Nicky Badenoch, Co-Founder, Genie – Forbes Advisor UK
After graduating with a degree in economics and politics from the University of Bristol, Nicky Badenoch built a career in the advertising industry, helping to reverse Marks & Spencer’s fortunes with the Twiggy Mr Blue Sky campaign in 2005 and launching Company A’s revolutionary “Plan”, because there was no Plan B ‘environmental initiative in 2007. It is also behind the launch of the innovative BBC iPlayer catch-up service.
She is the co-founder of Genie, the first automated talent agent for the creative industries, which aims to disrupt the way businesses hire flexible talent in a post-Covid world.
She lives with her family in London
What set you on the path to success?
My family was made up of refugees who started their life in England from humble beginnings. My father’s dad never told how he escaped the Nazis or how his parents perished in Auschwitz, and yet that totally defined our family.
My mother left Egypt at the age of 16, during the Suez Canal crisis, arriving in England unable to speak even a word of English.
My parents had little education. They left school at 16 to support their families. My dad worked around the clock, making and selling packaging during the day, writing for a radio 4 drama show at night. My parents went through life with laughter as an ally. But I have always been aware of their endless struggle to make ends meet. It instilled the motivation, deep in my guts, to work hard and aim high.
I was not the type to follow. Maybe he was the only child in me (I have a half-brother who is 10 years older than me). I used to make my own way. I went to a Jewish school, where there were ways of being established. However, I was not a conformist: I married a Catholic, and I was the first to celebrate a Judeo-Catholic union in my family.
I always knew that what happened wouldn’t dictate the future – the path was up to us to forge in any way we chose.
Did you have a hero when you were younger?
My paternal grandmother (“Nana”) had a great influence in my life. She was breaking the rules and being ruled by her heart.
As a child, I listened to stories about his time on Broadway. Aged 18, she left Romania to pursue a life on stage against her family’s wishes. She had guts and more than a glimmer of meanness that I think I surreptitiously look for in every friendship I have.
Do you have a hero now?
No one can win over my Nana. But I hold in high regard women who bring a motherly instinct to business. I have landed strong women in high positions and what sets them apart is their flair and ability to be comfortable with themselves.
Are you easily bored?
As a wife, mother, daughter, and business founder, I must actively seek boredom in my life. When it comes, I savor it, because I am the most creative when I have nothing to do.
Who do you admire in business and in life in general?
My old boss – Liz Harold. The founder of the company that inspired our trip with Genie (Genie is also Liz’s middle name).
Liz is like the original Andrea Martel from Call my agent! on Netflix. Today over 70 years old, she is still a real tour de force. Creative directors stopped by our office on Christmas Eve, on their way home to their families, to drop off “something special” for Liz. Not only had she helped them land the job of their dreams, but along the way, she had been their mentor and friend, the person who had captured their essence and made them shine.
Liz has always been my champion. After giving birth to my third child, I had a minor stroke. I literally couldn’t see clearly and, to make it worse, I was stricken with postpartum depression. I met Liz and told her I was leaving the industry – I could never work again. She knew that all I needed was a nudge in the right direction.
I will never forget the kindness, compassion and trust she showed in me, which I in turn strive to show to others.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Ambitious and nourishing. I am passionate and give everything. I have high expectations for those I work with, but I believe that if you can be kind even in the most difficult situations, you can get the best out of people.
What are your ambitions?
To make a human difference. What excites me most about Genie is using technology to give talented human beings the opportunity to unleash their potential.
Work, home, family are a big part of who we are as people. The opportunity to transform people’s lives, on a large scale, by connecting them to the work they want to do is something that I find extremely rewarding.
Do you believe in luck?
I don’t like luck. When I was a kid, I remember my father often talking about being “unlucky”. I think there is luck: luck is to be born into the right family, to have a network where the doors open to you. It is one of the great injustices of life. What I love about what I do is remove the element of luck by leveling the playing field to create lucky luck because of the skill rather than who you know.
What qualities do you look for in your colleagues?
I’m looking for a glint of nastiness in their eyes. Will they go ahead blindly or will they wonder why, and if, and challenge the status quo? Do they believe in the power of creativity? Are they kind, compassionate and curious? Do they bring energy and fun to the party?
Micro-manage or big picture?
I don’t have an eye for detail (just ask my husband) – there have been some missed parenting nights due to my skim reading of an email. I would say I micromanage when support is needed and see the big picture when it’s time to move forward and be decisive.
Do you think the company is valued by society?
Absolutely, and never as much as today. Businesses can shape our values and sit at the epicenter of popular culture. This was evident during Black Lives Matter – Ben and Jerry’s “Silence is Not an Option” was just one example of how businesses can play an activist role in society.
I am very excited about companies that seek to put the soul at the heart of their work. These are the companies I want to be associated with that can change the world for the better.
How do you think business will change from 2021?
The days of helicopter bosses are over. Covid has forced companies to step back and trust their employees to manage their days from their bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens.
Our entire workforce has indeed become flexible overnight. This means companies are moving from models of ownership of talent to accessing the best talent when they need it.
Technological platforms have democratized access to talent, we all have access to everyone, but “nobody” at the same time. The winners will be the companies that can quickly access the best talent.
How would you like As business to change from 2021?
We have seen many companies invest in diversity and inclusion by hiring key personnel to take responsibility for driving the program. Next, I would like organizations to invest in young people.
Solving diversity problems is not just about moving chess pieces around the chessboard. It must be part of a ten-year plan in which companies invest to “open the eyes” of people from different horizons on the paths offered to them.
In short, ensuring that competence, not privilege, is the metric of success.
Here is a magic wand – what are you going to do?
Provide opportunities by improving the rules of the game based on skills and talent.
What is your favorite time of day?
Supper time is sacrosanct in our house. No matter what happened these days… sports clubs, playing music, burning the midnight oil on a strategy game. Every evening we all enjoy a hearty meal and sit down as a family – unload, scream, scream, laugh. He’s my leveler.
Next, we focus on my fourth baby, Genie, as there is still a long way to go to achieve all of our ambitions. The creative industries sector is growing rapidly and relies heavily on a flexible workforce. We’re the first automated talent agent in this space, matching companies with awesome, interested, and available talent in an instant.
The total market for connections and reservations is growing at an exponential rate. There are so many applications for our IP. The creative industries are just the beginning. I am delighted that Genie is the talent exploitation system for the economy at large and selfishly fulfilling my own ambition to make a human difference for many.