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Inspirational Woman: Helen Southgate | Managing Director, Acceleration Partners

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Helen is the Managing Director of Acceleration Partners EMEA.

She has over 15 years of experience in the digital marketing sector working for high-growth companies. Helen previously served as Managing Director at affilinet, one of the largest European affiliate marketing networks and on the digital marketing team at Sky PLC. She is currently the Chair of the IAB Performance Marketing Council. In her spare time she likes to cycle up and down hills and support her home football club, Norwich City.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No I actually didn’t. But growing up in Norfolk, I always knew I would move to London from an early age. I also did think I’d be in business, however I also had hopes of driving a sports car and retiring at 30 ; so I didn’t plan it all right!

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

So many challenges that I couldn’t list them all here, but it’s those experiences I think that make you a better judge of people and business and be braver in the decisions you make going forwards.  The biggest challenge was that 8 years into my career in affiliate marketing, I felt that I wanted a change and not just do affiliate marketing anymore.  This was when I took a role at Sky, there was the opportunity there to still work across affiliates but also manage the paid search team.  I learned a lot during my 4 years at Sky and moved away from the affiliate channel for some of that time completely.  But I missed the channel, the people, the diversity, the dynamism … I’ve not seen what we have in the affiliate channel in other disciplines; for me affiliate marketing is the best digital marketing discipline.

On a typical workday, how does you start your day and how does it end?

I always get up around 7am, do some Pilates stretches whilst listening to Radio 2 (I screwed my back up a year ago, and now have to work hard to keep it in good nick), I have a large coffee, I can’t start the day without it and breakfast.  Then I get stuck in to a few hours work which could literally be anything depending on what projects we are working on.   I normally try and take a break before lunch, if the weather is good I might cycle, or attend a spinning class, use my indoor trainer or go to the gym  I then have lunch and get stuck into work, which can often go on into the evening.  I’ve always found I work a bit better later in the day, so this structure really works for me.

Do you have any advice for anybody looking to start their own business?

You don’t know what you don’t know, until you don’t know it. Be prepared to be surprised, have a steep learning curve and experience a very different type of hard work.  It’s really hard work, there is no denying that, you have to spin a lot of plates, make difficult decisions, and make sure you can support your team, but it’s enjoyable hard work.  Sometimes it can feel like you are on your own and that can be incredibly hard so make sure you engage the people that work with you, take them on the journey and most importantly find peers that you can discuss these new challenges with.  The people who I have leant on for advice, or sometimes just an ear have been incredibly valuable to me in this new venture.  I’ve absolutely loved every second of it, but it’s not for the faint hearted.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I’ve actually just been thinking about this.  I recently helped to judge the Rising Star Awards for the 2018 Performance Marketing Awards, and it made me aware of the great talent that we have in our industry, but talent that will need guidance and support to be the best they can.  Once I have a little more time on my hands, I would love to do this.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Making it easier to leave to have children and come back.  I was shocked at the maternity policies that many UK companies have in place, we are working on an enhanced policy at the moment for the AP UK team.  I was also shocked at how little support small companies get.  I feel strongly that if businesses helped both parents this would go a long way to making it easier for both to take time out to have children, but to also be able to get back into work when they want to and have more flexibly.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Climbing Kilimanjaro has to be my biggest achievement to date! But this year I’m doing a 300km Ultra Sportive in a day and cycling from Lands End to John O’Groats, so that might top that.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Personally, I want to get quicker, faster and stronger on my bike. Next year maybe I’ll cycle across America, then maybe the world?!  In business, I want to make AP UK a successful standalone business and to be a well-known and respected performance marketing agency across Europe.   I’d also like Norwich City to get promoted to the Premier League, and win the FA Cup.

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