Thursday 13 October 2016

2inspire Inspirational Woman: Francesca Armstrong, Chief Operations Officer, Connoco Group

Meet Francesca Armstrong, Chief Operations Officer of The Connoco Group 

Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
A typical day for me starts around 3am – we run an online business which means our operations are 24 hours a day. Having expanded into 3 new markets and launched several other offices over the last year I like to check my email during the night and feel it is important during our initial expansion period that I touch base with our other team leaders and make sure everything's running smoothly.
After this, I go back to sleep until 7am which is when I get up and get ready for the day.
I aim to get to the office between 8.30-9.30 depending on how long I have been up during the night or what meetings I have planned.
We run most of our sales and support from our office in South East Asia – they are online until 12pm UK time so much of my morning is spent working with our team there.
Afternoons are varied and can be anything from looking at new projects to meetings with our clients. Reviewing our own progress is something we are really keen on and I spend a great deal of time working with our operations and sales team leaders to review sales and processes to look at where we can improve as well as forward planning.

What made you start the business and how did you get started?
We (My Partner Tim and I) started the business as a side project to our existing jobs – he was working as IT consultant and I was studying Fashion Design at St. Martins whilst interning at Burberry. The business began to grow larger than we had anticipated and we reached the point where we decided in order to take it to the next level we would need to focus on it full time.
What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
When you are so focussed on targets within your own business it is often difficult to take stock and look at what you have accomplished so far – because Tim and I work, live and breath together we are constantly pushing each other and the business to do more.
If I had to pick something personal to me that I feel proud of it would be the year on year increase in sales or building out international teams to manage the challenges with time zones.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Our biggest challenges are often our biggest successes because they require everything that we have to get through.

For me so far this would have to be overcoming the challenges of cross-border trading and working with different time zones. When we first launched in Australia and New Zealand Tim and I were working 20+ hour days, we would have a power nap from 10pm – midnight and then spend most of the night awake with another quick sleep at 6am until we had to leave to go to the office. It’s amazing how sleep deprivation begins to take its toll but we have always said if you want something you make it happen! Thankfully we have now successfully developed teams which sit on those different time zones and I have never been so appreciative of sleep!

What are your future plans for the business?

We have huge plans for the future as a company that never wants to stop growing. Our next project will be an expansion of our hospitality and lifestyle arm into the Hotel/Restaurant sector - We travel approximately 200 days a year so want to take all the knowledge and experience we have developed and put this into creating great business driven travel solutions.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Probably start (even) younger and employ faster!

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?

Too often young people (especially women) are told you ‘can’t do that’ or you ‘won’t be able to’ – our confidence in ourselves plays a huge part in our abilities to succeed so it is critical to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself why would anyone else?

It is never too late to make a change or start again. What you think is your best right now is just the beginning of what you can do. In life, we never stop learning.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?

Prepare to lose as well as win, just make sure your wins are much bigger!

What or who inspires you in business and why?

I am inspired by anyone that can take an idea/concept and turn it into a profitable and sustainable business. There are so many hurdles out there to overcome especially for a woman in business that if you can make it work you really know what hard work is!

For a business to succeed you need to be constantly evolving and developing with the times - Victoria Beckham is a great inspiration for this as throughout her career she has managed to constantly reinvent herself whilst still maintaining a strong identity - something which is key to a business succeeding.

Today’s social media movement provides inspiration for us all - I truly admire the people who have taken themselves and their passions and turned it into a Brand and then a business, for example, fashion and interiors’ blogger Aimee Song.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
Fail to prepare – prepare to fail


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