Book Review – Strong Woman – Ambition, Grit and a Great Pair of Heels By Karren Brady

Strong Woman By Karen BradyIntroduction

If you have recently watched the UK’s version of the business reality TV programme, Apprentice or follow England’s football premier league then Karren Brady shouldn’t be a strange name to you. Known as football’s first lady and Alan Sugar’s right hand woman in The Apprentice, Karren is one of those women in high places who gets the public’s attention, at least for reasonable reasons. In this book she has written what I would refer to as part biography, part rant, part business and everything in between. If you have wanted to learn a bit more about who karren Brady is and where she came from then this book will certainly help, but be warned it does not go into any detail about her family life, growth in business or any other aspect of her life, but does cover a lot of ground. What the book does do though is give you an insight into the type of person Karren is and her background. I found it very interesting to read and I like Karren’s straight to the point, honest way of talking expressed in her writing. I think she gets on with Alan Sugar (which she mentioned in the book) because just like him, she is very straightforward at saying what she really thinks.

This book has 280 pages and 13 chapters and it isn’t boring. Some may see it as Karen’s attempt at shameless self promotion, I didn’t think so. Also this is not a very structured book, in my opinion Karren just writes and in the process covers a lot of ground, though this in no way takes anything away from making the book a rivetting one to read.

When I first started reviewing this book I was going to go through my normal chapter-by- chapter review style, but then I stopped because when I read biographies the chapter-by- chapter style doesn’t work for me. So I am going to go free style and write ten things I learnt from and enjoyed about this book which might convince you to read it.

  1. Karren starts out in chapter 1 expressing why she wrote the book, which is to encourage other women using her own story and experience. Initially it feels like some kind of shameless self-promotion, but it really isn’t. She is not afraid to talk about her success and does believe it can be a source of inspiration to other women.
  2. Karren gives a bit of insight into her family, but be warned not too much. You are not going to get a full low down on her family background, but she gives just enough to help us understand where she has come from. I love the bit about her tough grannies who she’s obviously taken after. She also gives the sense that her family has been an important aspect of her life and still is with her husband and children.
  3. She comes from a well to do background with her dad being a successful entrepreneur, but she still has an independent streak. Karren likes to get things her own way and not depend on others even if it means working hard to get it. She attended convent school and later an all boys school which accepted girls in sixth form. After sixth form she decided not to attend university and went straight to work.
  4. Karren got a job at Saatchi & Saatchi but left for a supposed break to return later. She worked at LBC and then went to work with David Sullivan at Sport Newspapers. This was the job that really gave her the opportunity that moved her career forward. Karren has had to work very hard and with no formal qualifications I feel four things have moved her forward – the ability to learn quick on the go, strong self-confidence, persistence and a can-do attitude.
  5. In 1993 David Sullivan and David Gold bought Birmingham Footbal Club and they installed Karren as the club’s Managing Director, after all she convinced them to buy it. At that time she was just 23 and the only woman running a football club. Karren had entered a man’s world and while she was not totally crazy about football, she was intrigued by the business side of it.
  6. Karren ran the club for 16 years and transformed it from a club bought out of administration into a £50 million business. She sold the club in November 2009 for £82 million. Karren does give some information about what she did to turn the company around if you want to learn more about that. One thing is clear, she has a head for business. Plus her strong personality means she can take a lot of hits but still focus on what she needs to achieve.
  7. David Gold and David Sullivan went out and bought another club, this time West Ham and again Karren became the club’s Chief Executive, a job she still holds. Just as before, she went to work and has achieved some great feats at West Ham. She was able to help the club win the initial bid they put in for moving to the Olympic Stadium. Unfortunately the rules were changed, their success overturned and they will have to bid again. She has also been able to turn West Ham into a more  successful club business wise.
  8. Karren has a media angle too having appeared on a number of television programmes, but she’s most known for her appearance on The Apprentice as one of Alan Sugar’s team on the programme. For her it’s a natural fit and even though she describes it as very hard work she loves it. She does go into a bit of detail about her views on the Apprentice and what she feels about some of the candidates and it make’s for interesting reading.
  9. Family is very important to Karren, and she married a footballer, Paul Peschisolido. Together they have have two children. Keeping the family-work balance can be quite challenging for her because of how busy she is, but fortunately her family have a good understanding of her work which makes it all work out at the end. She also talks about her surgery after she found out she has a brain aneurysm. She had to go through really serious surgery because if she didn’t do anything about the condition, it could kill her anytime.
  10. Karren concludes the book by telling us her ten rules for success. They are – work hard, have confidence, embrace ambition, have the courage to take a risk, take a reality check, learn to juggle, know how to negotiate, grasp the bottom line, and communicate.

This for me was an interesting book and I find Karren quite inspirational. She is a great role model for women and even for me as a man I learnt a few things from reading the book. I definitely do recommend it.

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