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Nova Arkney: ‘I was always aware of the lack of diversity in sales teams’

AimHire founder and sales specialist Nova Arkney on breaking down barriers for young people

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Through the AimHire social enterprise, Nova Arkney is giving sales training and experience to young people from all kinds of different backgrounds, many of whom wouldn't have considered it an option previously. As someone with a lot of shared values with hundo, we caught up with Nova for a chat about her career to date, tips for setting up your own business and why Taylor Swift has helped get her through lockdown.

Please intro yourself
Hello! I’m Nova. A Midlander living in London, salesperson by profession and now running a social enterprise (AimHire) to share sales with young people who’d like to do the same.

What are you currently working on?
Currently, we’re on a huge recruitment drive, filling sales positions made possible through the Government’s Kickstart Scheme. We’ve found some incredible companies to work with and are sourcing young people that want to start their careers in sales. 

What inspired you to get into sales in the first place?
Like many salespeople, my career in sales wasn’t particularly chosen. My first sales role was in a phone shop when I was 18 where I got hooked by the excitement and challenge of it – I never looked back!

What was your first job and how did you get it?
My actual first job was a paper round from when I was 13, which I (ironically?) applied to through the paper. I’ve done all sorts, though. I’ve worked on building sites, played the violin in a restaurant and I was once known as the Fast Food Queen as I worked in McDonalds, Domino's and the local Chinese takeaway all at the same time.

Why did you decide to set up AimHire?
I spent some time in a school last year where I met some incredible young people with so much potential, but who couldn’t imagine themselves being able to do any professional roles themselves. It occurred to me that someone could provide a bridge into a sales career for people like them through sales training.  

AimHire today is me, and my two business partners, Kevin and John, who are absolute veterans, having spent the last 38 years helping people in unemployment get into sales roles. 

We’ve had some amazing traction this year and made some incredible relationships with like-minded organisations like hundo.

Do you have any tips for people thinking of setting up their own business?
Yes – talk to lots of people and be open to taking advice but don’t feel like you have to. At the same time, protect your time. If you’re alone it’s the most valuable commodity you have. Set up accountability partners and keep them. 

Most importantly: don’t let imposter syndrome in, but when it happens, take a walk around any city and look at all the businesses out there – if they all can do it, you definitely can. As Henry Ford said, ‘If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.’

AimHire has shared values with hundo; we’re both committed to supporting young people from a range of backgrounds and experience. How important is that for you?

I’m mixed-race and from a working-class background. Throughout my career I was always aware of the lack of diversity in sales teams. Sales people often have incredible earning potential and great career trajectories so it frustrated me that it felt like it was ringfenced for people that weren’t like me.

What do you think are the most important attributes for someone to succeed in sales?
Three things: a positive attitude, a willingness to learn and ambition. 

Do you have any routines or things to get through the day?
I’ve actually just signed up for some desk space in an office, as I know that it’s much better for my productivity and mental health to have a place to come to work every day. It’s a 30-minute walk away from home which is a perfect distance to get my head together. I also couldn’t live without Trello where I organise my work streams and my calendar, by which I live my life! 

Mental health is something everyone has to be aware of, particularly in the last 12 months. Do you have things that help boost your own mental health?
Yes, it’s been hard recently, but for me, a swim always improves my mood/focus – probably because there’s no screens in the pool and the breathing can feel quite meditative. Also, I have clear boundaries in place; I never do work on the weekend for example. If all else fails, I stick some really cheesy pop on and have a quick dance – Taylor Swift has gotten me out of a few funks over the last few months!

What are your plans for 2021 and beyond?
We’re using our own hiring and training to build out AimHire’s sales team to get us to the next level. Our long term goal is to operate as a commercial business. Even though we’re a social enterprise, we operate as well as any other sales recruitment or training business, whilst creating opportunities for social mobility, of course. 

Find out more at AimHire

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