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Live webchat with Nikki King OBE - Tuesday 10 January 1-2pm

(41 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Wed 28-Dec-11 11:40:25

Isuzu boss Nikki King (who you may well have seen on Channel 4's 'Undercover Boss') will be joining us to talk about women and work, combining career with children (and grandchildren) and how it's never too late to follow your dream.

Nikki was, by her own admission, a 'late starter' and her rise to the top of the motoring business is nothing short of meteoric. "I was a secretary until the age of 40 when an unexpected divorce necessitated that I began a career that earned enough money to support myself and my children." So at 40 she started work at a Ford dealership, rising to the position of MD. She was offered the chance to launch the first UK distributorship for Isuzu Motors in 2004. Trucks and women may not be perceived as a natural combination - but  Nikki has constantly confounded the perceived wisdom of ‘glass ceilings’ and the perception of a woman at the very top in a man’s world.

To quote Channel 4: "Believing strongly that to manage like a man is inelegant and ineffective, Nikki runs her company like a large family. She utilizes many of the skills that she learned bringing up her own family: time management, diplomacy, persuasion, politics, and negotiation.

She encourages working from home, job sharing, changing hours to suit domestic arrangements and bringing children to work if they are slightly unwell or the school is closed. The aim of this is to help many women, who have personal priorities such as children, elderly parents or husbands, to realise their true potential."  

Since taking the motoring industry by storm, Nikki has picked up awards and accolades (including an OBE) and has been pinpointed as an inspirational figure in the industry for both men and women. 

One of her chief obsessions includes customer care so she is also very happy to talk about that. She is also passionate about helping young people (she is a business mentor for the Prince's Trust) and would love to somehow use the knowledge and experience of older, maybe retired people in a mentoring role to help young people learn the skills they need to get employment. "So much wasted talent at both ends of the scale".

Do add your questions and suggestions on any of the above to the thread and make sure you join us for the live webchat on January 10th (1-2pm).

Mamie Tue 03-Jan-12 09:01:11

Your company's policies to encourage women in the workplace sound brilliant. Having worked full time all my life and having a daughter and daughter-in-law who both work full-time has made me very concious of companies who are not always so supportive of working mothers. Does it worry you that one of the dangers of a recession is that companies start to try and remove some of the policies that support women at work? What can we do to protect hard-won rights such as maternity leave and flexible working for people with young children? I fear that much of the rhetoric we hear about "getting power back from Brussels" is in fact aimed at removing the legislation that has improved the world of work for many people.

rosiemus Tue 03-Jan-12 10:49:57

I would love to know more about your mentoring of young people - so many seem disillusioned these days and worry that even with good exam results and a degree it is impossible to find a decent job. Any tips would be very useful for various family members in this position at the moment - thank you

jakesgran Wed 04-Jan-12 16:09:43

Am I allowed to ask a question for my son?! He runs his own small business (3 employees). This hasn't been an issue yet but he is very aware that it could easily be in future.

He is very anxious not to discriminate against any potential employees on the basis that they are youngish women who may well want to have children - but nor can he afford to pay maternity leave and employ cover for that period at the same time.

I have no doubt that he will be scrupulously fair should the situation arise - but what would you say to people running small businesses for whom this could be a catastrophic financial burden? (especially if it turns out to be what happened with my niece who went back to her job in a large company after her first maternity leave, was back for a week and then started her second maternity leave).

effblinder Thu 05-Jan-12 10:18:01

What do you think about positive discrimination in things like politics? Do you think it's a good thing that eg women get put forward for Cabinet roles in order to make the Cabinet as a whole more balanced? (Sorry just using the political example as first thing that came to mind)

Do you think you've benefitted from positive discrimination? I would imagine the business world is about as far away from this concept as it's possible to be!

You sound very inspirational - will be looking forward to this webchat!

granIT Thu 05-Jan-12 11:13:07

I saw you on television and thought you were fantastic when you were pretending to be Pauline - although it was quite depressing the way people treated you.

