You must understand that to become truly successful, there must be a level of commitment in place not only from you, but also your family members also as they will be part of your business journey and growth.
As a part of my series about the strategies that extremely busy and successful leaders use to juggle, balance and integrate their personal lives and business lives, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sapphire Gray, founder of SG Business Consultancy & Training, a company dedicated to providing business consultancy and training to start-ups and established businesses, who is also a bestselling author.
Sapphire has always believed in hard work and education to progress and attain your goals in life. She has over 19 certified qualifications, and she believes that structure, systems and robust processes are important components in running a business. She has her own successful property firm PBC Investments, where she built a team of 10, and she managed over 650 properties, across portfolios. Sapphire was responsible for building many of her client’s portfolios to the value of over £2.5million each, and the company survived economic booms and busts.
In addition to SG Business Consultancy, Sapphire also runs an advisory and support service for young people called Many Shades Of Grey. Sapphire had her first child at 15, and she started her first business thereafter. She learnt a lot from the experience, and she kept on pushing through, no matter what life threw at her.
Superstar in name, superstar in nature to the businesses that she supports, Sapphire Gray is not just a business woman, she is an entrepreneur with a heart to change people’s lives.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was brought up in Hackney East London, raised in a single parent family. Our life was hard, and I became depressed. I ended up in various children’s homes starting at the age of 11 years old. I had various illness as a child, gave birth to my first child at 15 years old, ended up in abusive relationships, and have been divorced twice which left me with a lot of debt. I went through a spell of having major panic attacks.
However, I never wanted to be a stereotype as a young, black single parent so started to learn how business in order to give my young family a better life. So I got educated, gaining three degrees and several other qualifications despite being dyslexic. I started a few businesses — business training, business coaching, property investment, and finance. I now have four wonderful daughters, seven grandchildren, and now in a loving relationship.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Running a successful business isn’t easy without having a great team. When I started out, I had an office in my home with a team of six. I wanted to show them how much I appreciated their hard work, so not only did I cook lunch for them every day and we would eat together, I also helped them set up their own small businesses as I strongly believe that everyone can be an entrepreneur with support. This made my business more profitable as they appreciated a balanced work ethic and what it took to run a business. Secondly, they were able to feel free to share their ideas over lunch!
What was your biggest challenge to date either personally or professionally and how did you overcome it?
Learning to deal with my Dyslexia and working everything around that was the greatest thing that was a significant challenge in my life at the time of starting in business. However, getting your head around the infrastructure of a business and learning how to scale it, as well as making money from the services you wanted to offer was a steep learning curve. I felt I didn’t get the help and struggled to learn and understand for many years. I always made a promise to myself that I would help people to achieve their dreams and make their business journey a lot easier for them.
What does leadership mean to you and how do you best inspire others to lead?
Being a lender means to understand the bigger picture by viewing a situation and problem from a Top down approach using an adaptive work style. This allows a leader in your team to have a vision and finding a solution for it. For example, if you’ve got an HR problem, you ask an HR person to fix it. With this adaptive work style there aren’t any easy answers, so you must keep working at it and allowing the people who’ve got the problem to be part of that. Giving them the ability to use their initiative is done by support rather than control.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Business life is far from being easy and sometimes can be very lonely. While I was in the start-up phase of my business, working mainly from home gave me a great sense of self-determination and personal contentment. Conversely, you must understand that to become truly successful, the level of commitment needs to be in place not only from you, but also your family members as they will be part of your business journey and growth.
Bringing up four daughters as a single parent wasn’t easy, but as they got older, they got involved with the business that I was building. My eldest daughter Simone designed all the business stationary, and gave ideas for the branding style of the business. My second daughter Serline took it upon herself to really help me build the business when she was 16 years old and supported her siblings in the home. Serline started to work for me as a personal assistant at 18 years old, but she was more than that — she communicated with clients, closed contracts, found new ways to grow the business, coached clients with their business and more. Having Serline being part of the business was like having a mini me; she absolutely understood what the business model was, and our clients loved her.
