Fionn Bowd on Finding the Right Support when Starting a Business
One of our interns, Monique Walker, spoke with Legally Yours Partner and CEO of Bowd, Fionn Bowd about her journey to founding her own business. Amongst the wealth of perspectives Fionn shared, we discussed how Fionn built the confidence and found the right advisors when starting out on her own.
1. Grow your confidence
Fionn says that Bowd could not have been born ‘straight out of law school’. It is Fionn’s wealth of experience as a lawyer across private practice, in-house and in government, which provided her with the insight into the problem she sought to solve. Fionn says, ‘it came out of the very specific pathways that [she] had been on and all of the knowledge and experience from those pathways came together at a time when [she] was motivated to change [her] circumstances,’ after becoming a mother. Her desire to do work that really matters and to help people was ‘intoxicating’. It kept her up at night (so too did her newborn, she adds in jest).
These years of experience also gave Fionn a look into boardrooms in which many big decisions were made. Being close to the making of important decisions helped her to realise that the people making these decisions were ‘ordinary people’, with the same sensitivities and blind spots as the rest of us. Thus, her exposure to leaders in the field gave her the confidence to believe that if they could do it, she could do it.
2. Identify your weaknesses
Fionn confessed that prior to starting a business she was ‘not a numbers person’. While she was aware of her strengths and the strong demand for her business within the market, the first experts she put in place were those who could ‘fill the gaps’ in her skillset and knowledge-base.
3. Recruit expert advisors in your weakness areas
Being aware of her weaknesses meant that when it came to setting up Bowd, Fionn says the first thing she did was to look for experts in financial services who could advise her business and understood the legal sector. She then started building her advisory board (rather than a board of directors), with an expert in start up finance as her chairperson. Using an advisory board meant that Fionn could get good advice but still have autonomy over the decisions made within her business.
4. Make sure your advisors align with your vision
In speaking with Fionn, it is clear that she is very vision and purpose focused. Right from the beginning she was intimately familiar with the problem her business aims to address, given her experience in the sector. Consequently, it was important that the advisors she brought into her business aligned with her vision.
For Fionn, this was a process of trial and error, and something she had not considered would be so important until she started searching for advisors. She did not anticipate the need for advisors to share her mindset and view of the world, until she encountered those who did not. For example, Fionn says building a business to sell it is a vastly different mindset from building a business to keep it. Each interview she did with potential advisors clarified what she was looking for.
5. Look for people who listen to you before advising
In the search for the right advisors, Fionn also stresses the importance of finding someone who is willing to listen before advising. In order to ensure that an advisor aligns with your vision, they first must be willing to listen to your journey, your understanding of the market and your ambitions for the business. Fionn says that there is no ‘one size fits all’ advice that can be given to founders and it is important for any advisor to understand and adapt to the individual business.
Beyond those who sit within or directly advise Bowd, Fionn is immensely passionate about building a strong network of women in business. Stay tuned for next month’s Legally Yours newsletter in which we will dive deeper into this topic.