My question is sort of along those lines. What advice would you give to a woman in her 50s who wants to go on working but doesn't feel she is taken seriously? (Yes, this is me!) I have found it difficult to get jobs at a level that I think is right for me (I have always worked in management) and I am thinking of starting my own business. Do you have any tips? What pitfalls should I avoid?

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 05-Jan-12 13:33:14

For anyone else who would like to see Nikki's episode of Undercover Boss you can watch it online by clicking here bit.ly/x61upz (I can highly recommend!)

kittyp Thu 05-Jan-12 16:35:30

Hello Nikki, I also saw the programme and really enjoyed it. I wondered what made you go into the car business to start with given it's such a predominantly male environment. And also it has been my experience that many older (ie experienced) workers are let go because it's cheaper to hire less experienced youngsters. Do you think this is becoming increasingly prevalent in the current recession? And is there anything we can do about it?

Granny23 Sun 08-Jan-12 16:21:07

Thanks, Cari, for the Link to Undercover Boss. I really enjoyed the programme and was struck by how 'ordinary' the boss (and the featured female employees) appeared to be. I know loads of women like that - hardworking, capable, enthusiastic, not fussed about fancy make up or hair-dos. Why is it though, that all the women like that with whom I am personally acquainted, have never had their expertise and talents recognised by either pay increases or promotion? Why have they spent their working lives covering up for and clearing up their bosses' mistakes while the boss is given or takes the credit for anything well done?

granola Sun 08-Jan-12 17:04:26

I am about to start getting some mentoring from a very successful businesswoman. I am pleased about this, but don't quite known how to get the most out of the relationship. Have you got any tips for how to approach it to make sure I get the most out of the relationship and offer her maximum scope to be helpful?

Many thanks

sneetch Sun 08-Jan-12 17:07:25

Clearly, Nikki, you have found ways to cope with sexism. Have you encountered ageism, or were you successful enough to avoid this? Either way, have you learnt anything from your career that helps to deal with both of these?

bigknitter Sun 08-Jan-12 17:25:09

I am impressed with your management style - but what advice would you have for someone who faces a less flexible and tolerant regime, but who has certain grandparent and caring responsibilities? I work hard, if sometimes out of normal hours, and I don't think anyone could fault my productivity, but I sometimes feel guilty about admitting why I need to take an afternoon off. Is honesty the best policy or not?

isuzunikki Mon 09-Jan-12 19:09:49

Thank you so much for asking me such interesting and challenging questions. I am really looking forward to my interview tomorrow and chatting on line in the future
NIKKI

crosspatch Tue 10-Jan-12 09:42:24

Sorry - I'm not going to be around at lunchtime, but I wanted to ask a question. Have you had to change much about yourself to be successful?

rosiemus Tue 10-Jan-12 10:04:49

Hoping it is ok for me to ask a second question?

One reads much about "having it all" - something that was unheard of in my youth but which (many of) our daughters seem determined to try to attain. Even with flexible working I don't see how you can give your all to your career AND to your children and still have any form of social life on top (and surely to "have it all" would include a bit of fun or 'me' time) Given there are only a finite number of hours in a day do you really think this is possible? (Or can you have it all as long as you give up sleep?!)

grannyactivist Tue 10-Jan-12 10:24:15

I have taught Business English to Japanese adults and understand the Japanese culture is one of hard work, long hours and very few holidays - one very senior executive only ever took half of his permitted holiday allowance because he said to take more would indicate to his company that he lacked commitment. Do you think that you are influenced by Isuzu's cultural expectations in this regard?
Do you think that you could have achieved as much as you have if you had also had a husband/partner to consider?

GrannyMurray Tue 10-Jan-12 10:47:13

What is your alternative perfect career?

cm22v07 Tue 10-Jan-12 12:18:23

Hi Nikki,
Firstly, I think you're an inspiration for women in business!
How has your business changed since appearing on Undercover Boss?
What is your advice for anyone facing adversity in the workplace because of their sex/age?

graninboots Tue 10-Jan-12 12:41:21

I haven't watched this episode of Undercover Boss, but I do wonder why businesses choose to go on it.

