I believe some of the ingredients to keep a fantastic team fired up include being vulnerable, bold delegation, being the wind in their wings, giving super clear steps and targets, empowering with exciting plans, goals and rewards. Another very practical top tip I’ve discovered is standing up all day at my computer when writing emails or on calls. With weight of work I get much more done standing up rather than sitting down and stops you from getting dumpy.
I had the pleasure to interview Poppy Szkiler, the Founder & Managing Director of Quiet Mark
Thank you so much for doing this with us Poppy! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My grandfather, John Connell OBE wrote a letter to the Telegraph newspaper in 1959 asking other readers if they shared the same serious concern about the excessive increasing noise levels of daily life, from the boom of new air and transport technologies to metal dust bin lids. He received literally sacks full of letters from other readers expressing passionate agreement, quickly realized someone had to do something about it fast and set about singlehandedly lobbying the Noise Abatement Act through UK Parliament. As a result, noise became recognized as a statuary nuisance known as a pollutant for the first time. He soon after founded the Noise Abatement Society (NAS) charity, which over the past 60 years has been the only charity that deals solely with the effects of noise. In 1998, my mother, Gloria Elliott OBE took up the family mission as CEO of the charity when grandpa died. I was on my way as a reasonably successful TV film actress when I suddenly had a powerful personal epiphany about my life’s purpose and direction. I decided overnight to make a radical career change. I did not want to act anymore after several years in the industry, but to help in a more tangible way for me, instead of playing roles. From the kitchen table, my mum and I decided to create Quiet Mark, a commercial award program company to help the challenging health and environmental mission of the NAS reach a new generation. This, in turn, would encourage global manufacturers to invest in low noise, high performance technology by celebrating those industry leaders who held the Quiet Mark award. I said I’d give a couple of weeks to help on the brand positioning, then I got hooked and couldn’t escape the family purpose — the passion was in me. As a child, I was mesmerized by my 1970s music box playing ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony.’ Years later, I’ve become a third-generation noise-reduction campaigner and business entrepreneur building from this concept of the first multi-national buy-Quiet movement organization. If you’d told me that 20 years ago I would be doing this, I would have not believed you. Life’s full of surprises.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Noise is an invisible pollutant and we had to get everyone’s attention in creative ways. In year three, we rather ambitiously decided to create a huge real-life sound-insulated two-story treehouse dream-show-home in partnership with our headline retail partner. We installed and toured it across U.K.’s largest home and garden shows over months with queues round and round the block to get in, where hundreds of thousands experienced the first Quiet Mark awarded consumer tech products, or heard about them through the incredible media coverage, which followed in top titles around the world. After the tour, we gave ‘The Quiet Mark Treehouse’ to the Royal Botanical Kew Gardens in London, England, where it stands to this day in its permanent home in the beautiful UNESCO Woodland, open to visitors to enjoy for generations to come. Over the past four years, I’ve been the Executive Producer on Patrick Shen’s ‘In Pursuit of Silence,’ a critically acclaimed feature documentary of the exploration of our relationship with silence, with sound and the impact of noise on our lives. The sights and sounds of the film delicately interweave with silence to create a contemplative cinema experience that works its way through frantic minds and into the quiet spaces of hearts. Quiet Mark financed the premiers and distribution for the cinema releases in the U.K., Germany and Japan markets to ensure the timely message reached the widest possible audiences. We invest in generational marketing activity where our efforts year over year communicate and educate the mass population on the impact of sound on our health and well-being — hopefully lasting well after we’re gone.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the early days, I had a significant financial figure in mind for our first headline motor partnership. We secured a promising meeting with heads of marketing at a leading global motor industry company producing next generation electric cars when electrics and hybrids were fairly new on the road. Mum and I pitched the deal in their big boardroom, everyone was very keen, they asked me how much we wanted for this exclusive partnership and I shared the remuneration. The seasoned senior marketing director paused, eyes wide saying humorously, “Where do you think I’m going to get that from?” A moment of silence across the room, but I was honestly sure the figure I had was the one and sat tight. Another marketing manager colleague eventually broke the awkward moment, and like a light bulb went on, he whispered in the ear of the marketing chief, “we could pay them in cars?” The figure I had in mind made up the market value of a number of their new Quiet Mark branded quiet electric cars for the Quiet Mark team to demonstrate low noise technology mega-trend message whilst peacefully driving about the city with high profile promotion for the duration of a successful multi-year partnership. I learnt to stick to my guns, and that a good idea for the greater good can sometimes help defy marketing budgets.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
W.H.O. states noise second only to air pollution as the world’s biggest killer. Quiet Mark is passionately and uniquely committed to solving the negative public-health impact of noise pollution. Quiet Mark is the world’s first industry wide award for acoustic excellence. Our business model is a straight forward practical guide to help people find the quietest verified products. The simplicity of providing consumers with a distinctive purple Q mark to find the quietest products across the industry at point of sale has proven by U.K. retail figures to significantly drive sales of a range of products carrying the Quiet Mark by 44%-88% year over year. We believe our business model strategy can change the issue of noise pollution. It’s good for industry and good for people.
