Creativity Corner Inspirational People

meet sue walter at the hospital club

September 20, 2012

Today i’m very excited to introduce you to ‘my home from home’. Sometimes things are meant to be and this is certainly one of these times. Let me explain.

A bit of history. Paul allen and dave stewart were having a drink one night in covent garden when they spotted a boarded-up building over the street. Enquiry revealed it had once been a hospital. Between them, the plan was hatched to revive this once elegant shell and transform it into a hub of creativity, full of people, ideas, music and life. Paul bought the former st paul’s hospital in 1996, and opened its doors as the hospital club in September 2004.

Winding back even further. In 1994, i got it into my head to have a massive birthday bash. Who better than to ask my lovely developer friends for some derelict places in their portfolio. (what are friends for?) One such place was the 1992 closed down st paul’s hospital. Unfortunately it was far to unsafe for such an event and i finally held my bash in an empty warehouse in clerkenwell.

Fast forward to 2005. Googling for some fornasetti fabrics i came across a fornasetti exhibition in the gallery of the hospital club. Surprised i had never heard of this club, minutes later, reading their then website made me weep with joy. It had everything i was looking for in a private membership club and more and i simply had to join on the spot. Little did i know there was a process i had to go through. Can you imagine? I had to wait a few weeks. Shocking!

If truth be told, lately i had found myself rather dispondent with the club. It’s original mission of the celebration of creativity, supporting and inspiring its members and partners through on-line community, extensive calendar of member events, exhibitions, and social and cultural collaborations had gone somewhat astray. I didn’t feel they were being true to their philosophy of create – connect – collaborate.

In walks sue walter, ceo extraordinaire, who has now been running the club for just over a year. I had the fortune to meet sue early on at a ‘have your say’ session, where she wanted to hear first hand from long standing members what worked and what didn’t, so they could make appropriate changes. It was love at first sight and i’m honoured to call sue my friend.

I asked sue for an interview not just because she is my friend but because she’s one of the most inspiring people i know and i wanted her to share her pearls of wisdom here with you. I’ve met many women in ceo roles but many feel they have to exert power and be balls breaking leaders to get ahead. Not sue, she runs the club with integrity, passion, dedication and outstanding leadership, constantly empowering people rather than to instil fear. It’s so refreshing to experience happy staff, content members and a vibrant and inspiring atmosphere.

Sue, thank you for giving me back my ‘home from home’. Over to you!

You have had a very interesting and varied career. Can you talk about this a little? I have been very fortunate with my career. When i graduated i didn’t really know what i wanted to do, but i was open to the possibilities and i have kept this philosophy throughout my life.

I started out my working life in the civil service (4 years with HM customs & excise and 5 years with the metropolitan police service). I loved working in the civil service; it was a great foundation in terms of developing my skills and confidence. They invest well in the development of their staff and the large scale of the organisation provides lots of opportunities for progression. It was during this time that I fell into HR and obtained formal professional qualifications. After 9 years in public service I was ready for a new challenge.

I became HR director at the royal opera house during a hugely challenging but rewarding period in its history (its closure and successful re-opening from 1998 to 2001). I then joined universal music heading up their UK HR function. During this time I had my son and was also presented with the opportunity to be part of a small team tasked with launching an exciting start-up called the hospital club. The hospital club was my first experience of start-ups and it was here that I discovered my love of building and growing things from the ground up.

After the successful launch of the club in 2005 a chance meeting lead to my move into the world of private equity. With TSL education ltd I was able to further develop my skills in growing new business and generating real value through people. My time at TSL education saw me move away from HR and firmly into operational management when I was asked to head up another start-up which went on to become an award winning business. My 6 years at TSL were like a real time MBA I learned business from the ground up from some amazing leaders and a fantastic business model. Then when the opportunity came along to return to the hospital club, this time at the helm, I couldn’t resist. From the moment I heard the club concept described to me back in 2002, it was love at first sight. I have loved the club ever since.

