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Sheila started Business Support Services (BSS) in 2006 to offer business skills training and financial consultancy services to entrepreneurs and small businesses.

All information and links were correct at the date of original publication on
17 Dec 2012

Tell us more about BSS

The company has worked over the years with many public sector organisations to offer these skills training and financial consultancy services to thousands of Directors and Managers across the UK.

Over the last two years, we have diversified into new markets offering  senior managers in the not-for-profit sector as well as the private sector, training courses in business management, procurement and bookkeeping skills.

We now offer our courses to the international market and our delivery modes include e-learning, distance learning and  workshops.

Our financial consultancy services are designed to help SMEs and start-ups access finance through a network of FSA regulated lenders including micro finance institutions that have received state aid to assist those who are unable to raise finance through traditional routes.

We assist our clients to put together robust business plans to access loan finance from suitable lenders irrespective of their personal circumstance.

Our mission is to continue to support the SME and start-up market and to grow our business beyond the UK.

What was the catalyst that made you decide to go into business?

I have always dreamt of having my own business since I was a child. I knew it was going to happen one day.

I came from a very entrepreneurial background in which my grandparents owned their own micro businesses.

My dad and mum also had their own micro business and many of my aunties own micro businesses in Sierra Leone in West Africa.

I believe this influenced me as a child and I can recall making sweets at home and selling them to my friends in school as a way of making money for myself right from age 10 years old or younger.

When I came to the UK in 1985, I had it in my mind to start my own business and in 2005, having quickly reached the pick of my career in the corporate world, I determined it was best to start off my own business.

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What was holding you back from being an entrepreneur at the time?

I will say initially it was a cultural taboo that women should not aspire to own their business.

I have had to struggle with this indirectly and directly in all segments of my life.

I have found that many women are fearful of starting a business because of this similar taboo and for someone like me from an African origin; it is even more challenging due to the predominately male dominant culture.

Having young children also held me back due to the expectations of a women’s role from the culture I was brought up.

What was the best business advice you were given?

Get a mentor that has done what you have done and be coachable.

Stay clear from people who are not supportive of your goals and love them from afar.

What is the most exciting thing happening in your sector right now?

The sector like the economy is changing at a very fast pace and is becoming more and more competitive.

The opportunity to enter new markets using technology is there, but it is not for the faint-hearted.

What are your customers demanding more from you?

Customers want more for less. They want to spend less money but without compromising the quality of the products and services.

We in turn have to find innovative ways of offering the quality expected at the lowest possible price that is still viable for the business.

What social media tool are you using at the moment?

I am currently using Facebook, but at this point I am not absolutely certain it is adding much value to the top and bottom line. However, time will tell.

What is your take on personal business failures?

Personally, I like to see life experiences as events that bring a message to us and not necessarily seeing it as failure.

A great teacher once said that for every so called failure is a lesson of how not to do something.

So what we call failure is simply an event that teaches us how not to do business.

Until we understand this concept of life, we will judge a situation as failure and not learn the underpinning lessons and so repeat it again in our life.

Every millionaire I have known has gone through so called personal business failure.

In Robert Kiyosaki’s book, he wrote about his business failure due to an infringement on his intellectual property which was not protected.

That failure taught him a lesson to protect his intellectual property from that time onwards and so the event was a lesson for him.

Thomas Eddison will also tell you he had done thousands of experiments that did not work and he considered them to be invaluable resources of how not to do something.

In summary, it is a matter of perspective.

What is the difference that is making the difference for success in business at the moment?

One has to be smart, focus and success conscious. It’s important to stay clear from the “get rich quick mentality” which is very common at the  moment.

Find the right people to work in your team is critical for success as people can make or break you.

Get one inharmonious member in the team and you are in for a rough ride.  It will be like carrying a Jonah onboard your ship.

Fundamentally, your team is going to be the foundation for business success and so it is important to build it carefully to ensure you get the best outcomes going forward.

Who are you following on Twitter and why?

It is strange but I follow Wayne Dyer, Robert Kiyosaki, Mark Victor Hansen, Oprah WinfreyEckhart Tolle, and a few other spiritual teachers.

I like to learn business principles that work and I see these individuals as open and ready to teach others their fallings and how they have come back from them in business and their personal life.

What book would you recommend for entrepreneurs?

I will recommend a number of books because there is no one book out there that will offer all the answers.

I will recommend:

What is your favourite quote and how are you applying this in your business?

"Money in the hands of a fool is destructive".

There is a lot of truth about this. I come from a culture where money is not valued and respected.

People speak of money as though it is not important and we rob ourselves from it with our very words, attitude and actions.

As a result, smart fools come along and we are ready to offer them our money for some so called theory or concepts we believe in without getting the facts.

I am now careful about how I spend my money and understand the importance of due diligence before investing money in any so called opportunity that could result in financial disaster

What next for your business?

Expansion into new markets offering accredited courses and building solid teams to achieve sustainable growth going forward.

We had a fantastic time speaking to Sheila and learning all about her experiences. You can keep up-to-date with her on Twitter, where she’s @SheilaElliottH
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