My Working Day – Danni Rush – COO of Virgin Experience Days and Virgin Incentives

As the leader of a company, you are there to set an example, to lead and inspire a team of individuals to achieve a series of business goals. But how do these business leaders go about their daily routine? Business Leader spoke to Danni Rush, COO of Virgin Experience Days and Virgin Incentives, about her working day.

What time do you wake up?

On a weekday I’m always up before 6 am. I try to get at least eight hours of sleep each night and I am the most energized in the mornings, so usually spring out of bed to the disappointment of my teenage children. If I have no plans at the weekend, I’m normally up at around 9 am.

What do you have for breakfast?

A mixture of things: sometimes fruit and yogurt, sometimes poached eggs on rye bread, and most of the time nothing as I’m normally in a rush.

What is your mantra for your working day?

Another day to excel! I always start the day fresh, with a positive outlook and like to focus on what I can achieve in the day ahead of me.

As a business leader, is it hard to separate your business and personal life?

Yes, but I would say that is a conscious choice. I’m passionate about my role and the people in my teams and enjoy thinking about ‘work things’ during my personal time – that’s when my mind is the clearest.

However, I have managed to find a good balance and never miss the important stuff at home. I’m always there if I’ve committed to doing something with my family or friends.

One thing I’ve learned is to communicate what’s going on at work clearly with my husband and children, so if something unexpected does come up, they appreciate what and why I need to address it.

What advice would you give to aspiring female entrepreneurs?

There are still expectations that women have to balance work, home, family, etc. It’s, therefore, essential for you, as a female entrepreneur, to be clear on what you want to achieve and when you want to achieve it. Some women don’t spend enough time establishing their goals.

Once you’re clear on what your personal goals are, start to build your self-belief and confidence and find inspiring mentors to work with. It can be challenging to visualise yourself as a female business leader if you don’t see ‘people like you’ in senior positions. This can hold you back from achieving your goals.

Who is your business idol? Why?

I have several leaders I admire and have learned from along the way. One of the first businesses I worked for was a company owned by two brothers. One of the brothers was so empowering and taught me loads about business and how to make mistakes then bounce back stronger.

I’ve also worked for some inspiring leaders. One was able to lead a huge UK hospitality business through real change, whilst also having a positive impact on the people in the business. Watching them lead had a strong influence on the leader I am and aspire to be.

Ben Francis, Founder & CEO of Gymshark, and Whitney Wolfe Herd, Founder and CEO of Bumble, are examples of amazing entrepreneurs that are growing fantastic businesses and I’m very impressed by them.

What motivates you?

Achieving my goals, making an impact for a given purpose and helping others achieve their goals – all these really make me feel good.

How do you persevere through challenging times?

If my heart is in the challenge and I’m fully committed, then I stay focused and think about what I have achieved.

Covid is a great example. Whilst I knew things would be hard in the short term, I truly believed our business would come out of Covid stronger if we focused on the right things.

When I thought things were improving, we’d be hit with another challenge, yet here we are coming out of the other side with a stronger, more resilient business.

I found breaking things down into manageable tasks and celebrating the wins (even the small ones) was really helpful.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a female business leader?

Breaking down existing relationships in male-driven industries to get my voice heard was hard at first and a test of my resilience.

Earning credibility as a young woman in a leadership role, surrounded by peers and team members that had more experience than me, was also a challenge.

Having my son at 16 and choosing to learn on the job as opposed to taking an academic route meant I followed a very different path to many of my peers. Some struggled to relate to me, especially when my view differed from theirs on certain areas of what they perceived as their expertise.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

Always stay hungry to learn from other people. Be clear on what you want and commit to it. Be yourself and be proud of it.

Are you hopeful about the future of female business leaders in the UK? Why?

Yes – businesses are seeing the impact of women leaders all around the world. Businesses thrive with the benefit of fresh perspectives, and we have some amazing examples of women bringing that perspective to drive growth in business and the development of their teams.