Introducing the real and authentic Karen Matthews, Business Transformation Consultant

Who is Karen Matthews – Business Transformation?

When I think about who I want to work with on their business transformation journey, or where I will spend my money, I align myself with people and brands who get me. I want to know about the people behind the glossy exterior, and the story behind their brand. I, therefore, believe it is important for people to know who Karen Matthews is. 

Why? People and brands who share my values and are on my wavelength get me, and I get them.

Alignment, connection and working with like-minded people is a huge and critical step toward success. 

Let me introduce the real and authentic me…

Here it goes – me in a nutshell…..

I am the eldest of 3 girls in an incredibly close and full-on family. I ticked all the stereotypical eldest child boxes – conscientious, cautious, controlling/bossy, high achiever, ambitious, always seeking approval and wanting to please.

I don’t remember ever being in any serious trouble. The worst incident was teacher feedback that I “talked too much”, “disrupted maths” and “asked too many questions”… haha. In hindsight, my naughty list features traits that have, and continue to, serve me well.

My fondest memories from childhood are the endless hours my sisters and I spent playing dress-ups, of ourselves and our Barbie collection. We’d spend hours creating events, hosting functions, designing shops, and playing schools – but only if I was the teacher 😉

I prefer to see these fun facts as an indicator of my love for leadership and retail, rather than some frightening control freak indicator!

Mum and Dad met at Uni, celebrating 60 years of marriage in 2022. Mum has always been ahead of her time and continues to be even today. As soon as I was born, she stopped working and assumed the role of corporate wife and mum (and excelled in both). Whilst she is extremely proud of her role in raising my sisters and I and supporting Dad to achieve his ambitions, I do believe there is a part of her that is somewhat regretful that she did not have the opportunity to pursue her own (what I know would have been successful), professional career. 

Being a Mum back in the 1970s was a very different and busy role to today. Back then, executive dinner parties in the home were normal. Dad had a number of CEO roles in the international sphere, so our house was always full of executives from all over the world. I distinctly remember, from about the age of 4, dutifully and very competently handing around cheese and biscuits ‘pre-dinner’, chatting eloquently with the guests and generally being charming and ‘impressive’.

Joining the Dots

If you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wouldn’t have been able to answer you. However, thinking about it today, I did have some very strong inclinations. I spent my childhood surrounded by corporate people. I was bossy, loved everything about retail and shopping, brands were high on my radar and monopoly was my favourite game. Dolly magazine, dressing up and Barbie were part of my every day. I loved to talk and would ask endless questions. I was always determined. I loved people and was competitive.

‘It is not surprising that my career gravitated toward retail, communication and leadership!’

Time for Work

The first 12 yrs of my career taught me so much about what I loved, what I wanted in a role and what business I did not want to work with.

Part 1 – Myer

I started my work journey in the Myer group, with roles in the buying team and marketing department. At Myer, I learnt all things retail, customer, store operations and being part of a large corporate. I loved the focus on results, reports and insights and quickly learnt that retail was raw and fast. No two days were ever the same. Chaos was considered normal.

But I didn’t love the slow multilayered decision-making, the politics that sometimes stood in the way of authenticity and the endless long meetings. How can this be good for a business that needs to be able to respond to customer needs and keep up with its competitors?

Next stop, F.J.Benjamin Fashions. This business was the polar opposite of Myer. It was a family-owned, Singapore-based international high-end retail distribution business – everything Myer wasn’t! In F.J.Benjamin, I found family, emotion, gut decision-making and creativity in a constant state of change. The culture was very raw.

‘Myer and F.J.Benjamin were amazing opportunities and allowed me to become very clear on my perfect role.’

Part 2 – Enter… Ella Bache

The Ella Bache opportunity came out of the blue, and I was immediately drawn to it.

Why? The brand. 

