Thursday, 26 August 2010

How to make the shift from being at home to corporate life as smoothly as possible

I am sitting down to write this blog after an hour of peace and quiet. It has been a difficult day with the girls. In their own way they are feeling the transition from Mummy being a work from home Mum to a corporate Mum just as much as I am. The difference is that they are not yet as able to articulate their feelings as coherently as I can.

How has it been I hear you asking? What changes has it brought? Let's start with the good stuff. I love knowing what I am going to do in broad terms three days a week and being able to rely on regular money coming in. I enjoy being in London and having a 20-30 minute walk each way twice a day. Yesterday was a good example of the freedom I now enjoy which was the chance to meet up with a friend, who is back from Hong Kong, for a coffee at short notice without the girls. It is also lovely to be part of a team that is responsible for large scale change and it is very exciting especially as I believe in what I am doing. The bonus has been receiving compliments about my creativity and my ability to add value from the start.

So what am I less sure about? I do not enjoy the fact that 9 out of 10 women wear black or grey suits in the City, occasionally they add white and beige to the mix! In an act of rebellion perhaps, or just to ensure that I never lose sight of who I am, I have been wearing a lot of orange and coral these first couple of weeks. My girls have had to do two to three days a week at nursery and often 10 hours. Thankfully because of support from my Mum, this has happened less frequently then it may have done. I miss my girls and they miss me and the only good thing is that they greet me with peals of delight every evening when I walk in and both want to be picked up and hugged at the same time.

The least likeable aspects are the politics which are rife in most corporates, I just find the whole thing pointless and energy zapping. Even more concerning is the extent to which fear drives employees and how they behave. People have already talked about being "judged" if the project does not deliver. This is unhealthy on so many levels.

My tips to any other parent in this place is:

  1. Be very clear about why you are doing this.
  2. Ensure that the time that you do spend with your children is quality time wherever possible. It assuages the guilt.
  3. Recognise what you are gaining from being in the workplace - for me I am regaining some of my identity which got rather buried over the last three years!
  4. Talk through how you are going to make it work with your partner if you both commute and if they are visual, have a week or month's view that shows who will do the pick ups and drop offs; the dinner etc.
  5. Monitor how the new set up is working. If it really does not work for any of you then change it. If it is tough but works then be grateful for what it gives you and your family

Love to hear your thoughts on this below.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Three very different examples of business success

The longer that I am in business for myself, the more I realise that many people are searching desperately for the tips to running a successful business. In some cases they will pay lots of money if they think that it will give them the answer they think they crave.

Yet the secret to success is not so difficult to obtain. I want to tell you about three women who I think have got it and how they show it in their own unique way. They have two things in common they are all Mums and they have been brought together by the fabulous pair that run Mums the Boss.

The first got involved in Netmums when it was starting out back in 2001. For a small sum of money, she designed one of their sites and got paid £500 for doing so by Tescos. From what I understand, much of it was about putting together a set of templates and yet what the experience did was to sew a seed. Almost nine years later, this woman launched her own website design business with a little support from a skilled coach and her first commission from Mums the Boss. Today her business is going from strength to strength. She is an illustration of what can be achieved when we believe we can do it.

Another who impressed me is the person behind the business blogging carnivals. Like me there is only a gap of about 14 months between her two children and her youngest is just one. Despite all this, and it is a huge obstacle - the first year with two children I was in a fug most of the time - she has created an amazing website. She is brimming with ideas about how to develop her business and takes the attitude that it is all about exploring and experimenting to find out what works. In the midst of all this she is in the process of writing a book with that other well known mumpreneur, Antonia Chitty, about all the different kinds of businesses that you can run around raising a family. What a great idea! So what makes her successful. A dogged but quiet determination to keep on putting stuff out there based on a strong belief that there must be a better way to do business as a Mum than what has been suggested so far.

