, I think they're still my core values. And armed with those things, I set out to get a job. And the one thing I wanted for my life was independence. I wanted to say what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it, and when I wanted to do it. And that's predominantly because I'd been at boarding school from a very early age. Going back to my father wanted to give me the best education. He thought that boarding school education was probably the best. And at boarding school, you get up when you're told, you eat what you're told, you wear what you're told, you do what you're told. And I'd had enough. And I knew that independence only really came when you had your own money. And the problem is at 18, I didn't know how you made money. But I kind of worked out almost everyone works for someone even before they work for themselves. So I went out and I got a job. And at 18, with no qualifications other than no levels and A levels, but armed with my core values, that I really wasn't afraid to work hard. And I was really ambitious and I would try anything and I would do anything. But with integrity, I went out and I got a job and I started my career.
How independence led me to success (10:15)
Something I just, I was trying to piece, put two kind of dots together there. Boarding school, a very restrictive place, the antithesis of like freedom. Your childhood, sounds like you had quite a lot of sort of relative freedom. Is it possible that you went from a childhood pre-boarding school where you had a bit more freedom? And then because boarding school was such a big change, you had a bit of an allergic reaction to someone taking your freedom. Or do you... My friends who are still my friends from when we were at school in those days, we remember only one thing about that whole type, the boredom of simply being there and having masks on three times a day. And the second thing was we were hungry all the time. Every day was a fast day. So you'd have the holy saint of such and such day and it was a fast day. And we remember those two things and the sort of repressive attitude of wearing the same thing, doing the same thing, doing what you're told, not being able to explore things you were interested in. And none of us could wait to leave. But it did teach me resilience, the ability to do the things that need to be done, when they need to be done, whether you like it or not. And that's because every day was the same. And there's a great lesson, I think, in life in being able to force yourself to do things you don't want to do because you have to. And that taught me a great deal of patience and resilience and determination. Which is funny because much of your life has been very much the opposite, making sure you don't have to do things you don't want to do and being like restricted by the rules of others. But there is a sense in every job you do, whether you're a pop star, you've got to sing the same songs every night. You know, whether you're working in an office or working for someone else or reporting to shelters, there's an element of our lives that has to be done. And you get that discipline from being able to do it and power through it and approaching it in the way it needs to be approached, which is a real discipline, as opposed to saying, "I don't want to do it and I'm not going to do it." There's a difference. You said earlier about how you started at one point to notice the advantages or the skills you had over your peers at a maybe a young age around maybe 18 when you start to join the working world. And before, what when you looked at, say, 18, 19-year-old Karen, what were those skills that you started to notice? Well, I'm better than I seem to be better than everyone else at this thing, or stronger or whatever. I went into sales, which is a sort of place where most people go when they don't really have anything else they can do. Where else they can do, because you you're either good at it or you're not, but you don't need any particular skills other than being able to have resilience or picking up the phone, keep trying, not taking the knockbacks, going forward.
What was the skill that made you stand out? (12:58)
And I realized I was good at it. And I would never take no for an answer. I would always be determined. I would continue to pick up the phone. I had a sort of dogged attitude to not letting the knocks get me down. You know, when people sound the phone down, you know, they don't want to speak that ability to learn the language. It wasn't, "Do you want any?" It was, "How many do you want?" You know, it was that sort of subtle change of being able to be personable. I think I worked out on early age that people do business with people. And it doesn't matter how much brain you have. If you don't have a personality, you can't put that brain into a good, you know, into a good place. So having a personality and having a brain is a good combination. I worked in a telly sales as well for four years, from 16 to 20 or whatever it was. And it was genuinely the most formative experience of my life. I agree. Also because I don't have the qualification. So it's the, yeah. And it's a good place to start. I don't know about you, but I'm not particularly creative. I couldn't have done anything. I mean, I couldn't have done anything in the arts world or anything like that. But actually picking up the phone, having that resilience, being prepared to take the knockbacks, keep pushing forward, never taking no for an answer. Those are things I learned from a very young age. So you did sales at Sachi and Sachi? No, I did a menial office work at Sachi and I left Sachi to go into sales at 19. And I worked for London Broadfasting Company where we sold advertising space. And that's where you met David Sullivan? Yes, that's right. Yeah. He was one of my very first clients. And he took radio advertising. And within six months of me meeting him and selling him radio advertising, he was spending £2 million a year on radio, which was the highest spend on commercial radio in the country. And I was on a really high commission.
My first big deal (14:57)
Well done. That's a good time. So you meet David Sullivan and he's quite, well, he's not spending on radio at the time when you met him and he's kind of against it, I hear? Yeah, he didn't think it particularly worked. And I sold him the idea that he would take the advertising package. And if sales didn't go up, he didn't have to pay for it. And he said, yeah, sales OK to me. And I sort of thought, well, if it doesn't pay for, I'm going to be in trouble. But I thought, I'm worried about that when that happens. I was just pleased to have made the sale. And he took the advertising, the advertising did work and he kept spending and spending and spending. If we zoom in on that sale, that deal you closed with David Sullivan, I know a lot of people couldn't have closed that deal. And I know that was a pivotal moment in your early career. But I know a lot of people couldn't have closed that deal. So as you look back in hindsight, what was it about Karen that helped you to close that deal? Well, when I went to see him, so I turned up at his offices and I waited until he saw me. And I waited a long time, quite a few hours until he felt, I think, sorry for me. And I wasn't going anywhere. And he let me do the pitch, the presentation, which I did. Equally, I always had this feeling that, you know, what's the worst that can happen? And the worst that can happen is he didn't take the package and he slung me out. But the best that could happen is he saw me and he took the package.
