Hi, I’m Denyse Whillier a former CEO turned business consultant, writer and speaker with over 25 years’ experience of running businesses and mentoring leaders. A very warm welcome to my website and blog!
Together with my Built To Succeed™ team, I share business advice to help overwhelmed small and medium sized business owners lead their business with confidence.
Through a comprehensive range of business services, a free online community called Business & Bellinis, this blog and a podcast, we’re creating a business revolution. Every day, we see business leaders trade the cash flow rollercoaster for financial stability and steady, sustainable growth. We’d love for you to join us too.
My Professional Biography
Before embarking on my second career as a business consultant, I spent 8 years’ as a Chief Executive. This leadership experience is backed up by a further 15 years in senior management roles, leading large staff teams and managing multi-million pound budgets.
I trained at Cranfield School of Management, the UK’s leading business school. And I’m an accredited business mentor with the Institute of Enterprise & Entrepreneurship.
For over 20 years, I co-ordinated and ran PR and launch strategies for numerous highly successful campaigns, in London and nationally. Highlights included meetings with MPs at the House of Commons, being interviewed on the BBC and featuring in The Guardian and The Telegraph.
Since leaving my CEO role, I’ve continued to thrive professionally. I’m a successful entrepreneur with a list of business consulting clients in the UK, the US, Canada and Australia, and a growing team. I was recently named in the Sage UK Top 100 Global Business Influencers List for 2017.
The CEO Years
At the end of my first month as a CEO, I remember only too well pulling the door to my office to, staring at my desk and wondering what on earth I‘d done. The books were a mess. The company audit was due. I had to find a significant new funding source urgently – or else slash our services and make 50% of the staff redundant. Our key strategic partnerships were in poor shape. And my Board wanted me to raise funds for a multi-million pound flagship project which I thought was the height of insanity given our weak infrastructure and lack of resources.
Frankly I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead. But giving up was not an option.
The turnaround happened when I realised that I couldn’t do it all alone. If I was going to help the company get out of the mess it was in, I had to put in place systems and processes to develop my team so that they could step up to support me. And I sought help from an Executive Coach to guide me on the road ahead.
The Transition From CEO To Business Consultant
Entering my mid-forties, increasingly I asked myself the question ‘what next?’ Another CEO role? Or the challenge of starting my own business?
The opportunity to be creative, on my own terms, was a huge driver in my decision to start my own business. My next decisions were deciding how I was going to make this happen, and what type of business I wanted to run.
12 hour days and a 2.5 hour a day commute across London and back meant I had little time and energy to work on a business plan for a new venture. Instead I focused on creating my ‘financial freedom plan.’ This basically boiled down to working out how to structure my finances in such a way as to create a big enough financial cushion to fund a sabbatical and my first eighteen months in business.
Once I’d put together the finances I needed to see me through the next couple of years and completed a large project at work, I handed in my notice and flew to Spain for the start of a sabbatical year. And a rest.
A keen yoga practitioner, my original intention was to set up a yoga studio with a friend. We struggled to find suitable premises in East London, and reluctantly concluded that third party investment was needed to make our yoga business dream a viable reality. Neither of us wanted to go down that route.
Meanwhile I’d started to look at other business ideas. I attended networking events to meet and get to know other business owners. There I’d met a number of people who called themselves business coaches, but who as far as I could tell, had no real experience of running a business. As I explored the online world of content marketing and social media marketing, this experience was replicated. I met internet marketers and life coaches who similarly claimed to be business coaches when they were nothing of the sort.
I was appalled, and decided that with my background as a CEO, I could do better.
I took a course in business mentoring at the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, and worked with six small business owners pro bono to gain my accreditation. I loved coaching this small group of women and our conversations gave me a brilliant insight into the daily challenges of running a business, forming part of my market research.
You can read more about my business journey here:
Since leaving my CEO role, I’ve continued to thrive professionally. I was fully booked within 8 months of starting my business – with no website – and have maintained a waiting list ever since.
The lessons I learnt in my 8 years as a CEO, together with my own experience of executive coaching, serve me well in my second career as a business consultant. I’ve used these experiences to create, Built To Succeed™, a roadmap to business success for striving small and medium sized business owners.
Life Outside Of Business
I live two minutes’ walk from the beach on the West Sussex coast, within easy commute of Central London. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I spend as much time on the beach as I possibly can.
It probably won’t surprise you to know that I’m a total bookworm. Aside from watching my favourite Scandi dramas, I’m never happier than when I’m curled up on the settee, reading a novel, a biography or book on business or leadership.
I love going on ‘big adventures.’ In 2013, I spent an amazing month travelling in rural Rajasthan, India. This journey led to me becoming an Ambassador For Half The Sky. I wrote about this in my post ‘How Reading Half The Sky Inspired Me To Take Action.’ In 2015, I headed to California for a road trip to explore the spectacular Yosemite National Park and drive along Big Sur.
Writing ‘that book’ is high on my To Do list. Meanwhile I’m busy building my team as I have an ambitious list of products and services I’m keen to launch so that Built To Succeed™ can help even more businesses.
I’ve also set my heart on a number of ‘big adventures.’ Seeing the wildlife of the Okavango Delta and Kruger National Park, whale watching off Vancouver Island, island hopping off the Dalmatian coast and exploring Kashmir.
Over To You
I’d love to start a conversation about whether we’re a good fit to work together. Simply e-mail me to arrange an informal coffee chat. There’s no hard sell. Just solid advice and a straightforward, honest assessment of whether our services would be right for you.
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