Paula Kensington: How To Create An Environment For Innovation
Paula Kensington, CFO & COO Regus Australia, knows what she wants in life. She was awarded the Inaugural CFO of the Year 2013 from Thomson Reuters and she’s on a mission to help women in business.
As a first time sponsor of Fearless, Regus’ CFO Paula took time out to speak with Suzy Jacobs about women in business and what her advice is to our Fearless women out there.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for female business owners and entrepreneurs?
Mindset! I have mentored and led many women and one of the biggest obstacles that I see time and again is the limitation of what we think is possible, it’s almost like we stand in our own way when it comes to our own success.
At 16 I left school and went into retail because there was no expectation for me to do anything different, no one in my family had gained a tertiary education so I didn’t think I could either.
I spent a few years in retail – all day every day on my feet – and although I didn’t know what else to do, I had to get out. My father was my role model, he had been an accountant and had experience at corporate level being CFO at Colgate Palmolive. So at 21 I went back to school to study accountancy while continuing to work full time. I was known as the mature student, what a laugh at 21!
It was during this time I started to think differently about my future, I realised I was ‘good enough’ and that I was capable of more. A combination of a strong work ethic and successfully passing my professional exams resulted in a shift in my belief systems. I had direction, I was hopeful and I developed a motivation to do well and be financially independent.
I’ve read that you like to create an environment for innovation whilst managing risk, what does that look like?
I want to be one of the top CEOs in Australia one day and I’ve been approaching that future the same way I approach every aspect of life – with a combination of risk management and innovation.
I treat my career like it’s a business, every year I take time out to work on what it is I want to achieve. I do a skills analysis and decide which areas I need to focus on to achieve my goals each year, after all we need to keep learning and growing.
In 2014 I realised I wanted to inspire other people but to do that I needed to work on my presentation skills. So I looked at Macquarie MSGM five‐day program on rhetoric, storytelling and presentation and booked myself into the program.
Planning my career has been critical – I mitigate risk by looking ahead to see what is needed and that allows me to be comfortable innovating. Once you work out where you want to go, it’s up to you to get there, no one will do it for you.
When I was a little girl my dad called me butterfly and up until my 40s I thought it was because I was unsettled, always on the move, non‐committal ‐ but I see it very differently now.
A butterfly is a beautiful and strong creature, it moves with great purpose. Its strength is earned through the struggle during the cocoon phase of its life. Upon breakthrough the butterfly moves with beauty, strength and purpose, as it must pollinate flowers in a very short time.
My biggest struggle was when my partner passed away six weeks before my 40th birthday, I had to move with great courage and great strength and not get caught up in the small irrelevant detail of life. When life presents a challenge we are all responsible for stepping up.
I am a butterfly.
What’s one piece of advice you have for our Fearless business owners?
I have five!
- You don’t have to know everything and you don’t need to have all answers before you begin.
- Building your inner circle is key, surround yourself with people who have strengths in your area of weakness.
- I never worry about ‘how’ I’ll do it. I’ve learned to stop over thinking because I have the confidence to know that with the right team I can produce what needs to be done.
- Have a plan because when you get caught up in the small stuff it’s imperative you can look up and get inspired by the bigger picture.
- Plan, plan and plan.
Regus started co‐working spaces five years ago, why was that an important move?
Our founder, Mark Dixon, led this move. He was an early adopter of everything digital and had the foresight to understand how the digital world could impact the ‘real’ world and the way people were working.
I was approached to join the team and although co‐working hadn’t been something I knew much about I quickly saw the opportunity. It’s exciting working on projects when the future is full of new and out of the box thinking.
We’re involved in creating a new future and over the next 12‐36 months you’ll see us roll out more of our offering.
What are some of the practical ways Regus would like to support small business to be more financially successful?
Simply we can provide a flexible offering that supports the needs of women, especially women returning to the workforce. The transition back into paid employment can be challenging and I think a safe place to share ideas, collaborate and be productive would make an immense difference.
Education is also key. Regus have 70 centres across Australia, each of them with their own management team so we run master classes to empower our General Managers to operate the centre like it’s their own business.
I like the idea of offering those master classes to the wider business community.
You can find out more about co-working spaces with Regus here