Sally Bibb is the author of several books including her most recent, The Strengths Book: Discover How to Be Fulfilled in Your Work and Life. She is the Founding Director of Engaging Minds, a specialist strengths consultancy that works with organizations in the private and public sectors including hospitals, prisons and schools.
Before founding Engaging Minds she was a director at The Economist Group, publisher of The Economist magazine.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
Soon after I graduated I was doing a job that I loved in an exciting global organization. I did so well that after a short time, I was promoted. At first I was absolutely delighted – a move up the ladder, more pay higher status and all those sorts of things that have us believe that promotion is progression. My delight didn’t last. The new job couldn’t have been a worse fit!
My confidence dropped and neither my boss nor I could understand how it was that I was so vibrant and successful in my previous role but not in my new one. I had ticked all the boxes in the interview, but I just wasn’t getting on well in the job.
It turned out that in the first job I was playing to my strengths and in the new job I wasn’t. In fact, I was spending most of my time trying to work round my weaknesses. I was a square peg in a round hole.
My company was inadvertently trying to make me into something that I am not.
It took me a couple of decades to work out what had gone wrong. I did a lot of research including an MSc in humanistic psychology to try and understand how organisations can get better at understanding what makes individuals thrive in, and great at, their jobs.
I set up my business, Engaging Minds, to help organizations do just that. We have a methodology that works and it’s transforming organizations and changing lives.
Tell us about your business.
It’s a consultancy business that helps organizations who want to improve their performance or customer service through having people in the right jobs, improve their competition advantage and/or reduce the cost associated with high staff turnover.
We work with big names in private companies such as the AA, Saga and Starbucks and also in hospitals and prisons.
Awards we’ve won include the Association of Business Psychologists award for excellence in assessment for the work we did with the top ten NHS Trusts. We also received the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) for our global leadership development work for SABMiller.
Where is your business based?
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
The first, and most difficult step was to decide to leave a job and company I loved at The Economist magazine. Obviously there were lots of administrative matters to sort out to set up a limited company too. The most interesting early step though was to clarify the Engaging Minds proposition, which is always more challenging than it sounds for a new business.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
The books I have written have been a brilliant way of raising awareness of the business. In terms of getting new clients, the most powerful thing is word of mouth because our clients recommend us to others.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Without a doubt it’s been always having too much to do and never enough time.
How did you overcome these challenges?
We have a business plan and goals to help us stay focused on the most important things. This helps with prioritising. I also have a wonderful assistant.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I keep remembering why we do what we do and how much it helps people. That is very motivating and energizing. Simon Sinek’s TED talk, ‘Start with Why’ is fantastic and I re-watch it from time to time to remind myself to ‘get out of the weeds’ and reconnect with our purpose.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
There are two main ways; our actual methodology and our results. In fact, I think certain clients are more attracted to our competitors ways of doing things and others, to ours. I’m a great believer in partnering with clients who are a good fit and we always seem to attract those who are aligned with our values and excited by our approach.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
To say no to more things! I love to help others, including budding entrepreneurs. If I’m not careful, I can become overloaded if I say yes to too much.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
The most important thing is to be really clear on your ‘why’.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
Other entrepreneurs and business people. I also really like the work of Adam Grant, Dan Pink and Seth Godin.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
Adam Grant’s book Originals: How non-conformists Move the World.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I’ve recently taken on a social media manager. We have lots of great content and were not making the most of it. It’s exciting to see how Emma is making the most of these assets that we’ve built up over time.
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
We have a number of important goals with new client projects including one in prisons which is rewarding as well as challenging. Other than that it’s about building on the launch success of The Strengths Book to help spread the word to more people who can benefit from knowing and applying their strengths.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
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