Kiri Barfoot, director of real-estate company Barfoot & Thompson, is retiring. She talks to Victoria Carter about failure and what she's learned.

I was disappointed ... that my marriage didn’t work out – it’s not fun telling people that came to a wedding that it’s over. 

Being a career woman and a solo mother with two small children was really tough. I didn’t have someone at home preparing meals, doing the washing, picking up and dropping off children, I had to make breakfast, lunch, get my kids to daycare, plan dinner. 

Being called to early-morning meetings or getting stuck in evening rush-hour traffic as I rushed to get to daycare before a fine was imposed for lateness added massive pressure to my life!

I could have done more ... when men (often unconsciously) made sexist remarks. The more women in the room, the less likelihood of it happening. 

I did a lot to bring women through the business but, with hindsight, I wish we had brought more through and suggested they apply for roles rather than hoping they would. Now that I'm leaving Barfoot & Thompson, people are telling me what a role model I am. It’s important for women to see other women in senior roles. I’m not a natural salesperson and I found real estate quite challenging. I learned I didn’t need to be an extrovert, my other qualities – being focused, good at systems process, being unwavering and my self-belief – got me there. But I still had to sell houses! I applied seven times to be a branch manager at different places before I got one.

A recent disappointment ... which has made me more determined than ever to go back and work harder, is I failed being a ski instructor last year! 

After lockdown, I booked into the three-week course. It was tough, on the last day two of us were held back to do a bit more training. Our coach gently said two people didn’t pass and one was me. 

I worked on my technique and went back for another assessment and even though I got more points, I still failed. I passed the teaching part but I need to carve better. Who knew it was so technical? I’m going to go back this year and work hard to pass. I might end up teaching skiing in Japan on minimum wage – but wow, what an experience.

My most embarrassing moment was ... when I was newly in London in a finance role. Finally, the weather was glorious and a flatmate and I decided to go to the park. I didn’t tell my boss. 

She rang up and spoke to another flatmate –before mobiles or emails – who said I was in the park. When I rang to beg forgiveness she said not to bother coming back. I was shocked there was no second chance. I’m a goodie-two-shoes, I’m conscientious, so this was completely out of character and a good learning moment.

What do I know? Women need to get more financially literate. I think there's a lot of pressure on women to look good – and it’s expensive. Men can wear the same suit day after day, but women often feel there’s a pressure to change outfits.

Fast fashion helps keep women poor. We already earn less, then when you add hair, skincare and makeup, it all adds up and it isn’t sustainable. 

Women take time out to have children, come back often at lesser pay and often rely on men to make financial decisions. 

Too late they realise they should have been part of the financial decision-making. He who has the most pay shouldn’t have the most say – it doesn’t make for strong, healthy relationships.

What have your kids taught you? Over lockdown, they got me interested in second-hand clothing. I love it. It’s good for the planet, the hospice shop and my bank account.

When a crisis happens, what’s the first thing you do? The first thing I do is make sure everyone is OK. I’m very clear-headed. I think about what support we need to offer. I’ve had counselling and I know its benefits. 

Women are very good at talking to girlfriends but, while they may be well-meaning they aren’t necessarily professionally trained. I believe in getting good advice. 

We offer our staff free counselling sessions. They just ask their manager or hopefully their manager offers it, and we get the bill and no other information.

Last piece of good advice you were given?  My business coach has helped me get a lot clearer on what I want out of life. He reminded me if you want something to happen, you can’t rely on others to make it happen for you. You make your future. Your best growth happens and you learn more about yourself at the toughest of times.

There is a stereotype and expectation you’ll stay in real estate ... It’s not what I want, but it’s been a great experience. The pandemic made me rethink. I want to explore the world – I’m off cycling in France and skiing in Wanaka (to get that instructor badge).