For Melbourne-based Gabrielle Dolan, leaving the banking sector to focus on thought leadership and the promotion of women in business has been extremely fulfilling.
What’s the name of your company, and what do you do?
My company is called Gabrielle Dolan Consulting, and it focuses on three specific areas:
- Business Storytelling, which I have been doing for ten years. When I first started, the concept of storytelling in business was very foreign but now it is rightly consider a key business skill and leadership competency.
- Thought Leadership in organisations. The concept of Thought Leadership has also gained momentum as businesses look for a way to gain a completive edge. Unfortunately many organisation believe this can be achieved by calling themselves thought leaders on their website or outsourcing their research and content marketing to journalists. I strongly believe that this can do a lot of damage to brand and if you are going to do it properly you need to invest in developing your selected subject matter experts so they are truly seen as guru’s in the industry. As a result of my passion for this concept I became a Partner at Thought Leaders Global, which allows me to work with organisation to help them create their dream team of industry thought leaders. You can check out my subsidiary website for more info www.thoughtleadersadvantge.com
- My final passion is Women in leadership. Since completing my thesis on increasing the number of woman in senior ranks in 2002, I have been passionate about supporting women to progress to more senior roles of influence. I co-chair a cross industry program called The Leadership Connection that can also be run in-house for organisations.
How long have you been in business?
Two years in my own business, but I have spent more than 10 years working with corporates as opposed to in corporates.
What were you doing before you started this business?
I was a senior leader at the National Australia Bank and had a diverse career there in technology, strategy, HR and project management. I experienced firsthand the delights and challenges of leadership, which has allowed me to have a firsthand understanding of what my clients experience.
How did the idea for your business come about?
When I was working in corporate I noticed that there were a couple of very inspiring leaders that would often use personal stories. I remember noticing that when they used personal stories, people actually understood what they were saying, connected with it and remembered it. A scan of the market showed that there were a couple of experts in business storytelling in America but no one was doing it in Australia. I remember speaking to many of my peers about the concept and they all thought that intuitively using stories in business made sense. I then co-founded One Thousand & One, a company that specialised solely in business storytelling. We built that into Australia’s most prominent business storytelling company before I branched out on my own in 2013.
What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome?
There are many challenges to overcome when you run your own business but I think the biggest challenge I have had to face is Mother’s Guilt. No doubt many other working women with children also deal with this. I have two daughters (11 and 14) and the constant challenge for me was how to grow my business without sacrificing work life balance and without feeling like I am constantly compromising every aspect of my life.
I have recently stopped referring to this as balance and have started to call it blending. To me balance implies that it is a constant effort to keep everyone happy and that it all could come tumbling down at anytime. Of course sometimes it does feel that way but my idea of blending is feeling it’s OK to sit on the coach with my daughters whilst I am working on my laptop and they are reading or doing homework.
Making small changes to be present can also help. I used to wait until all the family had left in the morning so I could sit down and relax with my first coffee but now I do that while my youngest daughter is having breakfast. Small things like this can really help keep Mother’s Guilt at bay.
What has been the most effective form of advertising for your business?
My most effective form of advertising would not be considered advertising. I obsess about positioning and try to be brilliant at what I do. I always try to give 100% of myself when I am with a client, as I know you are always marketing yourself. I also know a lot of people who are brilliant at what they do, but they do not obsess about positioning, so very few people experience their brilliance. To help my positioning I publish books, I write articles and I blog weekly. If you want to be considered a thought leader you need to be constantly putting your thoughts and ideas out there.
How important is social media to you business?
Social media has a growing importance to my business as my clients and target audience are all on social media, especially LinkedIn. I do however only focus on the platforms my clients hang out in as opposed to the platforms my 14 year-old daughter loves.
What are your plans to expand the business?
I never expand for the sake of expansion therefore I only explore opportunities that really excite me. This year I want to start doing more keynote speaking and to ensure my life stays in balance that means I have to let go of something. So what I am letting go of is most of my 1-on-1 mentoring. I still do a very few selected leaders but I am letting go of so that I can increase my keynote speaking. Thought Leadership in organisations is also an increased passion for me so I am planning to do more of that over the coming years.