Laura Bessell (LHS 1995)
Group Chief Operating Officer
Industry Sector: Entertainment and Media
A Levels: Maths, Biology, Chemistry
Grades Achieved: BBC
University: University of Liverpool
Degree Course: Management Economics and Accounting BSc (2:1)
Professional Accreditation: Association of Chartered Accountants – ACA qualified (2001)
My favourite subject during my time at LHS was always Maths. I was quite an all-rounder, but I liked Maths as I found it easy to understand. When it came to choosing my A Levels, I was adamant I was going to study medicine and had dreams of becoming a forensic psychiatrist profiling murderers. I was therefore a little restricted in my choice of subjects and I always found Chemistry particularly hard. In some respects, if I had known at that stage where life would take me I may have chosen differently. I secured a place for medical school at Charing Cross, but Chemistry let me down and I narrowly missed the offer, securing the right grades in the wrong subjects. I decided that perhaps medicine wasn’t for me; I had a very specific interest in a certain area of medicine and perhaps not an overall general interest. I decided that business may be a better path for me and that I would take a year off instead of making such a dramatic change straight away.
During my gap year I organised a party for 200 people making £900, worked in retail, travelled Australia and worked in France. The breadth of that year off really helped me in searching for jobs when I left university, as I had experienced and dealt with so many different issues and problems.
I started university at Liverpool: I loved business, loved economics and hated accountancy. After my first year I went back out to work in France. I concentrated on sport, social and work. I pushed myself to get a 2:1, not try for a First, as I wanted a balanced experience.
"I decided that business may be a better path for me and that I would take a year off instead of making such a dramatic change straight away."
In the summer between my second and third year at university I worked for Price Waterhouse Coopers on a placement scheme. The main aim was to earn as much money as I could in order to travel to Mexico, so when they offered me a job for after I finished university, I didn’t know what to do. I had never wanted to be an accountant – it seemed far too boring. In the end I decided to take it and try it. I am not going to lie, I had moments when I wanted to quit; it was hard, boring at times and long hours. I worked in the audit department, which offers an amazing insight into a variety of industries and fantastic generalist training, but clients don’t necessarily want you to be there and there was blood, sweat and tears (well at least the last 2!). After I qualified as an ACA I stayed for another year; I was working with good clients and had a lot of senior level exposure.
After that year, I decided it was time to spread my wings to industry and I joined Sky as I was keen to focus on Media. It was a great 18 months learning about applying finance in industry, but I wanted to influence more and so I left to join a small startup company. Shed Media (a television production company) was making Footballers Wives and Bad Girls at the time. It was a company of 10 permanent staff. In the 6 years I was there as second in command to the CFO, we grew from 10 to 400 of us, turning over £120m, buying 5 companies (including those that made SuperNanny, Who Do You Think You Are? New Tricks). We went through to failed Management Buy Outs and sold to Warner Brothers. I also managed to have 2 children!
After these 6 years, I felt I had reached a plateau and I took on a Finance Director role for a PR company. In addition to finance, I became heavily involved in operations and restricting.
So this takes me to today….. In 2013 I started working for a company called Argonon (Television Production). I am responsible for Finance, HR, Legal, International Sales, Post Production, IT and overall operations. I am a Board Member and heavily involved in the strategic direction for the company. Since I have been here, we have acquired 3 companies and set up 3 joint ventures. We have doubled our turnover to £50m this year and profit has grown at a multiple of 5. We have offices in London and New York and make 100s of hours for Broadcasters annually across the globe. My ambition is to work to continue this growth and lead to an exit. I am still friends with ex LHS alumni.
"We have offices in London and New York and make 100s of hours for Broadcasters annually across the globe."
Job Search Tips
Believe in yourself – if you don’t, the interviewer won’t either. They need you and you can do this job!
Be open to a variety of jobs – the more you interview and apply the more you will seek out what you want.
Current Needs of Employers in my field
Hard working dynamic creative thinkers.
Things I wish I’d known in Sixth Form
The world is big place with a wide range of opportunities and the more you seek the more you will find what you want.
Describe LHS in three words
Hard Work & Fun