July 1, 2016
After moving to London in 1999, Julia founded and built Retail Profile Europe, which specialises in developing new revenue streams for shopping centres and working with start-up retailers, a concept now popularly known as ‘pop-up’. The business expanded to two European countries and merged with its largest competitor, Space and People PLC. It now has offices in London, Glasgow, Hamburg, Moscow and Delhi and its turnover exceeds £30 million.
In 2014 Julia successfully exited and founded Bold Clarity. She now works with entrepreneurial leadership teams to help them grow their businesses, as well as providing coaching and development for women.
We sat down with Julia to find out more about her journey as a successful entrepreneur and also as a woman in business.
I always knew I wanted to be a businesswoman. I knew I wanted to get an education, to learn, grow and move from my small town. I knew my life wasn’t to be in a small town. What I didn’t realise in the beginning was I had a huge role model in my life, my father. He had three jobs, he was a taxi driver and always tried to better himself. Eventually he became an insurance agent, and on the side he would save money, buy land, rezone it, then sell it. He did so much good for our small town, they named a street after him. He was a pillar of the community — a real community leader and a real entrepreneur. I was always watching him and he was a huge influence on me and my drive to be an entrepreneur.
Absolutely, but I have a motto which is: “Do something to scare yourself every day”. By doing something I don’t know, I may sometimes scare myself but sometimes I also surprise myself. Though there are a lot of times when I have felt down or it has got difficult, I’m very persistent. I think this is partly due to the fact that I’m dyslexic which meant I’ve had to work harder.
First of all I didn’t know I was dyslexic until I was 14 when my mother asked for me to be tested. For 14 years I just thought I was really stupid. I think my dyslexia has been a huge advantage as well as a huge disadvantage. At a very young age, I had to learn to ask for help, which I think has really served me well in my life. I had to get rid of trying to be a perfectionist so I use the 80/20 rule which is good enough. I’ve had to work hard which has never scared me. It’s meant that I’ve had to learn to resource myself – I’ve had to accept my weaknesses and surround myself with people that can address that. There are a lot of books out there and you’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs are dyslexic. Maybe we just see the world differently!
I decided to do that through my industry, so I joined the industry association which became my peer group. I always volunteered, took a talk, ran a round table. Decades ago I didn’t know it but I have this value which is ‘help first.’ By giving to my professional association, I was able to grow my network, I was able to grow my education in the business, grow my career and make the next step. Then I was able to take the industry I knew in America and bring it to Europe, and start building a brand new industry here.
I am like any other human being where I have my moments of self-doubt and lack of confidence. These are more of my sayings that I hope relate:
I believe that entrepreneurial people see risk tolerance differently – where other people think something is impossible, I see a possibility. I’m a high fact finder – as long as I have my information and I’ve done my research, I am willing to bet on my own abilities. The saying is ‘entrepreneurs jump out of the plane and build the parachute on the way down’ and I am a quick starter: I can take a leap as I trust my own abilities. Some people want more certainty in their lives. As an entrepreneur I have dealt with a lot of uncertainty, but always knowing that I can figure it out. It’s not even about confidence, it is about being intuitive and being creative, not seeing things in the same way as how everyone else.
One of my favourite things is to be educated. I have some amazing apps.
I also have a philosophy on time that I think is relevant. You can only spend time wisely, you can’t save it. I am always looking to what I can resource, elevate and delegate to others.
There are a lot of underlying principles: it’s the team that I built, it’s the vision we had, our discipline and execution and the partnerships that we formed. It’s winning the deals we did. It’s all the networking, negotiation and relationship building. It’s about being fair. Partnerships played a huge role – it is important to have the right set of partners with the right set of values. I had four partners and learnt so much from each of them.
If you’re going to have an international business in different countries, you must have boots on the ground. Whether that’s you hiring and training, or hiring someone locally to partner with – you must have a local presence. We had to have a leadership team and partners there. I had to learn to delegate to my number two, my MD. To let go and delegate was a huge thing to learn.
I built and lost my business, and then I sold it twice. I can never guess who my next partner is going to be, so treat everyone like a partner. I’ve never heard an entrepreneur say they’ve sold too early. So don’t be afraid to do what’s right for the business and not know what your next step is going to be. Don’t be afraid to sell and not know where you’re going to go next because I’m sure if you work on it you’ll figure out the right next step for you.
Unfortunately yes. I think it is better today than it was. When I started my business in 2001 I had not built relationships with banks. Not knowing the football, rugby and cricket scores, I felt out of place with building a relationship with those bankers. It might have been that time in the banking industry, it might have been my limited knowledge. It might have been that it was difficult for women to get funding from the banks, especially as a foreign woman. My way of dealing with that was that I got an English partner and they had the banking relationships. In that specific instance I felt different being a woman. Today it is much better, but then I felt the challenge and difference.
There is a big difference between a coach and a mentor. A coach is someone you hire, and exchange a service for a fee. A mentor is someone who you do not pay, who is grey haired and wise, who wants to give back. When people get to the top of their careers they have self-actualization and they’ve fulfilled a lot of their desires and wants. That’s when people start giving back. They do that through charity, through giving, mentoring, through helping. I encourage everyone who has got to a certain level in their lives to mentor young people and I really encourage young people to seek a mentor
I have definitely not seen it all, I am a constant learner.
Business is done the same way globally, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world. There are cultural differences, but business is done the same way. For example you always need a sales and marketing function as well as a finance function. EOS works unilaterally in a country and is now a global programme. It works for any sector, any business, and any country. It deals with the basic three things of getting your vision crystallized and shared, getting traction to execute that vision and building a healthy leadership team.
Simple ones can make a difference, like walking a different way to work, eating something different for breakfast. We have the same habits, for me I constantly try and realise when I am being habitual and change that so I have a new experience. Every day I want to do something different.
These three things have really catapulted my business and helped me to grow.
Athletics. Team sports helped with working hard together and ambition. It also enabled me to spend my time wisely.
Babysitter at age 10 and that’s when I got my first savings account.
I’m curious — “Do something that scares you every day” and constant learning.
I meditate in the morning, I get up 30 minutes early and meditate in bed. I find it very refreshing. I also lay my clothes out the day before and sometimes I listen to the Blinkist app whilst putting my make up in the morning.
More, why London! It has culture, heritage, it’s the financial centre and world-class city. It has everything. I am now very proud to have a British passport.
Fitzrovia, also known as ‘Noho’ which is a lovely community with lovely cafes and restaurants.
+44 (0)7795 667480