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Here at Punch, we’re all about people. We are thankful for the incredible female Publicans we have running our pubs and pride ourselves on having so many inspirational women within the Punch Team also.

Our aim is to continue to grow and empower our team to achieve their fullest potential. All organisations, no doubt, would claim the same, but the proof of the pudding, as they say, lies in the eating.

We are incredibly proud that we have a 50/50 female to male ratio between our Regional Directors and Heads of Department here at Punch. We are also avid supporters of the organisation Diversity in Hospitality and Leisure, whose mission is to make a positive difference to 5 million women and people from ethnic minorities across the industry by 2025. Punch delivers an accredited Women in Leadership programme, and we’re also proud supporters of the Brilliant Women Networking group.

We asked some of the wonderful women in the Punch family to tell us about some of their greatest achievements and what advice they would give to some entering the world of hospitality today.

Here’s what they had to say…

Jackie Burn, HR Director

Time at Punch: Almost 15 years!

Greatest Achievement:

My job here at Punch is challenging but extremely rewarding. I would say that being able to combine a successful career whilst raising a family has been my greatest achievement.

What advice would you give to somebody just starting out?

If the company you work for doesn’t allow you to be true to yourself, you are probably not with the right company.

Charlie Ashwell, Operations Manager

Time at Punch: 4 years

Greatest Achievement:

I’ve achieved so much during my time at Punch, but bringing fresh new talent to the business is the daily buzz for me. Most recently, I’m incredibly proud of my Publicans and the whole Punch team for working together and turning around two notoriously challenging businesses. Now, the Wildman and the Stanley in Norwich are both flourishing with fantastically energetic new generation Publicans leading the way, and I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of it.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own pub business?

My advice to anyone entering the trade would be to firstly follow your heart.  Find a business that gives you the goosebump factor and then follow your head. Revisit your plans regularly to keep your vision and business focus on track. Never take your eye off the competition but don’t let it define your offer. Be in love with what you do, and success will follow.

Mandy Southall, Operations Director

Time in Trade: 32 years

Greatest Achievement:

Being a part of the pub industry is in my blood and, I feel incredibly proud of everything I’ve achieved so far in my career. Some of the biggest highlights include running 3 successful pubs by the time I was 23 whilst doing my accountancy qualifications and then starting my beloved family.

Being the first female to chair the Yorkshire Beer and Pub Association in (2015), a position I proudly held for 3 years, was also a career highlight.

I count myself lucky to have a career that I genuinely love. Getting up every day to develop and lead a team of 11 outstanding Operation Managers who share my passion for pubs is a real buzz.

Your advice to others:

It’s all about people. If you work with the right people, then your job becomes easier. Always strive to surround yourself with positive people because negativity is contagious. Don’t ever be afraid to be who you are. Be authentic.

Donna Gracey, Corporate Governance & Estates Manager

Time at Punch: 20 years

Biggest Achievement:

My biggest achievement is probably my development and subsequent success. I came into the world of work with no idea of what I wanted to do. On reflection, I believe that this has given me the freedom to always push on open doors. I am always driving myself forwards, looking to develop, and I am happy to be challenged with something new. I will give anything a go, and I now have the confidence to tackle anything, which is a million miles away from the timid individual I once was. In the last 3 years, I moved into a role that allowed me to lead a team. This was new to me, but with fantastic support and training from Punch, it has been an incredible success and one of the best moves ever.

What do you love most about working in the pub industry?

Well, I have been working in the world of pubs for 23 years (Carlsberg and then Punch), and I would do it all over again if I had the choice. I think there is a reason that not many people leave the pub industry, or if they do, they come back!

I don’t think people realise how fast-paced it is, but if that’s your thing, then it’s amazing. There’s never time to be bored, and the industry attracts the most exciting and creative people. Everyone needs to keep up with the latest trends and changing cultures to stand out amongst the crowd, and I love working with the people who make this change happen.

Lucy Barker, Operations Director 

Time in Trade: Since the age of 16!

Biggest Achievement:

Becoming an Operations Director before I was 40…and running the London Marathon – maybe the two are linked ?!

Your advice to others:

Ensure balance for yourself – emotional wellbeing, physical activity and mental stretch each day will allow you to be the best you.

Have a plan. It can change and develop but as a leader of any team you need a plan

Do what you love. If your passion is your work it makes life fun. My passion is people and hospitality and I really love what I do.

