Entrepreneur Paula West: How to B:Exceptional

Having launched her own retail training business, Paula West was headhunted by well-known personal styling company Style My, creating an unrivalled partnership with a very interesting USP. She talks to Angela Sara West about her success story, turning 50 plus her tips for would-be entrepreneurs.

Paula worked in store management and as a learning and development specialist for retail magnates Marks & Spencer and Harrods before launching her company B:Exceptional Ltd. On a mission to make people the best they can be, she’s been working with diverse high street and luxury brands, including Fortnum and Mason, Vodafone and Calzedonia Group.

Be fab at 50 

She turns 50 in October: “I forgot I was turning 50! Age doesn’t matter. It’s about how you think and behave. My husband and daughter keep me young.” Her styling tips? “For any age, dress to suit your shape, budget and colour tone. Wear flattering styles, a good fit, drapes… Always wear sophisticated, elegant, timeless chic, whether smart or casual, teamed with a good handbag and shoes. Invest in good-quality nail polish, mascara, liner and lipstick.”

She eats sensibly and drinks lots of water: “I used to drink a lot of Diet Coke but not anymore. I walk and moisturise daily, use good creams, exfoliate… There’s nothing better than a tasty salad… Okay, there’s a slice of pavlova with lots of strawberries…!”

She owns up to one guilty pleasure, though: “Shopping, of course!” Fashion-conscious Paula’s style icons include Audrey Hepburn and Helen Mirren. “OMG… I hope I look like her when I’m older!” while Karen Millen, Whistles, Ted Baker, Phase Eight, House of Fraser, M&S Essentials, Tiffany & Co, Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors are her go-to retailers.

Paula’s tips for 50+ entrepreneurs?    

start quote

We’re living longer… forget about age! If you’re motivated, proactive, willing and have a positive growth mindset, that’s half the battle.

final quote

Use and develop your network, knowledge and skills, keep improving and learning to build on your own capability and credibility, test out your ideas and ALWAYS listen to your customers. Be resilient, composed, proactive, plan, be happy…smile, a lot!”

With the e-commerce boom, what does the future hold for retail? “It’s about remarkable interactions. Customers may start their journey online, but still seek physical, face-to-face experiences in brick-and-mortar stores… experiences that satisfy the need for leisure and entertainment, as well as the purchase of products. Sales assistants will become stylists.”

With Paula on board, Style My’s set to revolutionise the way shoppers and retailers connect, creating improved consumer confidence. “There will always be a need for customer experience training… I hope to be just as busy, successful and happy five years from now!”

Thinking about a change of career?

Or maybe you’re a business looking for a boost…  Paula shares her secrets on how you and your company can be the best you can be.

  • Hire people who are passionate about your company and keep them motivated with support and continuous learning.
  • Train and coach them on skills such as having presence and impact, how to influence others, building trust and resilience, handling challenging conversations and building relationships.
  • It’s about understanding the customer and the experience they are after. Properly-trained employees deliver better results, are happier at work and take pride in their company, meaning they go beyond the extra mile. In retail, this means converting more shoppers into buyers, promoting repeat business and establishing your store as the journey of destination, i.e. making it the go-to store.
  • Play to your strengths. This creates happiness, fun and enjoyment. Individuals who build up their strengths can reach their highest potential.
  • Have a goal, aspirations and vision, so you know where you are going.
  • Networking is everything. Talk to people and use positive language… it’s all about learning from mistakes and successes.
  • Having a positive growth mindset is the most essential element of success. We help people become more growth-oriented simply by educating them on the concept and using positive terminology.
  • Have efficient processes set up and keep track and be mindful of your numbers.
  • Make sure that the quality of your goods or services is maintained. Listen to customer feedback, it’s so important, then redesign, if necessary, to constantly improve.
  • Be show ready and care about appearances. Stores should be spotless and easy to navigate. Staff should be immaculate, efficient and courteous.
  • Empower staff members to make decisions. Too often, I find myself asking an assistant a question and they reply “I have to ask my manager.”
  • People respond to praise and constructive feedback. Giving individuals praise produces confidence and the desire to perform even better. I like to use ‘EBI’ – you could be Even Better If…you did “x” next time. Allow people to develop a sense of their “personal best” in order to increase their future potential. Build on strengths.
  • Don’t forget – Practice makes perfect and there is no failure, only feedback!

For further information, visit Paula’s page on Style My’s website: http://stylemy.co.uk/retail-training-expert/