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Nikki Flanders

Managing Director

London, UK

Ronan sensed my apprehension but rightly said, 'Sometimes you have to take a risk to really land what you want.'

From a young age, I’ve always been quite entrepreneurial. My first significant business venture, a flower arranging business, came at the age of 15. In order to get it off the ground, I struck a financing deal with my uncle and believe me—it had quite harsh repayment terms!

I sold to pubs and restaurants and managed to secure contracts all through personally cold calling each and everyone. Inadvertently, I stumbled into a mini-turf war when I won a deal to decorate the floats for the Kentish Wine Festival.

My competitor was a forty-year-old woman with her own chain of florists. She confronted me in a hotel foyer to warn me off, while standing so closely she was virtually touching my nose. It’s laughable now, though I do remember my sixteen-year-old self feeling stumped and a bit scared. That soon passed and I asked her to step back and suggested she come and find me after the festival to let me know what she thought of my floats. She never did, and the following year I sold the venture to a local business man, substantially covering my familial indebtedness. That was my first experience of being on my own in business and really having to lean in.

Later at university, I started a few other ventures, so that’s why my family was surprised I would go on to spend twenty years in large corporations, building a career as a Transformation Director.

It was four years ago that I really started to miss the more entrepreneurial and commercial roles that I had enjoyed earlier in my career. Fortunately two years later, I had a chance meeting with Telefónica UK COO. It was from that meeting on that I became increasingly attracted to Telefónica. Further meetings allowed me to learn more about the company’s success, its entrepreneurial attitude and admirable social values. The COO went on to set me up with the current CEO, Ronan Dunne, with whom I was able to discuss my career aspirations, talk about my experience as a Transformation Director and future goal of becoming a Managing Director.

The first role I was offered sounded totally out of my remit. It was to lead Telefónica UK’s 4G strategy. At the time, I had never worked in telecoms and wasn’t familiar with any of the acronyms. Ronan sensed my apprehension but rightly said, “Sometimes you have to take a risk to really land what you want.”

I decided to lean in and took the job offer, letting my instinct overrule reason. Colleagues, family members and even my mentor thought I was mad going into a sector that I had never worked in before, not to mention leading a companywide strategy that was centered on the next generation of mobile technology. However, it turned out to be the perfect position to gain a sound understanding of the company’s business areas.

A year later, I was appointed to my current role as the Managing Director of O2 Health. It’s the perfect leadership role that requires an entrepreneurial attitude and, more importantly, gives me a real chance to make a positive difference in people’s lives through opening up the possibilities of mobile health technologies.

I’m now four months in. It’s too early to say how successful I will be in this very challenging sector, but one thing is for sure—I will lean in 100%!