An Interview with a Head of Marketing

A/N  I remember our current interviewee as a young girl at Rishworth School. It’s wonderful to hear about her career journey.

Tell us a little about your career and how you ended up where you are today.

I am currently the Head of Marketing at our family business Lanes Group Plc. It’s a company providing blockage clearance services for drains and pipes. There are currently 1260 staff at 25 operating centres located around the UK.
I started working directly from school with very few formal qualifications.

The first family business that we had, Neolith Limited, hired out high-pressure water equipment to people and companies for a variety of cleaning and descaling tasks. Initially, I ran the hire desk. It was a very pressurised role that required a lot of customer contact and organisation to keep the customer happy and deliver what they expected. I gained vast experience in dealing with customers and understanding their expectations.
For a short while, I left the business and went to live in the Canary Islands where I secured a job in Tenerife narrating fashion shows and selling fur coats to tourists. I was very pressurised selling with long hours. But I survived. When I returned to the UK, I secured a job managing a ladies fashion shop in Halifax. That job was great fun. However, I do remember losing sleep when I had to deal with my first shoplifting issue.

After a couple of years away from the family business I returned to Neolith and then started working with the sales team, providing support and creative ideas to ensure that our customers fully understood what services we provided. It is here where I found my passion and creative skills for sales and marketing. It’s hard selling engineering equipment of any description; people normally only look for this type of equipment when they have a need. You don’t create the need for the customer.

In the early 90’s that business was sold. Initially, my brother and I stayed with the company, but we were then both made redundant 5 years to the day that the sale went through!. Business can be very harsh at times because we both thoroughly enjoyed our roles.

My father, a true Entrepreneur, had in the meantime bought a new business Lanes for Drains. It was still in the very early stages of growth and couldn’t sustain two more salaries immediately. I was also 3 months pregnant when I was made redundant and back in the 90’s employers didn’t readily take on women who were pregnant. I was fortunate because some of the customers who I had worked with for years at Neolith Limited approached me directly to help them build their fledgling businesses and do a sales and marketing role with them.

I duly started my own consultancy business Ringland Associates. I had five different customers who I worked for one day per week. The companies were varied – one was an insurance company, two others building contractors, one a retail organisation and finally one day per week was spent working for Lanes for Drains. It was an interesting time in my life. Juggling a brand new baby, plus a three year old, running a home and five demanding clients was hard work. I hadn’t actually finished work for any maternity leave when my son Matthew decided to make an appearance 3 weeks early.

Eventually, after 3 years of doing consultancy work Lanes as a company was developing fast and my father persuaded me to close down the consultancy practice and join Lanes for Drains, that was 19 years ago. Sales and marketing and dealing with customers directly have always been a passion and so working with the sales team here at Lanes is where I have dedicated most of my working life.

What makes someone good in your chosen field?
Understanding your customer is critical to ensuring that we provide the services that they need. Thinking outside the box is also fundamental to being creative, and marketing our business in a different way to our competitors has also been high on my agenda.

What mediums/areas do you mostly operate in?
Direct mail was and still is the backbone of our business. Creating ‘prompted recall’ so that when the need arising for someone to call a drainage company they know or have heard about Lanes. Over the past 10 years the move to electronic communicate with our clients has been embraced wholeheartedly. I love the speed in which social media and the web can generate interest and enquiries.

Exhibitions are something that I used to love attending, but I really do feel that the exhibitions are dated and stale. I would love someone to develop an idea that brought people together in an effective manner. I do miss the face to face contact that used to come with customers attending exhibitions.

What can be challenging about your profession?
As the company has grown the changing responsibilities of the company to our staff and customers. It’s no longer acceptable to just provide a service. Now we have to provide that service in a responsible manner for both our staff and customers, ensuring that we align ourselves with their business objectives.

What do you most like about your profession?
I love the contact that we have with customers directly. All of the senior management team at Lanes have to sponsor specific accounts so that they interact with our customers. If you stop dealing with customers on a day to day basis, I firmly believe you quickly lose sight of what they expect and need from us as a company.