What was different about you? (16:13)
So I always looked on the bright side. So I turned up, I did the deal, I presented well, I had all the facts and figures, I knew what I was talking about. And I guess he thought it took a chance. I think the package was, I can't remember, it wasn't a lot of money. You know, it wasn't a multi-million pound deal that someone had to really think about it. I pitched it just that it would be an impulse. It could be someone that it was enough money to have a gamble, not too much, not too little, just in that spot. And I persuaded him, I had this art of persuasion, talked about what it could do for him, how it would work. And he took it. And that was the beginning of my one of my very own clients that stayed with me for many years. And still today, we're still working together at West Ham some 30 years later. That is pretty incredible. Did he know you were coming that data pitch? Had he booked in a meeting to see you? I can't remember. I think I'd booked in a meeting, whether he knew about that or not. I don't know. I can't remember. Because that did end up in quite an early pivotal moment for you. It's quite a testament to the fact that again, people do buy from people and that you are a very persuasive person. But also, there's a sub lesson in there which I've heard you talk about before, which is when you're young, and you don't have a ton to lose. Because young people fall into this trap of thinking that no is some kind of death sentence or it's fatal. But as you say, when you've got nothing else to lose. Yeah, I had nothing to lose. The worst thing that could happen is he didn't buy it. And I had to sell it to someone. I was very independent. I wasn't relying on my parents for money. I was relying on myself. I had no safety net, no nest egg. I had to pay my rent. I had to pay my bills. I had to pay my travel. I had to pay for my food. And I had to make that sale. For me, it had to happen. It wasn't a case of, well, we'll see. But I'm the kind of person that never hears the word no. When someone says no to me, I don't hear no. I hear, find another way to get what you want. And that's what I always do. I always, I think no is only really pivotal if ultimately stops you doing what you want to do. If you hear no and you can find another way of getting what you want, that's just as good as hearing a yes. Am I right in thinking that you're someone that really believes in a philosophy versus like current skills? Because when you talk, you talk in terms of like your own philosophy to life. And a lot of people when they speak, they speak in terms of, I don't know, skills or hacks or tricks or whatever. But yours seems to be much deeper than that. Even saying that they're defaulting to optimism all the time. I don't know. I've never really thought about it. I think you, you need the ability to work hard. You need the ability to push yourself forward. You need the ability to have a backbone. You need the ability to have a dog-ed sort of determination. And if you have a great idea so much, the better, so much the better. People say to me, what is an entrepreneur? Well, an entrepreneur is someone that just spots a gap in the market for a service or a product that is either not available or available, but they can make it better. And they're the kind of people that well-meaning people say, oh, don't do that. That's very risky. But they are prepared to back themselves and put all those doubters to one side and just plow through it. And that that's sort of been what I've done for 30 years. As you said, that relationship with David has sustained still today. And he actually went on to hire you. So what have you learned about the importance of relationship building in business? I think the part part of running a great business is to have really good culture. And really good culture comes from trust and being candid and being honest and supporting one another. And it's interesting that David Sullivan is still with me in West Ham. So is David Gold, two people who I started with from a very young age. And we're still all working together. And we still have lots to talk about and lots of ideas and we still bounce off each other. And we trust each other. And I think that's a really fundamental part of growing a great business. Being candid, you said that, talk to me about how candid you are in business. Very. I think it's important. I have a great candid atmosphere at West Ham. I want people to say what they don't think is right, what they think could be better, what needs to be changed. I think if you've had too many like-minded people running the same organization, you're so busy patting each other off on the back. As you sort of follow each other off the edge of the cliff, you need people to say, hang on a minute. Why is this important? How does this affect us?
Importance of being candid in business (20:58)
What does this mean? What does this mean? We stand for? What are our values? What's our purpose? You need people to be honest and candid. And I think candid is good. And how do I go about creating a candid culture? And in my company, say, if I'm running a business and I want people to be more candid, what do I do and don't do to make sure that we arrive at that place? Well, the most important thing, the most important thing that people want from you when you're running your organization is your time. They want time with you. They want you to listen to them. They want to be in your inner circle. They want to be part of it. That's what people want. It's become less, I think, as times have gone on about money and status and more about being in the know, being in that room when decisions are made and making people feel that they can be in the room, that they're part of the discussion and that you'll listen to them and that they can say what they want without worrying about what's going to happen to me next. I think that's really important. So say someone's in the boardroom with you and they say something which is maybe even negative towards a decision you've made. I guess you've got to be cautious of your reaction to make sure that they don't in the future shy away from because you're a very powerful woman. It would be quite intimidating to tell you the truth. I don't think if you spoke to my staff, or the people that I work with, they would all say that the one thing Karen is great at is listening and understanding. And I think the minute you think as a leader of organization you know everything is the minute you don't know anything at all. You have to believe in lifelong learning. You have to believe that the people around you are valuable enough to have a different opinion to yours that is just as important. And the minute you think they don't have an opinion that's important as yours, you either don't have the right team or you don't have the right team with the right skills. I like to employ people better than me because it sort of proves I'm better than them if that makes sense. And then when you have people with great knowledge and great skills, why wouldn't you listen to them when they tell you something? I mean of course you have debates. I want to do everything quickly. I want to do everything with strength and power and purpose. I know there's a light, oh hang on a minute, let's not go at that pace. Let's try and do this. Let's do something. And sometimes you follow your gut instinct because it's important and people say to me, well what is a gut instinct? A gut instinct I think it's made up of all the experiences you've had through your career. And you've sort of when you're in face with the problem, you've been in that movie before, you've had that problem before, different problem in a different moment about a different thing but very similar. And you know the outcome. So your gut instinct goes, hang on a minute, I've somehow been here before and I know how this plays out. And I find if I follow my gut instinct, I tend to go make the right decisions and if I ignore it, I tend to go bad. But sometimes you need someone to go, hang on a minute, take a step back, have another look at this, have a think about this. And it's a very lonely place if you don't have people around you that want the same things as you, that want to help you achieve and build the things that you want to do. And being able to listen to people and encourage people to have their thoughts and ideas is I think really, really important. So how much of an organization that you run and what parts of it are a democracy? Because I'm trying to see that balance between you being assertive and making the call but also operating in some respects like a bit of a democracy where you're hearing everyone's opinions. Is there like a balancing act? Yeah, I mean, look, if you think about leadership and you should never confuse leadership with management, management is about setting out a series of goals and managing people to deliver them, very important, but that's not leadership. Leadership is about vision.
