Tag Archives: winning

GUEST BLOG: Ice Skater Louise Walden-Edwards talks about making ‘A True Champion’…

After enjoying reading Louise’s previous guest blog post, I asked her to write for me again.  This time after a conversation about the responsibilities we assumes as leaders.  Here is what she has to say…

Who does it take to make a true champion?            

When a sprinter is the first past the finish line or a tennis player scores the winning point of game-set-match or even an ice skater receives the championship winning score, it is the athlete that receives the applause, the medals and the glory.  It is the athlete that gets the credit, the prize money and their national anthem played on the top of the podium. 

“What some may fail to appreciate is what it has actually taken or how many people have in fact contributed to the success of the winning individual(s).” 

My own competitive sporting success, over twenty years took ten ice skating coaches, seven dance teachers, two strength & conditioning coaches, three physiotherapists, one sports specific doctor, two unconditionally supportive parents, one patient sibling, a support network of numerous lifelong friends & family members, four ice skating partners, many doubters, hundreds of dedicated fans and yet more people along the way that inspired me more than I can credit. Unfortunately, in sport there simply isn’t enough time or space on the top of the rostrum for all those people to publicly share that moment of attention in a victory. 

Now my competitive sporting career is over and I move through a new phase in my life, I can intelligently rationalise the people involved in my success became part of the team for their own reasons.  Through a very cold perspective, the professionals in the team were paid to help educate and support me and some also continued on to bigger and better things, helped by the results we achieved together. 

“Loyalty is something that I value immensely myself and when the going gets tough, it can be tested.” 

When there can only be one winner and isn’t you, perhaps performance related mistakes are made or it simply isn’t your day, it is still the athlete who is the head of the team and the one to bear the brunt of the criticism and in turn the guilt. For the athlete, there is no one to hide behind or to move on to, they are the face of the operation.  It is the athlete who must carry the responsibility of the team behind them, they are the ones who must endure the physical and psychological pain of injury, lose sleep over the financial hardship of training expenses and consequently battle to hold the team together and boost collective morale when the cracks show. 

What I can now take pride in with an objective view away from my competitive world, is that the one thing that all those people had in common is and was me. I channeled that concoction of talent, the recipe for success and that refined combination of knowledge, into a world-class winning product.

I was in a sense the managing director of the “brand” that won those medals and that in itself, gives me reassurance in my own ability to move forwards and transition from an athlete into so much more in the future.  The principals that I adopted and the skills that I learnt as an athlete through my chosen network, have given me the confidence that even though I may yet have to realise where my future lies, I will make it.

“With a simple dream of success, hard work, determination and self-belief, if you have the right people around you, with the same common goal…anything is achievable.” 

The true athlete in me still full of passion, will forever be touched by each and everyone one of the people who I chose to contribute to my sporting success. I will always believe the connection I made with these people was more than just business and that we created a “family” together, as opposed to a workforce.  Perhaps an athlete with a different attitude of their own ability would feel differently, but as a little girl with a humble beginning, having the phrase drummed into her by her doting mother “don’t hurt anyone on the way up my love, as you may need them on the way back down”, I will always feel indebted to my teachers, mentors and teammates.  

“I believe that everyone in my career and successes even now, plays a part in making me who I am, even if simply to teach me valuable lesson.” 

I know I have thanked everyone profusely for their involvement in my career but my gratitude and appreciation will never feel sufficient towards the people who have helped me achieved my sporting goals.  I think that perhaps in reflection, the perception I have of this is because even though I may not see those people daily as I once did, their values and principles that they taught me are those in which I live by each and every day in all that I do. Regardless whether it be sport, in business or life, all our experiences are what make me me and for that I will forever be grateful. 

Why it is important for me to be recognised with Awards

It is always flattering to be nominated or suggested for awards and nominations, and obviously, I would be lying if I told you it doesn’t boost my ego or confidence I am human; of course it does! But I want to share with you the most important reason why it is important for me to be recognised as a leader, as an entrepreneur and an innovator. It is much bigger than just me.

I come from a small town in Sweden. I grew up pretty uncertain about a lot of things, but I always had a strong (some would say too strong) sense of what is Right and Wrong. I could handle a lot of things, but I always struggled with unfairness, and with undeserved authority (again, some would argue any authority…). A lot of the times this would get me in trouble, as I was fiercely (and naively) fighting for what I believed was right.

I haven’t given up that approach, but I have become much smarter about it.

Winning awards does two things for me:

It validates what I am doing: I run my companies not just to make money (I haven’t taken an actual salary yet, and the small profits are reinvested in research, development and staff training), but to do good. My work with Direct Relief and The Fistula Foundations are two tangible examples (read more here).

It also gives me a platform to speak from. I have almost 10 000 followers on twitter, and a large network on LinkedIn. I have been asked for comments by The Washington Post, on CNBC, BBC and other media. This means that when the times comes for me to really make a difference, I can start with a very large network, and go from there.

There are also numerous other benefits: It validates the companies to customers and partners, it gives my teams a boost, it brings us tremendous joy to go to award ceremonies together (and win!). Obviously, none of the awards would happen without I, M, T, D, E, R, O, J, L, L, R and T, which they know very well: a leader isn’t a leader without the team who chose to follow her. And the fact that THEY chose to follow ME, is the biggest award a true leader could ever get.

THAT is the real reward.

Winning, Losing and Doing Good

I have read about several entrepreneurs recently who focus completely on the ‘social good’ of their business, as opposed to the ‘old-school’ ambition of making money. I am a huge advocate of social enterprise, charity and philanthropy, and spend a lot of my time and assets to support those activities — but that simply wouldn’t have been possible without the successes I’ve had in the ‘for profit’ world that have given me the flexibility and freedom to do what I believe in.