It's very brave, obviously, but is the publicity worth people nosing into your private practice as it were? From a business/money making perspective, does it make sense?

Still better than Celebrity Big Brother, I suppose grin

NikkiKing Tue 10-Jan-12 12:44:13

CariGransnet

For anyone else who would like to see Nikki's episode of Undercover Boss you can watch it online by clicking here bit.ly/x61upz (I can highly recommend!)

test

GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 10-Jan-12 12:59:34

We're delighted to welcome Nikki King for what we're hoping - and expecting - will be a very lively webchat. Nikki's here in the office and we're ready to go...

NikkiKing Tue 10-Jan-12 13:04:00

rosiemus

Hoping it is ok for me to ask a second question?

One reads much about "having it all" - something that was unheard of in my youth but which (many of) our daughters seem determined to try to attain. Even with flexible working I don't see how you can give your all to your career AND to your children and still have any form of social life on top (and surely to "have it all" would include a bit of fun or 'me' time) Given there are only a finite number of hours in a day do you really think this is possible? (Or can you have it all as long as you give up sleep?!)

Hello everyone, it's great to have such challenging, interesting questions. Probably the best questions I've ever had in an interview!

In answer to the above question:

I actually don't believe you can, I work on the 2 out of 3 ain't bad principle, which Meatloaf said many years ago. I think to have a successful marriage, a great career, and well balanced children, is one step too far. The only people who can be successful at this are people with huge disposable income, who can afford to employ nannies, which I didn't have.

Without doubt, my career didn't start until I was 40, when my ex-husband decided to leave me with everything that eats. So, I think if i'd had to have said to someone wash your own shirts, dinner's in the oven, my career wouldn't have taken off in all honesty. However, I do have well-balanced children and a good career, so back to Meatloaf.

flippin Tue 10-Jan-12 13:04:31

Are you a member of any formal networks? Do you think that networking is important to getting on in business? Do you get support from other women in the same position as you?

NikkiKing Tue 10-Jan-12 13:09:29

jakesgran

Am I allowed to ask a question for my son?! He runs his own small business (3 employees). This hasn't been an issue yet but he is very aware that it could easily be in future.

He is very anxious not to discriminate against any potential employees on the basis that they are youngish women who may well want to have children - but nor can he afford to pay maternity leave and employ cover for that period at the same time.

I have no doubt that he will be scrupulously fair should the situation arise - but what would you say to people running small businesses for whom this could be a catastrophic financial burden? (especially if it turns out to be what happened with my niece who went back to her job in a large company after her first maternity leave, was back for a week and then started her second maternity leave).

This is a really interesting and difficult question. One of the problems with any sort of legislation that is intended to help people is that it has undesired consequences, and the consequence of the maternity legislation is that in reality, small businesses have to think very carefully before employing women who are likely to stop work to have children.

The only advice I can give to your son is, please don't let this stop you employing gifted women, and give a lot of thought prior to pregnancy to how these women can continue to work, either from home, or by bringing babies to the office, both of which are highly achievable in a small business. A recognition that there could be a problem, and a sensible agreement between employer and employee at an early stage can actually settle a lot of these problems.

In fact in my own company it's not unusual to see small children and babies with their mothers. We've also got a number of women working flexi-hours or working from home. Indeed, we have now declared every strike action day by teachers a bring-your-child-to-work day.

Because of this policy, we have a number of teenagers who provide fantastic holiday cover because they know us well and their parents ensure they do a great day's work!

clovenhooves Tue 10-Jan-12 13:10:05

One of the most difficult things I find at work is saying "no." I think this is a not-uncommon problem for women and I wondered if you had any tips about how to turn down extra jobs that make you feel put upon and exploited without giving bosses the impression that you are being unhelpful?