Democracy within your business (25:11)
And sometimes it's only a vision you can see. And your art as a leader is to persuade people to believe in your vision and help you deliver it. So we have large groups of people that help deliver visions. So our next vision for West Ham, for example, is to go from a 60,000 capacity to a 62,000 and a half thousand capacity. And we're in the process, we've got planning permission for it, in the process of going through that transition. How do we sell those extra tickets? Who do we sell them to? Do we put the price up? Where do we allocate them? How do people get in? Should there be more buzzer? There's a huge decisions. One person cannot make those decisions. And everybody who has a stake in that decision should have a say. And that's everyone from the commercial department right through to the person who runs the Disabled Supportors Group. Everyone needs to make that decision together. And that's how you breed great culture, listening to people, understanding the problems, finding the solutions together, having some fun while you do it. So it's not all over charts and in a very rigid way. It is much more in a conversational way. So for example, I took a load of my team to Seville when we played in Europa and we went together, we had a great time together, we used the downtime to talk about things important to us. And it's part and parcel of creating a place where people feel really proud to work. They feel really proud of what they do and they feel really well respected. And they have a lot of fun. Yeah. I just realized I'm playing at your stadium. Oh, is it in the the soccer age? Yes. Yes. Hopefully that was a solid out for you. But no, I just realized as you were talking then, yeah, we're playing at the unbelievable beautiful stadium. We're telling you you're a big part of getting winning the bid to kind of move over there. On the topic, I'm really excited by the way, what a tremendous honor that is to get to play at your stadium. But on the topic of football then, so David Sullivan ends up hiring you from LBC. Yes. And you join his corporation. Yes. And then, I hear it like 22, 23 years old, you see an advert in the financial times for Birmingham City, which is in financial hardship.
Running West Ham United F.C (27:29)
Yes. And you've been in administration. And you persuaded David to buy Birmingham's. Well, he to be fair to him, he was looking at buying either a race course or a football club. He was interested in doing something in that area. And Birmingham had gone into administration. It was a little ad that said, football club was so not all that interesting. And I got the details and I went to him. I said, this is football club a sale. You buy it and I'll run it. And he was like, well, football very male dominated. You'll have to be twice as good as the men to be thought as even only half was good. And I said, well, luckily, that's not difficult. And he said, okay, we're going to go. And we did. And it was bought really quickly within three days. That was like a Friday. And on the Tuesday, we own the club. And that was it. We went in there. We made so many mistakes, but we had a great time. It was such a fantastic experience, to be given the challenge and chance of a lifetime to run a great business and change it, take it out of administration. I mean, it made a trading profit for the first time in its history. And after my first year, and it was a real learning curve, but it was great fun. I love how you glossed over the fact. So graciously that at 23, you took over the management of a football club after seeing an advert in the Financial Times in Persuading David to buy it. You took over the management of the football club at 23. Yes, I was desperate to look at least 25. I'm telling friends, there was a big hair, shoulder pads, power dressing. So. Did you just have the courage and the conviction and the confidence to take on that role? Because football is a complete, like I don't even think, no, I definitely would not have the confidence to run a football club. And I've loved football. I've followed it my whole life. I ran big businesses, but a football club is a whole different beast. It is like, it is different. And it's different because it doesn't make anything. It doesn't manufacture anything. It doesn't produce anything, other than more footballers, all its assets are people. So being able to manage people and to manage the diversity of those, and it comes back to that culture by having an environment where everyone has to do everything within their skill set to make the business a success and know that that is valued and respected. And there is no ceiling on your ambition, whether it's 18 year old that wants to go into the first team or the 18 year old who works in the ticket office that one day wants to run it. It's up to you where you go. And I wanted to create a sort of business that I wanted to work in when I was 18, where you, you, you, was nothing holding you back. There was no politics. There was no age, you know, no discrimination whatsoever. The, it was there for you to do and achieve what you wanted to achieve within our environment. And that's why football is different because some people can't get the heads around the fact of what footballers earn, and they begrudge it if they're not playing well. They, they, they don't, you know, part and parcel of managing people is understanding people and respecting people and valuing people and giving people your time and your encouragement. But more importantly than that, it's about standing alongside people and supporting them when things are not going well, much more than when things are going well, being their backbone and their, and their support system. Very important in people's business. As well as that culture, what else was it that helped you take Birmingham, because your stint at Birmingham is seen as being incredibly successful, as you say, like turn the club profitable for the first time in like recent history. What, how did you do that outside of culture? There must have been tough decisions you had to make. The very, there were loads. I mean, from when I first went there to sort of getting rid of everybody, lots of businesses that I am involved in, or I know friends that run, the biggest issue for lots of people that run those businesses is making the change to personnel when they need to, because they find it very difficult if someone's been with them a long time to realize actually that person's skill set was great when we were growing the business. And now we need a different skill set to take it to the next level. But you think, but that's John, John's been with us from it's very difficult. But you have to sort of step above that and say, it's my responsibility to ensure this business is success for the 800 people that work there and the shareholders and everything it stands for. So you have to make the best decisions and you have to try and remove as much emotion as you can out of it, but also always doing the right thing for the right reason, and not for any other reason. And I think one of the most important things in a people business is you must never underestimate the power of kindness being kind to people and being respectful of people is really important. I had a few words to say about one of my sponsors on this podcast. We often see the success of a business and forget about their humble beginnings. And Vodafone, who is one of the new sponsors of my podcast, is no exception to that. In fact, quite an inspiring story. They started above a curry shop in the center of Newbury in Berkshire. And that was the year that they made the first ever mobile phone call over one G. That was a moment in history. And they've continued to innovate ever since they supported the very first SMS text over 2G. And most recently, they've made history again. This time through 5G internet with the UK's first holographic call. But what I love about Vodafone business, and one of the reasons I partnered with them is they want to enable others to go on the same journey that they've been on with innovation. They have so much support to help specifically small businesses thrive. Their V-Hub site offers free resources, insights, and expert one-on-one sessions with V-Hub digital advisors. So you can access what's needed to embrace innovation and drive your business forward just by searching V-Hub for Vodafone on Google. And you can access all of the support I've described above. The link is in the description below. Quick one. As many of you know, I've been trying to make my life a little bit more sustainable as it relates to energy. Ever since I sold my range over sport and bought an electric bicycle. And my energy as a sponsor of this podcast, one of the brands that make that transition much, much easier, they are at the forefront of British renewable eco smart technology. And their products are really, really changing the game. If you're on YouTube, you can see what I'm holding in my hand. This is called the Eddy, right? It's the UK's number one solar power diverter. So what is a solar diverter? It's a device for people like you and me. That means you can divert your excess energy back into your home rather than back into the grid, which will save you power and money. It's super user friendly and easy to install. And you can control it using the my energy app on your phone to find out more about this product and more products like here that will help you make that sustainable transition. Head over to myenergy.com and I highly recommend you check out the Eddy. It's a real game change of a product and one that I'm going to be installing in my home soon. I think David Sulliman, and when he described you and much the reason why he had this, it has this huge admiration for you is exactly that. I think he and when interview said you were a good sacker. I think we probably meant was I wasn't afraid to make tough decisions. And some of them were really tough. Even at 23. Yeah, even at 23. I really had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve and knew the kind of people I needed around me to achieve it. You talked about how emotion sometimes gets in the way of those tough decisions for a lot of people. I've seen the same thing in businesses when they get a little bit romantic about the wrong objective, basically, or the wrong thing. And that ends up compromising what should be their primary objective, which is the company in their role as CEO, founder, whatever. And I've also heard you say that emotion, well, maybe that was the headline of the article. You've described yourself as not being an overly emotional person, but the article I read, I remember the headline was emotion isn't in her makeup. So something words to that effect. Does that resonate with you? Is that something? Do you consider yourself to be an emotional business person? I'm very logical as a person. I don't worry about the effect on me of any decision that I make, as long as I feel it's the right decision.
