First woman of football Karren Brady not afraid to put in the graft

Despite being the managing director of a football club, Karren Brady is not a fan of the beautiful game herself, something, she says, helped her rise to the top as a businesswoman.

Dust jacket for  Strong Woman: The Truth About Getting to the Top By Karren Brady. Courtesy Haper Collins
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Karren Brady is one of the most successful businesswomen in the UK and is considered "the first woman of football". With Fifa World Cup fever mounting, it's a perfect time to delve into her autobiography Strong Woman: The Truth about Getting to the Top, which, published in 2012, is now available as an e-book.

Ms Brady became famous in 1993 when, at the age of 23, she helped to buy Birmingham City Football Club and became its managing director. Her profile soared still higher when she took the company public in 1997 and became the youngest boss of a publicly traded firm.

If you are not a fan of football, don’t worry, neither is Ms Brady – something she says probably helped her career. Unlike many of her male counterparts, she wasn’t a frustrated manager and it meant she never fell into the “dangerous trap” of being a supporter first and a businessperson second.

The book covers her childhood, her start in business, her 16 years in charge of Birmingham City and her life now as a member of various boards and a TV personality on Dragons' Den.

When Ms Brady bought Birmingham City, it was a financial mess and bottom of the league. She turned that around by recognising the value of the club’s brand. She initially worked to boost the number of people coming to watch matches, which in turn boosted revenue; the marketing and advertising ideas she devises to achieve this are illuminating reading. She also describes how, once she had cemented the brand’s reputation, she was able to build on this by offering other things such as a Birmingham City credit card and mobile phone.

Ms Brady encounters sexism along the way which she is able to deal with by having an abundance of confidence and very thick skin. She also works very, very hard, making sure she knows the finest details of how the company operates. She is also prepared to tackle the less glamorous jobs that others might shirk.

Those four attributes are, in essence, what propelled her to the top.

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