What has been your most embarrassing professional moment?
That’s easy. Last year, I attended a tender meeting at a large utility company. The contract was worth several million pounds a year, so it was an important event.

There was only a hand full of ladies in the meeting, and so you do stick out in a sea of suits. After the meeting, as a group, we were all walking back to the car park that was quite away from where the meeting had been held. I was walking back with a group of people who had been at the meeting, chatting away, when I went flat on my face on the pavement.

The men with me were so gracious and kind. But I died of embarrassment – the contents of my handbag were strewn over the road, black opaque tights ruined, and my dignity on the pavement too. One gentleman offered to go and get his car to drive me back to the car park, but I insisted that I was OK. I was so embarrassed I could have died. I think that was the longest drive home I have ever had.

What has been your most nerve-wracking professional moment?
I have them frequently, so there isn’t one that stands out. I wouldn’t change that because I believe it helps mould the individual and ensure that it keeps you on your toes. If you don’t experience nerve-wracking moments whatever they are, then how do you learn?

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out their careers; especially in your field?
Michelle Ringland - Head of Marketing Lanes GroupDon’t be afraid to ask for people’s opinions and reflect on them. You learn by listening.

Michelle Ringland is the Head of Marketing, Lanes Group Plc
www.lanesfordrains.co.uk

Setting a course for happiness

540447_296256847127709_197996310287097_675934_299281390_nI’ve been a bit busy since my return from Granada and not had much time for personal blogging. However, I have been busy writing for my clients and just written this article on Happiness, as part of a self-care series, which appeared on the Simple Meetings website. You may like to check it out. The actual site has some great tools for managing agenda’s in real-time that allows team members to collaborate and thus opens up more time to concentrate on other business.

If you find the tips useful, I’d love to receive your feedback either here or directly in Simple Meetings as a comment.

On a personal note, I’m very happy to report I had a fantastic trip to Granada and I’m also delighted to have my son visiting me here in Spain at the moment.

Michelle

Self care – an essential

419290_511331578905810_463274963_nLooking after yourself. Taking care of number one. It doesn’t always come easily. However, it’s also absolutely essential we learn to practice this on a regular basis.  In today’s electronic age it’s too easy to always be ‘on’, to feel the need to check emails and answer mobile phones with little regard to the day or the hour.

I know, from first hand experience, that we are faced with onerous responsibilities, tough decision making and coping with a myriad of demands on a daily basis. It’s so easy to allow ourselves to be engulfed by the burdens that are an integral part of todays corporate landscape. This frequently includes a tightened budget which translates into more needing to be done with less. Less human resources to tackle tasks have a tendency to result in longer hours, placing even more pressure on individuals.

Self care should be embedded in our lives. We are all different and there is no one size fits all but, the one thing that is common to everyone is that, unless we practise self care we are unable to continually thrive and function at optimum levels.

Most of us naturally place our families first and foremost – definitely the way it should be. But, it shouldn’t be at the expense of our own sanity or the risk of losing ourselves.

Self care means setting boundaries. It means valuing and respecting our own worth. It means being able to say no without having an attack of the guilts. It means carving out time especially for ourselves and regarding it as a necessity as opposed to an indulgence.

Michelle

Paper…..such precious stuff

I suspect we take paper f1528657_625843537472168_378676817_nor granted most of the time but since I have been here in Spain I am rediscovering what a wonderful commodity it is and what an important role it plays in our lives.

Thursday saw me return to Seville again in the hope of securing my identity card. This week it was much colder and there were about 25 people ahead of me in the queue and no friendly American to chat to. I spent the time jiggling from one foot to the other as I tried to keep myself warm for 45 minutes waiting for the sun to come up and the doors to open.

The tall thin chap from last week, who I’ve now named Scruffy, was at the desk all rugged up with a bright yellow scarf round his neck and a sweatshirt that had seen better days. I did notice he’d managed to have a hair cut since last week. Very pleasantly he gave me a number and shooed me into an enormous waiting room complete with toilets. It was a different one to last week with only a couple of people in front of me and desks with loads of staff so I thought it boded well for fast processing or maybe the fact that there were loos there meant things were going to take a lot longer!