Do emotions compromise your decisions (36:04)
I worry about the effects it has on others. But I don't get overly emotional about things to me, which are unimportant, whether that be criticism or social media or criticism, wherever that comes from. As long as I know the decision I've made and why I've made that decision, I can stand by it. And I care much more about what my family and my friends and my colleagues think of me than someone on social media who I'm never going to meet and don't know I'm never going to have a conversation with. So I'm not emotional from that point of view. When you take on a football club as well, and you've worked in football clubs for two decades, three decades now, you're dealing with emotional fan bases, just like hysterical. I know because I'm a Manchester United fan and we're very emotional as a fan base right now, but hysterical, almost unpleasable, thankless fan base, it seems at time. So how has that impacted you? The voice of the fan base in your decision making? Does it factor in? Every decision I make, I make for them to make them proud of the football club, to bring them the success that they want to deliver the things they want to see at the football club and the way they want to see them, whether that's what we did through the pandemic for our community, what we continue to do for our community, the fact that we keep our prices low, the fact that we promise them European football and we've delivered it, the fact that we have great players and great culture and a great manager, every decision I make, I don't make for myself, I make for them, and I do it to the very best of my ability. And sometimes they don't like those decisions, and sometimes they don't agree with those decisions, but they're all done because it's what I consider to be for the best of the club. And also I guess sometimes they don't understand those decisions because the fan base isn't, of any football club isn't a fan base that's educated on business and finance and in the workings of a club. So there's lots of misconceptions about the decisions that are being made and are they like self profiting decisions or whatever? How important is transparency in running, I would say in any business, but really in a football club where you've got millions of people who are your, I guess your stakeholders, clubs don't seem to be that transparent largely. I think it's hugely important, and I think footballs' supporters are very knowledgeable on the business of football. It may not be a priority for them, but I think they are knowledgeable. I mean, you've looked at clubs that have had a really difficult financial time and having a firm foundation on which to build, they know is important. And it's equally, it's important that they know the parameters. I mean, we're not, you know, oligarchs or Saudi Arabian billionaires, we're English taxpayers, we do the best we can and we generate as much money as we can without putting that burden on to them, which is why we have the cheapest season tickets in the Premier League, let alone in London and in a brand new stadium. So we try and go on the journey together.
Should clubs be more transparent? (39:17)
But I mean, moving to the Olympic Stadium, 54,000 season ticket holders completely sold out. Some people didn't like it, but you have to make a decision that you think is right for the right reason. And going from a 35,000 CTS stadium to a, well, it's going to be a 62 and a half CTS stadium was a big move and a bold move and it has proved to work out for us, which is why we're now playing in Europe. What would that have happened if we were up to part? Probably not because it hadn't happened for many decades before that. So I think people don't like change and it's important that they understand why the change happens and what it means to them and how it's going to affect them and how hopefully it enriches their life as opposed to make it makes it worse. Do you have an objective at West Ham to be more transparent? The recent event that comes to mind around transparency in football is obviously the, was like the European Super League gang where suddenly one day we all wake up and all of our favourite football clubs in the top eight or even in the top eight, but had decided they were all going to do it top six. Yeah, they're not even the top six. Yeah, it wasn't even the top six. There were six of them. Yeah, exactly. I can't even say that Manchester United were at the point, but decided to join this, this Super League in Europe and it seemed like it was just this like self profiting decision, which kind of ruined football or whatever. And after that, I saw a little bit of a change in some clubs like Liverpool that the owners came out and did like a video apologizing. It was the first time I'd seen like owners post a video of them talking on social media. Is this one of your objectives within the organization that you run at West Ham to be more open and more of a glass box? We try to let our manager and our team do the talking for us because because the supporters don't want to hear what the CEO thinks. They want to know what the team think and the manager thinks. And I think from our point of view, we're always very respectful of that. You know, some chairman, right, program notes, some chairmen's do videos. We tend to want our team to do the talking for us. And we don't really want to put any more pressure on them and the manager than they all put on themselves because they're the ones that put the pressure on themselves to be successful. They don't need it from us. As I look throughout your whole life, one of the clear, consistent themes in you is your hard work. It's just like, you know, sometimes it looks a little bit like obsession in certain parts of your story. I read about the fridge not being turned on in your apartment. Someone's saying, "My friend came to live with me." And she said, "The sticky stuff's still around the fridge and the oven had never been turned on." And I, what age was that? 21. And you just, you're working so hard you hadn't turned the fridge on. You're in the office so much. The sort of cooking and eating at home never occurred to me. I'd always grab something on the way in or the way out with never the sort of actually buying food because I knew if I bought food, it would just go off. People talk about work-life balance, right? And this like obsessive like... They do these days. Yeah, they do these days. And when I was starting those, that phrase had never been uttered by anyone. What's your opinion of the work-life balance conversation? Oh, I think it's much more sensible than anything I did. Definitely. I think that, you know, in my day, you started at the bottom of the run and you worked your way up very slowly and carefully to get as high up the ladder as you could. Whereas now it feels much more like a web where you do a bit over here and a bit over there and go and change and do that and then don't like that.
