43-year-old Alison Bishop is founder of Bishop Marketing Communications, a small communications consultancy based in Manchester. She began her career at what was then termed ‘an internet marketing agency’ in Leeds, shortly after completing a journalism course in Essex. After having her first child in 2008, she went on to work as marketing manager at a large BMW dealership in Aberdeen.
Having her second son in 2011, Alison relocated to her home city of Manchester where she worked as a senior PR consultant at an agency specialising in communications for government trade organisations in the food supply chain and environmental sectors. In 2017, after accumulating almost 20 years in the industry, Alison decided to go it alone and set up her own consultancy. She now works with a range of businesses, including SMEs, start-ups, and those in the packaging and travel sectors.
How did you balance being a mother and professional?
Usually, more easily than during a pandemic! Kids go to school – I work. Then we start with the football, basketball and all the afterschool activities, weekends are pretty much the same with lots of footballing events always on the go. There are times when urgent media deadlines need to be met and these can dictate my timetable, but I try to balance this out across the week.
What have you sacrificed (both personally and professionally) at each stage of your career?
The biggest sacrifice to achieve what I ultimately wanted was when I project-managed my own self-build in 2015. The boys and I had to temporarily move in with my dad opposite the site where we were building, it wasn’t ideal and a bit cramped at times. Unbeknown to us – that ‘temporary’ turned into 3 and a half years! Still, I can’t complain – we got our lovely home at the end of it. More recently, I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of my time to home-school the boys. Although there is lots of online learning the boys can do autonomously, I do like to be hands-on and help them where I can but jumping from marketing pro-to ‘Ms. Bishop’ is no mean feat!
Who inspired you and why?
I don’t think I have been inspired by any individual person, but I am lucky to have a lot of people around me who have supported me in everything I have done, and that has been invaluable.
What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
My biggest piece of advice would be to ‘hold your nerve’ while climbing the career ladder, you deserve to be there just as much as anyone else. I think there is still a lot of work that many work places need to do to ensure equality, and the way I see it is things will improve.
Also, I would say work on your confidence from a young age, mistakenly people think success is purely about talent, but it’s not, if you don’t have the confidence to go with it, your skills are impotent.
Do you think women feel intimidated in business?
Unfortunately, I think there is a natural tendency for women to self-deprecate, I know I have done it! Afterwards always asking myself ‘why’? You can still find some old boy style networks that exclude women but I am cheered by the fact that this is becoming very unfashionable. Interestingly, I think sometimes people can feel intimidated by strong and assertive women.
Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.?
At a water-logged football pitch somewhere in suburbs of Manchester, fighting with my umbrella and dreaming of scrambled eggs when I get home.
What do you love about your job?
The autonomy. I love being in charge of my own destiny, working with clients of my choice and on projects that I genuinely love. Working with clients that I have a great relationship and delivering results that I know they will be thrilled with, is what it’s all about for me.
What’s the best career decision you’ve ever made?
Leaving my job at a PR agency in 2017 and setting up on my own. I felt I learned a lot there but I was ready to take things to my own level and didn’t want to feel frustrated with the rest of my career. It was important for me to make sure I spent as much time as I could with my boys while they were still young, and working for myself has allowed me to do this.
What’s the worst career decision you’ve ever made?
I hate looking back with regret at anything! But…if I must, I would say I should have made the decision to work in PR earlier on than I did. I finished my English degree, went travelling to Oz for year (FYI – the BEST thing I did pre-career!) then did a post-grad in journalism before skipping through a few marketing roles. Retrospectively, I should have gone into PR a little sooner but I didn’t know what I wanted to ‘be’ til later on so, que sera sera.
What would you be doing if you were me now?
I would be doing what you are doing – carrying on the conversation about mental health, making the subject accessible and normalising it, especially during these uncertain times when people are more susceptible to mental health issues. Where possible, I would be generating press coverage through features, as this is a topic that many journalists want to write about and are often looking for contributions on it.
How do you organise your time?
With my trusty, scruffy little diary that has become a bit of a thing for me! I find I need help organising my thoughts at times and I’ve discovered over the years, that it’s easier to write things down the old-fashioned way rather than rely on phone alerts, spreadsheet planners and notifications.
What do you think is your greatest strength?
My focus. I don’t think I am super brilliant at anything, but I do know I am very good at sticking to my guns and while I was project-managing my self-build in 2016, I really learned the art of patience! I believe that if you keep on keeping on, you will get what you want in the end (or close to it) – it’s the staying power that’s the tricky thing. I think sometimes you have to be firm and impose restrictions on yourself to achieve your goals.
What do you think is your greatest weakness?
I love to hone in on one subject and until I know everything about it! While that is often very beneficial in my job, particularly when supporting companies with complex products and services, it can lead to procrastination. I’m quite a modest person by nature, so I sometimes find it difficult to promote my own skills and experience as much as I should, fortunately I am much better at promoting others!
How do you make decisions?
I talk to people. I don’t always take on board what they say but I do listen and consider. I do that with most things. I research too – I’m an avid researcher and sometimes get lost in that rabbit hole, but I find I often come out of it with a better perspective on things
What do you read?
I read news. Lots of it. I’m a bit of a news junkie to be honest and struggle not to discover what’s been happening overnight as soon as I wake up. During these times, I thought I would start to read something of substance again. I’ve just started to read Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy but I have to confess, I’ve only got through a few chapters in a few weeks! I’ve also started playing the piano and reading music again having learned when I was much younger. I’m finding it quite therapeutic and when I’ve mastered a few measures of a piece, I use it as a way of escaping from my desk for a bit.
What do you think are the secrets behind getting to where you’ve got to?
Moving down from Aberdeen in 2012 and managing a self-build as a single mother of a one year old and a four-year old was very stressful, and due to lots of preliminary planning problems, it took a long time to get things off the ground. Although I don’t perceive it as a secret, it’s something that definitely taught me patience! The best bit was getting in just before Christmas the same year I started the build. The sense of achievement I felt (and still feel) providing a home for my boys and me, was immense, so when it came to setting up my own communications business, it seemed like a breeze! And I knew that if I stuck at it, it would come to fruition.
Thank you Alison
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