What has been the biggest challenge for you since the beginning of the pandemic?
A rollercoaster ride would perhaps be the best analogy, but I have to say the good, the bad and the ugly. One of the key lessons in life is that you don’t judge leadership on the good times, you judge it on the really tough times. If what has been thrown at us this year doesn’t give us life lessons, then nothing else will.
What early working life and early experience helped shape where you are today?
I’m a healthcare professional, so started as a nurse and midwife and afterwards did an MBA. I then moved onto healthcare delivery systems and had the great opportunity to work with Johnson and Johnson, which allowed me to work with other blue-chip companies. You reach a stage within an organisation where you outgrow the opportunity and it’s then about saying, there’s another adventure waiting.
Leadership is about the journey and process, and as an entrepreneur, you often make decisions in isolation, but as you grow it’s about having the faith dexterity to flex the new talent that you’re bringing into the organisation. You cannot build businesses that are going to impact lives without a collective body of talent behind you.
How have you taken the learnings from your prior experience and put those into the ventures you’ve created?
You can have the greatest vision, but you’ve got to have people that buy into the vision and have the skill to deliver upon that. I come from a medical device background, so when we were told that the product we had developed was a pharmaceutical product, I went out and got one of the best in the business to be our Chief Scientific and Regulatory Officer.
If I could go back, I would have been brave enough to go out for funding sooner. When you have a good idea there are people that believe in you. On the 23rd of March 2020, we had to stop within the middle of our trial. So that’s what really started me on the journey of looking at our skillset and seeing how they could be utilized within the company. We looked at assisting the efforts and started an initiative to help keep people safe through the establishment of a non-profit organisation.
What were the main crucial learns in relation to the funding journey you’ve been on?
First, have a good and compelling team around you. You also need a great product, and we knew that our treatment worked, although as an unlicensed medicine it is important that we make no claims. Investors are there to facilitate and help deliver a great product to benefit humankind and themselves.
How do you know when the timing is right?
I always want to have a team who know the financial model, operational and regulatory aspect, as people invest in the whole team. Surround yourself with good people who buy into it and believe in what you’re trying to achieve. We’re a tight-knit team and we’ve grown exponentially so I think having the right values are the most important thing.
What have been the best networking methodologies for you in recent years?
With LinkedIn, I am able to reach out to the people that I want to and use it as a tool. But I find that nothing is better than looking people in the eye and that’s what I’ve missed most.
Going back to the beginning of the pandemic, what was your reaction?
It was such a strange time of limbo, I had Covid-19 and went into hospital and was absolutely wiped out. I knew we had to be doing something as a company and couldn’t afford my team to be at home and not being part of the solution. Two things I’ve always said about people is that we need a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. Two of the team volunteered to assist on a testing platform and it has just grown from there.
Did your experience with COVID- 19 change your company strategy?
I would have reacted to it as a healthcare professional anyway because I have a very strong sense of duty. Also following the science, I felt much more comfortable if I knew that this would behave like most viruses – so I was heartened by that.
What process did you follow with your leadership team?
There was the balance of safeguarding my team, but also preparing because we knew it would be for a finite time. We started an initiative to help the capacity within the NHS but it had limited success. We then got ready for our next level of business which provided a good platform for our current investors. When addressing future investors, we can now say we carried on despite everything and helped save lives.
What have been the biggest learns over the last 12 months from a leadership perspective?
You realise that some structures are not going to be sustainable moving forward, so you have to make tough decisions. A key element is looking to see how you can avoid making people redundant and instead redistribute assets within the organisation. As we’re going through a growth phase, one of the most important things is developing that talent and taking it to the next level. There is such talent out there and these are the future leaders, especially if we impart the values and provide the guidance and platform for them to grow.
How do you encourage and support an environment that allows future leaders to develop?
Communication is fundamental and we have to make sure that we get the very best out of those individuals so that everyone feels valued by the business. We brought an external person in to work with the team, and the next thing I’m going to be doing is a 360-degree analysis. As the company grows, this is where you need external help and as a leader don’t be afraid of asking for help – I think that has been our success through our journey.
What are going to be the most important attributes of successful leaders in a post-lockdown world?
One essential ingredient is mentorship at every level of your organisation, our business is fortunate to have in-built mentorship in all of our processes and that’s the beauty of having a disciplined approach where you are able to ensure that a culture of teaching is developed and entrenched within the organisation. Iterative learning and different perspectives are key. As a leader I will not allow for the indoctrination of the way things are done, there is always a better way of doing things.
I have a 24/7 culture where I ensure that my door is always open. It’s about human kindness during this time, because all of us have had demons to deal with during this period, so as leaders we have to show sensitivity.
What are the biggest obstacles and barriers to a person success?
As an individual, you’ve got to be brave, bold and kind. There is always going to be someone who will give you the time of day – so believe in what you’re doing and make a difference.
Any podcast or book that you have recently listened to or read that stuck with you?
On the philosophical side I went back and read ‘Brave new World’ by Huxley, and ‘Klara and the Sun’ by Ishiguro where he talks about artificial intelligence and humanity.
On the fun side, I’ve been listening to Brian Cox and Robin Ince, ‘The Infinite Monkey Cage’ and listening to music from an amazing young talent called Sarah Griffiths who has recently won the Best British New Artist award.
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
Making a difference to the people I work with.