Work and life balance (42:52)
You go and do this and you have a much more rounded life. And I think technology has changed how we all work. I mean, you know, you're getting up at six o'clock in the morning to be in the office at seven and staying to eight o'clock at night. You don't have to do that now. And I think that's so much for the better. And so do you live a more rounded life? Definitely. Yeah, definitely. I don't go into my office at the cracker dawn and sit there all day and expect everybody else with the old ball and chain to be there. I mean, I know from having a family and a career that actually having flexibility is really important and giving staff the ability to come in when they need to and work from home when they want to is important. But I guess you didn't always because I remember you're reading the story about your son telling you on holiday and saying, "I wish your blackberry would blow up mum or something." Yes. Working mother is the best title for me because there's two things that are very important in my life. And that is my family and my work. And I've tried my very best to make those things work together. Sometimes you don't get it right. Sometimes you have to decide that family is more important than work or work has a priority that's more important than family. And you have to try and juggle and you spend your whole life going sports day, board meeting, parents evening, board meeting, and you never know where you can be. And until you come to the conclusion that you cannot be in all the places you need to be, you can only do the best you can do. It's a sort of relief. And sure, my kids will always say I worked throughout their whole growing up. But they learn different things from a working parent. The ability to be independent, have ambition, to value yourself, to work hard. Those are very good lessons as well. And do you set aside time to switch off as they say? I don't need to switch off. Interesting. I mean, nothing's work unless you'd rather be doing something else. I find. And there are times when I think, oh, God, I've got to go and do that like today. No, I'm ready to shake. I'm ready to shake. But there are times you go, I've got to go and do that. And you feel that sort of, but the one thing, this drive for independence, it also comes with another added bonus. And that added bonus is the ability to say no. If I don't want to do anything, all I have to say is no. I thank you. When you're building a career, you have to say yes for everything. And you have to say yes, even when you so want to say no. And you say, yes, you think, how do I get out of this? You try to give a million, million things, million excuses to get out of it. But when you are independent, you can say no. And it's a great freedom to not have any obligation, where you have to, you don't have to say yes to anything. You could say no, if you don't want to do something. And you say yes, when you want to do it. And you tend to enjoy that balance of your life a lot more. We met in Saudi Arabia for anybody that doesn't know that was the first time we'd met. And I'd watched your TV growing up. But in Saudi Arabia, we were on stage together. We were in a panel of five. And what happened on this stage? I actually came back and told all my team, and I said, I absolutely, I love her. Right? So I don't know if you know what I'm about to say. You don't. Okay. So we're on stage in Saudi Arabia, kind of like a dragon's den style thing where these entrepreneurs are coming up and pitching to us. And one of the panelists, one of the male panelists to my left, you went to ask a question. Right? I don't know if you remember, you went to ask a question of the entrepreneur that was pitching to us. And then one of the male panelists to my left, he kind of like interrupted you and spoke and carried on speaking. And you waited about 30 seconds. You let him finish his kind of interruption. And then in front of what must have been 1000 plus people, you turn to him, very calmly said, one second, I asked my question first, and then you carried on with your question. And the whole audience burst into applause. I do remember that. I do remember that. I do remember that. And I'm like, whoa, do you remember that? I do remember that. I was really quite annoyed. Really? I was annoyed because we'd gone to Saudi, well, I'd gone to Saudi to talk about the importance of women and our rights and being respected.
Sexism in football and the workplace (47:24)
And then to be spoken over on a stage, I was not going to let that go under any circumstances. And I think it was a good way of being able to show how it's important to stand up for yourself and not to be walked all over. And I certainly was not going to be walked all over. And everyone in the room understood that moment. Yeah. The significance you described there because it was in a very unemotional way. It wasn't in a. It was the most classy, like wonderful, polite way to destroy someone. But that's why I said to my team after I was like, the way she did it was so like classy, classy and gracious. But it made such a profound point. And you could tell the point was made because the whole room burst into applause. But it kind of brings me into a wider point about, and as you say, the reason why you're in Saudi, is this battle that I know you've had through your career with men kind of underestimating your sexism, which I guess started when you first got the job at Birmingham. Yeah. I mean, I remember my first away game. I think it was Watford. And I turned up and I saw, hi, could you tell me where the boardroom is? And this little old boy, a little steward on the desk, he went, oh, director's wives over there. And I saw it's interesting. But where is the boardroom? And he said, dear, you don't understand the director's wives go in the latest room. And I said, no, I don't think it's you understands. I am the managing director. So I want to know where the boardroom is. And this little boy put his little glasses on, he went, oh, yes, he said, yes, you're that woman. Stay here and I'll find out what to do with you, because there were no other women in football. So there was never a woman in the boardroom. And women weren't, you know, weren't welcoming in boardrooms, because it was meant to be the place where the directors or men, of course, they were all men. And I remember thinking that it was the very first door I'd kicked down. And I was determined that I would keep that door open as wide and as long as possible to get as many other women through as possible. And that is something I've spent my last 30 years doing. It's really important to me. It's really important that that there is a sense of equality and equal pay and equal respect for everything that you do, regardless of where you're from, what sex you are, what your beliefs are, how you look, where you're educated, equality is very important to me. Why do you think it's important to you in particular? I think because, look, at 23, I was given the challenge and chance of a lifetime. And I took that. And I knew that that started with someone having trust in me. And I knew that there were so many talented people out there that didn't have someone that had that trust in them. And I wanted to be that person. Did you experience sort of sexist behavior from the players? Occasionally, but nothing that I couldn't deal with. I mean, I was very lucky in a sense that from 16 to 18, I went to a boarding school that was predominantly all boys. So I had girls in the six forms. He had like, I don't know, 20 girls and 600 boys. So being surrounded with young men all had something to say. And knowing how to deal with that was something that stood me in good good stead for my career. So it wasn't difficult for me. And I didn't get phased by it. And it didn't upset me. And I wasn't emotionally damaged. And I didn't feel scarred. And I did. I had to go crying to anyone. I could deal with it. It didn't phase me. And it was an irrelevant of mine. One of the things that I've noticed specifically in the black community is, or one of the concerns I had growing up was I'd seen some of my black friends that the belief that they were, they were at a disadvantage actually seemed to hurt them more than the disadvantage itself, if that makes sense. Do you have the same concern that worrying too much that you might not get in will stop you from taking the actions to get in, if that makes sense? I'm sure every, every woman at some point in their career, when they've had to say, shall I stop