Karen Tracey from Shuttington, North Warwickshire, started her military career joining the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) in 1983 in the Aerospace Systems Trade Group 12. “I always wanted to be in the military and serve my country” said Karen. During Karen’s career she served in Norfolk, Northumberland and Cornwall in the UK. In 1990 Karen saw her first active service in the Royal Air Force (RAF), during the first Gulf War, when she was stationed at RAF Muharraq, Bahrain.
After dedicating nine years’ service to the Armed Forces Karen, then in her early twenties, made the bold decision to leave and start a new career path. When Karen left the RAF, she worked in learning, development and training; and spent 20 years working in the corporate world. Having worked for some great leaders, and some not so, Karen knew this was the perfect time to start her own business with the experience she’d gained.
“I had always wanted to work for myself, but if I am totally honest, taking that leap of faith is so very hard – you have responsibilities to others and I had never been out of work. I do not like failure and setting up your own business has so many unknowns. It is another world, needing a completely different skill and mindset, and I feared it greatly.”
The skills and experience Karen had gained across the corporate and military worlds propelled her career, and ambition to establish a thriving international business platform. Karen is the Executive Coach, Leadership Specialist, Speaker & Director and Founder of Dunelm Business Consultants Ltd. Dunelm Business Consultants is a Training and Coaching consultancy that works with senior executives and leaders specialising in Leadership.
“Serving in the military allows you to develop all sorts of skills, traits and attitudes that will serve you well in the corporate world and as an entrepreneur. You don’t know that at the time and people not in the military are genuinely interested and often impressed by a service background. There are a number of things that come to mind for me that serve veterans well when they come out of the forces – resilience, focus, being cool when ‘real’ pressure is on (serving in a life and death situation is real pressure). The military does not put up with panicking or flapping and this plays out in a skill set that is welcomed in the business world.
“There’s something about how we conduct ourselves, how we take pride in who we are and what we stand for. Smart employers and clients understand this and this is how we can stand out, this is how we are different.
“Leadership is huge in the military and how we train leaders in the Forces is a whole lot different to the business world. There is a transition to make, naturally, but as leaders in the military there are a lot of things that we must take into consideration when motivating and developing the people in our squadrons and platoons – culture, demographics, confidence issues, challenges within teams and at home, poor performance and succession planning – you’re expected to deal with all sorts of issues. These stand you in good stead – they are learned and practiced in dynamic and challenging environments in the military and they should be held up as something to shout about”.
Karen is an award-winning advocate for female development and is the chair for the Women’s President Organisation a peer learning organisation for women owned multi-million-dollar companies; and sits on a number of boards, including the Women in Enterprise All Party Parliamentary Group, a Cross Party group focused on developing Enterprise skills in women in the UK.
Karen’s insight to those thinking about starting a business:
“For me, those that are successful are those who are agile, passionate, can form relationships and are simply not going to let anything stop them walk into a room and talk about business. It is a terrifying thing and I was terrified! I had to learn how to speak a new language, get back in touch with my values (I had been in survival mode for so long in my last job) and set about deciding HOW I wanted to do business – ‘doing the thing’ was the easy bit! No one can prepare you for this.
“The successful people are the ones that hold their nerve, call upon the like minded people in their network (that they have self-grown) for support, advice, help and stay true to their values. Treating people how they want to be treated is at the core of great business and trusted, authentic relationships are everything.
Build a network, build a network and build a network!!! You can’t do it on your own and the right network will provide support, people who are prepared to refer you and provide continuous professional development that is imperative to remain relevant”.
For more information visit:
X-Forces Enterprise (XFE)
Is an award-winning Community Interest Company that nurtures entrepreneurial ambition in the UK military community and are the official delivery partner to the governments Start Up loans scheme and the Careers Transition Partnership (MOD). XFE have supported over 1,300 entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and has helped thousands more through training, events and mentoring provisions. X-Forces.com