an extract from the entrepreneurial mother “free agent” chapter in the “Secrets of Inspiring Women Exposed”…
You say that your life resembles the Frank Sinatra song, ‘I did it my way’. What do you mean by that?
For the first 30 years of my life, I pretty much followed societal norms. After taking six months off work and returning from a cathartic adventure in Africa, I realised that things weren’t right, and that I had to do it my way. This realisation probably had something to do with the ‘ah ha’ moment I experienced in Africa, and the conclusion reached that I didn’t like where my life was heading and that I really wanted to do something about changing it upon my return. And change I did! Within a two-week period, I sold my apartment, resigned from a regular paying job, and had a pregnancy test confirmed. So all of a sudden, at the ripe old age of 36, I found myself unemployed, homeless and pregnant. Despite asking myself a lot of questions and going to hell and back a few times, I eventually got to a point where I knew I could do it, and I could do it my way.
To give a taste of what happened next, I opened myself up to opportunity and alternative ways of living and working – I was no longer going to follow the traditional path but rather find my own! I was able to secure my first solo consulting project (with a little morning sickness to add some colour) and arranged house-sitting gigs for most of my pregnancy while allowing my body to do its thing. All worked out swimmingly, and as for the future details, I continue to have fun working those out as I go!
Why did you start your own business and how did you choose what field to go into?
Wanting to do my own thing led me to my own business. At the outset, I was doing more of the same but on a much smaller, independent consulting scale. I was then approached by an ex-Proudfoot Consulting colleague about setting up a Melbourne office of the Sydney-based aCE talentNET (then aCE Resources). After much consideration, I came to the conclusion that it was a great opportunity, something I could do around my baby (being pregnant at the time) and a way of building an asset for the future… perfect!
As good fortune would have it, as my daughter has grown so has the business. I took over the entire aCE talentNET business in 2000 and it is now a lot bigger than me. It grows and thrives both nationally and internationally.
With your own business comes a need to be a smart money manager, how have you been able to do this?
A smart money manager indeed! It became evident that I needed to be one when I was not on a regular salary for the first time in my life (and doesn’t that make you focus on money matters?!). I had to seriously review my financial responsibilities for myself and my child, so cash flow (current and future) did become a key consideration. I read many books and articles, attended seminars, talked to targeted and talented people, and progressively built a knowledge bank, which enables me to now feel reasonably comfortable when making financial decisions. Examples of key financial decisions that I have subsequently been responsible for are the development and growth of aCE talentNET; the purchase of three properties (one has since been sold); the trading of shares; the growth and sale of another small business; and the partial ownership of a racehorse (all at the same time as continuing to finance significant overseas trips for two). Not bad in ten years!
What steps did you take to get to where you are now?
Fundamentally, I broadened my horizons. That is, I:
· took advantage of opportunities that presented themselves
· experienced many wonderful adventures from which to draw on
· read and read and read
· received formal education
· followed my nose and backed my decisions
· ran with the luck
but as they say, luck is where opportunity and hard work meet)
· took calculated risks!
Throughout your business success, you also raised a daughter. What issues, if any, did this present?
Having a daughter presented many issues to me as a businesswoman. The major shift was the focus from ‘me’ to ‘us’ and ‘I’ to ‘we’, and the resultant restructuring needed. In fact, having another human being solely reliant on me got me incredibly focused. And of course that worked hand-in-hand with treading new territory, exploring ways to earn money, creating a workable life mindful of having a dependent, and accentuating the need to back my own judgement even more. I was also (and still am) blessed that I had the loving support of family and friends through such tumultuous times. Sometimes they would roll their eyes at me and wonder what the hell I was doing. But I’m pleased to report that most have stayed with me for the ride.
What is the most important thing you have learnt about being a mother, role model and businesswoman?
I’ve learnt that all of these roles are important and that all of them require mastering the ability to ‘go with the flow’. I tend to bundle these roles together because I don’t believe there is a fundamental difference in what each is trying to achieve.
As Jack Welch says, ‘Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others’. Doesn’t that apply to each of these roles? Isn’t one of the key functions of being a mother to remove as many obstacles as possible to enable a child to grow into the human being they are capable of becoming? Is that not the same for role models and businesspeople alike? A mother’s role is to love and nurture, is that not what is also required of role models and businesspeople? Granted, the ‘love’ element is in a different context and intensity, but isn’t it worthy of similar consideration? Is it not one of the key functions of businesspeople to create relationships and processes that enable successes as frequently as possible? Is that not the same for mothers and role models as well?