The final person in this trio also happens to be a self-effacing person. Yet as I talked to her, it was clear that she had a plan about how to make running her own business work for her. First she has a clearly defined niche, essential in a saturated market, and she has realised another secret to success and that is collaboration. She has a network of about six like-minded professionals who all work in the same industry so on the days that she gets stuck for ideas on a pitch, she has someone who can look at it all with fresh eyes and give a new perspective. They also pass on work to each other when they have too much or if it is more suited to another's specific area of expertise.

In essence succeeding in business takes guts, determination and perseverance. As one of the examples shows it often helps to have the support of a good coach so remember I am here if you need dedicated, focused support.

I hope these illustrations give you food for thought and remember we always profile one member a month on Minerva's Mind who has an interesting story to tell. This is in part about enabling people within the community to get to know each other and also about sharing stories that inspire. Please do get in touch, join or leave a comment below.

#Blogadesh - what's all the fuss about?

If you are anything like me and on twitter and/ or facebook then you cannot have failed to see the references to #blogadesh. It has been a mad, crazy time in our house of late so even though I noticed them I did not explore any further until today. I was so impressed with what I read that I felt I had to do something.

Three of the top mummy bloggers in the UK, Josie, Mummytips and Nixdminx have been approached by the Save the Children to be the faces a viral multimedia marketing campaign to raise awareness about their work in Bangladesh. What is amazing is the speed with which this has spread through the blogging community and beyond.

What we can all do is add our thumbprint to SCF's petition so that they get 100,000 signatures before Nick Clegg attends the UN Summit in New York in September. I have just done it and it takes no more than a minute to complete so click When you have done that, do share the details with all your facebook friends and twitter buddies. Also you can add the badge that I have placed over on the right on your blog or your website. The badge can be found here.

The irony of all this is not lost on me for two reasons. Firstly only last night I was saying to the OH that I wanted to do more worthwhile things with my life and we were talking about Greg Mortenson's fantastic work in Pakistan that's been documented in Three cups of tea. Separately last week, I was part of a conversation in which there was a view that many of the mummy blogs that existed dealt with topics that were of interest mainly to the nearest and dearest of the writer. This campaign goes to show the power of social networking and the benefits it can bring in terms of bringing much needed change to the world. And I am glad to be part of it all in a small way and will be following the updates from our three mummy bloggers avidly. How about you?

Thursday, 12 August 2010

E's special day in pictures

It is almost 22.00 on my youngest' third birthday. It has been a full on day. It started at 7.30am when she woke up to Bob the Builder balloons in her bedroom which was a big thrill so much so she had to wake her older sister to share the moment with her. I had to work in London so only had an hour with her at the beginning of the day and two hours at the end BUT it was a special day. She could not believe it when she came downstairs and saw the trampoline in the garden. Below is the beginning of her day in pictures which says it all much more eloquently than I can.
I am 3 today!!

A Bob the Builder balloon and Pingu on my dress!

Birthdays are just great - 1,2,3 let's jump for joy.
It was a low key day - lunch out with her grandparents and Mummy's homemade Bob the Builder caker after a dinner of 'babs but she loved every minute of it. I will savour every moment of it in the years to come. It was such a clear manifestation of joy like the moment when I came home and she had to take me upstairs to show me her new Bob the Builder pyjamas which she then wanted to put on straight away. Or when I rang at 17.00 to find out how her day had been and she told me all about her playmobil tractor which now had wheels and a man in it. Oh how lovely it is to see life through the eyes of a child :-)

Monday, 9 August 2010

What's love got to do with it?

Those that know me well, know that I am passionate about recycling and was into it years before it became de rigeur. I even convinced the OH that it had to be done which is no mean feat when dealing with a Taurean whose known for his stubborness. We can often be seen locking horns!

This is not a piece about my relationship with my OH, it is about something that I have been mulling around in my head for a while. It started off after a conversation with a wise bear I know called Michael who was acting as my mentor at the time. His view was that I needed to think about my value and focus more on what I could contribute by setting up a social enterprise say rather than looking at status and celebrity. At the time the whole idea seemed extremely alien to me. Why would I want to spend my time searching out funding which if I was successful in securing it, I would then give it to one or more worthy causes. It seemed like anathema to me when I first heard the words.

