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Interview With Gillian Jones-Williams, Emerge Development Consultancy

Gillian Managing Director of Emerge Development Consultancy which she founded 25 years ago. Emerge is internationally renowned for unlocking the potential that achieves transformation within organizations by providing a full range of bespoke development and coaching solutions. She is a master executive coach working with many CEOs and managing Directors globally. She is also an international speaker and in 2020 was named by f: Entrepreneur as one of the leading UK Female Entrepreneurs in the I also campaign.

Gillian founded the RISE Women’s Development Programme which is delivered both in the UK and the Middle East, and Saudi and is her absolute passion.

She is also the co-author of How to Create a Coaching Culture, 50 Top Tools for Coaching, and the author of Locked Down but Not Out which is a diary of the first 3 months of the pandemic to raise money for the bereaved families of the NHS workers who died during COVID-19.

Gillian Jones-Williams, you are a women’s champion, best-selling author, Master Executive Coach, and international motivational speaker – what is your purpose and mission?

My purpose is to enable every person to reach their potential, but I am really passionate about accelerating gender parity by helping women to be the best they can possibly be – their most authentic selves. It gives me huge joy to see women achieving their goals and designing their lives rather than allowing them to happen ‘by accident’.

Tell us about your story – you founded your business 25 years ago, how did it start and where are you now?

My mother had a chronic bipolar condition, so I had a very turbulent childhood. I got into college, but after 2 weeks I decided I needed to leave home and get a job, so I dropped out.

It wasn’t easy to find my career path but after a series of bar work and secretarial jobs, I finally found a job I liked doing and was good at as a recruitment consultant, and this became my career.

One day there was a case of sexual harassment at the agency which I stood up for and said I couldn’t condone the behaviour which led me to being escorted from the premises! However, one of the clients for whom we had started doing some training wanted to contract with me directly. I had no idea how to run a business, no company name, and no idea how to invoice. That was 25 years ago and the company, Emerge Development Consultancy was born, despite my children being incredibly young and my lack of experience in owning a business. I also received a lawsuit for breach of contract from the Employment Agency which I had to fight!

It was hard, I was running my business from a tiny office at home, there was no internet, so designing courses took many hours of research and visits to the library to find books! In those days there was no social media, and the business was built on referrals and sales cold calling. Within 7 years we had started to turn over in excess of a million pounds and were working with some huge corporate clients. It felt such an irony for me as I was often the least educated person in the room, with a chronic self-esteem issue caused by my mother during childhood.But this drove me to seek strategies for coping with imposter syndrome and low self esteem that I could teach on my courses.

What are the challenges in managing an international business?

Each month brings new challenges with changing politics, the economic climate, and customers re-engineering their business. In 25 years, we have survived two recessions and then the pandemic hit. As 2020 dawned, everything had come together for the business, the order book was looking full, and I had been nominated as one of the top 100 UK Female Entrepreneurs in the F; Entrepreneur I also campaign.

At the beginning of March, as the pandemic hit, I started to watch my business disappear. Every booking was cancelled, and we were suddenly left staring at an empty order book. We had only delivered our training and coaching face to face, and we had no idea how to deliver virtually. It was decision time – I had to decide whether to close the business or keep going. We agreed that as we had lost everything, we were now a start-up and we had to start behaving like entrepreneurs, creating new products and services, consistent marketing, and keeping our clients not just warm but ‘red hot’ by supporting them through their problems, and never entertaining failure. We worked like never before, and in September 2020 we started to break even and thankfully are now back to pre-pandemic profits.

You have worked with many senior women around the globe – do you find there are common challenges to them being successful?

Definitely – how they perceive themselves and the beliefs that they hold about themselves. When they perceive themselves to be powerful and eliminate their limiting beliefs everything changes. It is so easy to assume that just because someone is in a senior position that they don’t have any doubts.

You founded the RISE Empowering Women’s Programme which has been delivered internationally, including the US, the Middle East, and Saudi Arabia, where it won an award. Why is this programme so important?

I believe that women shouldn’t go on women’s leadership programmes, they should go on leadership programmes with men – giving them a separate programme suggests a deficiency. But they do need space to discuss their own issues i.e., guilt about families, hormonal impact, getting their voices heard and to help them learn, that, no matter where you come from or whether people believe in you, you can always succeed if you believe that you can.

I love delivering RISE, particularly in the Middle East and Saudi. The women out there are incredible, intelligent, driven and highly Emotionally Intelligent – they just need help in getting their voices heard.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring entrepreneur, what would it be?

Don’t give up too soon, if you entertain failure and keep thinking about what could happen you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. If your vision is strong enough and you really believe in what you are doing it will happen, so don’t falter in your conviction, and anticipate success.

What is next for you and Emerge – where is the business going to?

Going forward we plan to continue to grow the business, to develop more women internationally on RISE, potentially franchising the business and in March next year my daughter will be joining the business to help grow the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity offerings, so exciting times ahead. I also want to hang on to the lessons that I learnt during the pandemic, both professionally and personally to make every minute of my life count.

For leadership, Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity or Women’s Development advice contact Gillian at

Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and visit her website.



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