A leading supplier and distributor of specialist, luxury and performance textiles to leaders in global hospitality, healthcare, and retail markets, Vision Support Services prides itself on its diverse workforce.

Spanning five continents, we employ over 100 people who speak over 20 different languages and are proud to have a 50:50 female/male ratio of staff.

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2017, which aims to highlight the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women across the world, Vision wants to highlight the inspiring work that women in our business do with a series of company employee profiles.

In this edition, we interviewed Alison Lea, Head of Marketing at Vision.

International Women's Day 2017 Interview - Alison Lea

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Alison Lea, I’m originally from Swansea but lived in Wigan for the past 5 years with my husband Michael. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to travel and have been fortunate to travel extensively through holidays and work over the past 30 years. I am a very driven motivated person and thrive on learning new things.

What is your background before Vision?

Before my time at Vision I worked in travel industry for 15 years at several different companies from Travel House retail chain, to TUI UK tour operator, to Cruise deals Call Centre looking after the various marketing functions. I originally trained as a graphic designer, a skill which helps with the creativity of my role. My experience is broad and ranges from advertising, direct mail, digital e-commerce, right through to team building and performance management. I’d class myself as an all-round marketer with a strong commercial acumen.

Describe your role within Vision.

My role within Vision started as Ecommerce manager looking after the entire P&L for the Hilden website. I am now Head of marketing for Vision and look after the team of seven who lead the entire marketing strategy for the Group.

We embarked on a massive journey 18 months ago when we amalgamated the three heritage rich textile companies into the Vision business and recreated our product offering by using the best attributes from all parts of the combined businesses. We now have a central business who is one of the leading suppliers and distributors of specialist, luxury and performance textiles to leaders in global hospitality, healthcare and retail markets.

My role is to steer the hardworking ship. My team are a bunch of talented marketing individuals that, when brought together, create a strong driving force for both digital and traditional marketing functions.

As Vision trade in five different market sectors and have customers from a small B&B to a large Multinational hotel chain all over the world it’s been critical for us to understand our customers at every level and offer them a multi-platform shopping solution.

The past few years has been about putting the foundations in place on top of which we can build a global brand. There is a lot of work ahead but we will relish the challenge to make Vision the leading textile supplier to the global hospitality market.

Our next challenge is to expand into Europe and the rest of the world!

What inspired you to move into your current role?

Having spent 15 years in travel the marketing techniques became second nature and I wanted a challenge. I wanted to move more into e-commerce and digital marketing. I think my strong commercial knowledge was what got me the job at Vision and I have had to call on this to get the website from 140K turnover to just under 1 million in 3 years. Digital is very much the future and it has been empowering to see the techniques of traditional marketing working in a digital environment.

What challenges have you faced within your current role?

Apart from the challenge of transforming the company branding and telling our customers who we are and what we do, it’s been a challenge to change the mind-set of our staff. It’s not as simple as making a decision and pushing it through. We have had to change the thought process of individuals who strongly believed that their company was the greatest company alive. Bringing the new ways of working across the business in every department was a multi-layered problem. This strong belief will be a great asset in the future as they come onboard and help champion our new company structure.

Bringing together an in-house team and making the decision to move away from using external agencies was a big move and a big financial commitment from the company. The pressure to make this work and be a success was massive in the first few years, especially when individuals didn’t work out. I took it personally when anyone left the team or when individuals didn’t work out. I got frustrated when people didn’t hold the same passion I had to succeed. This has been a learning curve for me and taught me to overcome scenarios of personality differences. Building my teams confidence and identifying and nurturing their skills is now very important to me as they can make the difference!

What advice would you give to your younger self? Or a woman going into business for the first time?

You can achieve anything in life, you just need to think long and hard about what you’d like to do. Once you have your goal in place, break it down into mini goals that will take you along your path. Don’t be put off by any one person’s opinions or views, stay focussed and driven.

The only person that can stop you getting to where you want to go or what you want to achieve is you. The world is big and there are opportunities at every corner. Don’t be afraid to go out and find them. Don’t be afraid of change, change is good and can be refreshing and bring its own opportunities.

Being a woman shouldn’t be at the front of your mind. It should be that you believe in you. Let others have the prejudice as it only clouds your judgement.