To celebrate International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March 2020, we sat down with Managing Director, Jo Sutton, to speak about all things Empire Finance and the journey she has been on as a female leader.
How did Empire Finance come about? Was starting your own business something you have always wanted to do?
“In the back of my mind, I would say I have always wanted to have my own business. However, I guess in the end, my personal situation was the driving force in making this happen – and I have never looked back!
Throughout my career, I have always worked within financial services. My last employed job was a national role and consisted of frequent travel. As much as I enjoyed it, I had very young children at the time and all the travelling just did not fit with my lifestyle. However, starting Empire gave me the flexibility I needed; especially as a single parent. Being there for my girls and having a good work-life balance is what I held in high priority. So ultimately, through starting Empire, I was able to be there for my family whilst also utilising the skills I had acquired over my career.”
Empire Finance started as just you, and now has a further 13 Consultants onboard and an office team of 6. What would you say was the key to growing such a successful business over the last 6 years?
“I think the journey has been multifactorial; so to say a specific factor that contributed to our business growth would be hard.
When starting Empire, I always saw the business growing. I have always enjoyed taking on new challenges and I would say growing a business was definitely a new challenge – but what a challenge to have, I mean, it’s exciting seeing your business develop.
The marketplace has changed so much since I started. It’s highlighted the changing needs of clients, with brokerages now being a mainstream way of obtaining funding. I guess this has played a role in our growth success. We also speak to many ex-bankers who are keen to join Empire.”
What has been your proudest moment since starting Empire Finance?
“Whilst there are so many things, I would have to say every time we bring on a new Consultant, I feel a real sense of pride that they want to join Empire and can see the value we offer.
But aside from that, another of my proudest moments was in 2018, when we got the keys to our very own premises. Moving from rented into premises you own for your business, whilst being a very painful process, was one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
As Empire Finance has grown, what have you learnt about leadership that you feel has only been learnt through owning your own business?
“Before starting Empire, I had only worked for large corporate companies, so one of the biggest things I have learnt is that you can’t do everything by yourself and you can’t be good at everything. This is why I built a team that support me and have different skills. So, whilst I may be the Managing Director, I see everything that we have achieved to be very much a team effort.
I make sure that I am very hands on day to day so that I can lead by example and form part of the team – that is my leadership style, and I feel that this works for us. I like to work around the ethos that ‘I am here for you – you’re not here for me’. I get huge satisfaction from supporting and mentoring my team. Whether that be the new Consultants or support staff joining us, seeing them be successful is priceless.”
There has been a lot of focus, in recent years, surrounding improving gender diversity in financial services. As the Managing Director of a commercial finance brokerage, what would be your best piece of advice for women wanting to prosper and thrive within the sector?
“I have always found the financial service industry a challenging but rewarding place to be. There is a trend that it’s a mainly male dominated sector, however, more is happening to neutralise this.
My aspiration, as a female within this industry, is to encourage women into the broking profession and demonstrate that it is possible to have a professional career whilst also having the flexibility needed. I think there are so many opportunities out there and I want to show that there are “no limits”, particularly to my two girls. I think women can offer different approaches to things and when we work together – that can only be a positive.”