My number flashed onto the board so I approached the nearest desk where I was told to go into the next room. I found myself back where I started last week faced with the same woman who’d told me I needed more paperwork. A glance at my papers and she still didn’t seem happy, told me to wait and left the room to consult with Scruffy, who seemingly must be fairly senior. Sour Puss returned, and without a word to me, bashed something into her computer, loaded paper into a printer and then looked up, smiled and handed me the precious identity card. I beamed at her and skipped out the door!

I made a quick dash to find the International Bookshop which my American friend told me about last week. Pushing open the door I inhaled deeply, allowing the smell of new books to permeate my senses as I walked through the store in search of the English section. The selection wasn’t huge but for someone starved it was like manna from heaven! I delighted in browsing through the shelves and came away with 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner for Fiction, The Goldfinch, which is a lovely thick 864 page book.

At the bus station I grab my English newspaper which is providing not only news for me but is proving to be a source of great interest for several students who have never seen an English paper before.

Paper is definitely a most valuable commodity (not only in the form of my precious ID card), but because the sight, feel and smell evoke our senses stimulating our brains into absorbing, scribbling down our thoughts or simply escaping into the depths of a great read.

Michelle

QUICK UPDATE…..Paris

Been 10 days since my last blog so here we go……. been having a wonderful trip catching up with Denise in Paris, Helene & Pierre in Belgium and Paolo in Amsterdam with no time to blog 🙂

Paris – riding the metro from Orly Airport it was wonderful to be met by Denise at the top of the stairs of Saint Michel-Notre Dame.  A very short stroll and we were at her apartment on Ile Saint Louise (one of th two natural islands in the middle of the Seine) which is very large by Paris standard. Wonderful to have my own room with a window that looked straight out to the Seine. Dumped the bags and off we went to purchase fromage, vin rouge, baguette and fruit for our supper. Just love all the little boulangries, other patisseries and other cute shops.

Over three days Denise and I spent hours meandering, chattering, sipping vin rouge and of course a little shopping too – we had a whole year of news to catch each other up on and it was just wonderful and we were blessed with the most glorious weather for walking about. It was also great to be able to have a washing machine instead of the handwash Chinese laundry going on in the hotel bathroom each night.

Wines galore!
Wines galore!
20140909_151716
Exploring some of the perfumeries
Denise and myself having fun in Paris
Denise and myself having fun in Paris

 

Have had 3 job interviews so far. Each was very different and most interesting to see the questions that they ask. It’s a bit weird doing the interviews over Skype but hey, it’s all a new experience. Although I have been offered a couple of things, none are offering full-time work so I need to carefully consider what I will do and where I might base myself in terms of getting the most work but I shall think about that one next week.

More to follow on Brussels, Amsterdam and Seville which is where I am currently and it is gorgeous but that is another update – so stay tuned.

Michelle

A wonderful world……..thank you Abreast In A Boat

What a wonderful surprise it was last night to walk into Ca’de Ven (an amazing local wine bar) and hear a voice yell out “Michelle. Michelle Hanton”- I turned around and there was Cheryl Watson coming towards me along with Juanita Pegler. It is almost seven years since we last saw each other. We had no idea we were all going to be in Ravenna so it was a delight to catch up with these amazing women whom I first met in 2002 when I put together the Internationally Abreast (IA) team for the World Club Crews being held in Rome. Juanita and Cheryl along with Deb Thiessen and Linda Acosta were the Abreast In A Boat representatives from Vancouver.

IA team members - Rome 2002 reunited in Ravenna 2014
IA team members from Rome 2002 reunited in Ravenna 2014 – Juanita, Michelle & Cheryl

It was soooo fantastic to see the girls again. We hugged and reminisced about those early days and that incredible time we had in Rome. It was also where I met Donna Leon, as she was there to film our journey for her program They’ve Got Game – Water Works.

