‘Don’t ever listen to any negativity and do not compare yourself to others’

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Toni Dines Boxtree Recruitment

In our latest Women in Finance Interview, Tony Sanchez speaks to Toni Dines, Chief Executive Officer at Boxtree Recruitment.

Toni founded Boxtree Recruitment after spending 10 years in the financial services industry and becoming increasingly frustrated with poor recruitment ethics, poor values and poor technical understanding of the financial services industry by ‘specialist’ recruiters.

Boxtree are now market leading.

What brought you into financial services?

When I was at college, I worked part time in a recruitment company as an administrator and I saw a role for a trainee broker come across my desk.

I read the specification and my interest was immediately sparked. I had to apply.

What do you think makes a successful leader? And in particular women leaders?

The world has taught women from a young age that women need to conform in life and in business to fit the mould of a male dominated industry and sector.

To be a successful leader of a business, it has been imperative that I have not changed or compromised on who I am, both in business and personally.

The key strengths statistically for women are our ability to multi-task, work collaboratively with our teams and a super-strength in dealing with crises.

You will find that women leaders deal with their businesses and their teams like lionesses deal with their pride. They are amazing at dealing with crises, leading by example and valuing every member of the team and business, their pride as individuals.

I personally have found my own success working meaningfully alongside my team, not above them.

That requires an individual to leave ego at the door and be prepared to muck in at any level and work with your business to provide solutions to grow.

This is why I removed all seniority titles from the business in 2021. The holistic approach, worked in an engrained way will see any female leader, leading from the front and therefore encompass the true meaning of what it is to be a genuine leader.

What are the biggest barriers you have faced in your career in financial services?

Two things first come to mind. The first, believe it or not, ironically, has been hiring the right personalities in the business.

I have gone through expensive, costly and time-consuming errors in hiring looking for ‘senior’ talent that are well versed and experienced in working within the financial services market but with the incorrect cultural fit.

To work with me, you have to leave ego at the door, be truthful to your weaknesses and humble with your strengths.

The second is undoubtedly the sexualisation of being a woman in business. I am forever frustrated by the minority of men that we work with (clients and candidates) who feel that once we have the ‘privilege’ to work with them, they are somehow entitled to sneaky drinks behind their wives’ backs, drunken late night texts or inappropriate commentary.

I am generally all for a laugh and banter but I have had to withdraw some significant commercial relationships, losing significant amounts of income off the back of how my team can be treated at times.

In 2022 believe it or not.

If you could tell your younger self one thing you know about business now, what would it be? 

Don’t ever listen to any negativity and do not compare yourself to others.

When I first started trading I wanted to be like the “number one” recruiter in the industry in terms of solutions and size.

It’s not until I got to understand how those businesses operated, how they treated clients and candidates and how they traded that I wanted to be absolutely nothing like them!

On the note of negativity, you will always have people that are driven daily by their fears and they will naturally try and impose these onto you when you are discussing your key drivers.

If I listened to even 5% of the things said to me when founding a business and during running one, I would have had to become a volunteer and or never left the house!

What’s your own personal mantra?

If the grass looks greener on the other side, stop staring. Stop comparing. Stop complaining and start watering the grass you are standing on.

What do you think is key for finding a successful work-life balance?

I think being honest with your own weaknesses and strengths is the first step.

For me, my work life balance was out of sync and it was a weakness of mine because I am a highly empathetic person and as such take significant problems on from those that are around me in business.

This resulted in not having enough time in the day to deal with everything I need to so it bled into my home life.

The balance between work and life in that regard came very muddled as a result so by understanding how my empathetic ways worked, I was able to compartmentalise work and life to find the correct balance and genuinely leave work at the door. Self-understanding is key.

What’s one key leadership lesson you’ve learned along the way?

Be kind always and treat everyone on the way up as you would want to be treated on the way down as you never know what will happen.

What advice do you have for women aiming for leadership positions?

Educate yourself, prepare yourself and set clear objectives and goals with set timelines. Educate yourself on what responsibilities, experience and exposure you need to deliver in those positions.

Then educate yourself on any shortcomings where applicable. Prepare yourself in understanding what these companies will look for and position yourself accordingly on the right career path.

Your entire career path you take needs to compliment the experience needed for the leadership role. Also, become a self-advocate and a voice in your specialist industry.

If you are respected in the wider communicates, you will be respected in the internal ones.

What do you think is holding women back?

There is genuinely a myriad of answers to this question that I could approach. That said, I refer back to one key thing that holds a woman back and that is confidence.

Going back to my comments around education and preparation. If you well positioned, you know your worth, you know you are an expert, you know you are better than other contenders, you know that your worth isn’t changed by having a child or being a home maker by one example, for a few years then that confidence will ensure you are not held back in moving forward.

Do you think there is still a glass ceiling?

Not anymore. I have seen a significant increase in women changing the tables let alone bringing a chair to a male dominated table. This is further fuelled by companies making positive changes.

What are your thoughts on the Women in Finance Charter? 

As with all initiatives in this regard, I think it is yet another important step to finding general balance in the financial services industry.

I have nothing but positive things to say about such initiatives, but there will always be more to do.

How do we encourage more women into financial services? 

Two fold. Seeing more powerful women in senior positions and positions of trust and innovation in the industry which comes with existing employers efforts and if there is one thing that covid has taught business owners, it’s that people (let alone women) can over-achieve even juggling children, animals and lord knows what else.

When given trust, flexibility and complete ownership of position and responsibilities.

If the financial services industry became a beacon for compete flexible working and became more trusting whilst simultaneously balancing out the salary bias in the sector, then it would pave the way to encourage more women into financial services.

No more deciding between “shall I pursue my career” Or “shall I start a family” the questions would change to “Which employer will allow me to have both”.

The gender pay gap is only second worst to the construction industry. What can organisations do to address this?

There are countless suggestions, strategies, ideas and innovations that can answer this question however it always comes down to something so simple.

Make positive change. No matter the size of your business, what line of business you are in or you current gender bias if any, just willingness to understand the gender pay gap, analyse it in your business and effect positive change is all that is needed. Action basically.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date is building and running a business whilst being a single parent with sole parental responsibility. That pressure is no joke!