Zoe Walsh is a director of GLH, a private hire passenger car and courier service based in North London.
Zoe has helped GLH to become one of London’s largest and most respected ground transportation providers, with a focus on excellent customer service. With over 1,500 customers in both the public and private sectors (including Marks & Spencer, Channel 4 and the Telegraph), she’s doing something right.
As Zoe was shortlisted for our Inspiring Leader of the Year Award (London and The South) we wanted to ask her about her success so far.
Forward Ladies: Tell us a bit about your career journey to date
ZW: I came into the minicab and courier industry quite by accident when I was 18. I fell in love with the industry, which couldn’t have been more different than my previous job in banking!
I started as a call center operative with no road knowledge or typing skills. I remember being painfully slow and spelling everything wrong for what felt like an age.
After a few years working in various roles for a few different companies, I joined GLH in 2005. At this point in my career I was very lucky to find such an inspirational and supportive employer in GLH. With this support I was able to use my knowledge and experience to really drive GLH forward and to ensure we became leaders within the industry.
I was incredibly proud to be appointed a director at the age of 29 - having left school at 16 with only a handful of qualifications.
Since I joined the company it’s gone from strength to strength and I’ve recently been honored with a transport legacy award and fellowship for my commitment to the industry.
Forward Ladies: What are the top 3 challenges you’ve faced as a leader and how have you overcome them?
ZW: The first was being a young woman in a male dominated industry. It was hard to convince people that I was serious about this job, but I didn’t give up.
I learned how to deliver my ideas constructively, listing the benefits and potential profits they would bring. Once I started doing this, people started to take me seriously.
The second was putting my trust in others. I used to have work all hours to get things done and it took me some time to realise that I didn’t have to do it all myself.
I recruited the right people and trained them accordingly so that tasks could be shared amongst us. I now get a huge amount of satisfaction from watching my staff learn and develop.
Finally, recognising people’s strengths and weaknesses was quite a challenge.
It’s easy to think that everyone should work the same way as you do (as I once did as a young leader) but no two people are the same. It’s so important to understand a person’s strengths and how you can push them further, and also when you can’t!
Forward Ladies: How do you bounce back from rejection and the challenges?
ZW: In a sales role and as a director, you face rejection on a regular basis. You simply have to learn what went wrong, ask yourself what you can do to make it better in the future and move on.
I think it’s the same with any challenge you face. You learn from your mistakes.
Forward Ladies: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
ZW: To listen and to have patience. I no longer run into situations like a bull in a china shop!
Forward Ladies: What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
ZW: Historically, our industry was extremely male oriented but it’s improved greatly over the years. At GLH we have more women that work here than men!
I’d encourage anyone who enjoys delivering customer service to apply, although it’s a little different from what may be considered ‘the norm’. No two days are ever the same.
With hard work and commitment you can enjoy a long and rewarding career in the private hire and courier industry - just like I have.
Forward Ladies: How do you maintain a work/life balance?
ZW: In the past I would work all hours to get things done, but I’m now a firm believer that if you can’t get the job done during office hours then something’s wrong.
I train my teams accordingly so that the workload can be shared out evenly. I also make sure that I - along with my staff - only work our contracted hours unless there’s an emergency of some sort.
Forward Ladies: How have your found the mentors and sponsors to support you in your career?
ZW: I have been extremely lucky to work with a couple of really inspirational and supportive bosses who spent their life in the industry.
Sadly they have both since passed away but their knowledge and values had such an influence on me and have really left their mark.
They recognised and nurtured my talents and had I not had the opportunity to work with them I think my story would have been quite different.
Forward Ladies: Thank you for your time Zoe, it’s been great learning more about you!
Would you like your business and hard work to be recognised, just like Zoe’s has been? Then apply for one of our prestigious Forward Ladies National Awards 2017, so we can celebrate your success and inspire other women to do the same. There’s nothing we love more than promoting incredible women in business!