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SPS Affinity’s Peggy Li: The Story of a Fearless Go-Getter

While recording our podcast interviews, as the producer, I always have my headphones on to make sure that the sound quality stays neat and clear. So during Marilyn's conversation with SPS Affinity co-founder Peggy Li, I was listening through my headset, and everything was going swimmingly well - until this howling sound cut through.

Naturally, this drove me absolutely mad. Long story short, it was a particularly windy Dubai night, and the wind snuck through a window crack. Neither Marilyn nor myself could figure out how in the world to shut off that noise, which affected the quality of the interview. Like the type A producer that I am, I was seriously considering stopping recording then and there. That’s when Peggy stepped in, and fixed our sound problem in one second by covering the window's crack with a pillow.

This small incident during recording perfectly sums up who Peggy is. She is practical, she fixes things, she stays calm cool and collected when people around her are panicking (guys it was a slight panic, but panic nonetheless). Or, as Peggy likes to call herself: your resident tinker-bell and chief troubleshooter. This attitude is what has made Peggy a rockstar throughout her career in the hospitality industry. It lead her to work with a number of Michelin star studded chefs ; it lead her to launch the Aubaine franchise in Dubai, and it lead her to start her very own boutique consulting firm.

When you break it down, it all comes down to Peggy’s lack of fear to face challenges, lack of fear to grab on to opportunity, and lack of fear to roll up her sleeves.

Not Afraid to Face Challenges Head On

Peggy’s episode is entitled: Names We Call Women. We chose this title because what the same way I described Peggy as practical, others around her described aggressive. What I see as a go-getter personality, others called b****y. What’s amazing about Peggy is that she was not afraid to address this pushback. She sat down with her colleagues who addressed her with those names, and essentially told them: listen buddy, no matter how you feel about me, we have to work together and get the job done. In a nutshell, she faced the challenge in front of her, and found a way to get the team around her to work together and produce results.

These results include helping Chef Atul Kochhar become the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star, helping the Joel Robuchon franchise reach new heights and many more accomplishments. What sets Peggy apart is her drive to get the job done, and that comes with an even greater skill: not being afraid to be confrontational. This quality not only allowed her to overcome various problems, but it also allowed the teams around her to become closer and as a result higher performing.

Not Afraid to Grab an Opportunity

Peggy's bravery in confronting challenges also expands to a propensity to grab hold of any and all opportunities encountered along her career. During her episode, Peggy mentions that she “snuck through hospitality's glass ceiling.” What she means by that is she never said no to any opportunity that came her way, even if that opportunity was one that no one wanted. I remember when I was talking to Peggy before we interviewed her, she gave me the same over and over. She basically told me: you gotta be prepared to do things no one else is prepared to do and that is what will push your career forward. She gave me an example from her own career: launching the Aubaine franchise in Dubai. When that job came her way, no one really wanted to do it. It involved uprooting to Dubai, a country the team did not know much about, and for Peggy it also meant leaving behind her husband and two children in London. Peggy being Peggy did not focus on the negatives. Instead, she decided to see this move to Dubai as a chance for her to move her career forward, and it was.

Her move lead to the successful launch of Aubaine in the city, but also, later on, allowed her to start her own boutique consulting firm: SPS Affinity.

Not Afraid to Roll her Sleeves Up

On a final note, both addressing challenges and grabbing opportunities all come down to Peggy’s capability to roll up her sleeves and get things done. Taking on an opportunity everyone else avoided can be turned to the best decision of your life if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work. Having difficult conversations with colleagues can turn your team into a tight knit machine if you are willing to actually roll up your sleeves and have those difficult conversations.

Just like Peggy was willing to roll up her sleeves and help us with our noise problem during her podcast interview, Peggy has done so time and time again throughout her career, and that is why she is the inspiring female leader you have before you today.

To hear about Peggy's story, check out her episode on our website, Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcast. You can also learn about SPS affinity on their website and Linkedin page.

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