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Sheryl has found a real appetite for business in Aberdeen

Each week, the Press and Journal asks small businesses key questions – this week they speak to Sheryl Newman, managing director of Aberdeen firm appetite for business.

How and why did you start in business

I joined the company a number of years ago, and got more involved with the operations of the business. The economic downturn presented an opportunity to take over the running of it myself, so I went for it. We all know the feeling of getting new technology and not knowing how to use it, or the best tools to use. Even with the most intuitive systems, a user can struggle. If only I had a pound for every time someone says “oh I didn’t know you could do that”, or “I wish I’d know that when I was doing x, y or z”. I’ve always loved technology, and how it’s constantly changing and can support both people and businesses to work better. It was a natural progression to work in this field. I believed there was an opportunity and decided to go for it.

How did you get to where you are today?

I took over the business as the local economic downturn was hitting which was interesting to say the least. I believe passionately in hard work, honesty, integrity and having a high regard for people and customer service, along with a little luck. You need to have the ability to pick yourself up at times too. Making sure the business foundation has remained solid and creating business relationships has always been a priority. I’m also very determined, focused and love what I do, which helps.

Who helped you?

My husband, Alan, and my family have always supported and encouraged me. I really couldn’t do it without them. I am lucky to have some good colleagues and business connections around me. I am also very lucky to have the support of fantastic clients. The Federation of Small Businesses is great and provides a wide range of great products. It is always there with help and support whenever it is needed.

What has been your biggest mistake?

My biggest learning points remain to stay focused, be cautious of people, be more involved in finances from an earlier stage and work in rather than on the business. It’s very hard to get the balance right and quality time, which is often lost when working flat out, and your personal life can suffer. Being self-employed doesn’t suit everyone, but for those it does it can be rewarding. You need to work hard at both.

What is your greatest achievement?

Surviving and coming through the last recession was very difficult personally and professionally, so keeping my sanity was a major achievement. I love the quote “we make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give” and I was brought up to do things for others. I’m honoured to have been recognised professionally, but it’s the personal involvement in charitable initiatives and school ventures that bring me a lot of pleasure. I am also vice-president of the Association of Scottish Businesswomen. If you were in power in government, what would you change? Central purchasing in the public sector tends to be focused on the lowest price, which larger organisations can provide more easily, I believe local small and medium-sized enterprises can provide a much better, cost-effective service. Public bodies should seek out best value for their customers, which is different to the lowest possible price, and recognise that procurement is a vital tool for economic growth. I’d also strive to get the NHS sorted, and spend the money where it is needed to support both staff and patients. There are too many vital services being cut.

What do you still hope to achieve?

The foundations of the business are now in place. My long-term ambition is to continue to thrive and grow the team, while sticking to our core values. I’d also like to dip my toe into the international market, while continuing to provide customers with a fantastic service delivered professionally and personally.

What do you do to relax?

I find it hard to relax – a classic type A. I do love to read as a way of switching off and catching up with friends. I love to cook and have recently started yoga. There is also nothing like a walk on the beach with Buddy, my sister Nicola’s dog, to clear my head. A proper holiday would be really nice.

What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on the TV?

I am slightly addicted to Grey’s Anatomy. I also love programmes like Masterchef and the Apprentice. I’m fascinated by other people’s business stories and am currently reading Lord Sugar’s autobiography. It’s a great book about being focused, determined and in the right place at the right time.

What do you waste your money on?

I love learning about new things, so probably underused subscriptions as I never have enough time to catch up.

How would your friends describe you?

I asked them and was taken aback at their responses – always ready to help, courageous, tenacious, compassionate, smart, trustworthy and fun. I am very humbled.

What would your enemies say about you?

What you’re doing will come under scrutiny and the same ones who celebrate you today can criticise you tomorrow. There are always two sides to a story in life. But to be honest, it’s really none of my business. I try to treat everyone in the way I would like to be treated.

What do you drive and dream of driving?

I haven’t been able to drive for a while due to an illness so I’d love to be able to finally drive my car, which is an Audi. I’d quite like a Mini Cooper though.