Did you ever have a vision of what/where you wanted to be in your career? Did you hatch plans for it as a child? I have never had a career map, which explains the disjointed nature of my career path. Every position i have ever held has presented itself to me at the right time in my life through a chance conversation or (like my first job) sitting on a train and seeing an advert above a window.  The only thing i have ever sought is personal challenge and growth, the rest i leave to chance and timing. 

How different is your role now as CEO of The Hospital Club? It’s wonderful to have been involved at the hospital club’s birth and now to be in a position to grow and shape it for the future. I feel very privileged.

My role now is very different to the one i had here 7 years ago where my focus was on the HR function. Today i am responsible for the vision and direction of travel. The buck stops with me, so to speak. I feel a huge sense of responsibility to the members, staff and the owner to maintain the integrity of what the club set out to be whilst ensuring its long term growth and sustainability. The good news is that i don’t have to do it alone. I am surrounded by great people who love the club every bit as much as i do and our collective energy makes anything possible. There are great things happening at the club at the moment and I feel proud to be a part of it.

The creative industries are at no.1 for economic growth. The UK has the largest cultural economy in the world. How does the hospital club fit into this? As a hub for the creative industries the hospital club fits firmly into this landscape. The success of the club reflects the growth generally in the creative industries. We set out to provide a home away from home for creative people to do what they do best – Connect, Create and Collaborate. From this mix we are starting to see great things born at the club from films, to music, to art, to thought leadership to new businesses and partnerships. We mirror what is happening in the wider creative environment.

Female leadership is a current topic! What have you learned as to how women leaders differ from men as leaders? I’m not sure that gender is what differentiates leaders. I have known and learned from some amazing leaders – both male and female.

There have been times in my career when I have been held back or not taken seriously because I am a woman, but these experiences have only made me more resourceful in terms of identifying different routes forward. Being a woman should never be used as an excuse for not pursuing and achieving your dreams.

What characteristics in your view make a great leader? Great leaders in my experience are those who understand that nothing can be achieved (not even the greatest vision or strategy) without the support of good people around you. Always surround yourself with people who are smarter, quicker and generally more capable than you are.

The rest is down to knowing your own strengths and limitations, and having the courage of your convictions. I truly believe that you have to be prepared to walk a different path. This helps to inspire creativity around you and as a result great things happen. As leonardo da vinci said “People of accomplishment rarely sit back and let things happen to them. They go out and happen to things.”

It’s still hard to find many female role models in business, where do you find your role models for support? I think it’s important to have good role models in life, particularly when you are starting out. Seeing successful women i hope inspires young girls to dream bigger dreams and have higher hopes for themselves. But the same can apply to male role models for young boys; I truly believe that good role models can come from anywhere and can be any gender. It’s about what inspires you and what drives you. Think about your favourite teacher when you were at school. Chances are that they are your favourite not because of their gender, but because they inspired you and opened you up to possibilities you hadn’t thought about before.

On the topic of support. Mentoring is key. What do you tell the young women you mentor? Supporting and mentoring young people is hugely important to me. I have been inspired by so many people throughout my professional and personal life. I want to be able to do the same for others. What I say to my mentees varies, but the common theme is about self-awareness and self-belief.

I tell them that to be successful in what you do you need to have passion and a vision – from passion will spawn the perseverance and determination to get you through the tough times, and the vision will take you to where you want to be and what you want to achieve.

Then there are some keys to success that I have found to be true over the years:

Treat others as you wish to be treated, and respect and recognise individuals for the positive contribution they make;
No one can make you feel inferior without your permission;

Obstacles are put there to separate those who really want something from those who only think they do;

You have to set yourself high standards and live by them in the way that you conduct yourself;

Success is unique to us all…don’t define your success by someone else’s standards, but by your own values;

Deliver what you have promised – trivial or important; and finally

Never forget the people who have supported you, and always work hard to play it forward

What’s next for sue walter? Will you write a book?  Any dreams? A book? Maybe one day.  Dreams? I have many…. but essentially to find happiness, challenge and fulfilment in whatever I do.

