October 23, 2018
British Franchise Association Article - Queen of Pubs
Read the article published by the British Franchise Association in October 2018 as part of the Empowering Women in Business 2018.
Helen Lees, founder of FindMyPub, SellMyPub and MyPubGroup, has been working in the pub trade sector since she was 16 years old, fighting for a place at the top. We spoke to her to hear her story about perseverance, innovation and determination to succeed in an industry that is predominately male.
How did you first enter the Pub Industry?
I entered the industry some 22 years ago, working as a part time administrator within the cellar department Bankss Brewery in Wolverhampton, this really was the start of my career, although I had previously worked front of house in a local pub, starting as a glass collector.
Have you ever faced any challenges as woman professionally?
Yes, our sector was and is a male dominated environment and I really struggled at times to deal with that environment, especially when I was pregnant with my first child, there was little support networks available then and little understanding of a hormonal women in the team.
What traits do you believe are necessary to operate and lead a business?
Passion, dedication, drive, and a little dose of stupidity!
What have you learned about leadership and mentoring others?
It’s not easy, there are many times where I have to check my expectations of people as it’s hard to separate the emotion of it being your own business and realistic expectations of others. However I really enjoy seeing the team develop and enjoy assisting their growth through coaching. I have learnt a huge amount myself, If you ask some of the team in the early days they would probably say I wasn’t great at it! I am sure now the response would be better.
How do you achieve work-life balance?
Good diary organisation & wine!
Was there anyone who helped you on the way to success?
Lots of people and they still do, My hubby who has put up with me working most evenings until the early hours especially in the early days, My mum for listening to my good and bad ideas and putting up with me when I call at the most ridiculous times of the day, My dad because he is and always will be my superhero both personally and financially. There is also Chris Welham who was a mentor for me for 12 months and most recently Paul Clarke, Paul and I worked together 18 years ago and now is Chairman of MPG. Paul is very much the voice of reason and his counsel is invaluable.
What’s one of the toughest decisions you’ve had to make and how did it impact your life?
Letting someone else raise my children. We have had much support from family and my mum & father in law have cared for my children 2 days per week rain or shine since they were babies, I also then have Karen who is the boys main carer through the week, I missed many milestones which will always leave me with a huge feeling of guilt, although when I talk to the boys they seem to be really well rounded kids so fingers crossed it’s just me that has the issue!
What’s an accomplishment you are most proud of?
During the last 10 years there was a specific time that I could have closed the doors and closed the business, it would have been far easier to do so, but yet again the support network stepped in and helped me through, that was a really big personal goal for me and made me realise that there is nothing that can’t be achieved if you want it badly enough.
What advice would you give to women who are considering joining business?
Choose a sector you are really passionate about, this makes the tough days easier and more rewarding, be brave and be bold.
What do you think the future holds for women in franchising/business?
I am confident that women have a real place both as business owners and senior execs within bigger organisations. The skills we have are invaluable and our multi - tasking second to none, I would very much love to see more women making their way to board level positions and whilst our sector isn’t quite there yet I do believe we are ready for it.