Thursday, February 20, 2014

Should age and gender be a barrier to good business?

Sylvia (Mum) had an interesting conversation with a well-known and respected businessman last week around business leadership. It made Suzannah and I reflect on what we are doing at Toop&Toop.

What was interesting about this conversation was that without knowing us, he appeared to be passing judgment on our succession strategy and our ability to run a successful company based primarily on our age and our gender.

This conversation didn't anger me, it actually put a smile on my face and just made me more determined to prove him wrong, but more importantly, it got me thinking about business leadership in general and how far it has come over the last 10 years. 

When Suzannah and I took over leadership roles at Toop&Toop, it never occurred to me that we would fail as leaders because of our gender or age. I believe it will ultimately be our ability, character, passion and sheer determination that will prove to be the ultimate indicator of leadership success. The ability to motivate, engage and develop respect and loyalty with a group of people with a common goal and with common interests will determine our success.

I have observed the actions, behaviours, ethics and beliefs of my parents over my entire life and it has created a strong foundation for both Suzannah and I to draw strength of character and an excellent base to work from. I also believe our life circumstances and respect for others in no small part adds to the depth of our experience, which when combined, contribute to effective business leadership.

In today's business environment we are surrounded by successful leaders of all ages who are both male and female. Some of the most successful companies in the world were created or run by young people. You only have to look at companies like Facebook, Swisse and closer to home, Australian companies like Sweaty Betty, Sass & Bide and One Shift to see this. The CEO of One Shift is a friend of Suzannah's, she is 23 and is now expanding her $5 million empire to New Zealand and the US. The last 3 in this list also happen to be successful women in business. The idea that age and gender are still seen as barriers in today's business environment is quite foreign to Suzannah and I and has highlighted the fact we do have so much more to learn... but then again, perhaps so do some of the "well known and respected" business men.

Management styles vary dramatically and there is room for all types, but we feel that things are changing. Suzannah and I believe in working with our team, learning from them and pooling knowledge from staff and clients. We believe this is what will make Toop&Toop even more successful in the future.

Since stepping up into our new leadership roles Suzannah and I are now making our own mark. Anthony and Sylvia (Dad & Mum) are very comfortable with the succession strategy, as we embed our own style and expertise into this 28 year old business.

We believe "being the boss" and having people work "for you" is becoming an outdated way of thinking, and it's not something that we aspire to. It feels limiting on our and Toop&Toop's true potential.

We may be proven wrong, but our leadership style and beliefs feel right and are helping Team Toop achieve unprecedented results.  So instead of focusing on gender or age, we are concentrating on our business, our team and our clients - this is what's most important to our family.

Genevieve Toop

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