Interview | Nicola Cook

Staying Power

Issue 38

Did you always envisage a career in the industry?

Nope. Originally, I trained as a ballet dancer, but a serious skiing accident in my teens scuppered those plans. I entered the world of business via an American Express graduate scheme and I followed my nose into the sales team which is where I found my home.

What is your favourite aspect of the job? The variety, I have a portfolio lifestyle. One day I may be working with my own team inspiring and leading them. The next, I could be guiding and supporting one of my own investments, before jumping on a plane to speak at a major conference. Or I could be in London facilitating a group of policy influencers, or simply chilling in my back garden compiling my research or adding the final touches to one of my books.

What has been your career defining moment?

Meeting the serial entrepreneur Lara Morgan and eventually taking charge (and full ownership) of one of her businesses. I learnt so much from her. Understanding first-hand the true challenges of scaling a business. Knowledge, that has helped me add more growth and value to our clients’ businesses and helped me steer Company Shortcuts into the company it now is.

How do you measure success?

Number one, by the growth and results of CS clients, which is currently running at an average of 140% increase in Net Profit 12 months after engagement. Secondly, by how many goals and profit targets we achieve as we move forward with our three-year rolling plan and thirdly, by how happy and healthy my family are. Right now, the balance feels right and based on these criteria we are exceptionally successful.

What have been the biggest changes in the industry since you started?

Where do I start?! The way people buy, both in B2C and B2B (products AND services) has changed beyond recognition since I first entered the world of sales and marketing. Most companies, especially the scale-up sector that I predominately work with, may have an awareness of this but no idea on how to build a Sales Engine for growth. I spend a lot of time in America delving into the latest research on changing buyer behaviour, in order to bring that knowledge back to the UK (and Europe) and help businesses apply it, enabling them to maintain a competitive edge in an ever-changing marketplace.

How has your skillset developed accordingly?

I’m always learning. I strive to be the dumbest person in the room because I want to learn from those with more knowledge or expertise in the area I want to improve. I cringe when I think back to how green I was in the early years, but then if you stay opened minded and humble you can learn anything.

Are you a risk taker by nature or more conservative?

I don’t think in those terms, but I’d like to think with experience comes wisdom. I still take risks, but my ability to evaluate risk has improved over the years. Not surprisingly I’ve made some humdingers over my career – all great learning experiences if you have the strength to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and live on to fight another day.

To what would you attribute your success?

On a personal level – pure grit and determination and a desire to constantly deliver value. But, I couldn’t have achieved any of my success without the support of an exceptional team and the unending support of my husband. It’s impossible for one partner to have a career like mine, without the other picking up the slack. This still falls predominately to the female in a relationship, so my husband really is very special.

What’s your biggest weakness and how have you managed this?

Not taking care of myself. I have such a strong mindset I can push myself to exhaustion and have been known to do so on more than one occasion, so I’ve learnt to build in more space for self-care and recovery.

How do you remain motivated? My driver is – legacy. I’d like to think that when I’m long gone, even in my little corner of the world, I had a positive influence and left behind an imprint for future generations to build upon.

Would you prefer to be liked or respected?

Respected – everytime. It’s pure vanity to chase other people’s validation.

I’ll retire when…

I’ll never retire in the traditional sense, because I absolutely love what I do, but if you consider retirement to mean choosing ‘who you work with’, ‘when you work’ and ‘how much you are paid’, then I consider myself retired now. This past year I’ve even had time to indulge another passion of mine and publish my debut novel ‘Belonging’ under my pen name Isabella Wiles!

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