Headline Sponsor of the 2024 Women of the Year Luncheon & Awards

Business Woman of the Year 2018 Finalist Q&A: Joanne Marshall

Tell us about yourself and the business

I am Joanne Marshall and I am the Executive Director for YPO, the UK’s largest Public Sector Buying organisation. I have been in this role for 7 years now and started the role when I returned from maternity leave.  I left to have my baby as business development manager and returned as Executive Director! I started my career at 16 with my first job being in a bank and worked my way up from there, I always pushed myself hard in whatever role I had and always believed I could do more.  YPO is a fantastic organisation, we are owned by the Public Sector but compete commercially which is a unique model, we return all profits back to the public sector and I am incredibly proud of the business model we have created. 


What would you say are the key elements for starting/running a successful business? 

Having a passion for what you do is incredibly important – you need to believe in what you do and have a clear goal and vision for your business. Once you have that you need relentless focus, you will need this for the inevitable hurdles that you will face at some point!  I would also say that having a motivated and driven team behind you is absolutely crucial, surround yourself with people who share your passion and have the same goals.


Who inspires you? 

Growing up my Nanna was a huge inspiration, she ran her own business, had a huge family and fostered children for many years.  She had an enigmatic personality and nothing ever fazed her – she always believed in me and supported me in anything I wanted to do (even the crazy things!) She had an amazing work ethic and just oozed positivity and looked for good in everything and everyone.  She always taught me that you can achieve anything if you want it badly enough.  Her motto was ‘you’ll never regret the things you’ve done only the things you didn’t’  Great advice and something I live by today. 


What motivates and drives you? 

Being passionate about your business is a great motivator!  Working in the Public Sector and having a purpose for what you do really makes you think about what you are doing and why.  When you run a business you are responsible not only for your customers but also for your staff,  everyday I ask myself ‘have I done enough today?’ ‘have I made a difference?’ I am motivated by a desire to do better and push harder


What challenges have you faced within the organisation and how have you overcome them? 

Where to start! There is huge potential within the Public Sector and lots of opportunities for innovation and change within our business.  The biggest challenge I would say is pace of change and how to ensure change is implemented in a controlled way with the workforce behind you.  I am a ‘lets do it now’ person which can be challenging at times for the people working with me!  Spending time with people and having a plan works really well and ensure you get buy in for these things that help drive the business forward.  My favourite word is relentless and I definitely apply this to the business!


What advice would you give to people aspiring to a successful career in business?

Don’t be afraid to push yourself forward, believe in yourself and your own abilities and dreams.  There is always a reason to not do things, turn that around and say yes to things that scare you! Have a goal and work to that despite what life might throw at you – keep focused!  Most of all enjoy what you do, it will shine through and others will be inspired by your enthusiasm! 

What would winning WOTY mean to you?

It would just be amazing and I cannot imagine how excited I would be to actually win!  When I left school at 16 I never thought that I would be a Director running a commercial business by the time I was 40!  I would love to inspire other young women to follow their dreams and believe in themselves no matter what their background, qualifications or experience.  To take chances and risks and not be afraid to push themselves forward. 
This process has really made me think about how my experiences might help inspire others – winning would be such a great platform to do this! 

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On 12th October 2018, we honour the achievements of exceptional women – both in the world of business and personal achievement.

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