What I’ve learnt: Deborah McGargle

April 2, 2018

Deborah McGargle at Northumbria University trained to be a barrister and was called to the Bar in the late 1990s. She took a General Counsel role for the Rolls Royce ‘Reyrolle’ group in 1998 and was appointed to the executive management board in 2005, when the group was brought by Siemens Plc. In 2010, Deborah swapped engineering for technology and co-founded law firm *particular, with Matthew Rippon, which provides legal and commercial support to high growth tech startups. In 2016, Deborah moved to Boston, Massachusetts, to work with the Techstars programme, returning in 2017 to become chief legal officer and part of the founding team at London-based Seedlegals. She lives in the North East and is part of Newcastle Tech Trust

High energy, respect and hard work at the top flows through every part of the company and beyond. This was taught to me during my time at Siemens where I learnt from some incredible business leaders. It remains true today.

Business leaders should be self-aware, resilient, decisive and fair. They must be obsessed with the product or service that they offer. It’s not enough to be interested in what you do; it has to run through your veins.

Take care not to lose your balance. Work can have a habit of taking over and whole days can go by before you look up from your desk. You must be disciplined in making time for you because going 100 miles per hour, 24/7, is simply not sustainable.

It’s not all on you. A good leader knows how to delegate, plain and simple. If you try to do everything yourself, you are only setting yourself up for failure. Businesses are running faster than ever. Work with people who have your back and can share some of the load. Failure to do so is the worst mistake you can make.

Get used to accepting imperfection. You will never know everything and you can’t offer brilliance from day one – but that’s okay. As a founder, that is something you have to get comfortable with.

Get the right advice from the right advisors. This is particularly difficult in the tech sector because the advice needed by someone opening a new restaurant isn’t the same advice that someone trying to validate their idea for an intelligent automated deal platform might need. There are very few expert advisors in the latter category, which is why I was delighted to join the steering committee of the newly-formed private sector initiative Newcastle Tech Trust, which is trying to bridge this gap.

Don’t forget to give back. This could be by mentoring, which is so important to early stage businesses and has been shown to have personal benefits for both the mentor and the mentee, or it could be through angel investing, which is a great solution for new entrepreneurs looking to grow their business. I am currently a mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women working with an extraordinary entrepreneur in Chile. It’s hugely rewarding.

Everyone needs business advice from time to time and I am extremely lucky to have an incredible network of like-minded connections. My CEO, Anthony Rose, and chairman, Laurent Laffy, have a wealth of experience that I tap into daily, plus I’m a member of the Techstars family and IGNITE family so if you can’t find the answer immediately, somebody always knows somebody else who can help.

Put the right people in the right job and ensure that they are clear about what you want them to do and how they should be doing it. Trust them, reward them, recognise them and train them.

Listen. The most effective business skill we all have yet the one we forget to use is listening. We need to listen to our customers, to our team, to our community and industry colleagues. Listening and letting people talk is key to winning them over, fundamental in helping you shape the best product or service you can and is essential in building trust.

Good moods are infectious and positivity is the key to productivity. You can’t expect your team to work hard or behave the way you want them to if you don’t lead by example. If you get excited about the company’s goals, your team will get on board and work to achieve those goals.

Deborah McGargle