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May 20, 2014

IMEX Keynote Speaker Michelle Mone on Motivation and Inspiration

A keynote speaker at Monday’s Exclusively Corporate @IMEX was Michelle Mone, the founder and boss of lingerie company Ultimo. She spoke exclusively to the IMEX Daily about motivation, inspiration and staying on top. 

Q. What was the toughest part of getting started?

A. Almost losing my house! It was incredibly challenging getting funding from banks when I started out, so I risked a huge amount in the early days. I also found it very tough being away from my young children. There were days when I was on the shuttle to London literally crying my eyes out, because I didn’t want to leave them. But I didn’t have a choice; so much was on the line.

Q. How important is it for a CEO to be the face of the business, as you are for Ultimo?

A. It really depends on the brand. For me, I’m a woman who designed a product for other women; I understand my customer and I want to be in touch with them, so it’s authentic for me to be front facing.

Q. This year’s event is about the importance of constant innovation. How do you manage to come up with new ideas that will engage with your customers?

A. Listen to your customers! This is something that I’m incredibly passionate about; I’ll read every comment on Twitter, every customer review, every product comment on our website – it’s so important to identify what people want. That’s the key to creating a successful product.

Q. IMEX is about bringing people together and communication. How do you communicate with the people in your organisation?

A. We have a weekly company-wide meeting, which every Ultimo employee attends – from the warehouse staff to our seamstresses – and this is a great forum for everyone to share any news, views or concerns. Communication is absolutely key to running a successful business and I find this is a small but hugely effective tool in keeping those channels open.

Q. How do you motivate and inspire the people you work with?

A. It’s so important to encourage your staff to be the best they can be; to recognise their successes and to give them the right support when they need it. I try to have as many one-to-ones with my staff as I can when I’m in the office, and I’ll always encourage them to challenge and push themselves.

Q. You must travel a lot with an international business such as yours. Do you have a favourite destination or hotel?

A. Yes, I spend a lot of time in London, Dubai and Sri Lanka – and one of my favourite cities is New York.

Q. What advice would you give to the next Michelle Mone?

A. Always think outside the box and don’t be afraid of trusting your instincts in business; I’ve made some of my best decisions by trusting my gut instinct. Also, forget holidays in the first two years of setting up business! Holidays become a very precious and rare thing when you own your own company.

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