‘The challenge I’ve faced time and time again is being underestimated’
Building a company is a difficult task. Whether starting their own or growing an established business, these leaders have made a name for themselves as some of the best of the best. So, what makes them tick and what are they aiming to achieve when all is said and done? We spoke to Laura Oliphant, Founder of Stand, about her journey in business.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?
The challenge I’ve faced time and time again is being underestimated – as a woman, a working mother, and at the start, being seen as ‘too young’ to have a strategic opinion. Being underestimated extends to the role of PR. It’s too often seen as an afterthought, coming in once the big thinking has been done.
Thankfully, that view has changed. I’ve overcome it by staying true to myself and my values. I’ve earned respect and a place at the top table by giving honest advice – and not just telling people what they want to hear.
Is there anything you wish you knew before you first started out?
I wish I’d known more about what PR really involves when I started out – there are definitely easier careers. We’re the first place companies turn to in a crisis, sharing our client’s biggest pressures, without the big rewards.
I’d have built my resilience sooner but still doing the same thing. What I’ve been able to do is create an agency where we work with clients that respect communications and share the same values. They work with us as true partners, and we shape their business as well as their comms.
Did you always want to be a business leader or did the desire develop over time?
Communication has always come easily to me. I was a precocious five-year-old who didn’t think she needed to go to school. I went on to study psychology at university and it was then I made the connection that communication can change behaviour.
My first job was in a PR agency working with big brands. It was there I discovered I enjoy big strategic thinking and solving business problems through comms. This is still what brings me joy.
What is your top tip for other business leaders?
Trust your instinct and create your own luck. Always remember that business is personal. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you. I live by a simple mantra; work hard, be nice to people, and good things will happen.
What are your plans for the future?
What everyone’s plan should be: to do more of what brings me joy.
During lockdown I realised flexibility and being with people makes me happy. I love to be out in the world, meeting people, and living life. For the first time in 20 years, I have no ties. I want to use this freedom to explore different places, hobbies and challenges. Handing over my MD title is part of this shift.
I don’t want this freedom to be limited to just me. I want everyone at Stand to follow their interests and passions, which is why we’ve introduced the 4.5 working week to give everyone more time to live life.
I’m as ambitious as always and remain committed Stand’s mission to make the world a better place, so there’s still lots for me to do.
What would you like your legacy to be?
That I was ahead of my time. Brilliant and bold communication is a game changer, but it’s taken a while for everyone to see that. I want to carry on making brave decisions but in a way that makes people feel good and with a smile on my face.
What makes a great a business leader?
A great business leader needs to be honest and open, believing people can do more than they think they can. A good leader puts others before themselves. Companies suffer under the chaos created by selfish leaders.
A good business leader makes decisions from the head and heart. You can create a successful business where people are proud of their work and leave feeling valued and knowing they have had a positive impact on their colleagues, clients and the world.