We all deserve recognition, especially from government
After 35 years in the industry, there’s not much Anne Ackord hasn’t seen – including delivering a baby in public toilets – but after witnessing the government’s lack of understanding of the sector during the pandemic, the Brighton Pier Group CEO believes the industry deserves a little more recognition for its great contribution to the UK’s economy, health, and culture.
Inspired firstly by her mother who raised a large family, worked as a nurse, and “never felt that any of her daughters shouldn’t do both”, Anne Ackord, CEO of The Brighton Pier Group, is one of many women that hasn’t been discouraged from entering the world of business.
Unfortunately, far too many still are in a myriad of ways, but it is a credit to Ackord’s second inspiration, Sir Rocco Forte, whose company she worked for in her early career, that Ackord’s horizons remained broad, and her aspirations high.
“I remember a talk he gave and conversations I had with him and other colleagues about staying close to the team no matter how high in the ranks you rose,” she said. “The best ideas come from those closest to the customer. The person on the till knows a lot more than you think about customer profiles/buying habits.”
As she rose up the ranks during her three and a half decades in the industry, Ackord has learned to turned challenges into lessons, and to hold her own in the rare occasion that being a woman and mother was held against her.
“I have worked in this industry for 35 years now. I’ve delivered babies in public toilets, I’ve seen sadder events. I’ve worked with large teams and small teams, worked hugely long hours sometimes, and for the past 17 years have had the privilege of looking after The Brighton Palace Pier which is truly part of our heritage,” Ackord continued. “I now have the responsibilities of a plc as CEO. Everything has been a worthwhile and enjoyable experience even in the hard times because you always come out having learnt something. Yes there were times when some tried to make you feel less valued due to being a woman and a mother but these times were rare and overall its been a great journey and long may it continue.”
However, while the CEO has clearly received recognition from The Brighton Pier Group owners for her hard work and talents, Ackord believes the entire industry deserves more credit from the government.
“I’d also like to see our industry and all its employees receive the recognition it deserves. There has been a lack of basic understanding of our industry during the pandemic and government need to wake up and see that all the waiters, bar staff, cleaners, managers, executives etc are well trained, professional people who know their businesses and contribute greatly to our economy and to the country’s well being. I would hope that future generations of business people are able to work in an industry that receives the recognition it deserves, where the skills are valued and most importantly transferrable to other sectors. For women in particular I want them to always have equal chances and not be penalised for their very nature.
Schools and training establishments have a huge part to play in instilling confidence in young people and that confidence should apply to all no matter what sex you are. I hope tomorrow’s business people enjoy this industry as much as I do.”
“Motherhood brings skills that should be highly valued”
Coinslot: You’re in a perfect position to challenge things that are holding us back. What do you think are some of the most important obstacles to the development of women in business?
Anne Ackord, CEO of The Brighton Pier Group: The recognition that the experience of motherhood brings skills that should be highly valued in the market and that if employees leave to have a child these skills will add value when/if they return. There is also the perception that raising children is secondary when in fact its one of the hardest challenges and brings enormous experience to a person.
Coinslot: You have steered the fortunes of the pier for many years and also featured in numerous local business initiatives. How has the public response to you changed in this time? Are you a woman in business or a businesswomen – an important distinction given that men are only ever considered businessmen?
AA: I can honestly say that my experience of what people’s perception of me has always been is as a business person first and a woman second. I know that this is not always everyone’s experience but I think I’ve never tried to imitate a man (and men and women do have different approaches) and I have been accepted as Anne who manages these businesses.
Coinslot: International Women’s Day is all about female trailblazers and handing their experiences on to other women. In your career, what key experiences would you like to pass on and are you seeing significant change for younger women in business today?
AA: Be yourself. Don’t try to follow any stereotypes, listen and watch. Our industry is relatively female friendly compared to some and the message we need to get out here to women and men is that if you want to progress, work in a customer focussed environment, develop your skills, think of hospitality/leisure. You will succeed.