"Why I gave half a million pounds to my staff"

Personal Group CEO Deborah Frost on working families, self-belief and returning to corporate life from a start-up.

by Kate Bassett

Deborah Frost left the corporate world in 2003 to start her own business, reward consultancy Innecto. She sold the company to Personal Group last year for £3m – and is now at the helm of the whole group, making her one of just 16 female CEOs at an AIM-listed company. She tells us why she waited until her mid-thirties to start her own business, what she did with the windfall from the sale, and why bosses need to be more imaginative.

On starting her own business:

I always knew I wanted to start my own business – but I didn’t do it until I was 35. I wanted to get corporate experience under my belt first so I worked for Marks & Spencer, Nationwide and consultancy firm Towers Perin. It’s much better to learn on someone else’s dollar. Before I quit corporate life, I spent six months doing my “day job” and planning my own business in the evenings and weekends. When I launched specialist reward consultancy Innecto, I felt “ready” and I had clients right from the get-go because I’d built up such a strong network. If you try and start a business straight out of uni, the odds are stacked against you: you’re not used to working with people from different backgrounds and generations, you don’t have contacts, and you have no idea how corporates actually “do stuff”.  

On shared success:

I sold Innecto to Personal Group last year for £3m. As Personal Group is an AIM-listed company, we had to keep the deal under wraps until everything was signed and sealed. On the day we announced the acquisition, I told my 16 employees that I was giving £500,000 of the sale money back to them. It was a shared success – so I wanted everyone to reap the rewards. Employees who had worked for Innecto for more than six years received a full year’s salary. That was a pretty amazing day.

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