The title of this blog was something I used at a networking meeting recently when I gave a talk about this subject – Don’t ignore what’s gone before.”
As an avid networker, I have many 121 meetings where I get to know people I have met to see how I can help them. Many people just talk to me about what they are doing now which is relevant but to me, but it is also important to find out what they have done in the past that brings them to where they are today. Knowing this information also helps to uncover their “why and purpose” which helps build gravitas to their story and also builds the “know, like and trust” that networking depends on.
Back in 2016 when I was making one of my many visits to my Mum in hospital, I noticed an NHS poster on the wall that showed an elderly lady in a bed with a Doctor by her bedside. The speech bubble from the elderly lady said, “My name isn’t deary, ducky or lovey……My name is Professor Brown!” Immediately you realise that the older generations had been “someone” in their previous lives and had amazing careers with such stories to tell.
I may not be elderly but I do have a story to tell which helps others to understand my career journey and how I credible my work id to stand in front of clients and explain how i can help them with my experience and journey behind me and using this to take me forwards on my Consultancy pathway.
So here goes……this is MY journey.
I was offered a place at Swansea University to study Geography and visited the University for an open day with my father. On the train journey home after a very long day, my father asked me if I liked it. I hesitated and looked at him and said, I am not 100% sure. Now for context here, neither my mother nor father had gone to University and neither had my elder brother or sister. University was not really a destination that many of my friends were considering and only the brightest students with A grades were attending University. ( No A* in my day )
My Careers officer had indicated to me that finance or accounting would be an ideal career for me earlier that year and I had already been offered a place on a Management Training Scheme with Lloyds Bank in London.
So you can guess, Swansea University was not for me, and off I went to Lloyds Bank to start my career.
– Lloyds Bank in Sloane Square was my destination and I spent 2 1/2 very happy years there learning the ropes and covering all sorts of functions in the back office and then at the Cashier’s desk. I realised straight away that I loved people and helping them ( despite some awkward customers some days ) Many days were spent coding cheques, looking through microfiche for a bounced cheque, opening and closing accounts, cashiering, and supporting the Deputy Manager in his day-to-day tasks. One day he said to me that he felt I should move away from “high street banking” and consider ‘international banking’. Well, that comment got me thinking on the way home that day.
Several weeks later I was reading the free newspaper that they distributed at my train station and in the back was a careers section. Well, the stars were aligned as an advert stood out with the title ‘International Banking Opportunity’ and I applied. I went for the interview and was snapped up and off I went to Chemical Bank as a back office clerk.
– Chemical Bank back then was the UK arm of the bank and is better known today as JP Morgan Chase, having been taken over several times. I started in the back office checking and inputting dealer’s foreign exchange and money market trades into a computer system. A little boring but very intense and I learned a great deal about all sorts of currencies and trades. Not long after I had joined I was approached to move up to the dealing floor and join the front office team who were the runners for all the traders, investigating queries and calculating profit and loss. This was a frenetic place to work and was long hours and at times quite stressful.
However, I thrived in this fast-paced environment and was trained to become a money markets dealer looking after the bank’s £ and USD exposures. After much success at this, I was transferred to the corporate desk where I was in charge of some key clients and spoke to them on a daily basis and advised them on what the markets were doing and when they should cover their financial exposures. I enjoyed this immensely and made some lifelong friends who I still see today. Later this year, I will be attending the first of all our children’s wedding having been to each other’s years ago.
Having met my now husband when I was working at Chemical Bank, it was swiftly clear to me that my hours and his were not matching. I would often fall asleep very early on a Friday night having finished a week of 5.30am starts and sometimes late evenings too. So I looked for another job that would have better hours and so another search began. I used a recruitment agency this time and was interviewed for a sales role at Reuters. The skills that I had built up in the 6.5 years of trading meant I was a great fit for their new opening of a Sales Executive, selling dealing software and hardware back into dealing rooms.
– I was offered a job at Reuters, Bingo… I had used the software and hardware myself so could hit the ground running. I supported a range of different-sized banks with software and hardware needs in various banking sectors. I sold this software and hardware and spent a great deal of time with large clients such as Goldman Sachs, feeding back user experience to the developers so that Reuters could ensure that when new services were released they were fit for purpose and would fly off the shelves. This was another busy role and now married and having started a family childcare was built in at vast expense.
An announcement was made by Reuters that they were to be taken over and would become Thomson Reuters and as a result, they were offering all staff the opportunity for Voluntary Redundancy. Having spent at this stage, about 16 years of my career in banking in the city, surely this was an opportunity for me to take a different path? Yes it was and I took it with open arms.