Serline learnt to cook so that she could also help support within the home, she would help her sisters with homework and when I fell ill, she was there to keep the business and the home running. I am so proud to see them both grow into mature business women now; Simone has a branding business “Sii Creative” and has done work for the likes of Nike.
Having the support of my family has allowed me not only to expand into many businesses now, but also as a person as we all understand where we want to be as a family unit and as individuals and that’s something to be thankful and grateful for.
Was it difficult to fit your life into your business/career and how did you do that?
I knew from early on that I needed a balance. Leading a fantastic team has allowed me to work on the business rather than in it. However, this wasn’t always the case. I still wanted to do so much within the business and this distracted from my personal life. I had to put a management structure in place therefore that allowed me to contribute new ideas and see which areas of the business needed more improvement, but freed me from doing everything.
Did you find that as your success grew it became more difficult to focus on the other areas of your life?
Sometimes we forget to look at ourselves and see what others see. When I started to grow my business, I was so focused on getting the business right for my customers I was not looking at whether it was right for me and my family.
People buy people, not necessarily the service or product they are offering. Most of us in business spend so much time learning and focusing on areas of our business that are not our skill sets that we end up juggling many different hats. I spent many years disillusioned and thinking that by achieving skills and qualifications that I would be successful — setting me apart from my competitors and being an expert in my field. How wrong was I? Even though my narrow-minded approach was fundamental in establishing my reputation as an expert and helping my clients improve their business’ performance and profits, it occurred to me that I had not focused as much on my family life balance skills along the way. I found at an early stage of my business the biggest stumbling block to my family and business balance success was ME!
I quickly corrected this and formed a brilliant balance between family and business.
Can you share five pieces of advice to other leaders about how to achieve the best balance between work and personal life?
1. Identify Imbalance- two key things here; procrastination can be due to working unproductive hours and what could be done in five hours may take as long as eight hours. Less procrastination equals more time for family. It is essential to be aware that your business priorities are your responsibilities and that they may sometimes come first before family.
2. Talk about responsibilities and expectations — Have family meetings, so that no one person has all the responsibilities. Having a routine in the home mean’s everyone has a share of the work, which will be balanced.
3. Time-management — Being able to delegate and managing your time gives you back a portion of time for your personal life. Saying “NO” is priceless and a skill, but with practice will become easier, and very rewarding.
4. Balancing between family and work — This is an ongoing process and does not happen automatically. Accepting this can reduce disappointment and facilitate you to have power over this practice. Your business may change as new opportunities come along and allow you to have more time with your families.
5. Keeping abreast of your personal and family goals — Your goals will change overtime as the needs becomes greater, and the opportunities to spend quality time together with your family playing and doing projects with them won’t be there forever. Make the decision to know what’s important and writing it down will give you the assurance that it will happen.
What gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment and pride.
I would have to be grateful and thankful to the four gems in my life, my daughters — seeing them become the women that they are knowing the struggles and pain we have gone through as a family. Being recognized for my work by my clients who always vote and enter me for awards like the “Top 50 consultants in the UK awarded by Enterprise Nation”, “BE Mogul’s ‘One of the most Influential and Inspirational Black Entrepreneurs in Britain today awarded by Rich Vision”. Becoming a bestselling author in 6 categories on Amazon On the day of release, The New Rules of Success and helping women to achieve ‘Work life and family Balance’
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement I would like to inspire is called the “The Real ME™” I want to EMPOWER women to look at the truth of who they really are and what they want to become. When a man came in my life and abused me and I had to flee my home leaving everything behind it took away my POWER and I felt POWERLESS, but knew I could take back my CONTROL by looking at “The Real ME™” I want to help 50 women every year to strip off their OLD SELF and become the “The Real ME™” This movement will provide “Safe Havens™” for women that want to leave these types of relationships, who have become homeless through no fault of their own, and who feels alone and helpless. Our goal will be to provide life coaching, housing, education, and tools to build their lives back as well giving them the opportunity to financially support themselves and their family.
What is the best way for people to connect with you