Today Diane Dunkley is the proud owner of RM2 Music, a music management company, booking agency and record company all rolled into one.
The philosophy behind RM2 Music is 'Real Musicians, Real Music,' this is the promise Dunkley makes to every artist she signs or works with and it's no empty promise. This conviction and passion Dunkley has for music comes from a life-long love affair. Few can say that they truly enjoy their job and Dunkley's success in turning her passion into a profitable business venture is admirable.
Starting her career in contract management and economic regeneration projects for London boroughs such as Lambeth and Southwark, before being headhunted to work on secondary revenue commercial contracts for London Underground, music had been a hobby.
After a chance conversation in 2005, with ex backing singer of the legendary Prince, that passion for music turned into a chance to fulfil a childhood dream. Being asked to arrange a London show for the singer led to Dunkley taking her first steps into the music business.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
It has taught me not to see each set back as a negative but turn it into a learning opportunity. This have given me confidence in taking risks as I tell myself if it does 'fail' I will learn something from it. They are not failures, but learning experiences. One of my favourite quotes is 'Regret weighs more than fear'
I haven't had the easiest or smoothest journey both personally and professionally so tenacity and the drive to keep going, not giving up when the chips are down. I have stepped into my power and even though the journey may not go as I planned I fully believe I can achieve whatever I set my mind to.
How did your previous employment experience aided your position at RM2?
It has been a lifetime dream to work in the music industry, my parents did not think it was stable enough career so convinced me to try another career path so after my A-Levels I went on to study Business and Finance. After a few years working in Economic Regeneration mainly within Southwark and Lambeth I eventually ended up at London Underground as Business Development Manager within their revenue team. This background gives me a commercial edge which stands me apart from other businesses within the industry. It allows my artists to be fully creative while I concentrate on the business aspects of their career.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
This is something I have had to learn and still perfecting. When I initially started the business I worked on it most waking hours which crept into my family life. As I settled into the business and got more to grips with my time management I make sure I take Sundays off at least and now just do a few hours on a Saturday. Having a young family I still like to do the school runs and be there for the sports days and assemblies etc which they also value. This provides time boundaries for my meetings which aids my time planning and prioritising of workloads, especially when I have to come into London.
I have recently taken on an Executive Assistant which has freed up a lot of my time so I am not so bogged down in the day to day elements. I am still getting used to delegating after doing it all myself for so long.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at RM2?
Highlights have been working with artists I admired growing up and having them come back time after time. These are artists who could work with whoever they wanted to and in the past they have worked with the likes of Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Prince and Stevie Wonder but choose me which tells me I'm doing something right. I remind myself of this when things are tough.
Challenges are mainly to do with the rejections both your artist and you face, as not only do you have to motivate yourself to keep going, you have to motivate your artist
What advice can you offer women seeking a career in the music industry?
Have a passion for it and a thick skin. Rejection is inevitable but if you have drive, passion and belief in what you are doing, you will succeed.
Keep on top of the innovations in the industry which is constantly changing. Think outside the box turning the changes in the industry into opportunities for both you and your artists
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think it is the juggle between family and work life, where a woman chooses to have a family. Prior to the children I was a driven career woman rising rapidly up the career ladder. I personally had to deal with being a single parent returning to work. Luckily I was in a position where I could return to work part time, however this still didn't provide me with the balance I wanted, ie be there for my children and also feel valued at work. When the opportunity arose for me to become self employed it was the perfect scenario for me. I had the flexibility to work around the children and also I have the scope to build my career on my own terms. I consider myself very lucky to be in this position.
What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
She has given women more self-confidence and reminded them to use their voice and empowered them to use it. I like the fact that she acknowledges that she cannot speak for all women and as she notes in her book, women face 'institutional obstacles,' which the government can and should help remove.
I find her to be quite personal but we also have to acknowledge that it is difficult for her I believe to relate to the average woman who may face the struggles of a tough economy, looking after the kids, aging parents and like me trying to run my business. With billionaire status I have no doubt she has a full team to assist her.
She has created a movement that I hope will help bring more awareness and encourage businesses to really look at what they need to do to support women. Albeit women are predisposed to be mothers they also bring great qualities to any business with their organizational, nurturing skills and also the fact that women tend to be more risk adverse.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
It has helped me see the wood through the trees. Sometimes when you're in the thick of the situation it is difficult to see what is going on and realise even though you are busy you may not be very effective and or efficient. Mentors I have used in the past have been great in helping me remain focused on the bigger picture and to work smarter. A mentor has helped me keep an eye on the long term goals rather than stay burrowed in the day to day things to do.
Personally a mentor reminds me to take care of me, mainly around time management and taking time out to recharge. I have found it is in those still times that ideas and answers come to me.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I don't look at a woman and think, wow she's a great leader, I think wow what a strong woman. To have overcome obstacles whether that be professional or personal, to have achieved recognition and to demonstrate a level of drive and determination to accomplish their achievements is truly inspirational. The list of these women include Hillary Clinton, Alice Walker, Oprah, Doreen Lawrence, Iman and Heather Rabbats
What are your hopes for the future of RM2?
To become a premium booking agency and music management company. To be known for its roster of quality artists and as an industry model of good practise in booking and promoting shows. We will be helping artists build longterm careers helping them generate various income streams and breaking global territories.
There are other areas I'd like to explore with RM2, possibly look at starting a radio station and having a production house.