to have a family? What is that going to, you know, how is that going to affect me? How is that going to affect my pay, my career prospects, my promotion, my standing? I'm sure every woman at that point has had that thought. And unfortunately, or fortunately, as we, you know, women give birth to all the taxpayers in the world, we deserve a break really. So I'm sure it is a thought that crosses people's mind. I mean, I read some research that 54,000 returning new mothers to work so badly treated because they are considered to be a burden to the teams in which they work. People are going to think they're going to want to go early. They're not going to be as focused. They're going to have brain fog that they are either handed out of their jobs or choose to leave. And that's a shocking statistic really. So yeah, I can see how people are just, you know, waiting for that moment when someone, you know, when you do have to say, I have to go and pick my son up from school, I have to leave early. It's a difficult conversation and you're considered to be, you know, less valuable because you have these real other issues. So I can understand how it plays on people's mind, but it's important for women like me to change attitudes. Because if I don't do, if women like me achieve something, if we don't use our voice to change it for the next generation, who's going to do it? One of my guests pointed out to me a couple of weeks ago that when a woman is successful and she's a mother, people always ask the question like, oh my god, how do you, how do you do it? Whereas when a guy is successful, even if he's a father, no one cares about it. No, no one asks. No one asks. Because they've got a wife who's doing it for him. Yeah, like Joe Wicks. Joe Wicks has been here once or twice. And when Joe Wicks is doing all of his stuff, P for Joe, etc, no one is on his Instagram going, what about the kids? Yeah. But we've had women entrepreneurs that have been here who do a very, very similar thing to Joe Wicks. And it's the question that they get asked all over their Instagram. If they do a workout on their social medias, like, well, where are the kids? But I think there's two reasons for that. One is, other women want to know how do you manage that. So you can inspire me to find a way. And the other is because it's an easy thing to ask a woman. And that's the lazy question. You know, where your kids, what do you do with your kids? How do you manage with your kids? It's a bit like whenever there's a picture of a woman, there's always what she's wearing. Yeah. Where it's never for a man. Maybe because women wear better clothes. I don't know. But it's always about what you're wearing. Where'd you get it? How much was it? And it's always defined you, you know, so and so in her bright pink jacket. We don't say, or Steven in his black studio. I wish they did. But I'm kidding. Interesting. I had a few words to say about one of my sponsors on this podcast as the seasons have begun to change. So has my diet. And right now, I'm just going to be completely honest with you. I'm starting to think a lot about slimming down a little bit because over the last couple of probably the last four or five months, my diet has been pretty bad. And it started to show a little bit really over the last two months, I go to the gym about 80% of the time. So I track it with 10 of my friends in a WhatsApp group in this tracker online that we all use together. We call it fitness blockchain. And I'm currently at 81%. So 81% of the days I've done a workout in the last 150 days. Right. So I'm going to the gym about six times a week. That's been a little bit impacted by the Dioravosia Live tour, but I'm trying to stick to it. And so one of the things I'm doing now to reduce my calorie intake and trying to get back to being nutritionally complete and all I eat is I'm having the fuel protein shake. Thank you, you all for making a product that I actually like. The salted camel is my favorite. I've got the banana one here, which is one my girlfriend likes. But for me, salted camel is the one. Paul, your husband, Paul, been together since 1995. I think you met him at Birmingham. He was like the star player. How has that been, you know, being such a career driven person who's had these fairly all consuming jobs throughout the years? You know, it's funny. When I, it's, there's an interesting thing that happens in the comments section when I, because I ask every single guest, every single podcast about relationships, it's what something I'm just really intrigued by because I've struggled over the years with my work and trying to balance the relationship. But when I ask women this, people, again, I understand why they assume that I'm asking it because for the same reasons we've just described, like I'm trying to understand how you can be a wife, but also hardworking. So I just want to put that out there because I see another person. But no, I'm really curious. You know, you've been this pretty relentless entrepreneur for the last three decades, whatever it's been. How has it been to manage a relationship and be that person and a partner while also being the tremendous businessman? Well, you have to remember that we've been married a very long time. And when we first got together, Paul's career was much more dominant than mine, really. And he was traveling around, playing at different clubs, playing for his country. And I was the one staying at home looking after the kids, having my career and working around that. And he was the one going around. And then he retired from football. And my career took off a bit. And then he became a football manager.
Personal Insights And Empowerment
Your relationships (57:17)
And I stayed home more with the kids. And we sort of, we balanced our lives to give each other the space, to do the things that we love that make us rounded individuals. I have no jealousy if anything he does and equally to me. So for example, when I'm filming The Apprentice, I don't know how it works on Dr. Zden. But when we film The Apprentice, when it says it's 4am, the voice over says it's for him. It really is 4am. And we work 16 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week for five weeks to produce that show without a break. There isn't a day off. And it is really hard going. So I always say to Paul, it's much better if he's not there. Because I want to get up at four o'clock in the morning, have a bath, put the lights on, turn the television on, leave when I want them, get back maybe eight o'clock at night, go straight to bed, ready for a 4am start the following day or whatever it is. So he goes to Canada to see his family because his parents live in Canada. And he has a great time with his family. And I can focus on what I have to do without any distractions. Because what happens during that period is let's say he might say, should go out for dinner tonight and I'll say yes. And then I don't get home because filming is over run and I'm not home till one o'clock in the morning. And they say, oh, you can't make me not come in. I just, it's too much. On the top of everything else, it's too much. It's much better if I have my space to do what I've got to do and he has his space to do what he's got to do. But the one thing that we have in common is we built a great family and we respect each other. We love our kids. Our kids are our whole life even though they are, you know, 25 and 23. Everything is about our family and everything we do together is really important. And I have to say, if you said to me, you got one day left on the earth, what would you do with it? I want to spend it with my husband and my two kids because we have such a great laugh together and we're good friends and there's a real bond of family between us. How important is it to be candid? Because that's kind of what you were describing there being so candid with how you're feeling and what you're going through. A lot of people don't have that in relationships. Oh, we're definitely candid. We're definitely candid. And how important is that? Do you think I'm asking myself? I think it's really important because you can't pretend to be someone you're not. It's a bit like in an early part of a relationship. I've got a friend who's got an early part of a relationship and the Kai Shih is with likes the opera. She cannot stand it. But she's saying, oh, yes, love the opera. And I'm like, why don't you say hate the opera? I couldn't think of any other other do less because when he finds out, actually hate the opera. And then all