She’s got the Power

04th Dec

23, Lauren Boanas is by some way the youngest businessperson we’ve interviewed for BW. Should this matter? Well, yes and no. Yes, in the sense that young people are the future of business and we want to inspire them, too; and no, in the sense that if you’re doing a good job, your age should be irrelevant. 
The fact remains, though, that young people in business tend to face prejudice and preconception, and Lauren has had her fair share of both, managing colleagues and customers often far senior in years. But, as I quickly glean within minutes of the start of our conversation, it’s clear she has the strength of character to take it on the chin. She’s calm, confident, and a voracious learner. She knows that knowledge is power.
“Sometimes people don’t expect me to know the things I do,” says Lauren. “But if you want to learn something and you want to have a skill in it, then there’s nothing stopping you if you have a passion for it. And when I’m in a meeting and someone asks questions about getting the systems up and running, they normally look to the older person in the room, but I’m the one answering the questions. They also don’t expect me to care as much as I do, either.”
PowerPlus Safety was set up a decade ago by Lauren’s father, Graham Boanas, with her mother Janine as sales director, and the firm is now an industry leader in corporate induction videos and training software. They can offer the latest RoSPA-approved basic awareness courses and bespoke online training in any area, such as health and safety, HR and diversity, or cybersecurity. Lauren joined the family firm five years ago, but this wasn’t something she’d always envisioned doing from a young age – she was, in fact, halfway through her A-levels. 
“Although I did get really good grades at school,” she says, “classroom study just wasn’t for me. And halfway through college, I knew I didn’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer, so I left college, and that’s when I started at the business, joining from the bottom. But I knew that everything I wanted, I would have to earn.” 
This, Lauren argues, was a better move for her than just drifting into education with no real goal in life, and her parents were supportive of her choice – like them, Lauren is ambitious, hardworking and knows her own mind. “I felt like a lot of people at college just didn’t know what they wanted, and a lot go through university, not really knowing what they want to do, end up in a lot of debt and don’t get the real-life skills that you need in business and to progress in your career.”
And herein lies another source of potential prejudice – that joining the family firm was the easy option; a safety net, even. Not true, insists Lauren. “It’s actually a lot harder, because there’s no place to hide. And only I can know how many long hours I’ve spent, setting my alarm at 3am to be out for client meetings. People can say I’m only in this position because of my mum and dad, but those who work with me know the truth. I’m never going to get around it, but to be honest, I don’t really care what people think.”
Lauren emphasises that PowerPlus is still very much a family affair, but she will be the one taking the company forward in the years ahead. “There are so many opportunities for expansion,” she says, “such as facial recognition technology, but we really just want to dominate in our niche and then grow. My parents are such a great asset to learn from because they’re so good at so many different things. And I think I’m quite lucky to be around quite a few different, influential businesspeople who I can look up to and learn from.”
Lauren’s work includes the development of the Power Plus Safety Portal, a self-service solution that can save firms thousands on the cost of staff inductions and which has users worldwide. The portal can be tailored to companies’ exact requirements, and users can complete courses at their own pace and at any location, either on site or remotely. “The portal is being used across the UK,” says Lauren, “and also in places like South Africa, Dubai and Australia. One of our inductions was translated into nine languages.”
Accessibility is a key factor, too, Lauren adds. “One thing I’m really proud of is that the portal is used by quite a lot of disabled people, because we’ve designed it so that it’s mainly video content – there’s not much reading to do, and if there’s any digital signage on documents, we’ve made it so we’ve got the ability to have the document read to people, which really helps those with dyslexia. One of our clients has said that they’ve had a girl with Down Syndrome using the portal. It’s so much easier for people who have disabilities to be able to watch a video rather than just be shown a PowerPoint, and that’s really what we’re trying to do. And because it’s worldwide, too, it’s really accessible to lot of different people.”
When she first joined the company, Lauren was working on the induction videos – and now she manages the video production team, which also produces corporate promotion films. She has ended up in front of the camera, becoming the “face” of many of the videos – almost by accident, as it turns out. “Yeah, it just kind of happened! It was one of things where we had no one to present one day, so I said, OK, I’ll do it. And then before I knew it, clients were saying, ‘Oh, can we have her?’ But we do have other people who can present videos and we’re looking at getting other voiceover artists in, too.” 
Lauren works closely with clients on creating their videos, meeting them to get a good understanding of what their company does, how it does it, and what makes it stand out from the crowd. She also looks at how the portal will fit in with the firm’s wider health and safety plan, before organising the filming and production and all the little bespoke things that will make a company’s portal “click”. 
As with the portal, the nature of modern technology means PowerPlus has created videos for clients across the UK and the rest of the world. “The mile counter on my car is ridiculous!” laughs Lauren. “We’ve done filming from as far down as Falmouth right up to Scotland, as well as in Canada.” Some example films are on the PowerPlus website, as well as on the company’s YouTube Channel. Clients that PowerPlus have provided induction videos and systems for include Hull-based companies such as Airco, Beal, RES Electrical, Walker Modular and AAK International, as well as London’s Ardmore Construction; these films can be seen on YouTube and are great examples of the mix of on-location filming, drone camerawork and animation.
“We do a lot of work down in London,” Lauren adds, “and if clients come up to Hull we’ll usually take them out, and they’re often shocked by how lovely it is. I think we’re very lucky in where we’re placed, in the middle of the country, and we’ve got some of the best people here as well.” 
A lot has changed for Lauren in five short years – but where does she see herself in the next five? In her dad’s chair? I cheekily suggest. “I see myself still running PowerPlus – but being a market leader,” Lauren replies, diplomatically. “There’s no comparison in the usability of our portal versus some of our competitors. I see myself growing with the company and really pushing it forward. I find it so rewarding seeing how many clients we can help – and how many companies we can prevent having to go to court.”  
Yes, her job is difficult, and she has stressful days, but she’s not a quitter – as she’s matured with the company, she’s learned how to deal with things when they go wrong. “Every person in business would be lying if they said they didn’t have days when they had to clear the schedule because something had happened. I used to get really stressed out in those situations, but because I’ve done them more and more, I’m normally quite calm about things. I’m normally the calmest person in the room! It’s more about ‘how do we fix it?’ I’m a very solution-based person.”
If the “snowflake generation” exists – and it’s Lauren who brings up the term first, not me – then she is doing her best to buck the stereotype. The future of PowerPlus is clearly in safe hands – and if Lauren’s story inspires more young people to follow in her footsteps, then the future of business is looking pretty bright, too.
 
 

Hull and East Yorkshire Winter 2020

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