I heard Bev James speak at an event a few weeks back and instantly warmed to her. I thought you’d enjoy her story, too, so I was really pleased when we managed to get together for an interview. She wears a lot of hats so I’ll let her describe what she does. Suffice to say, she’s a woman who follows her dreams and helps others do that too!
Jane: Bev, you’re involved in several successful businesses; how do you describe what you do?
Bev: My business involvement ranges from The Coaching Academy, Mentoring, and the post of Director of Mentoring for the Government Scheme Start Up Loans. My personal mission is to make a positive and lasting difference to every individual or company I work with. So although it seems like I do a lot of things, to me I only do one thing and that’s aimed at making a difference in everything I do.
What were your aims and aspirations when you were in your teens? Did you imagine being a successful businesswoman?
I grew up with goats, geese and a pet fox who was found abandoned as a cub (later returned to the wild). In my teens I wanted to be a vet but I didn’t have the necessary qualifications. I was always quite entrepreneurial at making money as a child but never thought it would lead me to being a businesswoman.
What was your very first job?
My first job was in a paint stripper factory opposite my school. I literally fell out of the school gates and into the factory. I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I stayed there for a few years putting tops on tins and making cardboard boxes. There is nothing wrong with working in a factory but at 17 years old I knew there had to be more to life.
Has being a woman in business ever been a disadvantage to you?
I can honestly say that I have always felt it to be an advantage. I don’t expect to be discriminated against and never have been. That doesn’t mean that I don’t think discrimination exists because I know it does. I just haven’t experienced it.
You’ve said in the past that talking to large groups used to make you feel very uncomfortable yet it’s something you have dealt very successfully with. Do you have some tips for women who don’t enjoy public speaking?
Practice makes perfect, but I suggest you start with small groups and work up from there. Invest in training and coaching to perfect your skills and deal with any fears or limiting beliefs that may hold you back.
How did your association with James Caan come about?
I heard that James was going to start a school for entrepreneurs and I had been thinking of doing the same. I called him and suggested that with my experience of running events (my courses and events run all over the country with around 7000 delegates each year), and his profile we should consider working together.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Government Start Up loans you’re involved with? How does that help people in business?
I am Director of Mentoring for Start up Loans. It is a great scheme and we have now started over 30,000 businesses. Anyone over the age of 18 can apply for a low cost loan and get support from a business mentor. I am very passionate about business and have a desire to help people succeed, so it was a perfect match for my passion and skills
Who has had the biggest influence on your career?
There have been a few influences, including James Caan. He has been a great mentor to me and I learn something new from him whenever I’m in his company.
How do you best relax and unwind (assuming that you do sometimes)?
I cycle with my dad most weekends. We do anything from 20-60 miles. I can never keep up with him so it gives me something to aspire to.
You have a very close family which has clearly been a great support to you. Would you advise going into business with a family member? Have you ever done that?
I have worked with members of my family and it has worked wonderfully well. Having said that, each family is different. I think its something to think hard about and make sure that roles are clearly defined from the outset.
What’s been your best business decision to date?
A defining moment for me was training to be a coach with The Coaching Academy. I didn’t realise at the time that I would become MD 1000 days after attending the introductory course.
Coaching skills have helped me develop my own confidence and ditch limiting beliefs around public speaking, but the skills are also useful in everyday life and in the Board room.
And your least best…?
I’m struggling to think of one, Its not that I haven’t made a bad decision but I tend to move on pretty quickly and try to reframe the situation so I see it as an opportunity to learn.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Invest in yourself, I still invest in my own personal development so that I keep upgrading my skills and behaviours.
And what’s your advice to any woman looking to set up her own business?
Maybe start by reading my book Do it! or Ditch it. My advice would be to focus on something you are passionate about and something that you have knowledge and skills in. See if you can test the water by doing it part time and reduce any risks, above all seek a good mentor to help you navigate unchartered territory.
Thank you, Bev. After our first encounter I got hold of your book and it’s a clear and easy read with some great ideas. Here’s a link to Bev’s website where you can find out more about her. BevJames.com
Posted on July 3rd, 2015 by Jane