Helen Willis, Learning & Development Manager

Time at Punch: 18 years

Biggest Achievement:

My greatest professional achievement was completing my MSc in Multi-Unit Leadership while working in my current role at Punch. Pubs are, by there nature, very individual, and this helped me to see how to balance support over the Punch estate in terms of learning and development.

What advice would you give to somebody entering the world of pubs today?

The pub industry provides the perfect package of doing what you love, being social and connected to people who are looking for a great experience. It puts you at the heart of your community whilst building a highly rewarding career and a successful business that you can shape, develop and adapt. No minute, day, month or year is the same, you will always have a new challenge and changes to make, but that’s what will keep you hooked to hospitality.

Hayley Patterson, Operations Manager

Time at Punch: Almost 6 years

Biggest Achievement:

Becoming an Operations Manager was a big ambition, and I wasn’t sure I would ever make it. But, with a fantastic support network, development opportunities at Punch, hard work and determination, I got there. I’ve been an Ops Manager for over a year now, and, for me, this year’s most significant achievement has definitely been realising that not only am I capable of doing the job, but I’m good at it, and more importantly, I love it!

What advice would you give others?

Take time for yourself; do not let work consume you. It’s very easily done, but don’t let it; you’re more effective if you have given yourself some headspace.

Laura Cavendish, Head of HR

Time at Punch: almost 13 years

Biggest Achievement:

My greatest achievement has to be balancing both my family and my career. I am driven to be successful in both, but ensuring that neither compromises the other. It’s a challenge, but one I absolutely LOVE!

What advice would you give to others?

Make sure that you get to experience all types of pubs throughout your career. From the amazing small village pubs at the heart of their communities, to extremely busy city centre pubs, bouncing with an electric atmosphere and 4 deep at the bar, and everything in between. In each and every business you will learn something new about what makes a great pub…and you can never know it all!

Tracey Bell, Head of Food

Time at Punch: 14 years

Greatest achievement:

Sounds cheesy but my daughter.  Having raised her as a single mother and we are very alike, so at times it was an exhausting experience but she has grown up into an independent, brilliant thinking and beautiful person inside and out. There were times (especially around the teens) when I didn’t think it was possible but fierce determination and some ‘parenting your teenager’ classes put us on the right track. I’m so proud of the person she has become and I continue to be inspired by her strength.

What advice would you give to somebody entering the world of pubs today?

You have to love the industry because it’s too hard work without that passion and determination to succeed. It’s a way of life, not a job! But it has such rewards if you can get it right; from providing a great food, drink and service experience to supporting the local community and charities. Every pub is unique as are their guests. You have to find the pub that suits you, it can’t just be about profit.

Caroline Southwell, Corporate and Brand Communications Manager

Time at Punch: 10 years

Greatest achievement:

Having my children is, without doubt, my greatest achievement. They were a gift I never thought I would be lucky enough to have and I am thankful for them. Balancing a challenging career with home life is probably my second biggest achievement, even if I don’t always feel like I am succeeding.

What advice would you give to somebody entering the world of pubs today?

Treat people how you would expect to be treated. Be kind but always true to yourself.

Rachel Overton-Hope, Business Support Manager

Time at Punch: 18 years

Greatest Achievement:

Developing my career with Punch through various roles,  progressing from being a team member in customer services through to heading up our Business Support Department today. Currently in my third year of mentoring and being part of the fantastic Career Ready programme.

I have a tremendous wanderlust and love to experience and learn about/from different cultures. I’m steadily working my way around the world having had some epic adventures so far. Diving the Great Barrier Reef, seeing the Orangutangs in Borneo, snorkelling between tectonic plates in Iceland, spending 6 months travelling in South East Asia, seeing the Mayan temples in Guatemala and horse riding in the Rockies, to name but a few. My next big adventure is visiting Antarctica!

What advice would you give to somebody entering the world of pubs today?

It’s a fantastic industry, you’ll work with amazing people, it’ll be fun and challenging and what’s not to love about going to the pub!

Kate Cochrane, Operations Manager

Time at Punch: 5 months

Greatest achievement:

Successfully opening 4 hospitality businesses on the same day: a pub, a coffee shop, a burger concept and a grab and go – no soft opening, it was in an airport!

My first ODE (one day event) on my own horse. From dressage, show jumping to cross country and coming in 3rd place.

Watching my first AM I sponsored to GM doing a great job of controlling the business, but most of all focussing on her team and culture to achieve her results.

What advice would you give to somebody entering the world of pubs today?

Be Guest Obsessed! If you let this drive your decisions from who you employ, how you treat them, making sure you’re serving the best pint in the coldest glass or the juiciest burger then you can’t fail. Also, Consistency is Key!



