Julie Linforth – When someone tells me I can’t do something, I love to prove them wrong!

My name is Joolz Linforth

I started my career as a marketing graduate with NORWEB (before the internet existed and direct marketing was the real buzz word). I learnt loads, was trained within an inch of my life, and had a great laugh but I wanted to move into the food industry and brands as this was where my real passion lay at the time. So, I moved to become a product marketing manager for Co-op retail. I was affectionately known as ‘the breakfast girl’ (since I looked after bacon, eggs, and sausage as part of my portfolio). I quickly learned the ways of working in a complex political co-operative oragnisation. The role was both inspiring and frustrating in equal parts as it was exciting to see how food was made and how we could push for better ways of creating the products and ingredients, but it didn’t always move fast enough for me.

After a while I moved on to working in the manufacturing side, initially in the wonderful world of paper products (i.e., loo roll, tissues, and kitchen towel– Ooo the glamour!). I then moved into the biscuit world, working on amazing brands like Cadbury, Maryland, and Wagon Wheels (and yes, they are the same size, your hands just got bigger). At 29 I became pregnant with my first child and went on maternity leave, never to return as I was headhunted for a position working at the grocer William Reed as their head of marketing. This was my first taste of remote working and being more empowered to deliver. 

It was then that my first business idea started to form and in 2000 I started to work as a freelance marketing consultant whilst establishing my consultancy business TILL (The Independent Link Ltd). This was a business focusing on syndicated marketing solutions for improving sales in the convenience sector. It did very well, and I ran the business for over 6 years. During this time, I had my second son in 2001 and a little girl in 2004.

At this point my consultancy (with me being the sole employee) became untenable and so I randomly set up a small dance business called ‘Let’s Dance’, teaching preschool dance movement, taps and tutus, disco, and adult salsa—I loved it! It fit around caring for my children whilst enabling me to keep my hand in with marketing and going back to my childhood passion of dance. 

In 2009 my hubby became a little unwell and we decided I should go back to corporate life to take the pressure off and make childcare more balanced. So, I returned to work– firstly as a new business director with an amazing marketing agency, then working in my favourite industry, fresh fish (wow brilliant!). I met some of the trawlermen and fishermen, saw amazing sights, ate amazing products, and spoke with talented customers and chefs. We championed sustainable fishing and products and I even had my tea cooked from me by Raymond Blanc and Mitch Toks (yum!).

I then moved on to Makro – experiencing the wonderful world of wholesale and then to Princes to run the water business for them. Finally, I started to look outside of FMCG, and I became marketing director at Arriva (buses). It was whilst working here I started to train as a coach! I loved my team, but I felt I needed more formal support to help develop and coach them to succeed.

Then in December 2019 I stepped away from corporate life and set up Primepersona to help women in business succeed with their career. I now work as an executive coach, I run my Leading Ladies program encouraging women to lift and support each other and I have a better business consultancy Bthe. On top of this I mentor through Northern power women, Met Marketing and Kerning the Gap and, I have recently joined the River Reeves foundation as a trustee, and BURN and Bthe Business supporting new business with NED style help.

I was once asked in an interview if I could change my personality.

A typical day in my career of marketing and coaching is never the same but, typically I get up, walk the dog, grab a couple of cups of coffee and then crack on. I start with my social posting and prospecting, review the meetings I have that day such as coaching, client supporting with team build, or marketing support. I can sometimes work late into the evening chatting to my clients out of working hours, but it never feels like work.

I chose this career because I love being self-employed. I love the freedom it brings and the fact that I am responsible for my own success. I still love the food and retail industry, but I now love helping other women succeed and supporting businesses in this area to be more purposeful and to support their brand and marketing

The challenges I faced along the way consisted of moving companies a lot to progress, usually due to the lack of opportunities in the businesses I was working for at the time. I was once asked in an interview (by the group HRD) if I could change my personality. This was a sure-fire way to get me looking elsewhere as, according to them, my face did not ‘fit’ even though I had turned the business unit around by 340%. The invisible hand is still very much in existence and the ‘boys’ network still prevents women from securing those director level positions.

I overcame these setbacks by leaving the company where my personality didn’t fit and going on to bigger and better roles where it did! Regarding the boy’s network – I left corporate world to set up a women’s network, to get women to work together and help each other rise through the ranks.

One of the most important initiatives I feel passionate about in my role is that I love supporting young women working their way through the ranks. I love my 1-2-1 coaching and seeing the transformations happen right before my eyes. I also love watching my Leading Ladies form strong bonds and links and help each other. It is such a joy to behold!

My drive and determination to succeed comes from my entrepreneurial family (and my hubby’s) so I am surrounded by grafters and risk takers. I love to create change and transform and when someone tells me I can’t do something, I love to prove them wrong! So, when someone said, “you’ll never be a director”, I made sure that I did!

The bond we create as women supporting each other is like no other.

The greatest thing about being a female in my role is feeling empowered enough to empower others to embrace their ‘F’ – feeling side – to really empathise and lead as a woman and not as a stereotype! The bond we create as women supporting each other is like no other.

My biggest achievement(s) in life are my three children by far – they are amazing!

The biggest lesson I’ve learnt along the way is to listen more and speak less! You learn so much and anyone who knows me will know how hard that is for me! 

My gender has brought unnecessary challenges to my career by being sexually harassed, treated as the tea girl, patronised, put down and not listened to. But each of them only did it once!

My favourite hobbies and pastimes are walking, dancing, and singing. I also make silver jewelry (badly I hasten to add) and gardening is my passion these days.

My mantra in life is: Life is a bank – you get out with interest what you put in. 

The three tips I would give to young females starting their careers would be:

1. Believe in yourself – and if you don’t, get someone like a coach to support you.

2. If you can tick 60% of a job role you see then go for it – if you can do 100% then don’t. You’ll be bored within a couple of months – always leave room to grow.

3. If you don’t ask you won’t receive – don’t be afraid to ask and challenge for what you want!

The best bit of advice I have ever been give is that life is a bank.

The women who have impacted my life are my Mum – she inspires me every day to be as amazing as she is selfless, caring and always on the move and my daughter for her feisty, passionate desire to make our world a better place.

My key motivators are my family, helping others, change and transformation, variety, creativity and having fun!

My opinion on if enough is being done by businesses to address gender imbalance:

God no! There is an awful lot of ticking boxes going on but not enough real and genuine commitment and action. This is why I do what I do – to challenge this in any way I can.

Some strategies that can help women achieve a more prominent role in their organisations are:

– Networking in the organisation – have a clearly defined stakeholder plan.

– Find your team – the ones you can trust who have your back every step of the way.

– Get a mentor and coach – one should be form within the business and one external.

The advice I would give to women aiming for leadership positions would be 4 stages to work on: 
– Self-awareness
– Organising yourself
– Your understanding and awareness of those around you
– How to organise your teams and get them working well together

The one key leadership lesson I’ve learned along the way would be that the answer nearly always sits within the teams making the company work. So, before you go out, simply ask the people who make the company happen what they think needs to be done!

What I would say to my 16-year-old self:

Talk less listen more and believe you can do it!

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