Sharon Williams

sharon-thumb-100Sharon Williams is one of the country’s leading experts on branding and brand reputation.

Originally from London, Williams founded Taurus Marketing in 1995, with the company now turning over about $4 million a year. Williams speaks internationally on topics including marketing, public relations and branding, and is also the chair for the CEO Institute.

Williams spoke to SmartCompany about growing her business, and also what a CEO must do – and avoid – in order to be successful.

I quickly realised in Australia the culture is not open to women in management. When I fell pregnant with my first child, I realised there wouldn’t be a job for me.

I’m a big work-life balance person. I don’t see any reason I can’t have a career and fulfil that role. I’ve never had anyone tell me I can’t do something.

Two years ago, there was a dip in the business. It was a bit scary, we had a big client foreclose on a big deal and it owed us a lot of money.

The heartbeat goes a little faster in those times. You have to get a grip, make sure you stay in control, and talk to friends and families. I cut out some extra-curricular activities, and kept going.

I’ve spent the last 18 months building the business back up. My bank had a lot of faith in me and my chairman said there was no way I could give up. My family were concerned, but I just worked hard.

I think a CEO has to be humble, as well as slightly arrogant. You have to believe you can do anything when people tell you that you can’t. But it also serves to be humble.

My failures are mine, and successes are mine. Whatever state the business is in, it’s my fault. There’s a certain element of luck, but also satisfaction because you’re responsible.

It’s one thing to forage away trying to start a business. It’s another to keep it going. The big message there would be to simply do what you love. I’ve never hated my job, I love the company and I love the staff.

I come from London, where women are at the forefront of management. I remember walking to a social function here and was told to go to the kitchen. And I was working for the company.

It was offensive and a strange thing. I think it’s our duty to fulfil our own future in that respect. Culturally, it was quite different. But I was able to grow the business and make it happen for me.

You need to change needs as the business grows. You need to change your mindset.

You also have to change advisers. You need new advisers for different points in the business. I grew out of my old advisers, and I’m still very fond of them but it simply got to a point where I had to move on.

It’s very important to change the people around you. Not change for change’s sake, but to ensure you have fresh eyes on the business.

Being a chief executive is a position of isolation. You need to surround yourself with people who are brighter than you.

I want to set up this business for the next 15-20 years without me. I have some wonderful staff interested in taking equity in the business – the next journey is to review that process. It’s on the horizon.

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