Corinne Thomas, Managing Director, Ethical Sales Ltd
After spending an inheritance on a business that failed, Corinne Thomas was devastated. However, rather than being defeated, she used her experience and 'took a pivot on her passion' to create another more successful venture. Corinne tells The Industry Leaders how she did it and gives some advice on how the corporate world can positively affect environmental change.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
I cut my teeth in telesales at the tender age of 15 years old. A chunk of my career was in championing socially responsible and ethical business practices. I have held several Sales Director roles, and I also launched an eCommerce business for natural beauty brands. I've been able to grow into a highly experienced, confident saleswoman and strategic thinker. I am definitely a new business person at heart, and I still love talking on the phone!
What kind of work does your role involve?
I lead the team to deliver highly strategic and targeted sales campaigns for our clients, all of whom are ethical, purpose-driven businesses. My people are my biggest asset, so I spend a lot of time managing them and working on client management. I love new business and am happiest in sales meetings, making things happen, whether for Ethical Sales or our clients.
What gets you excited about your industry?
I feel like our work straddles two industries; on the one hand, we are a b2b sales agency with telemarketing and lead generation specialisms. On the other hand, we work with natural, organic, and green businesses that are innovators in their own markets. The latter gets me most excited as there are so many incredible businesses that are trailblazing sustainable solutions and showing better ways of doing business.
I like to think we are disrupting the status quo in terms of b2b lead generation services as our work is rooted in meaning and purpose. We get great results for our clients without compromising on their ethical values. In fact, we lead with those values to win them more business.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Test the market before you do anything else. I got too deep into a business that was doomed to fail because I didn't listen to what the market was telling me. I learned a lot along the way, but now I always listen to my prospective customers first before launching anything new, and I advise all my clients to do the same.
What, or who inspires you?
For me, the B Corp movement and the 3,500 businesses that are certified B Corps really inspire me. From big names like Patagonia to small natural beauty brands like Ksoni, they lead the way in demonstrating that you can run a successful business whilst also taking responsibility for your wider impact on people and the planet.
We are a pending B Corp, and I think when I finally get that certification, it will be the proudest day yet of my whole career. It is shaping the entire future of my business and really challenging me to step up and take responsibility for our future world.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
My work spans multiple industries and specialisms, so I am a huge fan of LinkedIn and networking generally. I miss face-to-face networking, but using LinkedIn strategically and mindfully means that I can stay abreast of the exciting new developments in the areas that matter to me, such as B Corps, green energy, natural and organic product launches, and new tech for good startups. I also think that the Green House morning news is an excellent round-up to start my day!
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
It was the failure of my second business, an eCommerce platform for natural beauty brands. It did not meet my expectations from a financial perspective, and I had to take the difficult decision to close it down after a year. I spent an inheritance on launching the business, and for a long time, I felt terrible about it.
However, it put me on the path to where I am today, and for that, I am hugely grateful. I took a 'pivot' on my passion, and it paid off eventually. I now look at it as my 'MBA into how not to launch a business, and I got my third one right, which is not going anywhere!
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Oh gosh, I genuinely would not want that responsibility on my shoulders. For me, that kind of money would be a real burden, not a joyous thing. But if I had to take it, then I would become an investor and mentor for sustainable businesses that were on a path to change the world. I would particularly support women business leaders from underrepresented communities and help them to succeed. But if I am honest, this is in my plan anyway, and I don't think I need $10m to achieve it!
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I go for a run! Or do some HIT training. I have a young family, so I love spending time with my girls and picking them up from school a few days a week. I feel thankful that I have been able to build a business that means I can do that and be present for them.
I find it hard, like many entrepreneurs, to fully switch my brain off but moving my body and being outside in nature is often the answer to this challenge!
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
I wish that all businesses operate under the B Corp model or at least be legally forced to place equal priority on their environmental impact as they do to their shareholders. The world would truly be a better place for it. I believe we need systemic change to get to where we need to be from an environmental and social perspective so that we have a future world we can all enjoy.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
I'd love to recommend two podcasts. One is 'The Sustainable Business Podcast' by Green Element, highlighting sustainable businesses and their approach to environmental challenges. It is always an eye-opener for me. And the second is the 'Founded and Grounded Podcast for Start ups', which showcases inspirational, warts-and-all startup stories!
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