The world of dragon boating for breast cancer survivors has changed so much since those early days but the friendships made by those of us who were pioneers remain strong. It’s funny that in the last 2 months I’ve also had a reunion with Elspeth Humphries – who was also in the IA boat in Rome – she swept the 2000 metre race – first time a breast cancer survivor crew took on that race – and today it is so common place for survivor crews to compete and indeed, to do well, in these races. Janelle Gamble, another of our Internationally Abreast originals will also be here but this time as an IDBF official and I will be sweep for the Waterfront Warriors team.

If it was not for breast cancer and Abreast In A Boat I would not be sitting here today writing this bog. Funny how the darkest moments in our lives can turn into some of the very best opportunities. As they saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I have to say, based on what has happened in my life, this is most certainly true.  Before signing off this blog I also want to make a special mention and say, I always remember with great affection, two special women who have lost their battle with breast cancer, Sandy Smith from Abreast In A Boat who was a guiding light in setting up Dragons Abreast in Australia, and of course the unforgettable Orlanda Capelli who became our drummer in Rome and the then went on to establish the first Italian breast cancer survivor team.

Michelle

 

Me Time

Eating, sleeping and waking up when I feel like it has been wonderful – no alarm clock , no plane to catch, no deadlines. Absolutely bliss. The time in Bologna has been a wonderful luxury as I can actually hear myself think properly without a hundred different competing deadlines and thoughts popping into my head.

Nothing like 'me time'
Nothing like ‘Me Time’

I’ve walked everywhere, even up and down the four floors from the lobby to my hotel room, stopped to eat when I felt hungry and watched the passing parade of life in Bologna. The markets yesterday were quite fascinating with a large turnout of what must be the multicultural community, Chinese, Indian and lots of Muslim ladies who were having a great time shopping for headscarves as there is such a fantastic selection to choose from here. All were speaking Italian and as a TESOL teacher it intrigued me to hear the accents. I wonder was it as hard for them to learn Italian as it is to learn English?

Menswear stores are plentiful with great choices and it is lovely to see lots of colours and styles as opposed to the more staid selections which are generally found in Australian menswear shops.
I had also forgotten how everyone smokes here. Cigarettes are openly on sale everywhere. Immaculately dressed, beautifully tanned and accessorised ladies spoil their look with the presence of a fag in their hand.

Each evening I’ve sat in the lovely garden and enjoyed a glass of wine – only the presence of a ‘’zanzare” (mosquito) yesterday drove me in a little earlier than usual. These 3 days alone have been good for my soul. This afternoon I move on to Ravenna where I’ll be joining my team mates.

Michelle

Self Care

Self care – taking care of number one – me! This is not something that comes easily but is absolutely essential for both personal and professional wellbeing. In fact, the more senior the role the more important to have a self care strategy in place as in today’s electronic age it is too easy to always be ‘on’ with the expectation that emails are checked and mobile phones answered at all times.

At management level we are faced with tough decision making and coping with the heavy demands that go with expectations of senior roles which frequently includes a tightened budget that often means less human resources to tackle tasks which leads to longer hours. It is easy to become bogged down with a heavy work load and forget to make time to smell the roses.

Having a self care plan in place is essential to maintaining wellbeing. For me it means setting boundaries which include:

  • Only a few people have my personal mobile number and that is the only one which I answer once I sign off for the day
  • I try to take an early morning walk each day – this is my thinking time as well as an opportunity to repeat affirmations and connect with nature.
  • If I happen to sleep in (and that’s okay too) I still take the time for affirmations that set me up for the day
  • On a regular basis I book out for a couple of hours of ‘me time’- no friends, no family – just me!
  • About every 6 weeks I allow myself a couple of day where I just do what I want to do as opposed to what I have to do. This usually involves sleeping in late, sitting around in my pj’s reading, meeting good friends, eating what I want and when I feel like it.

Self care techniques need to be embedded into our working lives and it is worth spending a little time thinking about which strategies work best for you.  We are all different and there is no one size fits all but the one thing that is common to us all is the fact that unless we practise self care we will not thrive and function at optimum levels. Learning to say no is also a very large part of successful self care. I will be expanding on this and other aspects of self care in further articles.

Love to hear what kind of self care techniques others are using….

Michelle