I wasn’t sure what I would do next but I did know that it was the right time and my children needed me.
Within two months of leaving Thomson Reuters, I was offered a role at a local bespoke furniture manufacturer called Opus Magnum and introduced to the owners by an ante and post-natal friend. They needed someone to build an Excel spreadsheet of all their customers so that they could add this to a bespoke database for their business. ‘Simples’ as they say.
I was able to work there 2 days a week around my children and school hours! The owners ran a family-friendly business and they too had children of similar ages so understood the “juggle” Of course, the spreadsheet was completed quickly, and soon afterward I was set to task with many different projects. These included areas such as sales, marketing, finance, HR & health and safety. I loved this role and ended up as the Operations / Office Manager and was the ‘go-to gal ‘for everyone. I often told people I did everything from ordering the toilet roll to tenders, accreditations, preferred suppliers lists, CRMs, and procurement. You can see where this is headed now and I supported this business to grow from 12 people to 35, gain various accreditations, win various tenders, and expand the office to a larger space to accommodate a bigger team and a meeting room and showroom all on two days a week for 17 years! – Give a task to a busy person comes to mind ( I was also supporting two ailing parents as well as bringing up a family! )
As I became proficient in this role, I realised I was always acting in a proactive manner and anticipating what the business and the management needed. I really understood how this business operated and how all the cogs of the business needed to work to turn in unison. I was always being asked by friends and family about this and soon I was helping them with their businesses too.
One thing I should mention here too is that as well as Foreign Exchange diploma and SFA exams taken at Chemical Bank, I did in fact, go to university and get a degree in professional and business administration, whilst working 2 days a week at Opus Magnum – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
In 2016 I was talking to my Mum and saying that I needed a new challenge and perhaps I should set up my own business. She immediately said to me “Just do it!” So in true Alex style again I set about researching names and I knew the name needed to start with A and should be a Latin word. Auxilium means “to aid assist and support “ and suddenly my business had come alive and all the lilacs and purples were a “nod” to my mum, as they were her favourite colours.
The business started off as Auxilium Admin as I was offering virtual administration services. I swiftly realised that because of my Ops management experience, this is really what SMEs wanted access to. They didn’t have the budget for a full-time member of staff but a part-timer and someone who could work remotely was far better suited to their budgets and tapped into my experience as the perfect solution. My Accountant recommended that I dropped ‘Admin’ in the business name and so Auxilium became Auxilium Business Consulting Ltd as it still is today.
So my consultancy business was born and I was busy supporting various business owners with Audits, Projects, Office management and setups, Display Screen Risk Assessments, and retained operations roles. As I was doing this I was keen to weave in my passion for sustainability. I was making procurement choices for my home in a sustainable manner but what about my business?
In late 2020 I attended a webinar where Richard Collins from CSR-A was discussing how SMEs can gain an accreditation for the way they run a business in a sustainable manner. Up until that point, it seemed that this was for the big corporates and was not something a SME could reach or even bother to do, given that the thoughts were that it would take too much time and be a costly process. How wrong could we as small business owners have been? Climate change issues were rising, and they still are as we all need to make a difference in every way we can.
Following my attendance at this webinar and then on a CSR-A course in 2021, my eyes were opened to all the environmental, community, workplace, and philanthropic areas that I was already incorporating into my day-to-day operations and even more so, what else I could add to this. This made me very aware of the best practices that I was abiding by and the clear benefits of doing so.
Having operated on this path, I was keen to be recognised and so I am very proud that Auxilium Business Consulting Ltd was awarded a Silver CSR Accreditation for its activities which is an independent recognition of my sustainable journey so far. Of course, it is a work in progress and I will be adding to this all the time.
So with all my experience above, I now also work with clients to start them on their journey using my SOW programme. The outcome of this is to provide a sustainability statement ( external document ) and roadmap of actions ( internal document ) for them, so that they can evidence to interested parties of what they have done, what they are doing, and what they are planning. This helps to audit their impacts and ensure they are weaved into the strategy and core of the business and supported by all the management and employees at all times.
If you have got this far reading this blog then
- Thanks for reading this far.
- I hope my journey of what’s gone before helps you gain more insight into me and Auxilium.
- If sustainability is something that is on your agenda and you don’t know where to start or you need a business audit or support with a project or office management then you know where I am
- I would love to chat with you about how I can help and support you and find out your journey to where you are today, so do get in touch.