Liz Taylor © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
The formidable Liz Taylor is a successful CEO, business leader, events guru, speaker, and author, with an incredible career spanning over 35 years.
“- you can never fail at anything you do; you can only learn from it!”
The formidable Liz Taylor is a successful CEO, business leader, events guru, speaker, and author, with an incredible career spanning over 35 years. As if Liz’s career resume isn’t impressive enough, once you hear how she built her empire whilst raising two daughters as a single mum, her business journey becomes even more inspiring. Through sheer determination, hard work and making the most of every opportunity, Liz has managed to build a widely respected multi-million-pound company, invest in an impressive property portfolio and educate her two daughters privately and through university. We were lucky enough to sit down with Liz and listen to her share her story with us. It’s hard not to feel inspired and motivated after listening to this powerhouse of a single mother.
At the beginning of the interview we explain to Liz that as working parents we want to know how did she do it?!’ She begins by sharing how that is the very question her own daughters have recently asked her, now that they too are experiencing life as a working mum…
“It’s really interesting because my eldest daughter, who’s almost 38 now, has just started working for me and she did her first event this weekend. It was down in London, and I was staying with her on the Friday night. I babysat and I let her run the event. And when she came home at around midnight, she said to me ‘Mum, I don’t know how you ever did it?!’ And I think that was the realisation, she’s got two children herself now, she’s a working mum and she’s juggling all the balls, just like I did. The difference is that she has a husband, and I didn’t.”
So, take us back to the start of your career and life as a young mother. How did you end up stepping into the world of events and running a business, and how did you manage that alongside being a mother?
“Goldie was born in 1984 and Katie followed fourteen months later in 1986. I divorced when they were just 2 and 4 and left with nothing other than a deposit for a home.
Financial circumstances were challenging and having come from a retail background I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. But I knew that I had to work.
When Katie was born I had just started to tiptoe into the business of events, as a friend of mine was holding a bar mitzvah and she asked me to help her. Whilst I was helping her, she said, ‘Why don’t you do this for a living? You’re so organised’. At that time there were no event organisers in the Northwest and just a couple of competitors in the South. . Marks and Spencer’s had given me the grounding I needed for events, it was a fantastic education from an organisational perspective, and so after organising this bar mitzvah and I saw an opportunity. I followed my gut which has been my mantra since I started. My first stop was the Midland Hotel, which had been bought out by the Holiday INN . I had come up with a scheme for a friend of mine who had a fashion business and I cold called the hotel to see if they were interested in it. During the course of conversation the sales director said that they wanted to do a Hollywood night to relaunch the hotel. That was it – someone had opened a door and I jumped right in I put the launch event together, Ainsley Harriet’s dad was a pianist at a place called Bavadage in Manchester – a cross between Louis Armstrong and Sam Cooke and I persuaded him to perform at the event. I filled the pool with balloons, hired Hollywood lookalike and needless to say it was a massive success. As a result, they gave me two more projects and Liz Taylor Associates was formed. Decision made I was of the view that my USP was me. I loved sales, and I understood early on that these hotels would, initially, be my main source of income. Some months later Granada Studios was being developed as an amusement park and venue. With luck on my side I meet two guys – Paul Danson and Cameron Milne – who were designing it. They introduced me to the new sales team and as a result I became their preferred supplier .So, if a company went in to do a motivational event or a gala dinner they were referred to me for all the services and that was how I knew how to grow the business.”
Liz Taylor IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY
How did you manage the juggle of starting a new career and business with two young children? That must have been really tough at times?
The children were at private school which was funded by an inheritance they had. Circumstances were such that unbeknown to me that fund was no longer available, but I was determined that they would be my priority and fought tooth and nail to keep them in school. So, I employed a young woman from Scotland, who lived with me for ten years as a nanny and for the first five years of paying her wages I was literally still building the business, so it was very ‘hand-to-mouth’. But I just went for it – I worked all hours. At 4 o’clock in the afternoon I used to be distraught because I knew they were coming home from school, and I wasn’t there to meet them. At weekends I used to go out to work too, I worked Saturday nights and Sunday Nights and then my mum would step in, or the nanny would step in, so it was tough. But in retrospect, when I look back, they’ve got an amazing work ethic. They were covering chairs for me as soon as they could hit their teens. ! Then when they were around 14 years old, I sent them to work in a coffee shop in Hale as a Saturday job, because the work ethic to me was massively important. The girls witnessed me working hard, but we were living in a very, very affluent area and the Jewish community is a small community. Ours was always the smallest house, and I was the only working mother, but I always used to say to my girls ‘a big house is not always a happy house’ and that was always reflected in our relationship borne out of love and respect. Even now I know the relationship that I have with them is much closer and much more special than it would have been had they been brought up in what I would call a ‘normal’ home. I was confident and determined, and every opportunity that had I used. Every spare penny and any time I took dividends I would buy a house. I started with a little terraced house, and I’ve got 14 of them now. I’ve just been very focused. It’s been a rollercoaster on occasion, but I was determined to set an example to both the girls and me.
