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It’s All About The Balls! Meeting with Karren Brady

April 5, 2018

Just recently I was lucky enough to meet Baroness Karren Brady and listen to the story of her rise up the ladder of the corporate world. Despite her diminutive size, she packed a whole lot of punch into a very short amount of time.

Her story, from choosing to go to work instead of university, to being in the House of Lords and running a £1bn company in a male-dominated environment, consistently showed that from a young age she simply had BALLS. And as she said herself, “It’s all about the balls!”

As the first female director of a football club, she admits to “kicking the door down” for women in football in the boardroom, leaving it open behind her to ensure others could follow. West Ham Football Club now has
a senior management team that is 75% women, so she practices exactly what she preaches!

Throughout our conversation and the Q&A session she was frank and open, there were some common themes throughout. She had some great messages for today’s young people that I wish I heard at school.


This was her mantra. To go boldly, ignore others’ opinions, take risks and back yourself (because no one else will).


This was her success factor in business. When she took over Birmingham City Football Club the staff had no drive, no ambition, no computers (anywhere) and no idea it was a business. Karren knew there were three types of people:

1. People who make things happen

2. People who watch things happen

3. People who wonder what happens

Having a good culture in your organization is about leadership, (different from management) and communication. If the staff know where the business is going, how they can help it get there and, importantly, what their reward is for helping the business achieve its goals you can motivate and lead them. To create a great team in your business means to have everybody thinking of ways to make your business work better. In short, everyone has to do everything in their skill set to make the business a success.


Karren’s personal values, which she recognized at a young age are:




These have helped her along the path to success.

She had six ingredients to successful entrepreneurship:

1. Leadership – which she described as facing the music, having vision, doing what needs to be done even if you don’t want to, know where you stand and making a stand.

2. Ambition – no one starts without ambition but finishing needs hard work. The toughest thing about success is staying there.

3. Determination – especially in the face of failure. How you respond to failure determines what success you will get in life. Being able to grit your teeth and push through is key.

4. Attitude – if you can’t change something, then change your attitude towards it. And always think “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

5. Direction – “the whole world steps aside for the person who knows where they are going”. Be clear on where you are going and get going in that direction.

6. Be Positive – true success is about hanging on when everybody else has let go. Nothing takes the place of persistence.

Her life lessons in the Q&A were a rich source of wisdom and advice. She decided to become the best version of herself at a young age and the advice she gave to others is:

Do your best

Be focused

Champion your career

Be confident in who you are

Her recommended book is Claude Littner’s biography “Single-Minded: My Life in Business”.

She had so many nuggets, but to sign off, here’s just one. “You can’t determine where you start in life, but you can determine where you end up.” SO TRUE!