As for ‘what next’, I refer you to my answer to the second question; I never plan next steps. Right now I am in the moment, and loving what I am doing. There is a lot still for me to do and achieve at the hospital club and like everything else in my life, I am sure that when the time is right the next step will present itself to me. I just need to remain open to the possibilities!

Thank you sue for your time and generous answers. I’m truly inspired!

The club has recently been re-designed by the wonderful russell sage studio.

I often get asked how i make use of a private membership club. Well, in no particular order, there’s using it as a part-time workspace, having delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner, entertaining clients, seeing films in a fantastic private 3D cinema (often previews), networking, connecting and collaborating, plotting new ideas, having the facility to hire a space for events, visiting exciting exhibitions in the gallery space, hanging out and smooching with friends. Phew! All this in one place!

As sue said, it’s about teamwork and the seamless running of the club wouldn’t be possible without the incredible staff, who are always very helpful! Here’s to the another happy seven years!

I do hope everyone is enjoying a little of the london design festival, be it live, on twitter, facebook, instagram or reading about it on blogs. I’m seeing as much as i can, time permitting. For this reason i will not post on monday but see you back here next thursday. Have a good week.

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  • Reply Caroline @trend-daily September 20, 2012 at 3:58 pm

    Great interview Tina. A lovely thing to be a part of and such a great way to mKe some like-minded friends.
    Made the effort to take real photos at Design Junction and lost the whole lot downloading them-I could cry! X

    • Reply tina September 26, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Thanks lovely. I know, that really sucks! So sorry to hear!!! x

  • Reply Theresa September 21, 2012 at 4:59 am

    Tina, thank you so much for this fantastic and inspiring interview. You know it’s just the thing I love to read. AS you know, I mentioned in my Thursday post that it’s a dream of mine to start some version of a Sunday Supper, where inspiring, creative people gather over yummy food and good converation. The next phase of Sunday Supper (for lack of a better name right now) would be a collaborative space very much like the Hospital Club. Dare to dream, right. Thus, I loved reading this interview with Sue. All of her answers and words of wisdom are truly insightful.
    Continue to enjoy your time at the London Design Festival, and have a wonderful weekend and week!

    • Reply tina September 26, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      I know you love this sort of thing!:)

      I’m lucky to live in London where I’m spoilt for choice in clubs, hubs, pop-up’s etc. It’s becoming so much easier here to find what I like to call ‘your tribe’… it’s very exciting, inspiring and energising. Of course, food is ALWAYS involved!!

      Dreaming is really important. You start with a small step and before you know it, it’s grown into something bigger.

  • Reply Kelly September 21, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Wow, what an inspiring woman and fabulous interview.

    The Hospital Club looks and sounds like an amazing place.

    Enjoy the rest of the London Design Festival, was great to meet you at Design Junction. x

    • Reply tina September 26, 2012 at 8:16 pm

      Come anytime you want to… we still have to meet for lunch, right?? xx

      It was great to meet you love!

  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey September 21, 2012 at 9:49 am

    Sue certainly comes across as being level-headed, confident and caring. I love her sense of spontaneity. As someone who has never had a career path in mind, I can relate to where Sue is coming from in this respect.

    Sue’s keys to success are very wise words indeed, particularly the idea that “no one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” Her manner and belief system seem to negate many of the stereotypes I have about ‘powerful’ women. I must confess I’ve had female bosses who have been horrible people and it has made me wary of women in powerful positions. Sue’s manner appears to be much more authentic and engaging.

    I’m not sure that the differences between female and male leadership are cut and dry and I have many female role models. For me it is so often about the individual.

    Thanks for posting this Tina & thank you Sue 🙂 xx

    • Reply tina September 26, 2012 at 8:19 pm

      I know! “no one can make you feel inferior without your permission.” is so true and I try and tell myself this when I’m beating up on myself!!