So, to any working mother I just think ultimately you come out a much better, a stronger person, if you prioritise – and when I say prioritise, I mean you’ve got to prioritise yourself as well. As long as the children are loved and cared for and looked after, you don’t have to be there 24/7. To me 10 minutes reading with a child is worth more than 5 hours at the supermarket or doing other errands with them. It’s the quality time that matters. I was at every parent evening, I was at every school play, and I would tear myself in 10 to be there. I remember I did my first Asian wedding in Newcastle for 1700 people 35 years ago – I didn’t have a clue what I was doing! It was a massive, massive event and I remember driving back at three o’clock in the morning, because I wanted them to wake up with me at home. Those are things that you do as a working mum.”
“…You can put me anywhere, I’ve sat next to Prince Andrew at Buckingham palace; I’ve had dinner with Prince Charles, all of them and I’ve never felt intimidated, and I think that has been my biggest strength.””
Did you have any set rituals and times where you would ‘switch off’ and just spend time as family?
“Yes, as my kids were always my priority. I’m not religious but Friday night the sabbath dinner was always something that was very important to me, so my kids were never allowed out on a Friday night. It’s like Sunday dinner, you sit round the table, you talk about the week and sometimes I used to entertain friends, or we’d get asked out, but I was always very, very hands on, and my girls were always with me on a Friday night. They were the things that provided the stability in our home. So as crazy as my schedule would get, I would always have that Friday night with them and unless it was an extremely big deal, I wouldn’t work on a Friday night. Now both my girls are working parents they do the same, they light the candles on the Friday night, they have the chicken soup and the chicken dinner and that for me is the glue.”
Aside from being determined to make it for your girls, what do you think is behind your unbelievable focus and drive?
“Well, I’ve always had the fire in my belly. I was privately educated. My parents separated when I was 17.. I always wanted to do Law – my father was a judge, but that all changed when he left because I went off the rails. I left school flunking my A levels and I joined M&S as a management trainee, I had always had a Saturday job and I loved selling. I was a hustler! I always wanted to work, I always had that work ethic independence was and still is key. What I especially I loved about the events business was that you could use your imagination and take these events beyond their [the clients] wildest dreams. I love the creativity. The magic and the madness.
You can put me anywhere, I’ve sat next to Prince Andrew at Buckingham palace; I’ve had dinner with Prince Charles, all of them and I’ve never felt intimidated, and I think that has been my biggest strength.”
Looking back is there anything that you would change if you could?
“No, I wouldn’t change anything, because I think that you can never fail at anything you do; you can only learn from it. If it doesn’t quite work out or it’s not what you want it to be, it’s a learning curve. I think the fact that I was single made me much stronger and more successful, because how could I not be? I think the only thing I would change is that I wouldn’t worry as much, because everything will be ok, it’s never not going to work out right in the end.”
What advice would you give to any career parent that struggling to juggle everything?
“I think the advice that I would give to anybody who is juggling all balls, when you can’t see the wood for the trees, is trust your gut instinct – always trust your gut instinct. You might make mistakes, but you won’t fail. Following my gut instinct has always done me well.
And I think the biggest part of the struggle is the guilt – you only struggle if you feel guilty. But you can’t feel guilty, you’ve got to just get on with it.”
Do you think the pressures we feel and the judgements we worry about as working parents, come from society or from within ourselves?
“Yes, I think the pressure comes from within, we live in an age where particularly with all the magazines and reality programmes and social media, we are all influenced by what we see, what we read, what we think we should be doing, how we think we should look, do we go for plastic surgery etc, we’re all influenced, but as you get older you realise that the only person that can influence you is yourself and what you choose to do with your life is your prerogative. To me as long as you love your kids, as long as you care, and you give your child that sense of security – that every child needs -then you’ve got to do what you can do in order to give them the best that you can, and you can’t be influenced by anybody else.”
What do wish you would have known then what you know now?
“I wish I’d have known that I would be successful, independent, and that I’d be ok. I’ve been through two really tough divorces and some really trying times, I had a breakdown after the last marriage and if I knew then that I would be very successful and so very happy it would have helped me through that. And I don’t just mean from a financial perspective, I mean emotionally, my career and being a mother has fulfilled me and ticked all my boxes. I have a great life and I love it!”
Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD
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