Katie Simms, Designate Operations Manager

Time at Punch: 4 years

Greatest achievement:

My roles thought out my career have always had a focus on developing and supporting people. I love working with people to help them achieve. My career started with me teaching people to sail and windsurf as a watersports instructor, then I developed into a Hotel Manager and enjoyed being part of making peoples holiday. Now I support the recruitment and development of fantastic Publicans in the pub trade.

What advice would you give to others?

To have three to five small monthly goals including one personal, and then aim to achieve at least one! That way you can be proud of at least one achievement a month however big or small.

Angela Beddows, Operations Manager

Time at Punch: 8 years

Greatest achievement:

My greatest achievement is having my daughter. I’ve had a total of 15 miscarriages, including one at five months, which were horrendous, and given I am adopted it was so important to me to have my own family.

What advice would you give to others?

If we have learnt anything this year it is that life is for living and the pub is always the centre of the community. Embrace this, immerse yourself in the locality and become part of the local family. They will always have your back and will always support you whatever the problems are because you supported them. This will guarantee you success more than anything else.

Maira Pillans, Publican Recruitment Business Partner

Time at Punch: 11 years

Greatest achievement:

My greatest work achievement was as an area manager launching a new build retail store after a £1.5 million investment from start to finish. I’d never done it before and worked with an amazing team. The whole experience was super challenging but equally super rewarding. More recently, the past 12 months have been a personal achievement for me. I’ve learnt so much about myself while juggling work (a role I love and am so passionate about), homeschooling and lockdown life. I’m so lucky to work for such an amazing business.

What advice would you give to somebody entering the world of pubs today?

Be certain that pubs is where you want to be, the world has changed somewhat over the last 12 months. When the doors open, embrace the community (they’ve missed the pub) and be ready to work hard and have fun!

Rachael Dixon, Operations Manager

Time at Punch: 1 year

Greatest achievement:

I Raised over £125,000 for The Costa Foundation in 2016 and was awarded Support Team Member of The Year Costa 2016 for my Fundraising (I won a trip to Vietnam visiting the schools that we built!) I was also a Guest Judge in The Costa Coffee Barista of The Year France 2015  and was invited to the houses of parliament for the PEAS award and my contribution for Promoting Education in Africa.

I’m mother to Four beautiful children Natalie 31, Jessica 28, Alexander 20 and Scarlett 10. In my first year with Admiral Taverns one of my Pubs “The Cock N Bull” Stourbridge won Pub of the Year Award 2018 . In my second year I had two of my pubs in the final of Pub of The Year Award 2019 .

My best placed position was ranked number 3 in the world as a professional darts player.

What advice would you give to others?

Go for it, take the risk, although the landscape is fiercely competitive if you get it right the job is so rewarding and a very profitable experience. Be prepared to embrace change, you must be innovative to stay one step ahead to reap the rewards. Create your vision, have your strategy. Plan, review and follow up. Be the very best version of yourself. Every day be excited, be driven and be happy.

Rebecca Davies, Operations Manager

Time at Punch: 6 years

Greatest achievement:

My greatest achievement would be getting the promotion to Operations Manager and completing the Commando Challenge.

What advice would you give to somebody entering the world of pubs today?

Know your own worth. Don’t accept prejudice or sexism as the norm.

Nicci Clarke, Head of Marketing

Time at Punch: 9 months

Greatest achievement:

Being the youngest person to present a new Membership strategy ‘Meaningful Membership’ to The Co-operative Board of Directors.

What advice would you give to somebody entering the world of pubs today?  

Despite a tough year Hospitality is a great industry to join its offer growth, career & personal development, lifelong relationships and of course lots of fun. Be prepared to listen and learn from others and don’t be afraid to try something new!

Sarah Edmunds, Operations Manager

Time at Punch: 6 years

Greatest achievement:

Having it all – managing my job and my family and not feeling as if I am compromising, as I get older I have definitely learnt to let go of the imposter syndrome which is really liberating. I came back to pubs after considerable time off raising my family – coming back and being capable, well respected and loving my job I think is a great achievement.

What advice would you give to somebody entering the world of pubs today?  

The world of pubs is ever-changing (with or without Covid) be bold, embrace the challenges and the changes see them as positives. For me this is an industry where you absolutely get out what you put in – no doubt the next few months will be tough but we are a resilient industry and I know we can come out of this stronger and better, believe that you can make a difference and support your MPs to be the best they can be whatever the circumstances.

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