      I appreciate that many women bosses can be rather difficult, hence why I admire Sue’s style so much! I wish one could clone her!! (in the best possible way, of course)

      Thanks Gerard x

  • Reply Chi@106 September 21, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Wow! Where to begin! First, I think Dave Stewart is a stealth bomber of utter genius. Seriously, is there anything that man cannot do?!

    Sue is such an inspiration and a lot of what she had to say really resonated with me. I imagine you come away from conversations with her all abuzz!

    Finally, The Hospital Club sounds like everything I’ve been trying to accomplish bit by challenging bit and it’s certainly well worth considering membership in the future.

    I consider you to be quite an inspirational person so it’s always fascinating to see who/what inspires you. Brilliant post!

    Have a lovely time at LDF, a super weekend and I look forward to more tweets from you about it all. 😀 xoxo

    • Reply tina September 26, 2012 at 8:22 pm

      “I think Dave Stewart is a stealth bomber of utter genius” Chi, are you sure there isn’t a novel somewhere in you????
      He is rather cool! I once chatted to him when he visited the club and found him so engaging and down to earth! And that talent!

      Sue ALWAYS makes me feel abuzz. She is inspiration personified!

      Come and take a look, you would like the club!

      Thanks love. Glad you enjoyed this and got something out of it. xx

  • Reply Sam Lennie September 21, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Great interview and post Tina, thanks for sharing this. Sue is a very inspiring lady and I love her ‘keys to success’, great reminders that I’ll post up and look at from time to time.

    I think I’d be getting my money’s worth at this members club as indeed you probably do too x

    • Reply tina September 26, 2012 at 8:23 pm

      Thanks Sam. Liked hugging you at DesignJunction. Yes, I love the club and it’s money well spent. Well, I think so for the past 7 years xx

  • Reply Holly September 22, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    “I tell them that to be successful in what you do you need to have passion and a vision – from passion will spawn the perseverance and determination to get you through the tough times, and the vision will take you to where you want to be and what you want to achieve.”

    Perfectly put.

    Sue definitely is quite inspiring. Like Gerard said, her sense of spontaneity is admirable. I feel like that too, most of the time, but sometimes, I admit, I’ve panicked about not having a plan. A lot of what Sue says is a good reminder to relax and be more trusting of myself next time I feel like that.

    Thank you so much for sharing about The Hospital Club. I know how much that place means to you, and after this post it’s very easy to see why – the people, the place, what it offers.

    Your pictures are AMAZING!

    Great post Tina. Xx.

    ps. I feel like that lamp in the third image should belong to you 🙂

    • Reply tina September 26, 2012 at 8:51 pm

      Ha. Every time I see that lamp and that reception area I want to steal everything!!!

      Gosh, tell me about not always having a plan. I must admit that this stuff gets easier with age and I’m far more trusting of my journey these days. Blogging has been a huge help and motivation.

      Now you know what I talk about when I mention I’m going of to my club:)

      Thanks love. I’m excited that next time you comment on a post of mine you’ll do it from Berlin!Yay!!!!! xx

  • Reply geraldine September 23, 2012 at 1:50 am

    Hi Tina, What a great interview. I think taking time or a pause to find out what makes one happy can really help. Then bite the bullet and go with it. Hence, the work-life balance I’ve adopted and I have found blogging an excellent way to divert myself – by doing this, I feel happy and I have found that I can excel further at work 🙂
    p.s I have just written my first interview post – would love to hear what you think 🙂

    • Reply tina September 26, 2012 at 8:53 pm

      That’s great you found a balance with blogging! Especially in your field, blogging must be such a creative outlet.
      Anyway, I admire how you work so hard, have a family and blog daily! hats off to you!!

