At Haberman Ilett’s next Women’s Network event, on 19 October, we will be hearing personal stories of success from three inspiring women in business, one of whom is Polly McMaster. Polly founded The Fold fashion brand in 2012 and has since dressed the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge and Samantha Cameron. Her clothes are regularly featured in publications like Harpers Bazaar, Style and The Times.
Here Polly shares her success story, and why it is so important to take time to acknowledge what you have achieved, to judge big decisions against your own personal standards and to realise that if you do not challenge yourself you may never know what could have been.
When is success a point in time and when is it a journey?
“Success can be both a specific event, and something you can try to judge over a period of time – but I think ultimately it’s very hard to ever actually feel successful, and the question of ‘what defines success’ is deeply individual.
I’ve certainly had times when we’ve achieved something tangible as a business or a team – a milestone in sales, opening a showroom, seeing a fantastic piece of press about the brand – and I think at these times it’s important to take stock and enjoy that moment. If you don’t, you wonder why you are working so hard in the first place. However, when you’re ambitious and hold everything to high standards, even at these tangible moments it’s sometimes hard to not already be thinking ahead to the next challenge.
I try to balance this with looking backwards over a longer period to be able to say – look how far we’ve come, look what we’ve achieved. It also then makes the day to day obstacles easier to deal with, as you know you’ve dealt with difficult times in the past and come through it.”
How do you balance what your heart and your head are telling you when making decisions that could determine success or failure?
“I think there is no one decision that will determine success or failure – it will be the sum of many smaller decisions and actions. And of these smaller actions / decisions, some will feel very instinctive, and some will be more practical / rational.
I’ve found it helpful to think about standards – both personal standards, brand values and business standards. Its then easier to measure a decision against them, and be uncompromising.
You will know when you ask yourself if a decision ‘feels’ wrong, and in some way is compromising your standards, that it’s probably not the right thing.”
How do you know what level of risk is right for you when you are striving for success?
“I don’t think of myself as a risky person, and yet I took the biggest risk of my life deciding to launch a business, and walk away from a more corporate career. However, not taking that risk would have meant risking never giving myself a chance to try and pursue something I really believed in.
In reality though, it wasn’t one big decision – it was multiple small decisions that then gave me the confidence to go for it and start The Fold, so it didn’t feel like such a ‘risky’ move.
Whenever making a big decision – even to move house, change job, go for a promotion – you are pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, and only then do you know what you are really capable of.”