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
“We were delighted with the services that Bluebox offered us. Bluebox’s attention to detail through their Diamond Programme ensured that we were well prepared for when the business was taken to market and that the sale process itself was managed expertly.
We challenged Bluebox with finding the right strategic buyer and thereafter negotiating a deal that met our requirements. In helping initially to identify and to secure the deal with Mountville Mills they accomplished just that. Communication throughout was excellent and professional, managing each stage of the process. I would have no hesitation in recommending Bluebox to any corporate shareholder or private business owner looking to divest their business.”
Richard Millward, Former Client
“We were delighted with the services that Bluebox offered us. Bluebox were challenged with finding us the right strategic investor and, thereafter, negotiating a deal that met our complex requirements. In identifying and securing the deal with LGC they have done exactly that. The process itself was efficient and smooth, largely due to the excellent communication from the Bluebox team, who also demonstrated excellent experience at managing a very engaging auction process. I would be delighted to recommend Bluebox to any corporate shareholder or private business owner looking to divest a business.”
Helen Dickinson, Former Client
It has been a real privilege working with the team at Bluebox over this last year or so. Bluebox’s attention to detail ensured that we were well prepared for when the business was taken to market and the sale process itself was managed expertly. Starting the process, I had no idea exactly what this would entail and the volume of work that has been produced by everyone and the result reached today is nothing short of brilliant.
Hugh Morris, Former Client
We are delighted with the services that Bluebox was able to offer. They showed an intimate knowledge of a deal cycle, managed a tight auction process and were highly communicative from the start. I would happily recommend Paul and his team to business owners contemplating a sale of their business in the next 24 months. Experience is key and this has paid off for us.
Laurence Seward, Former Client
Aligning ourselves early with Bluebox, and entrusting the team to guide us through their process proved to be a highly rewarding investment from all viewpoints. Bluebox’s support significantly enhanced both the value of our business and its ‘saleability’. I would highly recommend Bluebox to business owners contemplating an exit in the next two years. The earlier the engagement the better so far as I am concerned.
Mike Minett, Former Client
We began working with Bluebox in early 2015 through their Blue Diamond Programme, as we were contemplating an exit. We found that the process focussed our minds on the key areas of growth in the business, and prepared us well for the inevitable rigours of due diligence. During the sale process itself, the advice offered by the Bluebox team was invaluable. We found them to be helpful, straightforward and honest.
David Stokes, Former Client
When selecting our adviser, it was extremely important that they had access to international buyers and were experienced in cross-border M&A. The team at Bluebox proved to be invaluable by identifying a strategic acquirer from America who was not known to us and by negotiating an excellent deal for all parties. I was also impressed with the process management from Bluebox, which ensured that the deal was closed in a timely fashion.
Jeff Weinstein, Former Client
When I first engaged with Bluebox, I was hesitant as to the benefits of using an advisor to firstly, find a buyer for my business and secondly, to get a deal over the line. However, now that the deal has completed with KPM, I can honestly say that the finer negotiation points handled by Bluebox and their overall management of this process has been nothing short of first class. I would be delighted to recommend Bluebox’s services to any entrepreneur contemplating the sale of their business.
Bill Ballard, Former Client
Bluebox worked closely with us over the following six months and helped us to implement some key initiatives which made InferMed a more attractive acquisition target. Once we decided to sell the business, the Bluebox team were very diligent in ensuring that no stone was left unturned. They negotiated expertly on our behalf to ensure we got the best deal possible.
Alan Montgomery, Former Client
The pre-sale planning programme that we signed up for with Bluebox made us develop our strategies and focus on the bigger picture. It proved to be a very rewarding investment from all viewpoints and significantly enhanced both the value of our business and its ‘saleability’. I would highly recommend Bluebox to business owners contemplating an exit in the next two years.
Nigel Parsons, Former Client
I have experienced first hand the value that can be created through highly structured pre-sale planning. It amazes me that it is not something that everyone does. It is so disappointing to see around 90% of transactions collapse before they complete and pre-sale planning will not only enhance your price, but also significantly enhance your chance of a closed deal.
James Caan, Investor
We worked incredibly closely with our advisers who provided expert knowledge of the sale process with which we were not familiar. We were truly delighted with the results.
Marten Nielson, Former Client
We appointed advisers to manage the sales process after we had received a number of unsolicited approaches for the business. I was incredibly impressed by the immense value that could be created by expertly negotiating with a group of already interested parties.
Paul Duckworth, Former Client
I was delighted with the service that the team offered and their real attention to detail. The deal was not without its complexities and it was reassuring to have such experienced advisers assisting me throughout the negotiations.
Peter Bennett, Former Client
Truly delighted with the way my sale process was managed. The fact that the team I worked with achieved such a great multiple is testament to their experience and their ability to create some true competitive tension.
James Averdieck, Gü, Former Client
The team at Bluebox provided invaluable support in negotiating this complex transaction. Their access to international purchasers, and exceptional knowledge of cross border M&A ensured that the deal was concluded efficiently, achieving a highly successful outcome for us all.
Jon Parslow, Former Client
“We selected Bluebox after a fairly long round of evaluating potential advisors because of their scientific, yet challenging approach to maximising value. During our initial meetings they showed us how far short of “ready” we were and consequently we completed more preparation in the early stages which meant we were equipped for what was to come. We were delighted with our choice of Corporate Finance partner. I do not hesitate in recommending Bluebox for any SME to consider.”
Simon English, Former Client
Bluebox provided invaluable advice in managing the negotiations with incoming investors. Their skills in handling these discussions were evident from the outset and the vital interface that they provided between the incumbent team and the incoming investors was truly beneficial.
Henry Braham, Former Client
Bluebox have a professional, dynamic and experienced team that is greatly assisting me with my focus on my exit within the next 24 months. Their structured approach is very refreshing and their ‘Blue Diamond’ programme is adding immense value.
Matt Evans, Former Client
The team at Bluebox provided me with a seamless service from the start of the engagement until our deal was completed. Attention to detail was commendable and their understanding of corporate M&A very impressive. I could not recommend them highly enough.
Victor Lewis, Former client
Having tried to sell my business previously – and failed – I was only too aware of the importance of pre-sale planning. This is a talented team offering a service that most people find out about, but too late.
Simon Hulme, Former Client
Bluebox are a quality outfit. Their access to International acquirers and relationships with the highest quality domestic investors was impressive. My shareholders and I received excellent service from start to finish and it was refreshing to be dealing with a senior team throughout the sale exercise.
Michael Clapper, Former Client
I cannot recommend the team at Bluebox highly enough. Their expert guidance throughout the entire sale exercise resulted in my shareholders securing an excellent deal with which the entire team was delighted.
Mark Rodol, Former Client
I’m really pleased with the service Bluebox provided. The team demonstrated excellent knowledge of the process to follow and led negotiations for the hospital in a way that allowed us to ensure we received appropriate value whilst focusing on reputational risk. Communication and service were of a very high standard.
Steven Davies, Former Client
With Bluebox’s expert advice we were able to find the right buyer that will benefit our business strategically. We’re delighted with the outcome and look forward to starting our new chapter
Clive Hillier, Former Client
The advice offered by the Bluebox team throughout the process was invaluable to the shareholders. We strongly believe that participating in Bluebox’s pre-sale planning programme was a significant driver behind the success of the deal. Their project management and negotiation skills throughout the sale process itself resulted in an exceptional deal being delivered to all parties involved.
Harpal Singh, Former Client