NextAdvisor Elaine Haines: Bringing Out The Best In Others

Elaine Haines is one of the NextAdvisors signed up to advise our community in our Business Advice Programme.

Elaine is an experienced senior manager/Director with over 25 years in commercial and/or marketing led positions, with a proven ability to rapidly analyse businesses and markets in order to identify opportunities for new revenue streams, clients and business development initiatives.

Her experience includes defining and implementing business growth strategies for SMEs and ‘blue-chip’ corporates, including raising venture finance and writing Sales Prospectus. In addition to growing alliances and partnerships to sell technology directly and indirectly to both SMEs and global corporates, Elaine has worked with senior partners at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Founders of high growth start-ups.

She has held positions with responsibility for Sales and Marketing, Operations, HR and Commercial Development through strategic acquisition. In her development work she draws on the skills and experience of Consulting Women and is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Elaine is ready to start advising you on your business. For more details on The Business Advice Programme and to sign up, click here

Previously employers include an IBM Dealership, Pricewaterhouse coopers, NetConnect, the NFU, Hypertag, Consulting Women, and Lon- Ist.

TNW: Tell us about your current role/venture. What’s at the top of your mind with regard to your business?

EH: Like many woman I divide my time between doing the things which generate an income and those which feed my soul. In a perfect world they would be one and the same, so in the meantime I pick out the stepping stones which will take me to this ‘perfect’ scenario.

For the last couple of years I’ve been providing pre-acquisition services to a global consulting client looking to expand his business interests, providing him with strategic advice on potential acquisitions. In the course of this work I’ve interviewed many company owners and researched a wide variety of market sectors. Despite the apparent diversity of the companies, I have assessed this work it has re-enforced my view that in business little is ever new, and, great value can be added by translating the commercial models, experience and ‘learnings’ from one sector to another, so long as one focuses relentlessly on customer journey.

Armed with this belief, and 15 years working with and on the Boards of Cambridge based technology SMEs, I recently decided to look for some Non Executive Director (NED) roles to complement my consulting work and online flower border business, EllaBella Boxes. Having worked with male Boards, the call for greater diversity in the Boardroom is one I hear loud and clear and my ability to bring objectivity and good process to decision making seems to fit well with a NED role.

Colleagues have valued the way I bring out the best in others and my vision for spotting new markets, so bringing these talents to technology (or other sector) businesses is my ‘next step’. 

After researching my options I’ve joined the Institute of Directors (IOD) (as an aside there is an interesting members’ blog commentary going on here about the role of IOD here in the UK) and at my first regional IOD meeting I was invited to join the committee, so I’ll be exploring how I can bring value to my local IOD organisation.

I’ve also subscribed to Women on Boards, who attracted my attention during the Summer, and are actively engaged in the board diversity agenda.

Between now and the Spring I’ve a couple of courses booked to ensure my skills are up to date for properly fulfilling the role of a Non Exec Director.

My consulting clients at the moment include three consumer facing businesses: a handmade organic soap start-up; an established bespoke furniture maker and a building contractor.

Whilst these businesses are all at different stages of growth, their founders share a common problem of how to engage with their target audience.

They all deliver great service but, like many business founders, they struggle to attract and win potential work, which is where I come to show them how they can by demystifying and simplifying the ‘scary’ world of marketing and selling.

Alongside all this I am also preparing to take EllaBella Boxes, my online pre-designed flower border business, out of mothballs, since the indications are that economic recovery is on its way. This fledging business is my dreamboat and sanity, but not yet earning enough to support my family. 

Thinking about discussions I’ve had in the last week three stand out. First, the recession has put many businesses out of business and changed their sector landscape forever.

During recession, staying attuned to changes in your landscape is as important as keeping costs down.

Unique opportunities to increase market share will appear and disappear, without the dramatic commentary that has, in the past, accompanied M&A activity, so keeping an eye out for these opportunities is important.

Second, I’ve been talking to business founders about ensuring they monitor the financials that point to longer term trends, like market share for example, and not focus solely on the short term by looking exclusively at turnover and profit margin. Readers who want to know more on this point are directed to the works of Professor Malcolm McDonald who has been a long standing exponent of this thinking and the perils of short-termism.

Finally, in our IOD regional meeting annual lecture, Professor Graeme Leach, Chief Economist at the IOD, reminded us that as we bump along the bottom of a recession export sales will help build solid, long term improvement in the UK economy, so I have been thinking about this in the context of my consulting clients.

TNW: Which business topics are you most interested in providing advice on?


My clients value my insight in terms of people and markets, my ability to see new business opportunities and wide ranging connections.

I often advise company founders who need to save or grow their business. So whilst recession may have revealed the symptoms, the root cause for loss of sales has often been in place well before recession hits them. Questions business managers bring to me, and on which I advise are:

  1. How can I save my business?
  2. How can I sell more?
  3. How can I make more money?
  4. How should I market this product/ service?
  5. How can I sell my business?
  6. How can I find the right Sales / Marketing Director for my Board?
  7. How can I get more out of my people?
  8. How can I organise succession?

TNW: How should a NextAdvisee approach their relationship with you, to get the best out of you?

EH: Bring a question (or questions) which they would like to discuss, to the session, which may be conducted over skype and to be open with me and give me feedback to work with.

TNW: What do you see as the benefits of an advice relationship, for the advisor?

EH: In my own experience and according to the ‘Natural Orders’ law of give and take, in the course of facilitating another’s exploration of their questions and concerns, one often sees a parallel or receives an insight into one’s own situation, particularly if you subscribe (as I do) to mirror theory. 

Therefore, if one listens with a quiet soul, much is exchanged of value during any conversation. 

TNW: Do you currently have a mentor?

EH: Yes, an awesomely wise woman, called Moira Siddons, who channels the most amazing energy and insight into our discussions. I met her when I was with PricerwaterhouseCoopers, she had faith in my abilities and let me work with her clients – we did ground breaking work together. Moira has worked hugely hard on her own development and through her path of giving back has changed the lives of many people for the better.

TNW: Which business matters have you most needed advice on during your career?

EH: I’ve struggled to understand and manage my frustration with the speed (or lack thereof) of change, or disengagement of colleagues in corporate culture. I love the speed one can work at in the start-up environment.

For me, with age has come the understanding that others have their own motivation and work life balance, which does not mirror my own passion and impatience, and this is not wrong, just different.

TNW: What is the most useful lesson you have learned from a mentor?

EH: It was life changing for me when I began to understand and use my strengths and learn how to bring them usefully to my business and personal life.

Learning to grow through these, rather than ‘fix’ my weaknesses, was the single most useful life lesson I’ve had, so far!

TNW: Who would be your dream mentor in a fantasy world (they can be living or a historical figure)?

EH: Marie Curie, who stood alone in her time, did need the affirmation of others to know her own truth.

She was motivated to think beyond contemporary thinking because her belief in her convictions was so strong, despite the ridicule of these by others (men!) 

Oh to be SO strong!

TNW: Is there anything we haven’t asked you, but you would like to share with our community?

EH: As a thinker I love the advent of the internet and the access to research, insight and current thinking it brings. However, for me there is no substitute for balancing this instant access, rapid data culture with the ability to muse which comes from a grounding activity. I love digging the earth of my garden which often brings me more insight than sitting at my desk!

I’m a great advocate of giving ourselves creative, grounding spaces in which our unconscious can surface the simple things we often overlook when we are busy searching for answers.

Elaine is ready to start advising you on your business. For more details on The Business Advice Programme and to sign up, click here

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