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Inspirational Women Q&A: Wendy Bowers, Role

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Wendy Bowers is the founder of Role, which provides business and executive leadership mentoring as well as coaching and business programmes – all with an emphasis on resilience and growth. Wendy is the co-author of Boost’s Growing Women, Growing Report produced for Lancashire County Council in 2022 and Role is delivering the Council's successful Two Zero programme – Women Scaling Up which is currently recruiting for its second cohort. With extensive experience working with women in leadership and enterprise, Wendy shares her own inspirational Lancashire woman in business story.

What does your business do?

Role supports business leaders and managers who want to grow their businesses in an ethical way; developing their people, protecting the planet and honouring their own lives. Our team weaves business expertise in with coaching and reflective work, to enable leaders to build resilience and continually renew their passion for their roles. Role designs and delivers programmes which range from the basics of business to wellbeing and resilience. It also specialises in women in business.

Why did you start your own business?

I was recently divorced and gradually stepped back from my role as finance director in the family manufacturing business my ex-husband and I built together. I wanted independence, so using my commercial skills I set up a business helping SMEs who were in financial trouble. I initially set it up with a female friend but within a year I was the sole managing director and quickly built a business with a range of services employing a team of six. I love helping business owners to turn their businesses around, it demanded energy and expertise and I thrive on it.

What has been your biggest business breakthrough?

Charging correctly for my expertise. For the first few years I was charging book-keeping rates for finance director level work. This stemmed from the fear of not attracting enough clients and also a lack of self belief. It was a male mentor who encouraged me to realise my worth. I was on various boards at the time, plus I had 25 years’ commercial expertise, and every day I was saving companies. I upped my rates to consultancy rates and then attracted the right work and the right clients.

What has been your proudest achievement in your business?

The work I did with the British Chambers of Commerce board between 2013 and 2017. When I was elected to the board, I was only the second female on the board. While there, I carved out an additional role as Ambassador for Women’s Enterprise, supporting Chambers across the UK to develop support for women in business and also carrying out research into the lack of women at SME director level, which I presented to parliamentary committees and fed into the Burt report in 2017.

What is the most effective support or guidance you have received?

Mentoring, from other directors/CEOs and also, in the past five years, executive coaching around both personal and business issues. In fact, when I co-authored the Growing Women, Growing Lancashire report in 2022 with Jane Binnion, industry specific mentoring featured in the top three of most effective supports for most of the Lancashire women we interviewed. In our current women’s growth programme – Two Zero’s Women Scaling Up, mentoring and coaching feature heavily.

What keeps you going when things are tough?

My family, the wild moorland on my doorstep, my teddy bear of a dog, my close friends, my campervan trips and my writing. Note, these are all things outside of work. I believe (and this belief only realised after burnout in 2016), that we all need regular downtime, to switch off the world and empty our minds – where we can practice gratefulness for the everyday gifts that surround us but that we often move past too quickly to focus on.

What are your best three tips for maintaining your wellbeing?

1. Understand that you control your thoughts. This is huge. If a negative thought arrives, take a breath, say no thanks to that thought and think a positive one instead. 2. Practice gratefulness every day. Be grateful for a cup of tea, a hug from a family member, a crocus opening. 3. Turn to wonder. If someone or something triggers you, try not to react angrily but instead, wonder why they are behaving/speaking in that way? What might be going on for them? And also, wonder what your reaction says about you.

What advice would you give to a female entrepreneur starting a business?

It’s exciting but ensure you’ve done your homework. Seek out advice. Sit down with a qualified adviser or an accountant (not your best friend) and work out if it is viable, is there a market for your service/product, how much money do you need to get through the first year, who can support you at home etc. When you and your adviser or mentor, know that it is doable, make a step-by-step monthly plan of the first year and find someone who will help you keep on track. Many women start a business as a hobby or on a part time basis to try it out. This is a good way if you need to transition your earnings from employed to self-employed. However, if you enjoy independence, challenge, making a difference and developing others, go for it. I’m so glad I set up my business, it’s been a hell of a ride, but so worthwhile. www.role.uk.com

Boost is helping Lancashire businesses. We have a range of funded support programmes and a team of business advisers you can talk to. To speak to someone from the Growth Hub about business support, contact Boost online or call 0800 488 0057.


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