Women in innovation - Louise Ladbrooke

Leigh Jenkins
Marketing Manager - Innovation | Enterprise Europe Network
8th March 2017

In the last of our series of interviews with South West female entrepreneurs, we chat to Louise Ladbrooke an innovation coach for the innovate2succeed programme.

I didn’t know that I was an entrepreneur until I used my personal skills of creativity, troubleshooting and systems thinking to solve my personal problem of finding guilt free, quality childcare. I left my job and started my own daycare business although quickly realised that lovely premises and the best quality system wasn’t enough, our people made the difference between strive and thrive. For 10 years we committed ourselves to more and more innovative ways of people management and the business grew winning business awards along the way. 

These days I use my experience to support other people in business.

What is your role as a coach and Innovate2succeed adviser?

People generally go into business because they’ve had a great idea. That said, you need all round business expertise to ensure that your idea materialises, gets to market and a sustainable business is created. I work with clients asking questions so that they can see their businesses in a new light. Together we identify their needs to ensure that they continue to do what they love, achieve their best and get the support of others to fill in the gaps.

What is a typical working day for you? 

I love that there is no typical day, then again I know that my best days are when I’ve stuck to a healthy morning routine. If I don’t take a moment each morning to plan my day, eat the best food and exercise then I can just muddle through the day with little or no productivity.

When I’m not visiting clients, I’m working from home and a ritual to separate out my work space from home space is essential for my sanity.

What do you enjoy most about your job? 

Getting out and about and meeting people. I get to work in such a variety of businesses which all started with someone having a great idea. I hear their stories and get to ask questions, witnessing the moment when they have a breakthrough, knowing that my questions have helped them get there is a privilege. 

We are all remarkable. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the day to day stresses of life but to be able to take a moment to listen to and appreciate what others have been through in their lives, and celebrating with them how far they’ve come, is a delight.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Self discipline - creating when I don’t feel creative - I’ve found that I have to schedule a time in order to write. I’m one of those people who have no trouble generating new ideas but I never liked report writing in school and my attitude hasn’t got any better with age.

What are the challenges facing women in innovation?

Being taken seriously - I started and built up an award winning childcare business with a team of 50 over four sites, selling successfully after 10 years. I got invited to share our people management innovations in Brussels but having built up all that credibility, I frequently got dismissed as soon as people heard childcare. It used to irritate me until I learned that it was a reflection on them and certainly not me and my abilities. 

There is so much bias in the world, conscious and unconscious, I used to think that I could get people to like and approve of me and my work, which is 40 years I’ll never get back! These days I know that I’m doing it for me and to become the best version of me.

What are 3 key things you think are important to succeed as a woman in business?

Self worth - you can achieve a lot without much self confidence but life is a whole lot easier when you believe in yourself and your ability. Focus on building your self esteem and you’ll be surprised how your life changes for the better.

Find your people and surround yourself with a supportive team - we never imagine that athletes or celebrities work on their own so don’t think that you have to. Find people who will share their expertise with you, we’re not designed to be good at everything, so find others who can fill your skills gaps. They will soon be the ones with whom you can share your successes and who will catch you in those moments when you fall.

Learn to put yourself first so that you can be there for others when they need you - I was brought up not to care about me, everybody else came first. I eventually suffered burnout which I wouldn’t wish on anyone. These days I prioritise my health and help others to do the same. When I’m on a good day, everyday, I’m better placed to help others.

What's the best piece of business advice you've ever been given?

Asking for help is a great strength. I love it when people ask me for help in sharing my expertise and I have come to realise that other people feel the same way when I ask them. 

Collaboration is a powerful thing, you never know where it may take you. So many of my coaching clients have been suffering in isolation, it’s a desperate place to be. Reach out and make someone’s day by asking for their help.

Do you have any tips for people looking to progress their career in innovation?

Surround yourself with like minded people and those who are further along than you, just like playing tennis with a better player, you will up your game.

Learn to pace yourself, it may take longer than you think. Sometimes progress takes a particularly circuitous route which we can’t see or predict and you need stamina to stay the length of the journey.

Be self aware, recognise when you’re hard on yourself, when you become defensive, have some self compassion and forgive yourself your mistakes. I’ve always found that things have a way of working out.

What women inspire you and why?

The generous ones - I’ve been at the receiving end of put downs, manipulation and competition, it’s all based in their fears and personal insecurity. The generous women who have helped me for no personal gain were all deeply confident in themselves and their abilities - they were more than happy to give me a leg up unconditionally. These women have become my role models, the world needs more of them.

What are the biggest challenges for the future generation of women in innovation?

Making sure that they are encouraged to dream big and are given the confidence, support and communication skills to make those dreams come true with no external pressure. Our best innovative ideas come from the quiet times in life, we’re all under so much pressure these days that ‘busyness’ has become a medal of honour. Our future generations, whatever gender need to experience stillness and quiet time to allow those crazy dreams to be heard.

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