From executives to teens, Anna Percy-Davis provides advice and insight to improve people’s lives, helping people be confident, find their motivation and to communicate effectively – in other words, to be the very best versions of themselves. With a background working in investment banking and fund management, followed by a decade spent in executive recruitment, Anna Percy-Davis became an Executive and Careers Coach working with executives across the globe in the UK, Norway, Spain, France and the US. The Luxury Channel met with her to discuss brand versus individual power, and the qualities that contribute to professional success….
In your opinion, what drives a brand; is it the individual behind it or is it all about the product?
I think it is a very difficult one to answer because it varies, and I think it depends on where the brand is in its evolution. Once a brand is established, it becomes much more irrelevant who is running it. But at the beginning of a brand, it is often all about the individual – if you look at Apple, it was all about Steve Jobs. So it is a very difficult one to answer!
What about the idea that it is the ‘‘execution of an idea’’ that makes a brand successful?
Yes, I agree. If you look at some of the most successful brands, the reason that they have been successful is because they have been very simple ideas – so it has been all about how the individual has executed it.
The branding strategy of many luxury fashion houses focuses on utilising the power of the individual by working with brand ambassadors such as Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne. These individuals drive sales, and the power of their personality is realised and immediately quantifiable through the millions of Instagram users who follow them….
Social media has completely changed advertising and product placement – it really has changed everything!
In your experience, what are the five qualities that a successful individual possesses or utilises?
First of all, they usually have very good communication skills. I mean that in the broadest sense of the word. They are not necessarily nice, cuddly people but they are just very clear about how to communicate and market themselves, and they are quick to respond to things. They work at speed. So if you send a very successful CEO an e-mail, you can get a response straight away, whilst if you send an e-mail to someone who is less successful, you often do not get a response for days.
That’s so interesting. I believe that there is a problem for so many of us in feeling that we have to respond to e-mails instantly and that this can be extremely distracting….
The busier a person is, the more likely they are to be on top of things. Also, I think it is a mark of the CEOs of my generation who have not always been on their smartphones (although they are more and more), but I do think the ones who are most successful are the ones who are most technically savvy. So the five qualities? Firstly, good communicators – they usually have an ability to simplify things, which is a huge skill because we over-complicate but a good CEO will know what the issue really is. Secondly, they are usually very organised and thirdly, they have a good team working around them. They know what they are good at and they know what they are not good at, so they have also have excellent delegation skills. Finally, they also have a real clarity of vision. You will find that very successful people have a real passion for what they do. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. There is an amazing TED Talk by Simon Sinek who says people respond to other people on an emotional level more than anything else, and so very successful CEOs can usually do that effectively and convey their passion for something much more effectively than other people. So if they are building a brand, there is a real passion instilled into a brand.
Do you think women still want to be ‘‘at the table’’ by becoming CEOs?
A lot of women set up their own businesses and a lot of women are creating businesses that work with their kids. All my female clients who work for corporates have a really hard time. It’s tough, really tough, because they have either given up on the idea of having kids so all they have is the corporate they are working for, or alternatively, they have got kids and it is this juggling game. Women speak a different language and have an awful lot to bring to the party, but they are going to do it on their own terms, and I think that this is much more interesting and exciting. It’s a shame that we can’t get the balance right. People like Sheryl Sandberg are making a difference but Google is a pretty exceptional company in the way they operate.
Has the concept of success changed in post-recession Britain?
I think that what happened in the recession was that many people were forced to set up their own businesses so I think it has made Britain a lot more entrepreneurial. There is huge drive and I think the concept of success is evolving. It is not longer cool to want to go and work in an investment bank, and therefore there is a lot more shifting around, which creates a lot more opportunity. A lot of women have also been encouraged back into work because of the recession, because they were needed and that too has been very exciting as well.
Once your clients have identified what is holding them back or proving to be a stumbling block, how do you help them realise their potential?
It is a combination of things. You have to process what has gone on and help them understand it but in coaching, you don’t spend a lot of time analysing as it is all about the ‘‘now’’ and going forward. Then we get quite strategic about it and make a plan, and that plan can be holistic (like encouraging people to do yoga) but they have to be held accountable.
Like a mentor?
It’s not me telling you what to do; it’s coming up with ideas. It’s about working out how to make the plan happen or finding out why an aspect of the plan did not work.
I imagine that the people seeking out a coach in the first place put quite high demands on themselves, such as high achievers?
They are all quite driven. People spend a lot of time doing good work but it is actually about guiding people to the great work place. Good work is getting the job done, and doing well and all being fine. But the great work is really making a difference and edging you into the next phase.
Against the cult of ‘‘always busy’’….
A lot of my time is helping establish people with a work / life balance and to understand that you can say no – I don’t need to do that extra bit of work because what I have done is enough and actually I can say yes to my children and my family and my health.
What would you advise as a cure for a client who is exhausted and in need of a break?
There is an amazing guy called Tony Monkcon in Harley Street, who does the Vega Test, which does an analysis of all the vitamins and minerals in your body and organs, with homeopathic remedies. Then there is Anna Pittum, who is a homeopath who specialises in children.
Which Spa do you love?
What is your ideal travel destination?
I am South African, so I go once a year, and Barbados – we probably go once every two or three years.
We have a Luxury Leaders section on The Luxury Channel website. Do you admire the career of any of these individuals and what attributes/skills contributed to their success?
Frankly, I admire the careers of most of the leaders you feature but perhaps the person I admire the most is Anya Hindmarch. Not only has she been a very successful businesswoman but she has three step children and two children, and she built the business when her two sons were babies. Also, she is very clear about who her clients are, and she very clearly identifies with them. She is very good at the personal touch, which is very compelling and effective for marketing. She is a very clever combination of canny businesswoman, highly creative designer and a representative of a certain lifestyle, which is both stylish and family-orientated.