Elona Mortimer-Zhika Inspirational Speakers

24 January 2022

As part of this year’s FORUS Board, a few of us were tasked with working on a number of projects for the team at Fortus – the People Project was something I was very interested in. One of the most interesting and emotive elements within this was the INSPIRATIONAL SPEAKERS SERIES – a series of talks that are and will be open to everyone in the business, covering a range of topics, and I wanted in! As the Board, we wanted to ensure these talks encompassed who we are as a business and really hold true to our values. With this in mind, the search for inspirational, valuable, courageous and distinctive speakers was on! We put a lot of thought into this, and after many discussions and initial conversations with people, we finally narrowed down ‘the list’ – ensuring each was different and stood out.

Our first speaker was Elona Mortimer-Zhika, a truly inspiring woman who’s achieved a lot in her time. As CEO of IRIS and having managed the UK’s largest private software acquisition recently, we wanted Elona to speak to us about her journey and most importantly cover the topic of “Managing Change and Coming Together As One”. It can be tough when different businesses join forces, with everyone having their own way of working, sometimes there can be friction amongst all the excitement. Not only that, but you can sometimes feel you’re alone when you’re facing a challenge, so we wanted to emphasise this definitely isn’t the case.

Elona was absolutely superb in delivering her message. She was charismatic, empathetic and really ‘down to earth’. She spoke about moving from Albania to Wales, where she studied and learned to speak English; how she climbed the ‘corporate ladder’ to get to where she is now as CEO of IRIS; how to embrace change and take on challenges with a positive mindset. I’ve received message after message thanking us for bringing Elona in to talk to everyone because they all felt a sense of closeness to her. I think what struck everyone most was the amount of importance Elona placed on focusing on the people that make IRIS work. She knows that in order to ensure she has a happy workforce, she has to make everyone feel valued – because they are! The overriding message was that of community, taking the leap, and coming together as one even in times of constant change.

After Elona had finished telling us her story, it was question time. Here’s a snippet of what Elona was asked and what she had to say…..

What would you consider to be your biggest success?

Becoming CEO of IRIS and leading the business through Covid to become a certified ‘Great Place to Work’ is by far my biggest career success. My definition of success is to build a successful IRIS that customers love to work with and employees love to work for. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by amazing people who embraced change and transformed the business to better serve our customers, whilst still growing top line. Or as I like to call it “change the engine when the plane is in flight”.

What would you say is the hardest lesson you’ve ever had to learn?

There are two lessons I’ve learned:

Firstly, you can’t please everyone. Our job as leaders is to make the tough but right decisions for the business and the greater good, not for personal circumstances or individuals. I don’t think I’ll ever be in a position where I don’t get emotionally affected by the decisions I make, especially if they affect people. However, my first duty is to IRIS and the overall viability and success of the business.

Secondly, you can’t have it all; being the best at your job, the best parent, partner, sibling, child etc. It’s not humanly possible so I’ve learned to choose my battles. I accept the things I can’t do (I no longer do drop-offs at school for example) and make sure I never miss certain events, no matter what’s going on at work (nativity plays, concerts, school milestones for the boys). I’ve also learned not to be too proud to accept help from friends or family or pay for help (such as childcare or a cleaner).

What advice would you give someone who finds themselves feeling resistant to change?

You have to accept it’s not easy. We’re all humans and we all go through that curve. Everyone may not show it in the same way, but don’t be too hard on yourself because everyone goes through it. It’s also important to reflect on what’s happened in the past. Look at a time in your life when you did something you didn’t want to do and the positive impact it had. You benefit more from change than standing still.

Who is your inspiration or mentor?

My dad. Sadly, I lost my dad three years ago but he’s still my North star! He was the brightest and the most curious person I know. My fondest childhood memories are of doing many maths puzzles with my dad from a very young age. He gave me my love for numbers and had an amazing thirst for knowledge. At the age of 70, he would read my university accounting books even though he couldn’t speak a word of English and kept asking me lots of questions! I’d like to think I’ve inherited some of his passion for learning.

Have you ever considered being a mentor or coach?

Yes, I was a mentor for a CFO of a Hg backed business three years ago. Now I’m a mentor for two amazing female Finance Directors as part of the F-ten ICAEW programme. I absolutely love it and I gain a lot from it too. There’s more information about the programme on the ICAEW website.

We’re so excited for the next talk, this was a huge success and we loved how everyone embraced it. If you’d like to watch the recording, click the link below:

Watch Recording