you find out you've got to go more to the opera and you're going to resent it. Why not just be honest from the start? I really can't stand the opera. You go, you have a nice time. But we know what it's like. I think it's probably our relationship is not needy. So he doesn't need me. I don't need him. We want to be together, but we don't need to be together. I don't need to know where he is every minute of the day. I don't need to know what his thoughts are on every single thing or everything I do. I think if he could have me a little bit more needy, probably would. But he knows that I'm very self-sufficient and don't need much from anyone. And I think that's again going from boarding school where you're very much on your own. You'd like your own company. But we don't, there's not a neediness in the relationship where I say to him, "Oh, I've been invited to go to Buckingham Palace for dinner with the queen." And it's a white tie, so I'm not going to that. I'm not a white tie. I'm not getting a white tie. And he won't come. If he doesn't want to come to anything, he won't come. And I'll say, "Oh, I've got this thing." And she'll fancy doing that. And I'll say, "Definitely not." Or he'll say, "Should we, I fancy doing this?" And I'll say, "No, I don't want to do that." So we very candid with each other and it works for us. This is the single biggest mistake I made at the start of my relationship. And me and my girlfriend had a conversation and we discussed it was I was saying, "Yes, too much to things to try and please," because you feel like that's what's needed. Whereas I came to learn over the years and I literally had this conversation with my girlfriend over the last month, that in fact, I need to just be honest more regardless of how I think it might impact us. Because you see, you're saying, "Yes," when you really want to say no. Yeah. And then you've got this sort of underlying resentment. And it's much better to just say no and suffer the consequences. Yeah, definitely. Versus forever. Because as you say with the opera, I then have to try and live out this life right now. Exactly. Exactly. And I think it's important to have your own space and your own friends and do your own thing. You're married, but you're not joined at the hip. And this course, there has to be a level of mutual respect there and honesty and trust and all of those things. That goes without saying. But you're not the same person. And it is okay to have different interests. And it is okay. My husband is a gym bunnies, professional athlete. He's at the gym morning, noon and night. I could not think of any kind of an honor. I would do a message. You can see I'm not a gym bunny. I don't go to the gym. I've got no desire to go to the gym. And he says, "I'm going to the gym. I'm going to the gym. Yeah, bye." And that's it. And I say, "I'm going to a board meeting like, yeah, bye." He can see him anything he'd rather do less. But we respect each other's space and views and ideas. And we don't have to debate every last thing or every last decision. And everything's okay. We don't worry about anything. We don't worry about anything. We don't sweat about stuff. I don't care if he doesn't pick up his socks. Interesting. The whole world is not going to stop because they're picked up his socks. But I tell you what really is important in a relationship is understanding when other people are under pressure and being there for them. And I don't mean being in there with them, but I mean just being there for them. And doing the things that really matter to them is opposed to big romantic gestures. I can't, I mean, I'm not a flower person. I don't particularly like flowers. If film bought me flowers, it's okay, but I'm not a big girl. I need flowers. But my husband used to feel my car at a petrol. So it was one less thing I had to worry about. And it's small things like that that build a foundation because you know that person's there for you, even though it's not a big romantic gesture that the whole world can see, because that's really not very important to me. Have you ever done the love languages test thing? No, I don't even know what it is. So I'm not into this kind of we were thinking, but this is actually quite just 17 magazine or something. I don't even know. It's a series of questions which try to understand the type of love indicator that you most appreciate. And it tends to be the case that busy entrepreneurial people, their love language is, and as his mind is acts of service. And it's exactly what you've described. The tiny little thing to help in a moment. So like helping you pack your luggage when they know you're traveling or just doing that tiny. And for me, when I did the server with my girlfriend, I sent you mine was acts of service. For me, the most meaningful thing someone can do for me in a relationship is exactly what you said. It's like, yeah, help me with a tiny thing that you know. But is his sort of love language per se the same? Some people says like touch words of affirmation, acts of service. Oh, gifts is one of them. I think it take any of the above. Yes, he does. No, we we I think for us, the most important thing for us is having a laugh, having lots of family and friends that we enjoy their company with. And you know, it's interesting. Lots of couples have been married a long time. They need lots of people around them to break up, you know, they have lots of friends over, lots of do lots of things, big parties and stuff like that. And the one thing he does to me every day without fail is he takes a dog for a walk, which is very important. And he picks up a coffee and he brings it straight to me. And that because he knows I cannot start my day without without a coffee. And that's his big love moment every day. Is there a need to maintain desire when you're sort of two, almost three decades into a relationship? Is there things to do? Is there a strategy to keep it? This is the wrong podcast. That's a different. Exactly. Do you know what? Do you want to meet at date nights? I don't know. Is there something that I should be thinking about when I get? Well, I think from our point of view, our kids are grown up so every night's a date night for us. But I think doing things that are different and unusual. I mean, we went on this fantastic tour of Thailand where we went all over, did really crazy, wonderful things that were really good fun. So we try and do more experience led things. But equally, we are, you know, we are prepared to go in our track suits and go out to the pub. I mean, I guess our happy place, I have to think about happy place, is Soho farmhouse. That's a real happy place for us. And we tend to try and go one weekend a month. And we spend two nights and really don't do anything. Take the dog on long walks, have a load to drink, watch a film, go out to eat lots of food. Just relax. One thing you've never, I've never seen you talk about from all that I read is mental health, your own mental health. This is kind of a fairly new conversation that's happened in the last 10 years.
Is there a need to maintain desire? (01:07:12)
But have you had experiences with things like anxiety or depression within your own mental health? No, that happened. Maybe I have, but I just haven't focused on it or haven't really thought about it. I think we all have bad days, don't we? We're, we're sort of more snappy than than others. And days were really good. I started HRT recently, and I found myself singing in the kitchen the other day, which is something I don't think I've ever done. And I was like, "Crisis stuff's working." So, but no, I have this resilience from this, you know, from my very early age to be able to put things to one side and focus on what needs to be done and not really worry too much about it, which is probably both a blessing and a curse. And you just, you describe yourself, I was reading one of your books. Do you describe yourself as a feminist? Definitely. Yeah. And what does that mean to you? To me, it means equality. It doesn't mean wanting more than men. It doesn't mean disliking men. It just means that women's right should be equal to men's. It has been stigmatized, doesn't it? The word feminism, it's this kind of like, I feel like it's become a little bit of a, well, the stigma is it's kind of this anti-man rhetoric, whereas really, I think men should feel like they're feminists too. Definitely. Every man has a mother, has an aunt, has a sister, has a cousin, has a female than his life that should want them to be treated equally.
