Consultancy

Unlocking Potential: Here’s How Gemma Is Helping Leaders Deliver Growth

Explore the inspiring journey of Gemma from Leading Edge, who embarked on her entrepreneurial path by focusing on unlocking leaders' remarkable capabilities.

Did you know that when leaders embrace emotional intelligence and curiosity, they unlock their true potential, transforming into extraordinary motivators, inspirers, and nurturers for their teams? This powerful transformation enables them to lead with greater effectiveness, generating a remarkable positive impact within their organisations.

Wanting to know more about this, we spoke with co-founder Gemma from leadership coaching agency Leading Edge to learn more about her journey, and how she's on a mission to help leaders all over the UK.

Can you tell us about your journey as a founder? What inspired you to start your own business?

I started my first business 4 years ago (Talenta Ltd) providing executive coaching & HR consultancy services to corporate and private clients. My inspiration followed my coaching & NLP training whereby I experienced and witnessed the power of unlocking our minds and tapping into our true potential, increased confidence and greater personal and professional satisfaction.

I wanted to be able to work with different clients and those that had a desire for change. I recently co-founded a second business (Leading Edge Partnership Ltd) with a friend and ex-work colleague providing management, leadership & team development to corporate clients.

My inspiration for this was to be able to work with a like-minded peer and to collectively make more of a difference to the way in which managers and leaders embrace and grow into their roles as often onboarding, training & development are lacking.

What challenges did you face in the early stages of your entrepreneurial journey? How did you overcome them?

I'd never run a business and at the time it felt like there was little direction. I was comfortable wearing all of the different hats as in my previous career I had supported functions such as sales, marketing, operations, finance, etc. I guess one of the challenges was the amount of attention and energy I needed to invest whilst still wanting to be creative and explore, particularly in terms of marketing.

I struggled to niche due to my broad experience and skillset. I researched and joined the local Chamber of Commerce, developed a network, got some mentoring, benefited from lots of funded workshops on being a business owner. One of my biggest struggles was identity in that I had worked and studied hard for years to have a successful HR career.

I found it difficult to have a voice as 'Gemma, Business Owner' as opposed to 'Gemma, HR Director Europe for XX'. Imposter syndrome kicked in - who was going to listen to anything I posted? So what if I wrote a blog, who was going to read it, etc.

It took time but I made myself post, write, comment regularly with a pinch of 'care less' so that I didn't become obsessed by likes, etc.

I also found some roles models and watched what they did. The biggest challenge was financial insecurity as I'd reached a senior level in my career which came with a very good remuneration package. This resulted in me jumping into contracting for financial security by about month 4 and this meant I had less time and energy to build my business and find clients.

This became a pattern but luckily I managed to break this after 3 gigs. Mindset is key, as is having a support network around you.

How did you identify the target market for your product/service? What made you confident that it would resonate with customers?

I really struggled with this for a long time with Talenta. I tried to focus on SMEs as often they don't have HR, L&D, coaching resources but found that they didn't have the inclination or budget. A Chamber mentor pointed out the obvious - I had 20 years of corporate experience so why was I trying to break into a different market! Game changer.

With my coaching business I looked back at my clients and the pattern that emerged was that they were female, in professional roles / industries, successful but had self-limiting beliefs, lacked the confidence to dream big and showed signs of imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome shows up during career transitions so this translated into my career coaching niche. For Leading Edge, it was much easier as we knew we wanted to work with corporates and identified our personas fairly easily.

What were some of the major obstacles you encountered while building your business? How did you navigate through those hurdles?

For Talenta, it was Covid which hit 12 months after start-up. I found that due to the uncertainty, layoffs, etc. there was a real reluctance to invest. During this period I was fortunate enough to have 2 HR contracts that carried me through. Initially it felt like a real roadblock but then it did open up some coaching opportunities due to moving to online and being more accessible.

90% of my coaching is currently online. For Leading Edge, we've found that clients initially engage and like what we have to offer but then their priorities move around, often due to reducing costs and therefore, the process is significantly elongated. However, these feel like stepping stones to me as the connections are being made and we're thinking about different approaches and opportunities.

Could you share a specific moment of doubt or failure you experienced along the way? How did you bounce back from it?

Towards the end of last year I did have that moment of feeling that I had failed in my business as I'd predominately been doing HR projects and ad-hoc coaching. It was supposed to be the other way around when I first started Talenta. However, with some self-coaching I turned this around to having successfully run my own business for 4 years with 3 long-term client projects and being able to take time out to study for my Master NLP Practitioner certification (approx. 100 hours).

I'd survived Covid and remained financially stable. During the first week of January I flipped this around to 4-6 days consultancy per month for a client, and I recently started a public sector coaching contract with another one due to start in September. I've also co-founded Leading Edge Partnership with some initial opportunities bubbling away, and I'm also collaborating with a fellow coach and friend on a coaching retreat for senior professional women. Again, mindset comes into play as I focus on the future and don't dwell on the past.

How did you approach scaling and expanding your business? What strategies did you employ to ensure sustainable growth?

For Talenta, I am working with another coach so that we can collectively take on bigger projects. Future expansion will include a broader range of services which we are currently developing.

Did you face any scepticism or resistance from others when pursuing your entrepreneurial dreams? How did you handle it?

It was a mix of cheerleaders and doubters but it didn't put me off, I had a fire in my belly. I knew I was done with the previous chapter of my career without a shadow of doubt and that I was most excited by the next chapter. I reminded myself of my why and also the lifestyle I wanted to create - more flexibility, freedom and choice.

Can you describe a key decision you made that significantly impacted the trajectory of your business? What were the factors you considered?

Change of mindset - it's as simple as that. I'd heard a term but cannot think what it was verbatim but in essence, how you are being / talking = how your life is. I was on a bootcamp recently and identity came up, i.e., you need to let go of your old identity and create a new one. I'd struggled to let go of my old identity for about 3 years, not surprising after having spent 16 years building it up. I've now embraced my new identity in terms of what I want to work on, be known for, talk about, and more importantly, what I don't want to do.

What advice would you give to aspiring founders who are just starting their entrepreneurial journey?

It's hard work and it's not a linear process but it is worth it if you really feel passionate about your business idea. Remember why you're doing it, create a future vision and have a good plan and clear goals. Also, there is a ton of free support out there (as well as lots of paid stuff obviously) - tap into it. For example, local Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses. Get yourself a business coach and a mentor.

What role has mentorship played in your entrepreneurial success? Were there any specific mentors who made a significant impact on your journey?

Mentorship is key - learn from others. I've had some great advice in terms of pitfalls to avoid, sources of support, referrals for programmes & funding, etc. The one mentor that sticks out for me is the one I mentioned at the local Chamber who was able to look from the outside in and question my niche, he saved me from finding out the long and hard way.

You can find out more about Leading Edge at leadingedge.fun

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