5 THINGS I’VE LEARNT ABOUT RESTARTS
It’s not always easy to define what I do in a nutshell. I give my job title as Director because in fact I oversee a number of small businesses and campaigns. As well as Small Business Saturday, a campaign to support and promote small businesses, I’m director of peak b Ltd, overseeing high profile national campaigns, plus Do It Digital, a campaign to get small businesses to better engage with digital. It sounds like a lot but I think nowadays you don’t have to have a label. Women are designing their own careers to suit them and I see lots having several restarts or co-existing projects. There’s nothing to say that leaving a job and doing something else means you can’t change your mind again. Historically you picked a path – eg ‘accountant’ or ‘stay at home mum’ and that was it. But women are having a kind of awakening, looking at their lives and thinking “I’m going to be around for quite a long time and this isn’t what I want to do, so why not do something else?”. We’re living longer, careers are longer and there are lots of options open to us and nothing to hold us back. What’s more, older entrepreneurs who launch their own businesses come at it with more maturity and experience and actually tend to be more successful.
Multiple roles can co-exist
Nowadays it’s possible to fulfil a variety of different roles and love them all. Through my f:Entrepreneur network for female business leaders we showcase inspiring “#ialso” women who are managing more than one activity or project. In this way women are reinventing what it means to be an entrepreneur, because they’re not just leaving a job and launching a business, they’re thinking ‘I want to do this, and I’m already doing this and I also have this new passion…”. People don’t fit into simple moulds anymore. You see women metaphorically stretching out a bit and going ‘actually I can do all of them’ and maintaining a number of different projects.
It’s about knowing who can help you
One of the things we get better at as we mature is making connections and building networks – and valuing them. When we’re younger the over confidence of youth can lead to thinking we can do it on our own, but we learn over time that our networks can make or break us. And that sense of thinking ‘Oh such and such can help’, and not being afraid to ask is vital. With maturity comes the knowledge that we can’t do it all on our own.
You don’t throw everything away from the first attempt
If you launch a business or venture and it doesn’t quite pan out, the learnings you gain are invaluable. You take those things with you and all that experience and they carry on through your career. Whether that’s soft skills like people management or harder skills like digital and finance, they’re all part and parcel of the package that’s you and they’re all valuable, so don’t disregard them.
You might need more than one business card
I have two and deciding which one to hand to a new contact will depend on which campaign I’m talking about. My challenge is when someone asks ‘What do you do?’ because the answer can be a long one. My business card says “Director’ because I’m basically the boss and decision maker across all my enterprises. My advice is not to try and list everything you do when you meet someone new, but to tailor your pitch to each particular situation. Everything I’m doing is about communicating a particular message, so It’s always ‘What is the important message to get across today?”. Once you get to know someone you can always follow up with further information later.
Get out and meet people and get good at talking about what you do and deciding which bit of it is worth focusing on. Age and maturity help with that, as we get better at talking our talk. It comes with knowing ourselves better and knowing our weaknesses too. I know mine much better in my 40s than I did in my 20s or 30s, and being aware of weaknesses means you can work around them. When networking decide what you want out of it. What are you there to gain? If you’re clear on that you’ll communicate far better.
Michelle Ovens is a small business expert and director of peak b and Small Business Saturday.