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Enterprising Women Case Study - Andrea Gray

Managing director at PPL PRS in Leicester

Case Study

What do you think is the main importance of networks, like Enterprising Women, for women in business?

I think being part of a really great network, like Enterprising Women, is so important and empowering for women in business – it really does make a difference to have some great contacts, outside your business and industry, to be able to call on for advice and support, or just a different perspective.

Equally, the case studies and awards are so inspirational, and have given me some tips and ideas that I’ve then bought back to my own business, so it’s brilliant for learning too.

Tell us about your career to date and your current role?

I sort of fell into my career really. I genuinely didn’t know what I wanted to do, so in my early 20s, after a few false starts in a number of different jobs (pharmacy assistant, trainee driving instructor, accounts assistant to name a few) I took a three-month temporary role as a collections analyst for American Express.

Those three months become eight years, and led me through a number of different leadership roles, culminating in head of service performance – which essentially meant making sure all of Amex’s UK call centres were resourced properly based on customer demand. Sounds easy – but was a logistical nightmare at times! However, those eight years gave me a brilliant foundation to build upon, and from Amex I took a role with Cable & Wireless as customer service manager. That role was leading a much bigger team, of around 100 colleagues, and made me realise that was where my heart was.

After a year working in the Brighton site, I was lucky enough to be asked to relocate to set up a brand-new site in Swansea which I really enjoyed – and gave me a taste for working away from home and experiencing different cities. Further jobs – all large-scale operational roles – took me to Leeds, Colchester in Essex, Hertfordshire, and then back down south to become director of customer contact for Nuffield Health.

After my time at Nuffield, I decided I wanted to set up my own consultancy business, helping organisations optimise their customer service through their contact centres. That was probably the worst career decision I made – it quickly became apparent to me (while conducting my first contract role!) that I needed to have full accountability for my teams and the processes and procedures I was leading.

My next role was one of my favourites to date – I was asked to set up a brand-new contact centre, in Leicester, for personal lines insurer Hastings Direct. This was a bit of a dream job really – a great household brand, but setting up a totally new site, recruiting a whole new management team – and even getting to have major input into the design and layout of the new site on St Georges Way. I joined Hastings in March 2015 as the first Leicester-based employee – and when I left, we had over 1,000 colleagues based there.

So that brings me to my current role – a short hop across St Georges Way to St Georges Street at PPL PRS. I joined in November 2019 as managing director – and it was the role that was one of the attractions for me, as it meant that I got to influence the whole business, not just the operations.

Another attraction for me was the “product” – the money we collect from businesses that need the music licence is then distributed back – via our shareholder companies PPL and PRS for Music – to the creators and performers of the music we all enjoy. And that doesn’t just mean the huge stars we all know and love, but also those much smaller artists who are creating music on a much smaller scale – it’s critical that they get paid fairly for their work – and that’s where we come in!

What challenges have you faced in your career and how did you overcome them?

Most of the challenges I’ve faced have been of my own doing really – I mentioned setting up a consultancy and then realising I just wasn’t cut out to work in that way, well prior to that I had also made one or two similar bad decisions. I absolutely thought I would enjoy a project management role for example, but once I landed one I couldn’t have been more miserable – it was far too isolating and detail-driven for someone as extrovert and ideas-driven as me! On the positive, I usually manage to recognise my mistakes quite quickly, and have (so far) always managed to engineer a more appropriate role out of it.

Apart from those bad decisions, I think the main challenge I’ve faced is one that so many women I speak to has encountered at some point or another, and that is isposter Syndrome. For some reason that I have yet to understand, so many of us seem to believe everyone else is far more competent or deserving than us. I can’t say I have overcome it fully – I still get anxious on occasion, but what I have found really helpful is having a coach – someone I can explore it with in a totally safe way, and someone who is not connected with my work or personal life in any way.

I have had a couple of really good coaches in the last few years, and I wholly recommend it – just make sure you find the right one for you. Another thing that has helped is learning a bit about cognitive behavioural therapy – I am a natural catastrophiser – so learning some techniques to stop me imaging the worst all the time has been helpful!

When were you introduced to Enterprising Women and how has the network supported your career and business?

I came across Enterprising Women fairly soon after coming to Leicester. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Eileen Perry MBE DL who in turn introduced me to East Midlands Chamber and Enterprising Women.

The network has been invaluable to me – I’ve met some great women at the networking events, some who I would now class as friends, and who I can freely chat through things with if I want a different perspective for example. For our business, the awards are so important – it’s so special to be able to recognise female talent – and I am delighted to have two of our teams as finalists for Team of the Year this year! We are also really proud to sponsor the entertainment at the awards ceremony this year. And of course, the events and workshops are so useful and always well attended.

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