I had the pleasure of working with Judith Morgan a few years ago, and I was delighted when she invited me to take part in her Blog Fest, to mark the publication of her book Your Biz, Your Way.
The theme of the Blog Fest is, unsurprisingly, how business-owners run their businesses their way – so, here goes. Judith will publish this post on her own blog at Judith Morgan and write a reply.
I was sitting on the tube from Heathrow many years ago, when the first thoughts about my own business popped into my head. I was at that time teaching and living overseas, and I was heading back for the holidays. Three words embedded themselves in my brain and have stayed there ever since: freedom, flexibility and creativity.
Those are the words that underpin what I need from my business to thrive and remind me what’s important when I get fed up.
Although I no longer work in schools, I still consider myself to be a teacher in many ways. I help others to develop their leadership presence and create the personal impact they want and need for professional success. I do this by writing (book 2 is due to be published later this year), working 1:1 with clients, running CPD Standards accredited workshops, developing online programmes and delivering emerging leader programmes and executive coaching in organisations.
I’m now in my 7th year of running my business, although it feels much longer. Sometimes, when I get impatient, I remind myself that I’ve covered an awful lot of ground in a short space of time, and to ease up on the expectation-front. In that time, I’m moved from a standing start in a city where I knew two people, in an industry where I knew no-one, to having two books published/soon to be published and working with clients such as the BBC and The Institute of Chartered Accountants, as well as universities, schools, housing associations and charities.
The focus of my business has evolved over time and now I have a lovely, solid niche around what I offer to people. My work involves helping people to take their existing talents and skills, and polishing them, so they shine so brightly, you can’t be ignored! As you can imagine, it makes a huge difference to people and their ability to achieve what they want in their careers. This is the result of seven years of feeling my way and sensing what’s right, what I enjoy and what is viable, business-wise.
I work mainly from home, although travel all over the world to deliver my training programmes. Most of my 1:1 clients are women, although I do have some male clients too.
So just what does ‘my way’ look and feel like?
I work as and when I want to, although probably too much and I’m getting better at taking proper time off. I like to take the day off when my husband has his day off, and I’m getting better at not feeling guilty about not working when others are! As an ex-teacher, I love going on holiday in term-time.
I sleep badly, so if I have no morning appointments, I don’t set an alarm, which means that my nocturnal awakening between 3 and 5am doesn’t impact too heavily on me. This is one area where I would love to see huge changes, and it’s definitely NOT my biz, my way. Ideally, I’d sleep through the night and I’d wake up refreshed and raring to go at 6am. I’d jump on the yoga mat, meditate and embrace the day with gusto…there’s a way to go with this.
A few years ago, I decided that the life of an associate trainer wasn’t for me and I only do my own direct work. This has had financial implications and there are times when things are tough, but I am way, way happier delivering my own material and immersing myself in my subject area. I think this is a big departure from the norm for a trainer and sometimes I feel a little ‘precious’ admitting it. But I didn’t leave one classroom/timetable/demanding employer to find myself day in, day out, working in and for another. I’m 51 now and don’t want to be haring around all over the place, all the time. I want to pick and choose where I go and do it at a pace that suits me.
I take risks – I often act first and then figure out the details. This has meant that I’ve often said yes to things before I’ve felt really ready for them, but it’s an approach that has helped me to grow and definitely one that has helped my business to grow.
I’m an action-taker. Showing up consistently for seven years has had robust business benefits for me, and I will just get on and do things. As Judith told me, do the work and then get out of the way to let IT work. I’m getting better at this! Nowadays, I decide what I want, and decide what I need to do to get that – I set the intention, take any opportunities that come my way and then step back a little.
I’ve got better at quietening the external noise – it’s exhausting. There’s so much advice thrown your way as a business woman, that I decided last year, enough was enough. I left lots of Facebook groups, unsubscribed from lots of newsletters and decided that I’d absorbed enough lessons from the gurus out there. It was time to reflect, consolidate my knowledge and listen to what I wanted to do a little more. The online world has been hugely important for me in building my business, but I’m also reminding myself now that getting in front of people brings rewards too. Carefully selected events bring me lovely returns.
I am pragmatic. I have an idea of where I want to go, but I am always open to new ideas and possible directions and collaborations. My business looks nothing like I imagined it would when I started out in 20110 – and it won’t look the same in another few years I’m sure. I think there’s lots of fun to be had in discovering the new and unknown, both in terms of people I’ve yet to meet and business activities I’ve yet to develop.
I have changed my style. Yes, I’m still the nice, warm, engaging person I’ve always been, but I have developed a much stronger edge to me and I am very, very proud of the business woman that has emerged from the primary teacher-like cocoon I was wrapped in. I’ve been described recently as tough but very encouraging. I think I have the balance of strength and warmth right most of the time – my ‘voice’ has developed and I can speak with increasing authority and confidence on subjects that interest me and that I am now developing an expertise in. We are always a work in progress and I like the way I am progressing now Seven years ago I wouldn’t have been able to say any of this about myself. It’s what I wish for my clients too.
I can drink as much tea as I want! This sounds flippant, but I don’t have to account to anyone for how I spend my time (unless I’m delivering a training day of course). Working from home also means that I get to cook from scratch most days and spend lots of time with my hubby.
I’ve managed to craft myself a lovely niche business, delivering the subjects I want to, to the clients I choose to work with, in the way that I want to.
I’d say that my biz, my way – wouldn’t you?
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about any of the services I’ve talked about.