Hitting the next level
Recently promoted to area manager, Jo A-Giwa shares her personal account of how Enterprise provided an opportunity when she was planning her career at university – as well as her thoughts on what it takes to make it to area manager.
I did a law degree, partly inspired by my mother who had come to the UK from Nigeria to study law.
She became ill and couldn’t complete her course. Her life changed dramatically. She had two children, she was a single parent and she often worked two or three jobs at once – in supermarkets, cleaning, in hotels – to make ends meet.
It was only in my final year when I look at it would take to become a lawyer that I realised that it probably wasn’t going to work out for me because I wouldn’t be able to start earning a proper salary straight away, which was essential to help support my family.
So, I started looking at other graduate opportunities and I came across Enterprise. I saw this as an opportunity to start earning money straight away, to keep learning, to take on early responsibility as well as earn money for my family, which was essential.
I thought I could always go back and pick up being a lawyer again.
I was born and raised in a single parent household in Hackney in a two-bedroom flat. It was just me, my mum and my little brother.
I remember waking up at 5am to clean offices in the City before coming back home at 7am to get ready with my brother and go to school. Since then I have always worked, taking jobs in retail when I started college at 17. Whenever I wasn’t studying or playing sports, I was working.
"There is a lot of inequality in the world. I have been privileged enough to be in a company where I haven’t had to think about this"
I soon realised that I was really good at my job at Enterprise. I could build relationships quickly, engage with different people.
Every promotion I could see that my work was getting me to another level. My family could see how much I achieved within quite a short space of time and how much I was learning.
There’s a big step from branch to area manager. As branch manager you have your eyes and ears to everything. You’re constantly in your branch so it’s easier to manage your team and operations.
As area manager you need to focus on the bigger picture and what you can see coming down the line, internally and externally, and get buy in from your branch managers. I help them to find solutions rather than telling them what to do – or doing it for them.
I need to be able to inspire my team and be someone that branch and assistant managers feel they want to be.
I need to encourage the branches to see themselves as part of a team, so they can help one another within the area while managing their own remit.
We had to close a couple of stores during Covid-19, and now I’m re-opening one of the stores that was closed. How do I prepare my team so they understand they may be slightly less busy initially and may need to think about other ways to drive revenue?
Right now illness is a big thing. If someone is sick, we have to make sure that none of the branches are overly stretched and that we all help each other.
Every challenge and obstacle that I have faced has moulded me to be the person that I am today and helped me to be a better leader. I share stories with my branch managers so they can avoid my mistakes and do things better.
As a woman I think that I should have believed in myself more. Every promotion that I got was because someone else told me to go for a job. I think I should have gone for those roles sooner, rather than waiting for someone else to tell me that I’m good enough.
It’s interesting to think about how much impact you can have on people. I grew up in a really diverse ethnic environment. But Black Lives Matter genuinely made me feel like I was in a minority, which is something that I had never thought before.
It’s made me realise that I want to have more of a voice and that there is so much more that I can do. I want my sons to feel that they can achieve everything that they want to, even if they still need to work harder than a white person might.
"Every challenge and obstacle that I have faced has moulded me to be the person that I am today and helped me to be a better leader"
At Enterprise I’ve always felt that I fit. This is not always the case when you see how other companies operate. In other companies people may feel like their face doesn’t fit, and their colour doesn’t fit.
We also reflect our community in our branches, and it’s helped us understand and relate to our customers. I don’t think we would have been as successful as we are if we didn’t take that approach.
There are certain branches for example in Palmers Green in North London where you get a mix of customers, some very affluent, others who struggle with money. It’s important to understand both.
I served a Jewish community where customers wouldn’t shake a woman’s hand. So, I would say ‘shalom’ and ask a man to drop off their vehicle. Understanding the community you work in is essential to running a successful operation.
There is a lot of inequality in the world. I have been privileged enough to be in a company where I haven’t had to think about this. My progression at Enterprise means that I work hard and I get the rewards and the promotions. If it weren’t for promotion from within, there are so many people who wouldn’t be where they are today. I see that as a privilege.