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Working Girls mentor Margaret Manning: "You'd be surprised what people can achieve."

Margaret Manning Margaret Manning | 11:02 UK time, Thursday, 24 March 2011

Being a mentor on the BBC Three programme Working Girls was an awesome experience, although I hadn't banked on it being so tough, both emotionally and physically. Running my digital design agency couldn't stop during this period, so I was effectively doing two jobs. I got involved with this programme as my personal experience leads me to believe that when faced with tough challenges it is possible, with the right support, to achieve things you never believed possible.

Working Girls (Margaret Manning and Leanne Duffey)

Margaret with Leanne Duffey, the girl she mentored for the final episode of Working Girls

When I first started my company at 36, I had two things that I definitely didn't want to do. I never wanted to stand up and talk to an audience, and I hated flying. Fast forward to today and we have a company with offices around the globe, and I give talks on social media around the world!

Working Girls (Margaret Manning)

Margaret Manning, CEO, Reading Room


While I work on average 12-hour days, 7 days a week, I also know that I am personally capable of being lazy, so I just don't give myself the opportunity to go down that route!

I achieved what I did because I had to: with two young children and a mortgage, when I launched my company it was sink or swim time. The first occasion I had to talk on a stage in front of 200 people I was nearly sick, but the confidence it gave me was immeasurable. As a result of these experiences, I thought it would be fascinating to meet someone who in her own words "didn't really care about anything", and try to show her that there are things to care about.

When I sat down with Leanne at the start of the show to discuss her role at my company, I explained that she may not enjoy every aspect of the job but I was going to push her out of her comfort zone to find out what made her tick. Thankfully, Leanne signed up to this challenge and I was both delighted and proud of the results.

Young people are increasingly getting a lot of bad press, but this experience reinforced my belief that it is possible to motivate people to roll up their sleeves and get off their backside to achieve job satisfaction.

I hope the audience takes a positive message from the show. Leanne went from a meagre existence, living in a squat and eating out of bins, to an environment that I hope has helped her grow as a person. She also got the chance to taste the rewards that come with success, as we invited her to Paris with us to thank her for all of her hard work.

Working with Leanne was a truly great experience. She turned out to be a fantastic advocate for employing young women, in that she's tough, sharp and highly intelligent. All she needed was the confidence to believe in herself, and my role was simply to show her that she already had the natural flair and ability to become a great business leader.

Margaret Manning is an award-winning businesswoman and CEO of Reading Room. You can see how she and Leanne got on in the final episode of Working Girls at 9pm on Thursday 24 March.

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