News | 15 MIN READ TIME

#IWD2023: Alex Speed, Head of New Business

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As the UK’s leading gift voucher, corporate rewards and Christmas Savings business, we want to turn our attention to recognising the incredible women in our company to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023.

International Women’s Day has said its focus lies with embracing equity – creating a fairer society by adapting services and policies to people’s diverse lived experiences. As a company, we also believe that equity is not just a nice-to-have – it is a must-have.

To celebrate a world where difference is valued and celebrated, we have invited five especially inspiring women from our company to talk about their experiences of work during their careers. Here is Alex’s story.

When your typical working day involves dealing with people falling off hotel balconies and having motorcycle accidents it pretty much prepares you for anything.

That was Alex Speed’s life as a Club 18-30 holiday rep early in her working life. And it was an experience that gave Alex a lifelong liking for jobs that have the capacity to offer the unexpected.

In her current role as Head of New Business Development for Love2Shop the daily events aren’t quite as dramatic – but it still offers enough variety to keep Alex motivated.

“I always say working for Club 18-30 set me up for life. Yes, there were crazy parties and staying up late. But most of the job was dealing with absolutely barmy people. You couldn’t imagine what it was like. But I loved it.”

Alex was recruited to Love2shop to manage the team responsible for ‘onboarding’ new clients. Onboarding is the process of bringing a new client to the business and finding out exactly what they need.

“On average, we will onboard around 1,200 new clients a year. When we bring a new client in, it could be anything from someone ordering £500 or £5m a year of Love2shop vouchers or cards codes.

“The team and I will delve a bit further. We go well beyond just the basic transaction, asking them to ‘tell us a little bit more about what you are looking to do’.

“It could be for employer rewards, could be for a big customer acquisition, loyalty campaigns. It is really just about understanding the client’s needs.”

Alex’s eight-strong team works proactively to bring in new business. She added: “If we are working with a client in a particular sector, it’s likely we will then go after their competitors and look to secure them as clients as well.

“I have always done new business. New business is a challenge. It’s exciting – something different every day. I have worked in the industry for 25 years and I still love it.”

Change is important to Alex and she has seen a huge shift in workplace culture during her working life. It wasn’t so long ago that she was still having to navigate the culture of the ‘boys’ club’.

Brought up in Wirral, she spent several years in the travel sector working for the likes of Airtours and Cosmos straight after school She lived and worked across Europe, India, Africa and the US, as well as London.

She has no regrets about 18-30 but added: “In the end you can only do that for so long. It was a six-day week and the hours were so long. You were on the clock the whole time.

“In the travel industry there was often no work during the winter so when I was in my mid-20s I walked into a recruitment office to look for temporary work. They said ‘have you ever thought about working in recruitment?

“I did that for about two years. Then a job came up with one of my clients and they invited me to apply. It was a sales and incentives role.”

She found herself in a very male-dominated environment. In one job, despite working in an executive role, Alex’s sales director treated her as his PA.

“You were treated very differently just because you were a woman,” she said.

“When I went to visit clients, I would be sat in reception and they would come out and they would be looking around for Alex ‘the man’. As soon as you said, ‘Hi, I’m Alex’ they were clearly surprised.

“I like to think I took advantage of that. Internally, in that particular business it was probably a barrier to progression because there is no doubt it was a boys’ club. It was the incentive I needed to move on.”

Alex joined Love2shop 15 years ago and says she has seen huge changes.

“The culture in this business has changed so much since I joined that it’s like working for a different company. It used to have a very old-fashioned 1980’s feel. The physical office we worked in made it feel even more like that.

“Now we are a much more open and inclusive environment. Things had to change. We worked in a different world. And I think key to that shift in culture was the change in the senior leadership team.

“What is so wonderful now is the complete transformation in workplace culture. Nowadays, if someone said or did something inappropriate you know you don’t have to tolerate it.

“Now you have confidence that if you go to your manager, or to HR, something will be done. Stuff that happened in the past is much less likely to happen now.”

What have you discovered about yourself during your career?

I really enjoy a challenge and I embrace change and not knowing what each new day will bring. It is exciting.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were younger?

Enjoy your job. You spend most of your week there. If you don’t enjoy it, move on.

Best advice from a mentor?

Stop worrying about the things you cannot change or influence yourself.

What would you do differently if you had to do it again?

I wouldn’t change a thing. I accidentally fell into this career and I have loved every second.

Biggest lesson learned?

To always stand up for yourself. We are just as capable as men.

What would you say to someone starting out?

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Find your own way of doing things that works for you.

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