JLife Interviews Alwoodley Business Guru Charlene Lyons…
Hi Charlene, for those who don’t know you — tell us about yourself!
I’m a Geordie now living in Alwoodley with my husband Ben who runs Lyons Recruitment, and three children: Josh (14), Sophie (10) and Archie (6). I studied Business with Japanese at University of Leeds and graduated with a first-class honour’s degree.
I started work aged 13, folding jeans in a clothes shop. I enjoyed a variety of roles throughout my life from waitressing to delivering pizzas, holding down three jobs just to fund my way through uni. I worked at Marks & Spencer head office as a buyer throughout my placement year, loved the strategic conversations and at that point made up my mind that consultancy was the route for me.
I joined the graduate programme of a large London consultancy firm and was fortunate enough to work with some incredible clients nationally and internationally. On moving back to Leeds, I became the commercial director of a property company. Then 10 years ago, I set up Lyons Consultancy.
Giving something back is really important to me, which is why I always like to volunteer my time when I can. I’ve been pro-active in local schools and have supported many charitable organisations from fundraising to more commercial support. I’m currently the vice chair of governors at GSAL and sit on the External Relations and Business Management committees.
The most important thing I learnt from a young age was to work hard. I know it’s a cliché, but you really do get out what you put in. No one can create success for you, and even if they do, it’s so much more rewarding if you do it for yourself.
Should business be given more prominence in school curriculums?
Business studies is accessible in many schools, I do however think that textbook learning is different to practical learning. Putting what you learn into practice is the challenge. Most schools recognise the fact that subject diversity is critical to support education. When I was at school, nothing was on offer other than the traditional range of subjects, so the fact options like business are now offered is great.
What drew you to the business world?
I love the diversity of the business world and the opportunities its challenges present – no two days are the same. As a management consultant I work with several organisations from private to public. Working with a cross section of people across various industries is my motivator. I learn new things every day and am fortunate enough to be able to share them with my clients.
How do you help your clients?
I made the decision not to pigeonhole myself so that I could offer a full business solution to those that require it. I create business plans and strategies from the top down and the bottom up which help organisations or departments to become more efficient and profitable. I help people to think differently and achieve things they never thought they could. I basically do it all!
Where do you hope to be in five years’ time?
I hate this question! I don’t know, and in one way that’s what drives success and motivation. New opportunities arise all the time and I don’t want to discount anything because it doesn’t fit with my plan. Five years and certainly 20 years is a long time in the world of business. The only thing I would say is that I am fortunate enough to be more selective now regarding the clients I work with, and I hope to still have that luxury in years to come.
For me it’s about health and happiness and a work-life balance that gives me the stimulus I thrive on from a work perspective, at the same time as giving my family what they need. It’s all about balance.
Tell us more about your work with Black Sheep Brewery?
I absolutely love working with the team at Black Sheep. The company story is inspirational, the black sheep of the Theakston family set up a rival brewery 27 years ago and built a business that was the envy of its competitors.
Back then there were few breweries operating in the marketplace and now there are over 2,000 as we’ve seen a rise in microbreweries all over the country. In addition to our core offering our innovation team has developed a lager which is trading well, an incredible gin which has just launched and there are many more exciting products on the way.
I started working with Black Sheep as a consultant three years ago and I never really left! I was asked to join the board as a non-executive director last year and I’m currently its CEO. I’m responsible for the full commercial operation, including the new and upcoming retail division, and I’m supporting an amazing team to do some amazing things.
Watch this space!
Charlene Lyons’ top tips for a successful business strategy…
Invest time in creating a strategy, even if it’s a one pager.
Don’t make it too long term or opportunistic.
Create something that’s both challenging and achievable.
Strategy is a collaborative process; colleagues are more likely to support it if they’re involved from inception.
Revisit the strategy and if you deviate from the plan, challenge and question why.
Inspire your teams and colleagues as they are often the drivers and implementers.
Most importantly, be bold, resilient and confident – and whatever you do, do it with integrity and a smile!