Ruth Badger

In her usual candid manner Ruth Badger tells Fiona Shield where she sees the economy going next, why it’s so important to turn off your phone and what’s stopping her launching a political career

Last issue you predicted by the end of this year the lenders’ appetite would start to return and property prices will stabilise, do you still believe that?
No, I’m in the financial industry and not one person thought it was going to be as bad as it has been. Although property prices went up earlier in the year, it’s not sustainable, the appetite isn’t going to come back even though the government has spent millions and millions in bank bail-outs; the liquidity just hasn’t come back into the market, so it hasn’t washed through. The government is hypocritical, look at the banks that have been nationalised; the rates haven’t been passed on to the customers.

How do you think the government is coping with it?
I don’t think they are. It’s absolutely disgusting how the government are dealing with everything – I mean how much money was pumped into all the security for the G20 summit? It really does increase my blood pressure when you look at all the expenses. I know there’s an element of propaganda from the media but it’s a fact that every single politician has got their snout in the trough – from the Chancellor to the Home Secretary, it’s so wrong. To make matters worse Labour is meant to protect the working class and enable a good, equal level of lifestyle. The Inland Revenue is putting more and more small businesses into administration because they can’t pay their fees and then they’re going through and making sure they pay every pence of tax, while the government and their employees can claim whatever they want. They need to get into the real world. The long and short of it is everybody needs to cut the cloth accordingly and I think that needs to start at Downing Street.

Do you think we’ll return to that period of ready money, have we learnt our lesson?
No, I don’t think we’ve learnt our lesson. The problem with the market is not the fact we’ve stopped demanding, it’s the fact the supply has gone, the moment the supply returns we’ll be back up there. We’ve been educated on free credit for the last 12 years. I still know people who are using their credit cards and companies that are giving credit cards out. There’s a fundamental issue that no one’s been talking about at the moment, which is all the people that have been made redundant were the people supporting the system. The whole benefit system is going to collapse, and nobody is pressing that issue, we’re all too busy talking about bank bail-outs. It’s an absolute mess.

Would you consider going into politics?
I would absolutely love to be Prime Minister of this country and I can assure you one thing; this country wouldn’t be in the bloody mess that it is. The only reason I haven’t is because there isn’t a party that represents my view. I certainly couldn’t join Labour because I’m far too honest and sensible, and I’m not in it for myself. I couldn’t join the Conservatives because I don’t think they’ve got any clear direction on what they’re actually proposing and the Liberal Democrats are a waste of space.

How are your businesses going?
I’ve got three businesses now, the Ruth Badger Consultancy, which is going from strength to strength – we saved 100 businesses from going bust in September, a letting agent and I’ve recently launched The Ruth Badger Academy (http://www.ruthbadgeracademy.com). This offers solutions in regard to training – so important for businesses because if you get people up to skill level you save cost on recruitment and redundancy, and you increase business performance. We’re currently working with people who have been made redundant and getting them back into work and we’ve got a 100% success rate at the moment, we’re teaching them to think how employers think. I also have a financial brokerage, but it’s dormant at the moment, just while I wait for the economy to recover.

What advice would you give to people who have just been made redundant?
Work out what you want, don’t just apply for anything because it’s a de-motivator. Go on my website and see if we can help because the important thing is to understand where your transferable skills are. If you apply for a job that’s lower or higher than your skills, you won’t get it and you’ll feel even more de-motivated. Look for a stepping-stone and most importantly sell yourself on your CV.

Obviously it’s not easy for employers to make those people redundant, what advice would you give them?
The most important thing is to look that you’re cutting the right cost in the business, don’t make a knee-jerk reaction. You need to work out your cost base and what is required. Employers need to make sure they’ve got the right people on board with objectives, and that they’re actually motivating and performing. No business can afford to carry dead wood, but I wouldn’t slash people just to cut costs.

Is there anything you wish you’d known when you first started in business?
Yes but no, because by the errors you make you actually learn with strength. I do wish I’d known more of the pitfalls though, you have to expect the unexpected, if you live like that you’re always prepared.

Do you think there’s a characteristic that successful businesswomen share?
Yes there are two, they are a decision-makers and a doers. There are a lot of talkers out there, and I’m fed up of meeting them. 

You always come across very self-assured, have you ever doubted yourself in business?
Of course, I’m not an arrogant woman. I’m confident but that’s because I always know what I’m doing – I would never do something unless I knew what I was going to get out of it. I question everything; I don’t think I’d be human if I didn’t.

Is there anything you won’t tolerate from your staff?
Bad attitude, and that comes in a lot of ways – I can’t abide lateness or liars. There’s no way you’ll stop in the Ruth Badger empire if you lie, I’ll find you out.

Do you think appearance and demeanor in the workplace is important?
Absolutely, you never get me sat at my desk in my jeans, unless I feel really tired. I was at my desk this morning for 7:20am, that means I greet everyone that comes through the door –whether they want to see me or not. I practice what I preach – I’d never ask somebody to do something that I don’t do myself. You’d be amazed by the amount of businesses that think they can survive with staff turning up 10.30am and leaving at 4pm.

Do you think it’s possible to have a high-flying career and family?
No, I don’t think it is, I’ve got three little pussycats but I put them out at night, and I don’t think you can do that with kids! It always makes me laugh when people talk about a work/life balance, because I haven’t got one. What I do have is a good ability to turn off so I’ve got a very good quality of life outside work. As long as I’m at home and I’ve spoken to my parents, I’ll turn my phone off. Someone once told me I needed to get a hobby, but why when I’ve got my job? You might think I’m sad, but not when you look at my bank account.

Have you ever experienced discrimination in the workplace?
I’ve never suffered sexism – I don’t think anybody has got the balls to be fair! I’ll compete with anybody in business; I don’t care what gender they are. But I did suffer ageism for the first five years of my career – I was working in a civil service environment and they wouldn’t promote me because they said I was too young, they even called me ‘the child’. It hindered my career, so I left and moved on.

Would you recommend setting up a business to budding entrepreneurs?
Absolutely, a recession is a very good time to set up a business because it means you operate in a pressured environment and when it returns to normal conditions you do very well. When you start in buoyant conditions and then go through a recession, most people can’t cope.

The Apprentice returned to television screens recently, do you think taking on an apprentice makes good business sense?
I don’t think taking on an apprentice that appears on the BBC show is good business sense. I think taking a general apprentice, absolutely; I started my career as one. If I hadn’t got that apprenticeship at age 16 I wouldn’t be where I am today. It’s crucial for succession planning within an organisation.

Do you think having a mentor helps along the way?
It does, I had a mentor when I was 24 and it is really good for business. You’re breeding the ethics and the approach from a very young age.

What are your future objectives?
To grow the consultancy and to get out to more businesses who are looking for help. I want to build on the success of the launch of the academy and provide our services for people to understand that not all trainers are fluffy, nice, pink people who teach out of a book, my courses are proven in this climate and economy. I’m still doing media appearances as well – GMTV, BBC Question Time, Newsnight etc – and we’re discussing new programme formats at the moment, but first and foremost I’ll always be a business woman.

Ruth’s employees on her…
Ruth’s firm but fair, you know exactly where you stand with her. She rewards well but expect her to be firm if you’re not doing your job properly. She has very high expectations, but leads by example. Every member of staff knows how hard she works and they respect her for that. She’ll do any job that’s required and that really pushes back on to the staff, it’s very inspiring. It makes you want to go that one step further when you know your boss is supporting you and pushing the company forward.

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