Scaleup Q&A: Jane Dalton, Groundswell Innovation

Jane Dalton is director at Groundswell Innovation, a Lancashire based consultancy which helps companies commercialise innovative new ideas.

Groundswell helped to deliver the Two Zero Female programme in 2020 which helped female business leaders scale to their business.

Jane is also herself currently taking part in Two Zero’s Women Scaling Up programme, designed to help female business leaders in Lancashire prepare for rapid growth.

She shares her advice for businesses looking to scale and inspirations as a female business leader.

What is the most important quality of a scaleup business leader and why?

Being able to let go of controlling every detail of service delivery is absolutely crucial. If you recruit good people, you have to trust them to deliver on your brand promise.

As a new behaviour this obviously has to sit on top of proper communication and training structures, otherwise you’re only setting up your team to fail, but once you have those in place, letting go of the reins a little is the only way to free up your time to focus on building the business.

How have you grown and developed as a scaleup leader?

I’ve been very conscious of the need to be self-aware. From a basis of knowing when and where you perform well, you can be clear what you should focus on and which roles you should delegate to others. You can also be careful to maintain your own energy reserves and resilience, in order to be at your most constructive and impactful when guiding and encouraging the talents of other team members.

Investing time in finding out about yourself can feel indulgent as a business owner, but if you’re going to build a solid base for your scaleup, I see it as essential.

How do you inspire and empower your people?

Letting people have a go at something is our way of helping them to see what they are capable of. It’s too easy to spoon-feed people, or to set them a task and then be negative if things don’t go as planned.

It’s always a fine balance between providing enough direction and allowing people to show their initiative, so we try and work with the strengths of each person and give them the space to show us what they can do.

Inspiration generally comes from what people are passionate about, so again, we try to give people space to explore, then we see what they can apply back to innovation.

What is the best piece of business advice you have received and why?

Keep a journal where you track your successes – large or small, whatever you would class as a ‘win’. Write down what you did well, how it made you feel, what the impact was.

Reading back your own words helps set off a physical response – you relive how it felt to do something well, which sets off a chemical reaction that makes you feel stronger and more positive. It’s a great way to give yourself a shot of confidence, just before you walk into a high-stakes meeting.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned on your business journey, and how has this impacted you?

I’m an introvert. Though for years I thought I wasn’t, because my work is all about connecting with other people in everything from focus groups to strategy workshops. I clearly thrive on this kind of interaction, but I realised I draw my more energy from activities involving reading, thinking, researching and developing ideas.

This has really helped me to design my workflow – I make sure I have a mix of activities across the week, so my energy levels stay high.

What scaleup business do you admire the most and why?

Class of Your Own, founded by Alison Watson MBE.

Great principles, a really strong vision for where they are headed and already having a very positive impact across the construction industry as they scale.

What key metrics do you look at everyday in your business?

As a service business, it’s easy to lose track of time in the thick of a project. We measure time per task, allocated across a project plan, to make sure we’re all focused on activity that will add most value for client projects.

We’re also getting better at keeping a track of our environmental footprint – making sure everyday behaviours are not undermining our values. Things like business mileage, purchase of new office equipment, even email thank yous and overuse of post it notes can mount up over time.

What is the legacy you want to create?

I’d like to encourage two specific mindsets in business:

  1. Profit and purpose are not mutually exclusive. Doing the right thing and building a profitable business can and should be our goal as business owners, particularly as we face the ever-greater challenges of climate change.
  2. Creativity is not something that sits outside of business. We are all creative problem solvers but when it comes to work, it’s too easy to focus on speed and routine to the exclusion of new ideas. Our work with clients encourages wider inspiration and better thinking, not just speed to market. I’m keen to see this approach become the norm within new product development.

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