LeadHerShip – a day with Spindogs

11th March 2020
Blog post by LeadHerShip participant, Mariyah Zaman.

Picture the feeling you get after seeing a motivational quote or clip on social media, but this multiplied over a whole entire day. This was the feeling I had whilst spending the day with Director of Client Services at Spindogs, Claire Swindell.

As a young Muslim woman trying to make it in the entrepreneurial world, when I saw a Facebook post promoting applications to spend a whole day with a female CEO or company director, I knew I had to apply. A spark of opportunity flickered when I had received an email informing me that I had been accepted onto LeadHerShip, it was a chance to get my questions answered from a perspective I could relate to.

Before I get into my day with Claire, I must admit that I was walking into this with a small case of self-doubt and a large case of imposter syndrome as to whether I was ready to take the leap of faith into my business venture. I loved that the opportunity came from a local, thriving Cardiff business – it was comforting and also that bit more inviting.

The beautiful Spindogs office in Cardiff Bay immediately felt like an inspiring space to be in. Whilst Claire toured me around the towered office, she mentioned the importance of a collaborative work environment at the company. The inviting and open-spaced departments at the creative workspace set the tone for one of the key pieces of advice Claire gave me in business; no successful entrepreneur gets there on their own.

I have always been told about the importance of networking, but never about how to go further from the acquaintance. Claire related her own experience of how some of the most important decisions she has had to make in business, have been informed by friends she has made in her professional network.

It really put into perspective the power of a conversation over coffee and how people may actually be flattered rather than put off by your request for advice. No one person can attain all the expertise in the world, so the exchange of expertise is literally what drives the business world. This felt so reassuring.

I felt like this large expectation of full-independency that comes across from the entrepreneurial world was lifted.

Claire led me into a meeting room where she began going through the company history and her personal journey with Spindogs. It was interesting to hear about how much Spindogs had expanded and changed over the years, as well as the challenges that struck along the way as well as what a typical day looked like in Claire’s diary. Claire talked about how being her own boss allowed her to be flexible with her time, especially after having her first child, she was able to manage the time she gave to the business and to her personal responsibilities.

The day continued with informal and attentive conversations over lunch at a local cafe where I was given an opportunity to discuss my own plans in business and the barriers I had felt towards achieving my goals. Claire gave full attention to my concerns and queries throughout the day. I was incredibly appreciative of her insights and the time and care she gave towards listening to where I was at in my journey.

This blog post would most likely turn into an essay if I were to relate all the golden pieces of advice that Claire gave me in our discussions, so I will instead list the top five messages I took away from the day;

  1. “Don’t say ‘just’ before giving a command or responding to a request.” – This is something Claire mentioned as women we find ourselves doing a lot, especially when relating our personal achievements or asking from others in positions of leadership.
  2. “Say no to anything you’re uncomfortable with.” Nothing will ever be completed to the best of your ability if your heart is not in it completely. The regret of letting yourself down should be greater than the fear of letting others down.
  3. “People pay for the years and not the minute.” This really hit me. The value is in what we make and not how long we take to make it. I feel that we underestimate how long it took to get to a position of expertise in being able to produce a good quality and satisfactory product for market.
  4. “Before making a decision, ask yourself what is the worst that can happen and then plan accordingly.” If you can prepare for the worst and deal with it, then you can deal with anything else that comes in your way.
  5. “Don’t be afraid of never achieving the title of the most successful entrepreneur – just seek your fulfillment.” I learnt that ambition is great, but not if it hinders your happiness.

I would like to thank Chwarae Teg for accepting me onto LeadHerShip and to Claire for her incredible time, attention and advice. I hope this piece will inspire others to take up opportunities that they have been considering to take but haven’t felt the confidence in doing.