I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy of Judith Morgan’s ‘Your Biz, Your Way’ book and what an absolute treat it is. It felt quite naughty and delicious to get an early preview before it was unleashed in all of it’s glory on Amazon. Sad but true. Perhaps I need to get out more often.
It is a truly awesome book and a must read for anybody who already has or is planning to build their own business. The thing I really love about Judith is that there are no rules, no ‘one way’ to do things and no expectations.
There are no ‘shoulds’ just ‘coulds’. I like that. I like that a lot!
When I was invited to take part in her Blogfest to talk about how I run ‘My Biz, My Way’ I jumped at the chance and I’ve really enjoyed reading the articles published by fellow Blogfest participants.
It’s been a fascinating insight into the people attracted to working with Judith. All so different, yet so similar. You can take a look at them over on Judith’s blog.
Anyway, enough about Judith…. She is fab. I, and so many others, love her and the work that she does but this post is supposed to be all about MEEEEEEEEE!
So, the journey of Nicola Semple becoming a business owner and being asked to write about ‘Your Biz, Your Way’…
I do not come for a long line of entrepreneurs. In fact I come from a long line of conformists and employees! And yet still, from an early age, I had a nagging feeling, a yearning, that I really did not want to work for somebody else and that I wanted to create my own business, to make a difference in some way.
I would love to say that I had the courage to leave school and to forge my own path. But I didn’t, probably through a combination of fear and lack of role models.
Instead, I went to University, got my degree, landed the well paid Graduate job, did a Masters, took the next step on the corporate ladder to the next well paid job, got a Professional qualification. As Judith lovingly pointed out to me, I’ve got qualifications up the yin yang.
I was a diligent worker and in some of my roles I was rather excellent. Early on in my career, a new Managing Partner thought I was three levels above my actual grade and was very confused about why I wasn’t attending the weekly Directors meeting. He was genuinely surprised when I informed him that I was a lowly Manager.
But through all of this, I wasn’t particularly happy at work. I could use the cliché of the square peg in a round hole but to be fair I was just a slightly bumpy round peg in a round hole. Remember, I come from a long line of conformists.
I jokingly referred to colleagues about my ‘Jam Plan’. That one day I was going to give it all up and stay at home making and selling jam. At the time I had never made jam in my life. It was never about jam. It was a metaphor for stepping out of the corporate world and doing ‘something different’.
I went through a phase of proclaiming that I was going to open a porridge stand. I thought it was a genius idea. It was just at the time of the ‘superfood’ craze and we were all being encouraged to eat more oats to lower our cholesterol. I figured the costs would be low and that time starved commuters with rumbling tummies would be delighted to purchase my porridge, knowing they had a healthy breakfast to start their day.
Then one day, walking through Waterloo station, I spotted a new stall, it was called Moma. And low and behold they were selling tubs of porridge to time starved commuters looking to silence their rumbling tummies with a healthy breakfast.
I clearly remember that day. Never mind a rumbling tummy, I felt like somebody had punched me in the tummy!
Somebody else was living my dream. I snuck away with my tail between my legs devastated that I hadn’t had the guts to take action on my idea.
Fast forward 10 years and Moma are an international brand and have products on the shelves of most well-known supermarkets. Good on them.
A few months after the Moma experience, I was put at risk of redundancy. I thought ‘this was it’ my chance to break free of the corporate shackles. But it quickly became clear that, for me at least, there was no ‘real risk’ of redundancy. I was a diligent worker remember!!!!
The tipping point came when I had my daughter in 2009. There was absolutely no way I was leaving her with somebody else to go back to a job that I didn’t particularly enjoy.
And so the journey of self-employment began. And it was a tentative journey to begin with, I built two niche websites related to women returning to work after maternity leave, one of which I later sold. I fitted it in around nap times. And just at the point I had a precious few hours, when my daughter was at pre-school, to focus on myself and my own endeavours, my son arrived in 2012 and the cycle began again for the next three years.
I didn’t find looking after young children easy (I even wrote a book about it) but I knew it was the right path for me at that point in time. And as for the book. It can be chalked up as one of the successes on the self-employment journey. It brings in a little (albeit a very little) bit of recurring revenue every month. That holy grail for small business owners – create it once, sell it over and over again.
In 2015 it was time to get serious. I now had one child in school and one in pre-school for three mornings a week. Mama had time!
So I did what a non-risk taking, new to the entrepreneurial world person would do. I looked around at what other people were doing, fell back on my existing expertise from the corporate world and set myself up as a Small Business Coach.
It felt like the natural thing to do. I genuinely love business. I love to help people. There was demand. It worked. And slowly but surely, with a combination of 1:1 coaching sessions and small online training programmes I was able to build up an income (albeit a small one! More substantial than the book but nothing compared to my corporate salary).
Except after a couple of years that ‘niggle’ started to rear it’s head again. It had started to feel like I was going through the motions. I was helping people but was I really helping them?
I was giving them the information that they needed to help them build their business but 80% of the time it wasn’t the practical side that was stopping them, it was their mindset. I could see the issues standing in the way of building their business and more often than not it had nothing to do with whether they had an optimised website and an effective time management system.
Round about the same time I developed a deep interest in Mindfulness. I attended a local eight week course and felt lightbulbs go off above my head almost every time the teacher opened her mouth! Not only could I see how Mindfulness could help me as a person but I could also see how incredibly valuable it would be for my clients.
And so, never one to do things by half measure, last year I spent six months studying to become a Mindfulness Practitioner. Qualifications up the yin yang remember…….
My new found enthusiasm for Mindfulness has caused many a raised eye brow and hilarity in some quarters. Apparently people ‘didn’t think I was the type’. I’m probably not. That’s what makes it so powerful for me to teach this stuff!
So now I am refocusing my business to help people with Mindfulness, Self Awareness and Focus – to me, the holy trinity for success in both business and in life. It feels like it has been a very long process to get to this point. It feels like the work that I am moving into is an amalgamation of all of my skills, experience and qualifications. It feels like I am doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing. For now.
And that is the beautiful thing about building ‘Your Biz, Your Way’. You are in charge. Your business is small but beautifully agile. If you want to pivot, you can.
There are no ‘shoulds’ just a world full of ‘coulds’.
I’m a business baby really. I’ve learned so much over the past three years but I have so much more to learn. I can’t wait!
Footnote: I have been fortunate enough to not need the income from my business to fund the basics of my life. If I was relying on my income for mortgage payments and food on the table I would undoubtedly have done things very differently. It would still have been ‘my business, my way’ but I would have spent a lot less time with my kids and a lot more time generating revenue.
I am incredibly grateful that my husband’s income is enough to put a roof over our head and food on the table. My income covers the extras.
Conversely, he is incredibly grateful that he gets to walk out of the door every morning without worrying about dropping the kids at school or making sure the electricity bill has been paid. It might sound a bit ‘1950s’esque but we make a good team.
I’ve always found it slightly ironic that this ‘old school’ conventional setup is now so unusual that it almost feels somewhat rebellious. I don’t just run ‘My Biz, My Way’, I get to live ‘My Life, My Way’.