Meet the entrepreneurs – Jeanette Purcell, Managing Director, Jeanette Purcell Associates

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1) Tell us what the Brain Exchange is – give us your elevator pitch.

Ever wished you had access to a team of experienced business experts with whom you could discuss your problems, ideas and plans for the future?  That’s the Brain Exchange (http://jeanettepurcell.com/brain-exchange/).  

The Brain Exchange is an invitation-only forum for business professionals to develop ideas, solve problems and get support in a professional and confidential environment.  It’s more than a network and it’s not a talking shop. 

The Brain Exchange gives people practical solutions by tapping into the diverse range of skills and experiences of its members. Every event is professionally moderated and involves a small diverse group, working together to find answers. No two meetings are the same, the topic changes and so do the people sitting round the table. You can express your fears and do your thinking out loud at the Brain Exchange knowing that all discussions are entirely confidential.

2) What are your plans to develop the Brain Exchange?

The Brain Exchange has been so popular that we will soon be increasing the number of events and looking at the possibility of regional or even international chapters.  

Our new improved website will allow members to book online and to get insights and ideas from previous Brain Exchange events.  

There is also interest from businesses wishing to offer the Brain Exchange to key stakeholders as a way of stimulating engagement and continual learning. 

We are very excited about the many ways in which the Brain Exchange can add value to individuals and organisations.

3) Without going into specifics, can you tell us what sort of themes are regularly raised during Brain Exchange discussions?

It can be anything!  Topics raised include “How can I expand my business into new markets?”.. “I am a new Chief Executive and need to think through my priorities for the first six months”.. ..“What is the best way to get my conventional Board to accept a radical new strategy?”..  and “I’m not sure if I am in the right career, how can I make a change?”

4) What funding have you had so far? How did you secure it?

I have had no funding.  Thankfully I was able to fund the early stages of the Brain Exchange from my consultancy business.

5) You were the CEO of the Association of MBAs, what made you give that up to become an entrepreneur?

I loved running the Association of MBAs and learnt a lot about leadership and change management during my time there. However, I realised after seven years in the post that I wanted to have complete autonomy in my work and the opportunity to develop ideas and ways of working that were important to me.

Having run my leadership consultancy for five years I have no regrets. The Brain Exchange, established in October 2013, is now taking up a lot of my time and attention – and it’s great knowing that all my efforts to grow the Brain Exchange spring from a strong belief that this is something valuable and necessary to so many people.  

6) You also lecture on team and leadership skills – any top tips for entrepreneurs building a venture? 

It’s all in the planning! 

First have a clearly articulated proposition – make a clear and specific statement about who your product is for and what makes it different and compelling. Talk to as many people as you can about your ideas and seek advice from those you trust and respect. Run a trial if you can and get as much feedback as you can at this trialling stage, and be prepared to modify or change your ideas based on the feedback you receive.  

Then write your plan for the first year of business. Make this plan as detailed as possible – you won’t stick to it, and things won’t necessarily go according to plan, but the planning process is still critical as a way of organising your time, prioritising and pre-empting risks. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “Plans are worthless, but the planning is everything.”

7) What has been your biggest entrepreneurial challenge?

The biggest challenge has been starting a business from scratch after working all my life in companies with all the security, systems and support networks that go with corporate life. 

I went from being a Chief Executive with influence and status to a position where I was practically a nonentity. It brought home to me the importance of networks – I had to work very hard to retain the connections I already had and to build new networks to help grow my business.  

8) Is there anything you’ve done that you wish you could turn back time and try again?

I am a great believer that you learn best through failing so I don’t have any regrets as such. My failures (and there were some!) taught me so much and I have used the lessons learnt to help me do better in the future. 

On reflection I think there were times in my career when I should have had more courage in my convictions and been less influenced by doubters and naysayers.

9) What single decision have you been most proud of?

I want to talk about two critical decisions!  

The first is the decision to take an MBA. It was not easy to enrol for an MBA when I was already in my 40s and bringing up a young child. The course was such hard work but it was very worthwhile and allowed me to make a step change in my career.  

The second is without doubt the decision to go it alone – I gave up a lot to launch and develop my own business but I have made a success of it and look forward to more success with the Brain Exchange.

About the author: Riaz Kanani

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