Meet the MD: Gillian Marshall of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum

Meet the MD: Gillian Marshall of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum

Heading up the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, Gillian Marshall has gathered a wealth of experience from working with business leaders across the north east. She talks to BQ about what makes a great leader.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words.

Each day I’m privileged to work with leading North East entrepreneurs, listening to them, hearing what’s going well and learning about their key challenges; which gives the insight we need to come up with great ideas for our events. I also introduce members to our mentoring programme, which simply brings business owners together to speak to those who have ‘been there and done it’ and are keen to pass on their own experiences. As well as our own membership, I keep close to my extended network of key decision makers, partners and critical friends. It’s great to share our knowledge and experience!

What is it the company does?

The Entrepreneurs’ Forum supports entrepreneurs in the North East of England and has more than 300 members with turnover in excess of £1.7 billion, employing more than 29,500 people. We provide a dynamic environment, which enables our region’s entrepreneurs to come together with their peers, share ideas, gain knowledge and create long term connections – creating wealth and jobs which benefit the North East economy.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

Someone who gets involved in all the areas of the business and listens to their team. Being a good communicator is essential to ensuring everyone is aware of the direction of the company and that everyone has a key role to its success.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

The biggest challenge is making sure our members continue to make the most of the opportunities the Forum offers. Entrepreneurs are very busy people and, although we’re here to help and support them when they need us, we also have to make sure they schedule time out of their business to work on it, meet new people and share experiences, which is often a difficult thing to do.

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

Putting everything into perspective, which isn’t always easy! I will take time out to think about what’s important and who may be able to help me.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted be a cookery teacher. Food is a passion of mine and the team often say they wouldn’t mind calling round for tea!

Any pet hates in the workplace?

Not really! I’m very lucky that we all get on well. But it has not always been the case in my career, the ‘not my job’ attitude really frustrates me!

Where do you see the company in five years time?

An amazing entrepreneurial community with a thriving membership, whilst supporting the region’s economic aspirations.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Build a great team around you and develop trust within the team. Be interested in your team and their life outside of work.

Where did you start your career?

I started at Barclays Bank as an administrator and cashier. It seems a long time ago and we worked without the technology we now take for granted.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far.

I worked at Barclays Bank from 1981 to 2003 and then at Business Link / BE Group until 2012. After that, I worked in PA Consulting / UKTI Investment services until 2013, when I joined the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.