A community rising together.

For most businesses, at least those who are worth their salt, the goal of creating environments that are diverse and inclusive has become a top priority. With major leaps being made to create an #EachForEqual world, we would be wrong not to feel hopeful for the future. But there are still challenges ahead.

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we invited Viv Parry, founder of Be Amazing to inspire us with her views on smashing down barriers and coming together as a community. A community that can create a world where people are people. No other labels needed.

The early years

Viv Parry is all about inspiring others to Be Amazing. As a chartered accountant, entrepreneur, mentor and all-around business guru, she helps other business owners learn to be themselves and grow in their leadership roles. So how did Viv become so amazing herself?

“I come from a background of nice girls don’t,” she tells her audience at our International Women’s Day breakfast. A saying that she didn’t understand. Instead, she asked questions like “nice girls don’t what?” And “why don’t they?” So, she broke free from that mindset and, by not seeing her gender as a restriction, she moved forward.

Viv enrolled at university and it was decades later that she discovered that she was one of only three women who had been on the course. A fact that didn’t occur to her at the time. “I just didn’t see it. All I saw was that I wanted to get a first-class degree.” And, of course, she did.

“We can sometimes create barriers when they don’t even exist,” she tells the faces looking up at her. It’s about not looking for excuses before we even need them and learning to control our own inner dialogue.

Raising a business and a family

Viv bought her first business (a bakery that she went on to turn into a massive success) at a time when many women around her chose to stay at home. She was doing daily calculations on whether she would make the school run on time and thinking about the orders that needed to go out of her bakery.

“That was my big challenge. How do I run this massive business and still look after my children?”. She had looked around her and couldn’t find many like-minded people in business or on the playground, but that didn’t stop her. She felt a responsibility to be a role model for her girls.

“I thought, I’ve got three daughters, there is no way I am having them be educated to believe that what you do is find a really rich husband, get married and then your life is going to be cushy.” So, she began to grow her business and build something that her daughters could be proud of. Building bridges that would ultimately make it easier for the next generation of women to cross onto the side she, without knowing it, had fought so hard to get to.

You can’t grow a business without funding it

After struggling to access funding from traditional sources, Viv turned to MarketFinance. “I ended up funding some invoices through MarketFinance. You need money to grow a business.”

She had to have the resilience to say “this is what I’m doing” and to find a way through when roadblocks presented themselves trying to divert her from her path. Even when others couldn’t see it, she trusted herself and her vision for her business. She needed a finance company that trusted her vision too.

“You have to have a go, because if you don’t have a go you never know what might happen,” Viv explains. “I actually came to the party at MarketFinance many years ago to celebrate them lending their first million, so it’s lovely to be back here again, seeing MarketFinance as a massively successful business. It’s made me quite reflective about my whole journey.”

Put your game face on

One of the Parry family mottos is: put your game face on. When the time came for Viv to move on from her first business, she found herself sitting at her kitchen table with just her laptop and she had to do just that: put her game face on and find the courage and confidence to start something new.

This was a time of discovery for Viv. She wanted to help others find their voice. Inspire people. Grow business. So reads the tagline of Be Amazing, her new business where she shares her thoughts, ideas, and experience as a mentor and motivational speaker.

When Viv steps into a new business, she means business. “It’s interesting because I am going in and I am seeing their business in a completely different way from the way that they have been seeing it. Because they are seeing it from the inside out and I am seeing it from the outside in.” She sees this as a great analogy for life. We should all try to see our lives from the outside in. “It’s all about perception,” she says.

“I step in and say ‘I’m going to challenge you, I’m going to challenge everything that you do.” Viv wants to see results and a positive outcome, firmly believing that you don’t know how strong you are until you push yourself.

Ask for help

So, if business owners can’t see the wood for the trees, how can they ensure that they’re challenging themselves and creating a company that’s diverse and inclusive?

“The biggest thing leaders can do is be themselves,” Viv explains. Staying in control while showing vulnerability. Being open to hearing suggestions and connecting with their employees is what can create a workplace that is equal and open. Viv explains that being vulnerable as a leader, or someone at any level for that matter, is often about being brave enough to ask for help and to admit when you get it wrong.

“We don’t ask for help, and by not asking for help we don’t give other people the opportunity to help. And it’s actually a two-way transaction because this connection between two people is one of the most beautiful things that could happen in this world.”

By asking for help, you aren’t giving away control, you’re taking it.

Shake things up

How can you be like Viv and challenge the business world? Don’t listen to the negative, take control, ask for help, find a mentor and shake things up.