Karren Brady’s 6 Ingredients for Business Success

Today Caroline and I attended the Institute of Directors’ ‘IOD Open House’ event at their headquarters on Pall Mall. Baroness Karren Brady was the keynote speaker, and her 45 minute-talk was personal, well structured and informative.  As part of the talk, she shared her 6 ingredients for a successful career in business.

  1. Leadership

    Leadership should never be confused with management. While management is the setting of a series of tasks and managing people to deliver those tasks, leadership is about vision.  Often only you can see the vision.  Leadership is empowering people to see and deliver that vision. A real leader faces the music even if he or she doesn’t like the tune.  It doesn’t matter what you do when you know what to do, it’s how you behave when you don’t know what to do.  As Karren Brady explained, we all have challenges – no one has an easy life. Sometimes things don’t go how you expect – it’s how you get through that which counts.

  2. Ambition

    No one ever started anything without ambition. Working closely with Lord Sugar, perhaps Britain’s most successful entrepreneur, Baroness Brady has noticed that he is always the first person in and the last to leave. Why?  Because the toughest thing about being a success is you have to keep being a success! You have to keep on track and ambition is that most important ingredient. In this country we don’t like it when people say they are ambitious – we confuse it for ruthlessness. But it’s really about wanting the best for yourself.

  3. Determination

    One thing which Karren Brady says has been key to her own success. Before success you always get either temporary defeat or total failure. What do you do? How do you react? In life, one of the most powerful things is to pick yourself up and put one foot in front of the other and simply keep going.

  4. Attitude

    Baroness Brady has one rule that sums up her attitude. If she accepts a challenge – whatever it is – she asks herself ‘what is the worst thing that can happen?’  In life, if you can protect your downside and truly confront the worst case scenario, it makes your attitude to risk so much better.

  5. Positivity

    It takes an enormous amount of energy, passion and hard work to run a business.  Sometimes you will need to work all day every day on the business,  in order to come out the other side and be successful.  True success is due in part to hanging on when everyone else has let go! (If this is something you’re struggling with, have a read of our article ‘How to Deal with Down Days’.)

  6. Direction

    Karren left school at 18, and didn’t go to uni because she had one goal in her life.  The one thing she wanted for herself  after a boarding school education was independence. And she found that in starting a job. What makes you who you are? What are your core values? When she was 18, she was ambitious, determined and had integrity. 30 years on they are still the things that are core to make her who she is. The sooner you work out your own core values, the sooner you are on the course to where you want to go.


She finished her talk with the following quote, what she calls ‘her motto’

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”  This is a quote by Calvin Coolidge.

And telling us ‘Behind every successful man is … a surprised mother-in-law!’

Feeling inspired? We have heaps of other incredible female entrepreneurs on the website – click here to read their interviews!

And if you’d like some help in your early years of business, come and join us in The League – we have a great support network and a website packed full of online modules – including one on Public Speaking, so that one day you can give a speech like Karren’s!


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