Dear Working Mother,
This week’s profile comes from regular contributor Gillian McGrath.
Gillian is originally from Limerick but Cork has been her home for the last 20 year. As well as managing her own business, she mum to three children – Eoin aged nine, Katie aged five and Fionn aged two.
Read on to hear how Gillian successfully launched her own business while also being available for her family.
The Working Mother
What kind of business do you have?
I own a coaching and training practise called “Change Grow Succeed”. My business, at its very core, reflects my own beliefs and values which is the belief in human potential. I use a strengths based approach. Feedback from my clients is that they feel focused, energised and empowered.
When did you start your business and what prompted you to start it?
I have been in training and development for almost 15 years and have additional qualifications in psychology and psychometric assessment. While starting my own business was something I had thought about, I was happy to leave it on the back burner “until the time was right” (as we know, that never happens). It was a fairly organic process in the end in that it followed on from a diploma I completed in life and business coaching in 2012 (whilst expecting my third baby). As part of earning the Dip., I had to accumulate several hours of pro-bono coaching. Some of these clients returned and referred others. Around the same time, there was also interest and queries from some local businesses. Without thinking too much about it, I took the plunge and “Change Grow Succeed” was born in May 2013. I’m absolutely passionate about the coaching and training processes. Seeing first-hand the progress that people make is wonderful. To be a catalyst in this is both humbling and hugely rewarding.
Were you in employment before you started your business and if so, how did you decide when and how to make the transition?
My transition from full-time worker to part-time worker to business owner has been an interesting journey. It started over eight years ago after returning from maternity leave following the birth of my first son. I had a full time senior role in a multinational company but I was constantly running and was consumed by guilt. Guilt at not spending enough time with my baby (who was in full time day care) and guilt at not feeling able to do my job now that there was a massive shift in my priorities.
Personally, I couldn’t reconcile the two roles and for me, something had to give. With a heavy heart, I handed in my notice with nowhere to go. (Brave or mad? I’ll go with brave.)
The time out gave me the opportunity to reflect and reassess. I knew that I needed to make some changes as we did want more children (and spend more time with the one we had) but I did also want to work. Could I have the ‘audacity’ to have it all? What did that even mean for me? I wasn’t sure so I began to look around for some part-time opportunities.
Within a few months, I was delighted to secure a part time training role with the National Learning Network. Whilst there, I completed my Diploma in life and business coaching (I also had 2 other children) and thereafter, took the leap. I continue to work some hours with NLN in conjunction with “Change Grow Succeed“. My children are my priority but I also love what I do. I am motivated and exhilarated in equal measure to walk this path.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
The flexibility is fantastic – I can honestly say that I can meet most of my family’s needs and the needs of my clients (most of the time). There is also great scope in my own personal creativity and decision making is a speedy process.
What is the most challenging thing?
I say ‘yes’ alot. Yes to my family, yes to my clients, yes to my friends….But that can sometimes mean saying ‘no’ to myself. I have a tendency to spread myself quite thin which in the past has impacted my own health. I am aware of it now. Learning to say “not now” (instead of just ‘no’) to others is something that I continue to embrace (even if I’m not entirely comfortable with it).
Did you get much support from family/friends when you were starting out?
Yes. My husband is very supportive – I remember leaving him on weekend mornings with two children and an infant to go meet clients. He is the person I bounce a lot of ideas off and is a steady shoulder to lean on. My friends and family were all supportive and encouraging. I listened and learned advice on business from friends and contacts in my network – no point in re-inventing the wheel.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
“Change Grow Succeed“is an evolving business. It’s a work in progress and as such I am constantly looking at how and what I’m doing to learn from it. Sometimes it’s just about having the courage and resilience to keep moving forward.
How do you juggle running a business with having a family?
It’s a constant dance and a 24/7 operation. Organisation, forward planning and communication are instrumental steps in this dance. To offset the busy week days (Tuesday to Thursday), I plan the practical stuff such as groceries, laundry, meal planning and other household chores in advance to ensure that all activities go to plan.
I find that in the evenings, especially with young children, you’ll never know what form they are going to be in so it’s worth being organised to focus on their needs e.g. I tend to bake with them on Sunday mornings. As well as enjoying this time with them the end result will populate their lunch boxes for a few days.
Monday mornings are cherished with my youngest son, Fionn. Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings are filled with extra-curricular activities for Eoin and Katie. Generally we do something ‘en famile’ over the weekend.
What I’m also learning is that I need to be well to ensure that everything else functions. For me, getting out for a run once a week is a must. My diet is important and I’m a big believer in making nutritional choices most of the time. I also try and do some yoga, have a night out with my friends or even go for acupuncture.
I also tend to evaluate how I am using the nuggets of free time throughout the day. Sometimes I even manage a sneaky coffee with a friend.
Do you have any advice for other mother’s considering starting their own business?
Life is busy enough so if you’re planning to embark on this path, be passionate about it. Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life again.
On a more practical level, I would advise contacting your Local Enterprise Office (LEO) for information on grant and courses (e.g. start your own business or marketing and branding).
Networking is so important – talk to people in similar fields. Use social media as a cost effective way to link in with relevant groups. Join in conversations and get ideas and feedback. Link in with people who have also found their passion.
Of course, reach out to friends and family. Reassurance and support is paramount while managing this transition (a life/ business coach and or mentor can also be hugely supportive).
And finally…Have patience and don’t be too hard on yourself – Rome wasn’t built in a day. (I would recommend reading “Finding your Own North Star” by Martha Beck.)
Thank you Gillian. Gillian is back with the working mother in January. Watch out for upcoming article on time management and the art of prioritisation. If you’d like to get in touch with Gillian check out her website. She’s now taking coaching appointments for January.