This week we are talking all things work/life balance and babies with the gorgeous Claire Watson from C&C Training Team. Claire is one of the nicest people you could ever meet and she has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to working with families. Claire offers some very sound advice to any Mum's out there wanting to set up a their own business with number 1. being my personal favourite.
Over to Claire...
Hello, my name is Claire Watson, I am a mum to 2 boys aged 18 and 22yrs and I co-own C & C Training Team with my lovely business partner Claire Gartland. I also have 3 additional part time jobs, so like most women I am super busy: our company delivers Paediatric First Aid across the county to childcare workers as well as parents, grandparents and school children. My additional jobs include: Bank neonatal nursery- nurse, Children’s sleep counsellor/nanny and Parent craft/Craft workshop demonstrator.
I spent my 20’s and 30’s raising my boys and volunteering in schools but like so many stay at home mums I often felt the grass looked greener on the other side. The women I knew who went out to work wished they had more time at home to raise their children and those like me who stayed home wished we could have a more exciting job.
As a ‘stay at home’ mum, I was acutely aware how lucky I was to be able to afford to stay home with my children but I also how worried that by doing so I was never going to be able to jump back into work without starting right at the bottom of the ladder again. I worried that I wouldn’t have the confidence to go back or I may have lost touch with modern working practices.
When my children began senior school the decision was made for me: Financially I needed to return to work and I secured an amazing job at a local hospital as a neonatal nursery nurse. This created two opportunities that made starting a company possible. Firstly working 12 hr shifts meant that 3 shifts a week afforded me some free time. Secondly because working in the hospital was new to me I had to learn everything from scratch, taking on new challenges, which in turn gave me the confidence to try new and exciting things such as starting a company. After taking time to settle into my new career I felt confident enough to consider a new venture.
At home my husband as transitioning from the British army to civilian life, both boys were studying for exams and my mother in law needed help re-locating from Kent. We were juggling all this and trying to retrain and update our own skill-set not to mention the physical shock of starting 12 hr night shifts at the grand old age of 38! So why did I choose to add more into an already overflowing schedule?
For me the overriding motivation for starting the business was definitely not money! It came from a strong desire to be my own time keeper. To be able to work, without moving my home life to fit around my job; without having to work every Christmas and New Year and without having to waste a whole day sleeping off a nightshift. Initially these things were a small price to pay for the job satisfaction of being in such a remarkable job. The rewards of helping a family take care of someone so precious were second to none but the impact on my family life began to take its toll.
It also seemed that the more people I met the more I realised that we all seek the illusive work/home life balance. I do however believe the word balance should be replaced with happiness. Even now 5 years on there’s seldom a 50/50 split like the word balance implies. As anyone who has ever set up a business will tell you: it is easy to fall into the trap of working every hour you physically can as there is always another marketing campaign to write or the accounts to do or a project to stay on top of! A happy state for me means that if I work for 2 weeks flat out I try to follow this with a week of intense family/me time. So what did I change to enable this balance?
- First decide if you are building a business or an empire! Claire and I say that the very best piece of advice we were given was to decide this at the beginning. Having come to entrepreneurship later on in life we decided we were content to build a business rather than an empire: we needed to pay the bills and have a family holiday each year but we didn’t need to create a national franchise. This helped us to set out our long term goals. It also grounds our ambition when we get offers we can’t refuse! Or when our dreams sound too big for the amount of time we want to devote to our working life. Building an empire looks very different to building a business. Please don’t misunderstand us, we do take risks, develop new projects and explore new ideas but we stay focussed on our goals and don’t dilute our product by trying to spread ourselves too thinly or by taking on so many staff that we end up managing and not doing.
- As a partnership we plan our monthly goals in advance, we list immediate goals or everything that we have to do to run the business: (bills to pay, insurance to buy, invoices etc...) next come our mid-term goals, things that would make life easier if we complete them (keeping accounts up to date, equipment /supplies to buy) finally we list our long term goals or things we would love to do to drive the business forward, (new projects, marketing plans, changing our courses).
- I personally like to divide up my working week to ensure I don’t get bored. I work out roughly how many days I have free outside of delivering training and working other jobs, then I allocate the work according to priority. This stops that “Oh no I have so much to do and no time sinking feeling” I concentrate on the jobs I have to do to keep the business running followed by the things that will make my life easier finally leaving some time for creative new ventures to ensure I remain passionate about the company and what we are trying to achieve.
Some weeks all this goes out of the window and we just plough through but careful planning allows us to relax over the small stuff and ensure we are on top of our goals, passions and commitments.
How do I take care of me? Well my family helped me to create a set of rules that I try to adhere to, anything that keep my mind on the business and away from family had to go!
- No phone calls or checking emails after 6pm.
- No work at weekends except by mutual planning i.e.: if they were doing their own things I could take some time for work but not usually the whole day!
- We run 2 craft workshops a year which offers the chance to indulge our hobbies that we no longer have the same time for now we have the business. It also creates a fun date in the calendar to look forward to!
- If I work a weekend day I try to take a personal day in the week to replace this.
- Planning holiday times give me a sense of reward and achievement as I know my work helps pay for these luxuries and reminds me what hard work achieves.
- FAMILY COMES FIRST – Claire and I felt that it was really important that we don’t have the stress of managing family illnesses or emergencies that so many mums feel when embarking on a new business or starting a new job. How could we be there for both family and work? So we devised back up plans should our children and now parents become unwell. This allows us to relax and know we can cope emotionally and physically with any emergency. We work with other companies to create a support network that works both ways. This is beneficial in so many ways; we share contacts, work, CPD and fundraising events and we support and mentor one another.
Sarah asked what piece of advice I would give to mums wanting to start a new venture:
In short you will find a million reasons not to start your business.... don’t!
You will think it is really hard and complicated and you couldn’t possibly do it on your own....it’s not, you can and you are not alone!
If you can start by part time alongside caring for your kids rather than full time where you have to bring in the cash do... it will feel like a hobby to start with but take each decision as if the success of the company depends on it and you will begin to grow and flourish.
Find a mentor – this will save you time with their advice, even if you choose not to follow it you will learn lots!
Finally put on your big girl pants and GO FOR IT! You will soon enjoy every minute even your mistakes because - YOU NOW CONTROL YOUR OWN DESTINY AND THAT IS THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD!
Now tell us what is your biggest challenge in achieving the 'work/life balance'? Let us know in the comments.
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