Shaping startups during the height of the dotcom boom and building brands for FTSE 250 firms certainly gave Sussanne Chambers the experience she needed to grow HomeXperts into an award-winning estate and lettings franchise. But in her mind, there’s no doubt that her parents played the most significant role setting her on that path. Her father in particular proved to be a real source of inspiration: the recipient of a Queen’s Award for Technical Innovation, he invented both the first piece of microelectronics to be installed in a car and the first pacemaker implant, which forms the basis of the model still used to this day. “My father taught me I could achieve whatever I wanted in life,” Chambers says. “He always encouraged me to strive and to really believe in myself.”
Despite this, as a child Chambers wasn’t particularly enamoured of the academic life, something in no small part down to the abolition of the grammar school system the year before she was due to begin high school. “Because of the new system, I couldn’t go to the school I wanted to attend,” she says. Instead Chambers threw herself into the world of work: she held three paper rounds up until she left school at 16, at which point she moved into retail, coming to carry out the marketing for two independent stores.
But it was when she entered the newspaper industry that she really found her niche. “For the first time, I was part of a high-performing team working with like-minded people,” she says. “I loved creating something new, seeing my work in print every week.” Working her way up through the ranks of a local news organisation, she soon helped launch a new title covering Dudley in the west Midlands before stepping up to become group marketing manager and overseeing 16 titles. “From there, I moved to a national brand, started working on trade titles and eventually became the youngest publisher within my sector,” she says.
A significant change in direction came for Chambers after the business she founded to provide synchronised editorial to free TV magazines merged with the Press Association. “I was headhunted for a sales director role at a young, fast-growing insurance company,” says Chambers. When the business was subsequently acquired by the FTSE 250 insurance provider Helphire in 1997, Chambers was tasked with setting up a new sales team for Angel Assistance, one of its insurance products. “I learnt so much while working there,” she says. “Even though the company was growing so fast, it became clear culture and atmosphere really was key in getting the most out of the team.”