NAME: Annabelle Beckwith
POSITION: Creative Director
ORGANIZATION: Yara Consulting Ltd
My Background and Career
I started my career as a petrol pump attendant at the age of 15. Similarly inspiring jobs during my student years included a stint in a light switch factory, before progressing to making sandwiches in a busy café. Determined to break into show business, I got my first job after graduating from university as hospitality co-ordinator on a live daytime TV show, where initially my experience of making sandwiches stood me in good stead. Finally, after impressing with my ideas and enthusiasm, I began producing items for live broadcast.
My varied career continued with a contract as a researcher for a Member of Parliament. From here I moved into corporate communications, in which I specialised for several years, developing a range of creative projects for clients in a variety of sectors, on my own as a marketing and communications consultant and as Commercialisation Manager and then Head of Development and Public Affairs at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.
My involvement with training and coaching began in the early 1990s, working on the development and delivery of advanced communications skills workshops and one-to-one training with senior executives and those involved in politics, culminating in the establishing of a training company that specialised in accelerated and experiential learning methods, working with clients like the Royal Bank of Scotland, BAe Systems, Rolls Royce, Scottish Enterprise, Johnson and Johnson, Glaxo SmithKline.
Behavioural training, using creative and accelerated learning methods and helping people to overcome personal barriers to achieve success continue to be a priority in my career. They are core aspects of the Yara programme and the ethos behind the Yara methodology.
All of this experience has combined to form the approach I take in my training and development business, bringing diverse activities and experiences into the training room (and taking participants from the training room into different environments) in order to make a difference to individuals and through them their organisations.
Whilst I am Yara's 'main man', I'm no lone wolf: I work with a range of high calibre associates and specialists on the development and delivery of Yara programmes, and as a freelance trainer to other organisations.
The biggest opportunity I ever had was being made redundant. Not that it seemed like it at the time mind you. At the time it was singularly the worst thing that had happened in my career…in retrospect, though, it was a steep learning curve that led to my changing career direction, taking control of my own future, and going into business for myself. Economic - Many companies slashed their training budgets. At a first glance this was catastrophic. However, looking closely, companies WERE spending money, but on different things. It was a matter of identifying these, and changing tack accordingly. Family - With two young children, work life balance isn’t always easy. What started out as an unsatisfactory situation (for me) with my husband at home and me at work turned to our advantage: while I’m away delivering training he is able to flex his working day around family commitments. I’m not always around to pick my children up from school…but I DO have the flexibility of being able to schedule my diary round important events in their lives, which I might not be able to do in a regular job. Personal - I think one of the biggest barriers to success for anyone is their own mindset. Defining yourself and your position in the world is something that you have to do yourself…and it’s only in recent years that I’ve worked this out. It’s too easy to allow yourself to be defined as ‘as woman’, ‘from Ayrshire’, ‘mixed race’ or whatever….when it’s what’s going on in your own head that makes the biggest difference. Social (discriminations…) - There probably have been some…but I choose to ignore them and just get on with it.
A few people have inspired me......
I’ve always been interested in history, and inspired by Elizabeth I. She was very much a woman in a man’s world, and yet she turned out to be one of the best loved monarchs in English history. Her bravery in the Armada Speech has inspired me since I was in my teens: facing the Spanish fleet, she put on her armour, rode out to the head of her army, and resolved “to live or die amongst them all”. She was not fearless. She knew her limitations. She knew that many wanted to see her, as a woman, fail in her role.
But she knew her duty and her responsibilities. She knew the strength of her own character, and she just got on with it.
On a more practical note, my first boss Lesley Mackenzie-Robb remains a real role model to this day. She never turned down a challenge, constantly developed innovative solutions (surprisingly innovative, in some cases) for all her clients, and fearlessly punched above her weight. On one occasion, her company – a small one, based in rural Somerset – took on Saatchi and Saatchi for a major MoD communications project….and won.
And on a personal note, my children inspire me. A few years ago I took up running, after being a ‘couch potato’ for 38 years. I entered a 10k race, and as I neared the finish, gasping for breath, red in the face and near to collapse, I saw my 2 children – then aged about 9 and 6 jumping up and down near the finish line shouting excitedly “Come on mum!” Almost unbelievably, I managed something of a sprint finish in response.
If I’m tired or facing challenges, I remember that occasion, and it inspires me to forge ahead. My children were cheering me on to success and personal victory. And when the time comes, I will do the same for them.
Advice to others - In terms of mental preparation, define yourself. Define your goals. Define who you need to become in order to achieve your goals.
Don’t let anyone else tell you that you can’t do it because you’re a woman, too old, too young, the time’s not right, you live in the wrong place, you’re the wrong race / religion/ anything else, someone else is already doing it, you might fail, etc etc etc.
Believe in yourself and your product and service, step out boldly and just do it. In the words of Susan Jeffers, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’.
In practical terms, be prepared to learn new things about how a business works: the finances, tax, marketing, working with employees / associates / subcontractors. You don’t’ need to be an expert, because you can leverage the skills of other people who are…but you DO need to know what’s happening in your business and where it’s going all the time.
Hints & Tips
Lucky saying or phrase: it’s by Muriel Strode, and it’s on the wall above my desk:
“Do not follow where the path may lead.
Go instead to where there is no path…. and leave a trail.”
Assets to be developed: • Creativity and innovation, both in new businesses and in existing ones: developing an ‘entrepreneur mindset’ in large companies would, I am convinced, make them more effective!
• Leveraging our well known entrepreneurs as role models for young people
• Imparting knowledge and skills gained ‘in the field’ to students and young people to inspire the next generation
Weaknesses to be overcome; A culture and education system (which is changing, thankfully) which pushes people into mainstream careers, rather than encouraging them to create businesses and opportunities.
Overcoming self-limiting beliefs. Yes, sometimes it’s scary. Sometimes someone might say ‘no’. Some people will think you’re completely mad. If it’s right for YOU…..do it anyway.
On an individual level, self discipline in getting on with those aspects of the business that you don’t find so interesting. It still has to be done!