Why Tees Businesswoman believes it’s time to step forward

Sharon Lane believes she has “big shoes to fill” in succeeding inaugural winner Claire Preston as the newly crowned Tees Businesswoman of the Year.

The Tees Components managing director belatedly received the prestigious award as she missed the glittering ceremony as she was on holiday.

But having followed the awards on social media from warmer climes, with her mum receiving the trophy on her behalf, Sharon says she was honoured to have been given such an accolade.

“It does take time to sink in,” she admitted. “I’m still processing that really. Your immediate reaction is ‘It shouldn’t really be me. What have I done?’ – because you’re just getting on with your job.

“I look at a lot of other women who’ve started their businesses from scratch, who’ve overcome particular obstacles, and I admire them so much.

“But it’s lovely. It’s something that I’ll always look back on and think ‘2019 was when I was Tees Businesswoman of the Year’ – nobody can ever take away from me. I’m really proud of the award.”

Having succeeded Claire Preston’s mantle, she now wants to do more to inspire women with self-belief.

“I think that Claire has set this incredible example,” says Sharon. “She has come out as role model for girls and young women, she’s a brilliant networker and really pulled lots of women together.

“I have big shoes to fill because I would love to use this award to do some good over the next year.

“I think it’s about encouraging other women to step forward because you can’t complain about lack of representation if you don’t take part. I want to give others the confidence to step forward. If I don’t do that over the next 12 months then I think I will have failed.

“Ultimately, the awards are not about us as individuals – it’s about setting examples, being role models and saying ‘This is what you could be doing.’ That’s what I want to do.”

Having followed the awards night from afar, Sharon was delighted she didn’t know the names of all the winners.

Having joined the East Cleveland-based family firm as general manager 15 years ago, Sharon is now managing director of the heavy engineering business with her parents continuing to work alongside her as fellow directors.

She reflected: “My parents have never indicated there were things I couldn’t do, that I was limited in any way as a girl. My mum has been a big part of me feeling I could have an engineering career and lead a business, so it was so appropriate she should step in for me.”

Sharon believes that far from making things easier, running the family firm comes with additional pressures.

“When you work for a family company, you worry about people saying ‘She’s only there because she’s their daughter.’ I wanted to prove I could stand on my own two feet so I initially worked for another company and I thought I wouldn’t go back to the family business.

“But I was on an MBA programme and was starting to think strategically. I wanted to run a business, rather than work for someone else and my parents wanted me to come back and do it. I was only 26 and I had to learn pretty fast.

“There were times when I think I was the only one who thought I could do it. I had to have a lot of self-belief to get through that. But if I didn’t do it properly I didn’t want to do it.”

It’s the sort of focused thinking that will help Sharon make a huge success in her 12 months as the Tees Businesswoman of the Year. Watch this space.


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