      Sorry, been swamped, will take a look at your interview shortly:) excited!! x

  • Reply annie September 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Dave Stewart is a stealth bomber of utter genius – Chi is the best quote machine on the entire internet!

    Great post Tina. I used to go to Origin a lot around six years ago. That restaurant is one of the key places that inspired me to start studying ID. I went there last year as Richard was speaking and thought it had gone off the boil so it’s really good to read that it’s been shaken up again. I’ve never been into the hospital but am very curious.

    • Reply tina September 26, 2012 at 8:54 pm

      ‘Best Quote machine on the internet’… very good!

      Gosh, Origin, that’s years ago…..

  • Reply Catherine Bedson September 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    What luxury having a private club like this to do all those things in!! Amazing and what an inspiration Sue is, enjoyed reading the interview..had no idea clubs like this existed but SO necessary for creatives to get together and connect. Hope LDF is going well.

    • Reply tina September 26, 2012 at 8:56 pm

      Oh, so glad you discovered that clubs like these exist.
      Actually, would be interested to know of the private membership club scene in Australia… hmm. not thought about this before!

      The Soho House Group has now many international clubs but not heard of an Australian one..

      Hope you’re well x

  • Reply Micky September 25, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Thank you for this post. Love the way you describe how you got in touch with the hospial club and you put yourself quiet behind the topic. Your kind of art in this post is to create a story around to make it not just an interview, but a painting. To Sue: An interesting person (in fact I need to forget it is a woman ´cause that´s not what this is about and don´t want to slip in clichés), indeed.
    She knows what she´s talking about, ´cause she lives it.
    Reminds me to Randy Pausch

    • Reply tina September 26, 2012 at 8:59 pm

      Well, we know you’re a huge fan of the club! That’s where we physically met for the first time.
      But now we have the ‘Unperfekt Haus’……

      I wonder what bit reminded you of Randy Pausch???

  • Reply Anna @ Creative Mischief September 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I loved this interview Tina, very inspiring and so great to read about a happy ever after story for this super place. I’d not heard of the hospital club before. What a great concept.

    • Reply tina October 2, 2012 at 11:48 am

      Thanks Anna. You must come down and check it out when in the area:)

  • Reply Derrick October 2, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Sue is a long standing friend of mine (from Secondary School!) and when I was reunited with Sue it was before Sue joined the Hospital club and was truely inspired. I have to say, that I have never met anyone that has had that affect on me. when Sue and I met we were both considering new horizons and I have to admit that my ambitions were low.but after talking with Sue and lisening to her for an hour over lunch, I was simply gobsmack at what Sue has achived in the same period of time. It was a series of tales of ‘shooting for the moon and getting the stars’. I can’t say that I have landed my dream job like sue has, but I am an awful lot closer after talking to Sue. I’m so proud to call her my friend.

    • Reply tina October 2, 2012 at 11:49 am

      Hi Derrick.
      Thank you for your comment. No doubt Sue will be smiling at this!

      Love the ‘shooting the moon and getting the stars’ description.

  • Reply Ingrid October 11, 2012 at 1:47 am

    Hi Tina,

    Loved this post. Very interesting answers from Sue. I once read an interview with an arts festival organizer – he said that all he had done in life was to follow his enthusiasms! Hearing of Sue’s career path reminded me of him.
    Just wonderful. x i

    • Reply tina December 3, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      Thanks lovely. She is very bright, talented and above all humbling!!! x

  • Reply Tola December 3, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I went to a fashion screening at The Hospital Club on Friday and I absolutely loved it!

    Finally, a members’ club in London that’s for like-minded people as opposed to the like-monied.

    Reading about the CEO has made me more sure that I want to join and my application is currently being reviewed….fingers crossed!


    • Reply tina December 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      So glad you like the club.

      I agree with you. For me, it’s the only club in London….
      Am sure you’ll pass with flying colours:))

      See you at the club!

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  • Reply The Hospital Club adds 15 bedrooms colourliving April 6, 2015 at 2:47 pm

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