Interview with Dr. Jo North
“Just start! Test your ideas fast, learn fast, and then repeat until you get them ready to launch. Don’t innovate in a vacuum – getting early customer feedback on your ideas will de-risk your business plan and deliver better outcomes more quickly and sustainably..” – Dr. Jo North
Today we feature Dr. Jo North, the founder at The Big Bang Partnership Ltd. We hear their story in their own words, their successes, their challenges and their insights.
Let’s start by getting to know you. Can you please tell us a little bit about you and what you do?
Hello, thank you for having me here. I am Dr. Jo North and I am Founder and Managing Director at The Big Bang Partnership Ltd, a consultancy that specialises in helping businesses innovate and action creative ideas.
I use my unique background in academia – with a Ph.D. looking in entrepreneurialism and innovation – and my hands-on experience working in multiple sector-leading businesses at the board level, to implement complex projects. I use this dual experience to mentor senior business leaders and whole teams to innovate, enact business strategy and use creativity in business.
I am also Technology and Transformation Director for Port of Tyne and Associate Lecturer at the University of York in business creativity.
A great introduction and start to this interview. Can you please tell us, how did you start, from what age, and what made you decide to change direction and start?
I have always been very focused, and I work well with writing down a plan and then strategising to achieve it. If I set a goal, I will meet it, it’s just the way I work and my success and experience now enable me to help others achieve their goals too, from solo startups to global corporations.
In my early career, if I felt I wanted to learn something, I simply found a job that would literally mean I had no choice but to learn – quite a masochistic approach, I guess, but it never felt like that. It was much more intuitive, and I moved seamlessly and successfully from accounting to HR, to sales, then to marketing and some category management, and general management.
I transferred my skills as I went from retail to publishing, to transport, and into different types of transport.
But I decided I needed to go it alone and become a founder, so I now work in utilities, with entrepreneurs, with tech companies, construction, engineering, defence, professional services firms, and much more, and am confident that I can step into any industry, learn superfast, and succeed – which I do repeatedly.
Thank you for that insight. So can you tell us…What does your business do and where is your company based?
The Big Bang Partnership is based in York and we offer consultancy to board-level management on strategic innovation and bringing innovations to commercial success. I love helping customers open doors to innovation and growth that they sometimes don’t even know are there. I achieve this through deep innovation and business transformation expertise, combined with our exceptional people, communication, and collaboration skills.
What’s the story behind your success? What led to your aha moment? how did you get to where you are now?
Having lived in a caravan park in Skegness as a child for a while I was never expected to reach the heady heights of studying languages at Oxford University, but through sheer hard work and determination, and unfaltering support from my mum – a single parent who worked as a teacher – I did. I have always believed that if I set myself a goal I can achieve it and I have never been proved wrong, despite some very challenging obstacles.
Thank you for sharing that. What’s been your life’s biggest lesson so far?
For many years I suffered a sense of Imposter Syndrome, a lack of faith in my abilities.
Having come from a humble background I often felt I didn’t belong in the places I ended up. I felt Oxford University wasn’t for people like me despite the fact I was just as able and worthy as my peers. I achieved an MA in Modern Languages at Trinity College, University of Oxford, but felt so unsure of my deservedness I didn’t actually collect my diploma officially until I was in my 40s.
As my career developed and I realized I was able to command four-figure day salaries from clients, I began to realise my worth. I collected my degree and embarked on my Ph.D. I’m now proud of my achievements and use my success and experience to help others and to enable them to also realise their value in business.
Most of us have something that we feel holds us back. I was working with a coaching client only today. For her, English is her second language. Her English is super fluent and very articulate, yet she feels inadequate in a group situation simply because she worries about the quality of her communication. For me, it’s always been about me being overweight and being concerned that people will underestimate me. What I did was to overcompensate and get super serious about my academic qualifications and research.
So, I think that sometimes imposter syndrome can help us indirectly or directly. My coaching client works hard to polish her English and extend her vocabulary. I work hard to provide great innovative experience and knowledge that is supported by research. As long as it’s not taken to extremes, and done within healthy boundaries, imposter syndrome might be making us stronger in unexpected ways.
I was never expected to reach the heady heights of studying languages at Oxford University, but through sheer hard work and determination, and unfaltering support from my mum – a single parent who worked as a teacher – I did.
If you were to go back in time, what piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Believe in yourself. Use your intelligence and achievements to claim what is rightfully yours. You are worth it, and you can do it.
We’re nearly halfway through our interview so it’s a great time to ask how does your business run. What three tools make your business run better?
I love Miro, a virtual whiteboard for real-time, online team collaboration. LinkedIn is my go-to for staying connected with and expanding my professional network and Canva is awesome for creating brilliant-looking visuals and infographics.
What do you know now that you wished you had known before?
I wish I’d known much earlier in life that it is being different that makes each of us special. I wouldn’t have tried any near as hard just to fit in and spent more time being my authentic self and playing to my strengths.
What has been your greatest or proudest achievement or moment?
Aside from personal and family achievements, I have two big accomplishments that I am proud of. The first is definitely achieving my Ph.D. I studied part-time for 6 years, whilst having a more than full-time director role in the transport industry, and later, whilst getting my business, The Big Bang Partnership, started.
The second is successfully starting and developing The Big Bang over the last 11 years. It took real courage to leap from a six-figure salaried leadership role to starting a brand-new business from nothing. I’m so pleased I did. I really haven’t looked back since.
What future life goals do you want to achieve and why?
My ambition is to create a truly international brand, successfully trading in more countries around the world. My next challenge is to really expand my online business, to reach more people in an accessible and affordable way. I also have plans for my next book. Exciting stuff!
To finish our inspire questions…”We believe that sharing inspiring words can inspire others.” If there was one positive thing you would say to someone to inspire and empower them what would it be and why?
Just start! Test your ideas fast, learn fast, and then repeat until you get them ready to launch. Don’t innovate in a vacuum – getting early customer feedback on your ideas will de-risk your business plan and deliver better outcomes more quickly and sustainably.
“Thank you it has been great learning more about your founder story and The Big Bang Partnership Ltd”
To learn more about The Big Bang Partnership Ltd, Visit https://bigbangpartnership.co.uk/
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