Nicola Bird presents the case for the empowerment of more women to boost the economy with an army of flexible businesses.
Like many working mums, I took a lot of time out of my business over the summer holidays to spend with my kids. As is often the way when you actually get a chance to take step back from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I found myself spending a lot of that time reading, thinking and just reflecting on the changes that have happened to me both on a business and personal level of the course of the past year.
One of the things that became clear to me was that pretty much every aspect of my life (and that includes my business and even the lives of my kids) is just way too complicated. We are all over scheduled and constantly running from activity to activity. I realised that I was running to do the school run, finishing my work and then running to do the school run again, with no break between! Juggling the demands of being both a mum and being a business owner had resulted in my life becoming just one big dash to the next!
When I started to explore my business in more detail, I realised the process of continual improvement and enhancement of my offering had actually made things worse rather than better. I had reached the point where I had too many products on offer, different options for people wanting to buy them and too many ways of bringing in new business. One of the foundations of our success has been the ability to create great systems and processes, but I realised I had too many of those as well. The result was just too much noise. Things were just so much more complicated than they needed to be. So I made a big decision over the summer, probably the biggest I’ve made in my business so far. I decided I’m just going to stop charging ahead, and I’m going to start simplifying.
More women need to start up
I am absolutely certain that I am not alone in my thinking on this and that this is the solution for many other women out there, struggling to meet the demands placed on them by 21st century life. I have come to the conclusion that for many women, trying to fight their way up the corporate ladder might not be the only way to achieve their ambitions. I think that the way women are going to be able to gain more say on what goes on in this country and be at the top of organisations is by creating their own businesses.
I strongly believe that the economy would be in a better position with more women working in this way. There are, in my opinion, far too many women who are not going back to work after having children because they feel underconfident, undercompetent and underskilled to get back into the workplace. Many are desperate to use their intelligence and all the work experience that they gained before they had children – but the time out has left them worried about getting back into the traditional, often male-dominated big corporate environment. For these women, I think that there is a golden opportunity to create a business, set it up, reach the top and also become an expect in their field, whilst also creating a business in a lifestyle that works around them.
Society still abides by the male dominated corporate environment, but the reality is that it is just not the way the economy is going to work going forward. As a woman, I feel like we have a real opportunity now to create thriving businesses and fill the economy with a new style of businesses that works in a totally different way. These businesses are flexible, have a different ethos and mentality towards how we attract our clients, how we serve our clients, how we serve our team members, how we include people, how we hire people and what we think about our businesses.
This opportunity is present right now, but what we really need to do is make is simpler and easier for women to take advantage of this and get started.
My personal experience is that traditional business models, time management and productivity training just won’t cut it for many of these women. As an example, I was recently on a programme where we were talking about creating a daily success ritual. The idea behind it was that the first thing you do in the morning, before anything else, is something that really gets you grounded and focused on the day. Perhaps some exercise, some quiet time, some writing and reflecting, you know the sort of thing. That’s all very raw, but I’ve got three children up to the age of nine, and spend two hours running around shouting and screaming, getting kids in the right shoes, with the right clothes on, out of the door with the right bags, all before my work day even begins! Most of us would relish that kind of focused ‘me’ time, but in reality, few of us actually have it available.
A flexible approach to business
What I’ve also realised is that flexibility needs to be at the heart of these businesses. There are so many women are in my position with very young children who have got all these responsibilities to juggle. They need work that can be done between the hours of nine and three. Most radically, what they also need is the type of business that means they don’t always have to be physically present. If you’ve managed to create and set up your business with real simplicity, you will be able to step away from a business that does not required you to be ‘in it’ every minute of every day. You can go and pick your kids up, or go to sports days, because you will have created that kind of flexibility. So again, for those of us who’ve already got successful businesses but are pretty frazzled doing it, the key to it all is simplicity.
With all of this in mind, I’ve decided I’m personally going to start a simplicity project for this year. I’m going to be creating various projects to really simplify and cut back what I am doing in my lifestyle and in my business as well. I’m going to be working really hard to take 90 per cent off my to-do list, do a few things really well rather than many things with mediocrity. I’m also going to work out the simple ways of doing marketing, running my business, and using my team and people around me to help me grow in business and getter better results with regards to parenting my kids.
So if you are a female entrepreneur who’s got young kids at home and you are trying to juggle all those crazy responsibilities, you might want to follow along. I’m going to be sharing my experiences on this journey so you can learn from my tips and my experiences, by posting home-made videos and blog articles. I’ll be sharing with you some amazing books that I have been reading on the journey that have really helped inform me. You wouldn’t believe the changes I’ve made already! I am writing this after being home from holiday for four days, and I have already substantially reduced my to-do list. I just cannot tell you how amazing it feels to know I just don’t need to do that stuff anymore.
So for all the working ladies out there, please believe me when I say the way forward for you is simplicity. There are too many choices, too much overwhelm, too many marketing techniques, strategies, ways, choices and information in our world and it is the overwhelm that is holding you back. So follow along with me. Come join me on this journey as we do it together.