The Ella Bache brand struck me as a loaded gun – so much potential, such a powerful story to share, and so much heart and soul. The family dynamic was authentic and permeated through the whole network. It was an undeniable value evident in every facet of the daily business. What I loved about Ella Bache was:

  • It was skincare as opposed to the beauty angle. Education, health and wellbeing were the core of the brand. Bache advocated the real benefits of looking after your skin 
  • It was the perfect blend of Myer and FJB
  • The potential for me to bring my energy and make a real difference to the business transformation and build a roadmap forward for the next chapter of this gorgeous brand.

I was very proud of my 10yrs as CEO Ella Bache and was honoured to receive several awards (including the NSW Telstra Business Woman Year), for my role in leading the transformation of this beautiful brand. The Ella Bache experience was definitely the highlight of my corporate career.

No question, the results and turnaround of the business was fantastic, but for me, it was as much about the how.

Proof that great results and a high performance culture can be achieved without being an arsehole. My belief in heart led leadership balancing heart and head, works!


Karen Matthews wins NSW Telstra businesswoman of the year for her work at Ella Bache


Part 3 – Freedom Furniture

Next stop was Freedom Furniture, my brick in the head, game-changing moment.

On paper, Freedom was a dream role – a great brand, high profile role, a great brief and a fabulous career opportunity. But from Day 1, I felt like a square peg in a round hole. The voices in my head started….Maybe I am what they want to drive change? Maybe this is part of the big plan? Maybe I am here to shake things up?

I did what I knew in the way that I knew worked. But, despite my passion, commitment and determination, I could not break through on a large enough scale to make deep and meaningful change. I was butting heads with the system and being  labelled as ‘rebellious’, ‘emotional’ and ‘undermining of the way things are done around here’. There was a clear values misalignment.

However, I was determined to be successful and did not want to give up. I wanted the business to see the light and be as excited as I was about the opportunity to transform. I was driven by a passion for what could be – that same loaded gun feeling I had at Ella Bache – and most of all, I knew how to do it. I did not however have the support – our values were completely different. 

On finally leaving Freedom almost 4 years later, my confidence took a massive hit, and to be honest, I felt like I had failed.

The step towards freedom

With the luxury of hindsight, I know that Freedom was my step before freedom. The experience made me clear on my values and how I can help transform businesses and achieve incredible results by balancing ‘heart’ and ‘head’. It gave me the freedom to help many businesses set themselves up for long-term growth and achieve their vision.

What do I do now?

  1. I shine a light on heart-led leadership by showing leaders how to create successful, aligned and magnetic businesses by balancing their hearts and head.
  2. I show leaders how to set their businesses up for long-term growth whilst being responsive and 100% aligned with their purpose, values and business goals.

Change is here to stay. All businesses need to find a way to build transformative thinking into their everyday beings. I know this process works because my incredible teams and I have delivered outstanding results without ever selling out on who we were and what we stood for. 

How can we work together?

While my message is the same, I acknowledge and appreciate that every person and business is different. We all have varying issues, complexities, urgencies and resources. And that’s why I don’t work with people or businesses that are not aligned with my own beliefs and values. I also don’t impose a one-size-fits-all workshop program.

Are you ready to transform your business?

I have four key ways I work with my clients:

  1. Kick Start: An individually designed business turnaround plan to immediately kickstart your road to change
  2. KM Transformation: Full business health check, implementation and customised business turnaround plan
  3. Business Mentoring: One-on-one strategic advisory and mentoring
  4. Business Advisory: Leadership teams and executive advisory

Before we chat, jump on and do my Business Health Check. It will give you a No ‘BS’ overview of your business as it stands right now. The Health Check is complimentary, just 10 questions, and is super quick to complete. It will give you a great guide on where your priority challenges might be and help you take that first step toward change. Know that there there is no right or wrong, good or bad. Every business goes through periods of highs, lows and everything in between. If you answer the questions based on your business right now and your business transformation process has begun.

Until we chat x