Ramona da Gama is a business and strategy growth coach who helps SMEs accelerate growth, entrepreneurs move from employment to starting their own businesses, and large corporations increase their value through sustainability, employee engagement initiatives and change management. It is Ramona’s first-hand experience of founding and running three businesses – a media sales consultancy, a Kensington-based jazz club, and her coaching practice – as well as being instrumental in large organisations’ business strategies, such as the launch of EasyJet that qualify her to coach and train others.
Ramona is passionate about making a difference to businesses and individuals. Her sustainability work sees her assist large organisations with cultural change, which takes the form of establishing and implementing initiatives that invest in the business’ human capital as well as corporate social responsibility. These initiatives ensure the longevity of the business as well sustaining its positive social reputation, staff retention and ultimately making it more attractive for it’s shareholders and new investors. Ramona speaks regularly on sustainability, working closely with the European Sustainability Academy, as well as other organisations such as the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group.
Start-ups and SMEs are also a real focus area for Ramona as she loves helping people achieve their goals and seeing their businesses grow. Ramona concentrates her coaching and training on practical sessions as opposed to theory, which look to achieve a clear vision for short, medium and long-term growth, underpinned by a strong understanding of financials.
What inspired you to start a business?
I always knew I wanted to work for myself. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and being surrounded by them growing up, really inspired me. So when the time was right, after my career in media sales on Fleet Street, I set up on my first business training people for media sales. Since then went on to own a Jazz club for ten years and then the business and strategy growth coaching business I have now.
What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?
The greatest challenge is prioritising and being in control of your own time, rather than being led by your clients. The greatest reward is the satisfaction of achieving your own vision and making a difference to not only your own life but other people’s lives too.
What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures
In order to set goals you need to have a very clear vision about your long, mid and short term supported by performance goals & targets (financial and otherwise) that are realistic against set timelines. Once you’ve done that, you need to ask yourself whether this vision is achievable. If it’s not, look the options and re- strategize. Make sure that all of your business strategy is a feeder for with your personal vision.
When managing your successes, you need to be aware that you’re only as good as your last gig and keep looking towards your next goal and how you can set a strategy to achieve it. In terms of failures, if you don’t fail, you won’t know what success looks like. Failure is one of the best teachers. Failing itself is not a problem; it’s having the courage to continue that is really important.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?
The biggest challenge was to pace myself during a time in my career when I was running two businesses as well as helping to launch EasyJet. For one year, I only slept two hours each night but had to make sure my energy levels were consistent throughout to give my very best to all of those businesses.
How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?
I am a great believer that every professional needs a coach. Although I am a business and strategy coach, I am also a professional, so therefore need someone to coach and support me. My coach is based in the U.S.A and is incredible. I speak to him over the phone and on email as well as spending time with him when he comes to the U.K. twice a year. He helps me with all areas of business as well as some outside of that including an incredible session in unblocking preconceived ideas… I play every sport but could never play tennis and never believed I could. After ten minutes on the tennis court, I could!
What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?
During the great depression of 2008, coaches like myself had a real problem finding work and the only way I could rejuvenate my business was to go to very targeted networking events and spend time meeting the right people. After four months of solid networking, my business started flourishing and never looked back. It really was a 100 per cent turnaround in my business. The way to network well is to be very focused. Think about what your strengths are as a business and go to networking events where there will be businesses who will need what it is that you/your business is offering, what makes me different, who are the right audiences and how am I going to reach them.
What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?
You scale a business by looking at two areas – your vision for brand and understanding the needs of the market, then on the strength of that you identify what innovative products or services you can offer that are affiliated to the core business to ensure you grow. A good example of this is British Airways, who started by offering flights and now have moved into holidays, insurance, and car rental.
To plan for and manage growth, you go back to having a very clear long-term vision and ensure that financial goals and targets support your short-term vision. With these in mind you can then pre-empt what capability you will need based on the growth you are planning for. For example, are your staff fully trained to deliver and do you have the capacity to deliver on your promise? If not, you then have to identify what you need to put in place to train existing staff and whom you need to recruit to support that growth. Not planning for growth is fatal!
What does the future hold for you?
The future is very exciting! Within the next year, I will have achieved my vision. Being able to work in the UK and live in South of France. I will also be in a financial position so that I can work with people that I really want to work with such as young entrepreneurs and start-ups on a pro-bono basis. I love being able to help make a difference to people’s lives. I am also planning on getting involved in coaching young children as I’m a great believer in those early years being extremely influential in the people and leaders they become.