Ana Mardell has been Managing Director of Thesis Technology for over 7 years. Before joining the family firm – her father was one of the company’s founders – Ana had worked in a range of roles but had limited experience of directorship. As her leadership skills developed Ana became convinced of the link between physical and mental health and business success:
Taking over the family firm is something of a daunting prospect, particularly with no traditional or formal business background and a degree in Music! Although I had a solid knowledge when it came to how our products were made and sold, along with an ability to get on well with people and a good understanding of company culture and goals, I was acutely aware that my management and leadership training was limited.
There were, of course, a plethora of training opportunities to help develop leadership but to me these felt pretty artificial. Then, in early 2015, I began working with a personal trainer at my local gym. Until then I’d used the gym sporadically and had a rather ambivalent relationship with exercise: a vague notion of needing to feel fitter without any real motivation to do so. In fact, the techniques, terminology and functions of the machines all felt a little intimidating. The opportunity to work one-to-one with a trainer changed all that; I found that I wanted to learn and began enjoying the discipline of the weekly sessions and the need to train in between too.
As my physical training progressed, I began to see a correlation with business development – as I grew fitter, stronger and more familiar with the unknown so my desire to learn more about the business world increased. I also became a member of Vistage, a worldwide community of business leaders, which opened up new insights and connections too. The confidence gained from personal training translated into self-confidence when talking with colleagues and other business leaders, and helped grow my sense of purpose and action.
An associated benefit was that the gym became the only place where I could switch off from everything completely (and it still is). Work issues and personal concerns felt irrelevant when I needed to focus solely on getting through a session by pushing myself physically as hard as I could. The endorphin release and sense of satisfaction afterwards filled me with a sense of calm and achievement, and a feeling that I was fully capable of tackling any ongoing concerns or business issues.
And it feels like the benefit works both ways; at Thesis our turnover and headcount have increased by over 40% since 2015 and we have ambitious plans for future growth. My regular training and appetite for learning continues unabated and I now look forward to new challenges with enthusiasm – I’ve even taken up skiing! Sometimes taking ourselves out of our comfort zone is the best place to be.