Today I found myself in the company of a delightful woman, Sally M, who has moved to Hitchin in the last year and is getting immersed in a number of local projects where she can make a difference. She is doing it quietly with minimum fuss and is definitely adding value. The reason we came together was because I had volunteered in a rash moment back in January to get involved in producing a directory of local produce. Everything went quiet for at least six months and now we have deadline of October! In an hour we came up with a next step plan, a draft questionnaire and a list of over 20 local business with locally sourced produce.

It is very exciting for a number of reasons. First I have always been an advocate of locally sourced produce, it fits with my views on recycling and reusing stuff. OH and I love great food and so anything that will help promote local food businesses is a win. If, as is hoped, the directory helps to make the Hitchin Transition Town Initiative more real then that has to be a good thing because we need to really think about how we use scarce resources like oil and start living in a more sustainable way. The great news is that since I raised it on facebook I have had a number of fab women come forward and offer their local knowledge which is fantastic. All in all it is a win-win and it makes me realise how true the view that it is the level of contribution we make to the world around us which really counts and also that if we are doing what we love that it all comes together almost effortlessly.

Interested in hearing your thoughts on this and also any ideas of businesses that deal in locally sourced food in a 20 mile radius of Hitchin.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Tips on how to recycle and make money

In two weeks time, I will be rejoining the corporate world after a three year break. This has happened because a number of forces came together. Ironically if you had told me that running a conference for co-active coaches in May 2010 would have led to a three day week contract with PwC from August 2010, I would not have believed you. It has given me the focus I need however to sort the house out before I start because I know it will never happen after I go back. I am on a high because I have managed to shift quite a lot of my baby stuff - and about time too you might add if you know me well because the youngest is almost three - and made around £600! It has inspired me to write these tips because up until now I kept putting it off for one reason or another. So here's my top ten tips on how to do it:

1. Have a deadline in mind: for me it is knowing that I start on 16 August and I want all this sorted by then.

2. If you have one get your partner on board because then you can split tasks and be much more effective and efficient.

3. Be very clear about what price you want for stuff. If you are not sure of the going rate in the used market then check out ebay, there is bound to be a few of the items you are selling for sale. If you are taking it seriously place a watch on a few items because then you can go back afterwards and look at the bid history. This is key because not only do you need to know the end price you want but also the start price needs to be low enough to entice people in to bid so that they keep bidding because they really want the item.

4. Pricing strategy on ebay: start low. We had two items on at the price we wanted and so buyers did not see them as a bargain. This meant we got loads of watchers and in one case no bids.

5. Don't be discouraged. We made a private sale on one item because the buyer saw it and missed the auction. The agreed price was still twice what others were getting for similar items but less than our asking price so it was another win-win.

6. Don't rely on one platform to sell your goods especially ebay. Tell everyone you know what you are doing and you will be surprised who buys stuff. Some relative of our cleaner's has bought the cot bed and we got more than the going rate on ebay for it. Another channel has been facebook. We have also used the local village shop as a place to advertise and online with the local newspaper which means people come and pick up thus saving the faff of posting it.

7. If using ebay then spend a bit more and put on extra photos of big ticket items and use the photo package that allows potential buyers to zoom in and enlarge at will.

8. Give stuff away too. We gave away brand new baby towels and unused sheets and blankets with the cot bed. I am sending an extra toy in a pack of stuff for a friend. It makes everyone feel good. I have also picked out some beautiful clothes for a friend's baby and sent them in two garden waste sacks!

9. Be ruthless about what will sell. There is a bin liner and a huge Next sale bag of stuff including a hardly worn suit of the OH's going to charity because that makes more sense then trying to flog it.

10. Trust the stuff is going to sell and it will but perhaps not the way you intended. It feels great because items that have hardly been used are going to a new home and we are recouping some of the cost back. It's a win all round ;-)

I hope you enjoyed this post and I would love to hear your stories of making money through recycling used items below.