Mar 8, 2022
Mar 8, 2022
International Women's Day

Sarah Richardson

Introduction and Biography

Sarah Richardson is a Director of FP&A with 15 years’ experience leading teams in fast paced, rapidly changing and high growth environments, including eight years in PE backed business.  A dynamic, empathetic leader, who has consistently exceeded expectations in roles across financial control and commercial business partnering.

We recently placed Sarah as Head of FP&A at Onebright, a personalised on-demand mental healthcare company and one of the SME success stories in Yorkshire over the past few years. As well as starting this high profile job , Sarah has 2 small children and currently living on site in a major house renovation.

 Although we have not known Sarah for long, we immediately realised that she is someone that we wanted to know well! We had already spent time with her at one of our networking dinners with Endless LLP and we were really pleased when she agreed to give us some more time to share her perspectives around International Women’s Day.  

What is your leadership style? How have you developed it during your career?

In summary, I’d describe my leadership style as ‘calm’. I’m a big believer in giving my teams headroom to grow and develop, and that includes allowing them to make mistakes without the fear of a volatile reaction– there is always a way through a problem! I’m a huge champion of people and love to see my teams achieve success; I’m also happy to roll my sleeves up when required but very much recognise that enabling my team is the best opportunity I can give them. Over protecting them can be disabling in the long run.

Early in my career I worked with some very strong female leaders who were extremely good at their jobs but at the same time, quite frightening! This imprinted a version of what I believed I needed to be in order to become a successful leader, but I was aware it was at odds with my natural style. It took me some time to become confident in my style and to understand that a calmer, kinder leadership approach was just as effective (if not more so!). I’ve had the privilege of working with some incredible CFOs who have championed me; and I’ve also found coaching really helpful in order to appreciate my strengths and unlock my confidence. I’ve learnt that authenticity in leadership is vital – trying to be anything other than yourself is exhausting and confusing for those around you.

Have you experienced any barriers to your growth as a female leader?

I think I’ve been extremely lucky in my career to date and I’ve found that I’ve been pushing on an open door most of the time – if I wanted to progress and was prepared to work hard for it, the opportunities have been there. I remember being conscious of wearing an engagement ring to an interview a number of years ago, and in fact I took it off! In retrospect this was possibly a bit daft but I was fearful that they might not view me as a long term bet – as it turns out, I got the job, got married, had 2 children and several promotions, and worked for them for over 10 years!

There is a significant ‘but’ to this story however, and sadly, I do believe that the opportunity to grow my career has been enabled by the delays I experienced in starting a family… I had 6 rounds of IVF during my time with that company and I did it all ‘in secret’ – I was conscious of the stigma and didn’t want to close the door on any career opportunities. This obviously added pressure to an already stressful process, and I would perhaps be more open about it if I had my time again. However, I do believe that most businesses still have a way to go when it comes to accommodating personal issues without prejudice, particularly with regards to having children and how this impacts working mother’s career paths. I’m not sure that the same opportunities would have been available if I’d had children earlier.

Who has been your role model / most inspirational figure?

Cliched perhaps but it is most definitely my parents. I had a very happy childhood and my parents were the proverbial swans– they pedalled extremely hard all the time to give myself and my brothers every opportunity available, without making us feel too indebted or entitled (a difficult balance to strike). They are still our number one flag bearers and ever enthusiastic about life. They instilled self belief and a hard work ethic– ‘go the extra mile’ was my mum’s mantra! They also encouraged us in sport to learn to push ourselves and to win and lose gracefully. They continue to apply entrepreneurial spirit to life and aren’t afraid to try new things which has definitely influenced my leadership style.

Tell us about Sarah Richardson outside of the world of work

I have 2 small children (5 & 3) who are beyond gorgeous– I feel so incredibly lucky to have them. We bought a small holding just outside York a year ago and are in the process of renovating the 300 year old farmhouse. We’ve made the crazy move to live on site in a caravan (and an adjoining barn) whilst the renovation is happening – it’s very much like glamping and we’re looking forward to some warmer weather! We’ve also thrown a puppy into the mix and hopefully have a pony coming in the spring so lots going on.

My personal salvation is exercise – it’s vital to my mental health and I’m fiercely dedicated to making time for it each week (even if I have to fit it in at 6am!).

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