A lesson in inspiration02-07-2019
Our second event of this year’s InspiringBusiness2019 campaign, which took place at the Hallmark Hotel on June 19, treated delegates to a poignant tale from someone who has traversed the highs and lows of professional success.
In 2017, after a 25-year career in the world of finance, Karl Elliott proudly stepped up to the role of chief executive at Beverley Building Society. Here, we take a closer look at what Karl believes are the key factors behind his achievements.
Building a sense of community
Brought up in a working-class area of north east England, Karl’s family and friends were all traditional blue-collar workers, with a willingness to work hard for a living and a strong sense of community. “There was never any talk of money or financial services, just old fashioned budgeting and getting through the week and the month,” he said. “I’m not religious but my dad’s family were Salvationists so as a child I used to go the local Salvation Army Sunday school. It was a hugely empathetic environment with a focus on looking out for people and doing the right thing for others, and this had a lasting influence on my beliefs and values.”
The first member of his family to go to university, Karl graduated with a degree in economics and stumbled into a trainee role at Darlington Building Society, with zero knowledge of what a ‘mutual’ even was.
He said: “I had no desire to be a banker, I just needed a job! But the values of a mutual organisation felt absolutely right to me then, and they still do now. I’m motivated by trying to do the right thing for customers, connecting with people and making a genuine difference to their lives.
“For a mutual like the Beverley, it’s not just about numbers and financial performance, it’s about people’s lives and stories, and the positive impact we’re able to have on both.”
Despite secretly yearning to become the marketing manager for Nestle sweetie brand Smarties (a job he applied for but to his utter dismay was not selected for interview), Karl settled into the financial sector, gaining a huge breadth of experience at financial organisations in Leeds, Harrogate and latterly Brighton – which necessitated spending most of his working week away from home. With years of board level experience by now under his belt, the stars aligned for his return to Yorkshire as the top job became available at Beverley Building Society, East Yorkshire’s only independent mutual.
Karl said: “The job at Beverley Building Society is everything I was looking for. From day one I wanted to make a positive change to members of the community’s lives, and ensure there was somewhere they could go where they can trust the people they are talking to only have their interests at heart.
“Buying a house, saving a nest egg, these are incredibly important things and we aim to make sure customers walk out of our door knowing these parts of their lives are being well looked after.”
A rollercoaster ride
Those who attended the seminar will know that Karl’s career entails a rollercoaster of highs and lows, with a catalogue of pivotal lessons that perhaps didn’t make much sense at the time but now – with the benefit of hindsight – he understands were crucial steps towards his current success and happiness.
“I can look back now and identify a number of major turning points in my career, and I can see that, as painful as some of them were, they were all important lessons that made things possible,” he said.
“A lot of my pivotal moments came out of adversity, there were no perfect situations where everyone’s a hero, quite the opposite. Managing your way through challenging times and learning things about yourself and people around you, and what matters most, is what really shapes what comes next.
“The lesson for me, in general, was that when things are rough, you’ve just got to find a way to get through it and trust that you will benefit in the end. It is certainly tough when you’re in the midst of it all, when everything in your business and family life seems to be going wrong and you wonder if it’s you, and maybe you’re not strong enough or good enough, but you have to keep pushing on.”
Putting things in perspective
In 2013, Karl and his wife were grief-stricken when their third child, a daughter named Olivia, sadly died from a heart condition within a few weeks of her birth. “This experience made me realise work isn’t the be all and end all. Yes, it is important and serious, but it’s just work, however you want to frame it,” said Karl. “Losing a little one taught me to try to keep that balance and perspective. And it has helped me to become better at what I do, I’m more relaxed about certain situations.”
He believes that, like the butterfly which has to fight its way out of a chrysalis in order to survive, struggles in life and work are necessary to build sufficient strength to deal with everything they have to throw at you. Karl added: “If you haven’t had the chance to face challenges and learn from them, you probably won’t be ready to deal with the next thing that comes along. I think for me, there have been two parallel lines of personal development throughout my life – learning through moments of adversity, and a strong pull towards helping others,” he continued.
“The experiences I’ve been through also convinced me of how important the human touch is. Rather than being motivated by chasing profit and material gain, I know it’s the people, the relationships and moments, and achieving collective positive outcomes, that you take with you in life and work.
“In increasingly automated times, Beverley Building Society is always going to have a real branch staffed with real people. This is really important to our customers and it’s equally important to our team.”
Read more about our InspiringBusiness2019 campaign and how you could win more than £20,000 of business support to take your company to the next level.