For me, each of these roles is similar and therefore requires similar qualities for success.
What do you think holds people back from achieving their goals?
When the characteristics of successful people have not been or are not being cultivated, goal creation and achievement will be held back. Therefore, you run the risk of not doing what you want to do because you are too fearful, and/or because you are not confident enough to believe you can. But it doesn’t have to stay that way. If identifying and achieving goals is a true driver, then educating yourself by finding out ways, means and tools to do just that will assist in getting you where you want to go. If you don’t have age on your side (and let’s be honest, sometimes that doesn’t help!), then find talented, sharing people who do.
What do you think has been the secret to your accomplishments thus far?
Would you believe it – age! Or perhaps a better word is ‘cultivation’. By that I mean becoming a more educated and more rounded human being. It’s about making the most of your time.
Given that I went through the same education system as most others (and presumably a fairly similar parental system too), I believe my education was completed without really having the tools I needed to have a major go at living. I did not truly understand how, or even if, I could stand on my own two feet. I’ve had to work that out for myself. Fortunately, I have been around long enough now to have had amazing highs, coupled with flat spots, and done many things to ground myself so I can continue to launch. Let’s face it, it’s not always in the best interest of institutions, such as schools and large corporations, to teach and train what it truly means to be entrepreneurial and to follow dreams.
What I have learnt is that being opportunistic and bold will get you so much further ahead, and will point you in directions where you can work out the rest! I have also been blessed by being surrounded by people who support and love in ways that continue to inspire me.
What is the biggest mistake you have made and how did ‘going with the flow’ help you overcome it?
I define a mistake as a ‘mis-take’. Fortunately, my life has been a never-ending series of mis-takes, as they are what I have used to chart my life’s course. The situation I placed myself in at 36 could have ended up being my biggest mis-take, however, I have learnt (and continue to learn) that going with the flow is the real and only way to live. I now have an innate belief that all works itself out as it needs to. It’s not the mis-take that matters, it’s the recovery. One of the main responsibilities of my life is to set sail, strive to ‘do it my way’ and, in essence, enjoy the ride!
In your opinion what are the characteristics that make a successful person?
To borrow heavily from Dr Martyn Newman (and his research) of Emotional Capitalists – The New Leaders fame, much of it is about emotional intelligence and more specifically about:
· Independence – self-belief and self-reliance.
· Assertiveness – giving clear messages and having self-control.
· Optimism – looking for the benefits and possibilities and seeing valuable lessons.
· Self-actualisation – having a passion for what you do and creating the life you want.
· Self-regard – self-liking and self-competence.
· Interpersonal relationships – treating others as equals, creating win-win situations for all, and providing autonomy.
· Empathy – understanding what others want to achieve and the emotional dimensions involved.
Is there a significant quote or saying which you live your life by?
Based on the vast amount of material I have absorbed over the years, I have a million of them, from a variety of inspiring people. A selection of my favourites include:
· ‘Someone else’s opinion of you is none of your business!’
· ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway.’
· ‘The pain is in the indecision.’
· ‘Break it down into do-able tick-box chunks.’
· ‘If someone shows you who they are, believe them.’
· ‘Don’t fall in love with potential.’
· ‘Imagination is one thing; action is another.’
· ‘You can’t ‘think’ when you ‘feel’.’
· ‘We can never outperform the image we have of ourselves.’
· ‘Hope is not a strategy.’
· ‘It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.’
What are some of your goals for the next five years?
I always have goals and plans listed in some form or another (I am a journal writer from way back). I usually critically review those around New Year, and tinker with them along the way if need be. Key headings I review are:
· family life
· social life
· business life
· spiritual life
It does sound rather structured, doesn’t it? Still, I find it a most worthwhile and rewarding exercise to do. It always surprises me how far my thinking can shift within a 12-month period.
From your many years of experience, what advice would you give to others about change?
· Feel the fear and do it anyway!
· Embrace it!
· Live and breathe it!
· Enjoy it and have fun with it!
· Bring it on!
Where do you see yourself in 20 years’ time?
Swanning around the world as I please, playing grandmother, receiving bucketloads of passive income, and being healthy, wealthy and wise!
What do you love most about being where you are today?
That I was and I am capable of participating in life, in its many and varying forms. The comfort of knowing that my history is providing the catalyst for creating my present and my future is most reassuring.