Sector: Security Systems
After the death of her husband and business partner, Christine Baker worried that she was “not strong enough to go it alone” and run the company by herself. Today she remains CEO, with the help of her daughter – her “right-hand woman”.
Where do you call home?
I was born in Longlands, Middlesbrough. I have always lived around the Middlesbrough area and have recently moved to Hutton Rudby to be near my daughter and her family (my grandson is only two, so I’m a hands-on grandma now). As long as I can see Roseberry topping in the distance, that’s home to me.
Tell us about your role?
I am the CEO of Cleveland Security Limited, which has been established for 40 years now. We have 10 employees in total and most have remained with the company from leaving school and joining us as apprentices. We install intruder alarms, CCTV systems and door access systems to both domestic and commercial properties in the North-East. You will usually find me flying around the office, chatting to clients, taking orders, booking engineer schedules, assisting with accounts, payroll, overseeing the vehicle fleet, carrying out audits and I’ve even been known to make tea and water the plants!
How did you get to where you are today?
When I lost my job as a 20-year-old (my then employer had gone into liquidation) I was fully trained in accounts, but it was only the mid-80s and computers were a new addition in many offices, so I’d had no experience. I saw an opportunity when another security company opened their new office at the end of my road. Being young and brave, I decided to knock on their door and told them “I’m just what they were looking for” and I am always grateful to that first year with Render Alarms. I then joined Cleveland Security, a year older and with my newly-gained skills. I was so happy in my new role. We not only installed, but we also sold DIY systems over the counter, which built up my vast knowledge of security equipment and the business. I met my future husband there and together we bought the company from the original owner. Roll on 35 years and I have witnessed enormous changes in technology, equipment and infrastructure, and have developed newly-taught business skills along the way. I’m now 56 and still learning.
What struggles or obstacles did you face along the way?
Every role in employment or running a business will encounter struggles along the way and it has taught me that everyone needs assistance and advice, no matter what age you are, and you should never be too proud to ask for help.
My greatest struggle was in 2003 when my husband and business partner sadly passed away. As we had entered our new business venture together, I felt that maybe I was not strong enough to go it alone. But I was only 38 and had our three small children to think about, it was not just me any more – I wanted a safe and secure future for them too. With the help of family and taking on a business manager, I soon felt back on my feet with the business. It had to carry on as normal for the sake of our loyal customers and employees, I am proud to be where I am today. My daughter is now 26 and is my right-hand woman in the company.
Describe the moment you first got a feel for success?
I often have “lightbulb” moments. The most significant one in my mind goes back to late 2003 when after losing my husband, most people assumed that I would be selling the company. They saw me as a woman left on her own, but after various meetings with accountants and solicitors, I pulled up to the office one morning and saw my engineers ready for work with their newly sign-written Cleveland Security vans and that lightbulb moment will stay with me forever. It gave me strength and I felt so proud of what I had worked hard for and achieved so far, and that I still had a lot more to give. That strength comes back occasionally to remind me to never give up.
Do you have any advice for aspiring young females?
Knowledge is essential – whatever direction life takes you in your career, gathering knowledge along the way and learning everything that you possibly can about the industry will always help develop and further your skills. It is the confidence in knowing as much as you possibly can about that will give you the strength to achieve your limits.
Also, be polite, kind, caring and considerate to everyone you encounter along the way in business, no matter what situations life throws at you. You will reflect back on your life and wonder if you could have handled things differently, but you will always have the satisfaction of knowing that you were the better person.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Never give up, always do the best you can and believe in yourself. When you’re faced with bad days and feel disheartened, remember things will always get better and believe in yourself. Life throws challenges to test you, but it is how you deal with them that makes you the stronger happier person. Also, remember to be happy, enjoy life and smile more. Stop frowning, it gives you wrinkles in later life.
What three words inspire you and encourage a positive path?
Determination, strength, gratitude.
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