Every day we receive new inquiries from global leading brands entering their products for the Quiet Mark award; from their own research, they can see people want more peace and quiet and the Quiet Mark provides a new relevant differentiator. We are in a new era of sound design.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We have many exciting projects on the runway towards Quiet Mark becoming a global household brand standing for the value of peace and quiet. We have joined forces with the Good Housekeeping Institute U.S. and the Hearst Corporation in New York bringing our acoustic measurement expertise to a new noise product testing partnership. For all the products the Institute tests, they incorporate a new 3-star Quiet Mark noise rating gauge to help over 18 million monthly readers in the United States easily find the quietest household appliances in each product category on the market.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
For us it’s about finding ways to bring out and support the unique potential in each individual, give each one the foundation, encouragement, resources, honest feedback and bespoke opportunities to be the best they can be, and to find real fulfilment and nurture innate gifting, as well as a personal career path. We meet weekly one-to-one and then with the whole team, and share daily updates with everyone. We excite with the potential, recognize we are all deeply interdependent and cheer each other’s contributions every day. Making sure we have some good regular laugh out loud fun together building the vision. We try to make a healthy happy working environment that’s more like a family, growing together through thick and thin.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
I believe some of the ingredients to keep a fantastic team fired up include being vulnerable, bold delegation, being the wind in their wings, super clear steps and targets, empowering exciting plans, goals and rewards. Another very practical top tip I’ve discovered is standing up all day at my computer when writing emails or on calls. With weight of work I get much more done standing up rather than sitting down and stops you from getting dumpy.
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 about that?
Please may I have top three? 1. Jesus saved me. 2. My Mum, Gloria is my faithful best friend and business partner — our extraordinary journey to grow Quiet Mark together has profoundly healed our relationship; we’ve been through everything together. 3. I try my best to follow in my husband, Paul’s footsteps developing transformational social impact businesses’; he adjusts my sails, iron sharpens iron.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
If we all buy the quietest products, all prioritize designing better acoustics, invest in quality noise reduction solutions at R&D, all understand how badly unwanted noise effects our health, productivity and emotions, we can phase out harmful unwanted noise, rediscover the nourishment found in quietness, stop cardiovascular related diseases, and take immense pressure off our world.
— The core of our business
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
Some old classics always sort me out…
Don’t judge a book by its cover. I’m often mistaken for the secretary.
Listen to the still small voice of calm (every day). At the most pressured moments, wisdom to make the right decision is always there, I find, if vulnerability and discipline to listen are activated. On good days as well as difficult ones, I always try to thank God as much as I can for my life, I feel it’s sensible to build a strong two-way conversation for top level guidance. I got it wrong for many years, now I try to listen and stay tuned like my life depends on it.
Obey your gut instinct. It may all seem to stack up but if alarm bells are ringing inside, don’t do it.
Passion beyond reason. Noah built the Ark in a sweltering desert, it did not make sense, he was no doubt laughed at, but was sacrificially obedient and saved the day.
Actions speak louder than words.
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. 🙂
In our stressful lives we are often surrounded by a cacophony of sound that we feel we have little power to stop. If we don’t do something about this soon, our ability to hear the subtle sounds around us will disappear. Quiet Mark is committed to the long-term journey to transform the problem of global noise pollution creating demand for the use of quieter technology and noise reduction solutions in our homes, workplaces, commercial and outdoor environments. By choosing to buy Quiet Mark awarded products tested and validated as the quietest in category we can make the change. Having at least an hour of personal daily ‘Quiet-Time ’before you start your day is another much needed movement for vital recharge.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Love your neighbor…buy a quiet lawnmower. Lots of small steps to reduce our individual sound footprint makes a massive difference to the lives of others. Quiet can still be powerful. A high-performance machine, truck or airplane does not need to be loud anymore, it just takes more ingenuity and investment in the acoustic design.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I don’t do Facebook personally. I’m on Linkedin, it’s a very positive community.
As for Quiet Mark: instagram.com/Quiet_Mark
Thank you so much for these inspiring insights!