Have you experienced anxiety? (01:08:31)
I mean, it's a truth for every pound a man makes one makes 86p and it's going to take 100 years to close that gap. And if you get into industries like finance, that gap is much bigger than that. So it's just about equality. It's about not being discriminated against because you're a woman, not being paid less because you're a woman, not being able to earn your worth because you're a woman. That's what it means to me. As we look forward at the future, you've achieved so, so much in your life, in your career. It seems like from what you, because you said earlier on that you weren't ambitious when you were young, it seems like you've probably surpassed your childhood early years ambitions already. Is that accurate? I don't want to put words in your mouth, but is that accurate? Yeah, I would think so. Yeah. So what's driving you now? What's the thing flipping the duvet and getting you out of bed if you've surpassed all those ambitions?
Feminism & your milestones (01:09:24)
I mean, the toughest thing about being a success is you've got to keep on being a success. There's no point in having a successful year last year to do nothing this year. And what drives that is ambition. And I really disappointed when people are afraid to say they're ambitious because we tend to think ambitious people are ruthless people and that's not the case. Ambition is that spark. It's that fire inside of yourself that won't let you settle for anything other than what you think you deserve and what you want. And I love what I do. I feel so proud that I run West Ham. I feel so proud that I'm in the House of Laws and the work that's important there that has to be done. I love the businesses that I'm involved in, the charities that I'm involved in. I picked the things I wanted because I wanted to say yes to them and I don't have anything I secretly wanted to say no but say yes. So I think a sort of all-rounded life, whether it's doing the apprentice, something I love is such good fun. I mean, I don't know how it is on your show but on my show, there's a real level of support and we're all good friends. I mean, Alan, Claude and I would go on holiday together, we'd go out for dinner, we're friends, we're firm friends first and foremost. And I love what I do and I just want to keep doing it. Is there a goal or an ambition for you or is it more of the same? Do you have like, when you think, okay, 10 years from now? I've never had that. I've never set milestones. I mean, I did have, when I was younger or I had a flat and I wanted a flat that had heating and then I wanted a flat that had heating and a washing machine. And then I wanted a flat that had heating and a washing machine and a car. So I did have those sort of milestones as opposed to ambitions but I don't have any of that anymore. There's nothing I want. I don't ever look at people at the, oh, I wish I had that or I really want one of those. I actually don't want anything. I don't have a car. I don't need a car. I like to walk. I don't have a lot of stuff. I'm not, some people I know have wardrobes, the size of your flat with so many clothes in. I buy low clothes for the apprentice and they give them all the way to dress for success or to my staff when I'm finished. I don't have a lot of stuff and I've never wanted a lot of things. So I don't have this sort of, oh, I must get a boat or a yacht. I mean, I'd never want anything like that. I love what I do. I'm very happy in my life. I'm very content. I wake up every morning without anxiety. I never feel I've bitten off more than I can chew. I never think how am I going to see through the day that is ahead of me. I'm never thinking about how I pay my bills. I'm never thinking about how do I keep up with the Joneses. I'm never worrying about those things that weighs a lot of people down and gives them a lot of issues. I'm very happy. I'm very content. I've lived a full life. They say you only live once, but I think if you live it right, once is probably enough. Amen. I'm reflecting on an 18, 19 year old Karen that starts at Sartre. And then the person that's sat in front of me today. And I'm wondering based on that full life and that experience you've had and all those boardrooms and experiences you've had, what you would say to a 90, because there's going to be, I know that, you know, on several platforms, the majority of our listeners are female. What will you say to those young women that are starting out in their career? What would you whisper in? There is there on their Monday morning walks today and I see them uploading this on their stories. What would you say to them in terms of navigating their future? I would say grasp every opportunity. Try as hard as you can. Never be afraid to fail. And I was going to swear, but I went swear. I'm not going to swear. And stand up for yourself and trust me, you do not want to get to 52 and look back on your life and say, I wish I would have. You will always regret the things you don't do more than the things that you do. So go and do stuff. Thank you. It's been honestly such a huge honor and pleasure to speak to you because, yeah, I was in my team now, I've had this weird captivated crush on you ever since I was tired of you because of that strength and that your wisdom, your strength, and all you've achieved in your life. And it's very, very inspiring and interesting to, especially the path you've walked in such a male dominated industry and how you've forged your own success at just like 22 years old, that real pivotal moment we take over a football club, utterly fascinating.
What's your advice to young women (01:14:02)
And, yeah, and we have a closing tradition on this podcast where the previous guest writes a question for the next guest. Oh, goodness. You could have told me something really, really. So this is a question that's been left for you by a certain individual. Okay, interesting. When you walk out of here after this beautiful conversation with Stephen, I didn't write this, after this beautiful conversation with Stephen, do you feel enriched? And if so, what would you say to the next person you meet on your experience? I would say that sometimes it's very difficult to decide to share your story because you open yourself up and people get to know you in a way that maybe you never thought they would. But actually sharing your story, you hope inspires someone else. And it also gives you the opportunity to look back and reflect on your own life because many of us are so busy moving forward that we stopped to say, Oh, shit. Yeah, I was 19 once. What was I doing when I living in that horrible apartment with no washing machine and no heating? And when I didn't have a car and how I worried about paying my bills, it's easy when you're 52 to forget who you were at 18. And it's opportunities like this when you think about your life and the journey that you've been on that you can, you know, surprise yourself. And you don't do many interviews, do you? I don't. I'm I'd steal well, because I think it's time for other women to speak.
Our last guest's question (01:15:45)
I think that, you know, it's like I could take a whole load of non-exx and I could take valuable positions that other women could have. I've had my time. I'm 52. I've been there. I've done all that. I don't want to appear in OK magazine. I don't, you know, want to be posing in a swimsuit or any of those things. None of that appeals to me. I want to lead a calm, incident, free quiet life. Inspiring others in all, in a way I can. I want nothing for myself out of this other than I hope that people have have enjoyed it. I certainly believe they would have. Thank you so much, Karen, for your time today. Thank you for your wisdom. You're such a classy, graceful, inspiring human being. And yeah, you've inspired me in so many ways, not just from watching you growing up on the apprentice, but also in Saudi Arabia and again today. So I have a debt of gratitude that I owe to you. And thank you for being here. Thank you so much for having me.