There’s no doubt that many young entrepreneurs coming into today’s world are very socially minded. It’s hard not to be when the internet and our media constantly show us — often graphically — the challenges our society faces.

Leading with purpose

If you’re a business leader, the passion that created the spark that ignited your career is something you can bring with you into your entire company culture. Apple is a great example: The essence of Steve Jobs’ vision for technology resonates with every single person in that organisation, and guides decisions on a daily basis.

To create that, you have to be able to paint a picture of your vision and you have to be able to describe it and share it with your team in a way that not only makes them understand but makes them feel what you mean. Your job is to give your team purpose, getting everyone on the same page. You have to make sure your entire team knows where they’re going, how they’re going to get there, and what’s in it for them.

Building Success

I am lucky to have had great successes — during my career, I have taken both new and old brands to market leadership, turned mediocre individuals into high performing stars and built successful teams from broken groups of disjoined people. In the last three years I have started two award winning companies, and I currently employ 10 people in two fast growing organisations. When people ask me what my secret is, I tell them:  “You must surround yourself with great people, and as you grow, never forget why you do what you do.”

You must demonstrate your purpose with encouragement, honesty, recognition, and courage… Building a great team is what business is all about. The team with the best players working together wins. This great team will drive growth, and growth is like an elixir. It’s exciting, it creates more and more growth, and it’s a LOT of fun. Business is fun… like chess. It is deliberate, clever, strategic and merciless. You’re playing against others, and you want to win!

Winning

And ultimately, that’s what it comes down to. If you’re winning, you can give back — to your family, your employees, institutions of your choice and your local communities… If you’re losing, your pockets are empty and nobody gets helped. I play to win, but ultimately, I win to help.

While I know JUNE Medical has been growing…

…at an accelerated pace, I was delightfully surprised my company won Best New Business in Bucks last year.

Growth – personal, financial, career or otherwise – has always been an integral driver in my life. I consistently search for new ways to expand my experience and knowledge to stay in a perpetual place of forward motion (I like developing and learning new things). This state of being has become second nature, and I have to watch myself; I am very comfortable with change (actually seeking it, getting uncomfortable when things are too stable) and I need to always make sure others are happy with the pace.

With this award for the business, I couldn’t help but take a moment to reflect on what helped JUNE Medical get to where it is so quickly in only two years. We’ve gone from a company of three to an international organization with more than 10 team members and we have brought on several new partners like Carbon Medical, Astora and LamidayNoury. We have diversified the line of JUNE Medical products to increase stability – and we have taken tremendous market share in the last two years.

 

What is it that we’ve done right to receive such recognition?

For me, the foundation of any company is its team. You have to know (or at least figure out by trial and error) what experience and skills you need and when to bring it in. For the first couple of months, the team was small: focused on getting set up in the right way and exercising our strategy of Act Big. We were working out of a Regus office close to my house, getting the business off the ground with a mix of passion, financial expertise and sheer gumption. I have brought on hand selected people, some of whom I have worked before, knowing they had the right make to be successful in this environment. Together, we further defined our business needs to forge a larger path forward. I remain in charge of strategy and big picture finance, but have delegated the daily responsibility of the business to those who are better skilled than me to make it a success.

I approached building my team conservatively, hiring people who were passionate about our mission, understood our vision and were capable of wearing multiple hats. Not only were we building a team of JUNE Medical believers, but also a diverse team of complementary skills that could do more, with fewer bodies. This allowed us to shape the team smartly, not necessarily rapidly, with a long-term vision of sustainable growth in mind. We run circles around our competitors, and people are shocked when they hear how few we actually are.

I have known for a long time that I wanted to run my own company. Both my parents ran their own companies when I grew up, so VAT and balance sheets were as familiar to me as cookies and milk. Every role I have had, every meeting I have attended and every leader I have seen has taught me something valuable. I knew what I was preparing for, and I just needed to be patient enough to wait for the right opportunity, in the right environment, at the right time.

Because I knew who I was, what was important to me and how I wanted JUNE Medical to be operating, it allowed me to have a clear view on what worked and what didn’t from the outset. My vision was to create a business that would support my values, and that would allow me to do good, but would allow me to work a “mainstream” job shortly after its founding. By not adding the pressure of “how do I make JUNE Medical my full-time career that will pay me lots of money,” I inevitably gave myself the space to build a solid foundation for long term growth, based on the right values. With that clear in everybody’s mind, making the right decisions are easy. Customers come first. Always.

 I also had the freedom to think about what the brand stood for in the moment and what it could stand for five years down the road. This helped solidify the core values (that still exist today) and put us on a faster trajectory because we weren’t constantly questioning the fundamentals of the business. We knew what we stood for as we started to reach critical mass and what our customers wanted to keep us moving in the right direction. We’ve been able to use this awareness to guide each decision, creating efficiencies and movement with every step forward.

Could JUNE Medical have grown faster or continue to grow faster?

The short answer – yes. But this would most likely take bringing on financial investors to fund new growth initiatives. Opportunities that we know we’ll be able to deliver on our own, on a slightly different timeline.

Was it scary when I invested my savings into JUNE Medical to get it off the ground? Yes. Is it sometimes unsettling to know that 10 people depend on me for their livelihood? Yes. Do I wish I had extra cushion from another source? Not ever.

I’m sure there is a time and a place to contemplate investors, but for now I love knowing that each decision isn’t always driven by the bottom line. It enables us to be more creative, take more risks and grow substantially more quickly by freeing us of the chains (and quotas) that financial investors would create.

There is a way with smart decision-making and tenacity to win independently. It just takes some patience, the right team, a sense of purpose, a solid strategy and the discipline to execute it well.

 

Angela Spang

Founder, Owner and Managing Director JUNE MEDICAL