• end of competitive advantage

    What does success mean to you?

    What does success mean to you? It’s an interesting question to consider as you go through your career and particularly when you are considering your options after a career break. Conceptions of career success When we talk about how successful someone is in their career, we still tend to use the obvious external markers. How […]

  • Creating my own Flexible Work - Personal Assistant, Entrepreneur, Franchise holder

    Creating my own Flexible Work – Personal Assistant, Entrepreneur, Franchise holder

    When Vicky Matthews took voluntary redundancy from a high-street bank after the birth of her second child, she vowed no-one she ever employed would suffer the same inflexible and negative experience she’d endured since becoming a mum. She really needed flexible work. Now, seven years on, Vicky employs three very happy part-time staff in the […]

  • Making your own choice on the working/stay-at-home mother decision

    Making your own choice on the working/stay-at-home mother decision

    A Daily Mail report this week that only 1 in 10 women are stay-at-home mothers, together with the judge’s ruling in a recent divorce case that a mother should ‘get a job’ once her children are seven, have reignited the debate about whether mothers ‘should’ be at home with their children or remain in the […]

  • Changing Career through volunteering with the Army Cadet Force

    Changing Career through volunteering with the Army Cadet Force

    Kim Green is a single mother of two teenage sons, an incident management coordinator, and a Sergeant Instructor with the Army Cadet Force. For many, changing career, holding down a full time job, finding the time to volunteer and bringing up two children all at the same time might seem like an impossible task, but as Kim’s […]

Do I need insurance when I set up a business?

Do I need insurance when I set up a business?

It may seem like a laptop is all you need to start your own company, but there are important insurance issues that even the smallest businesses needs to be aware of. In some situations, having business insurance is merely advisable, but it can also be a legal necessity or a professional requirement.

There are a plethora of business insurance options available, and some of them may prove vital to protecting the future of your company. Below we have outlined a few of the insurance options you should consider for your start-up business.

Employers’ liability insurance

If you plan on taking on even a single employee (including temporary staff, apprentices and volunteers) then you are legally obligated to have employers’ liability insurance. The insurance protects your workers should an injury occur while working. The minimum protection permitted by law is £5 million and you can be fined up to £2,500 for each day you’re not covered. This is not an insurance to overlook.

Professional indemnity insurance

Professional indemnity insurance is often necessary for businesses that provide advice/expertise to clients, or are responsible for intellectual property. A professional indemnity policy protects them from claims, especially those related to negligence, made by an unsatisfied client. Some professional bodies and regulators require this insurance of their members, especially in fields such as law, accountancy, consulting, architecture, and IT.

Business premise insurance

Even if you already have home insurance, if you are going to operate a business from your residence then you will want to consider business premise insurance (or combining the two). Premise insurance will protect your building in the eventuality of damage caused by fire, flood, or other disaster. If you are leasing, or going to lease, your business location, then the premise insurance is the responsibly of the landlord. If your business maintains a shop front however, then the premise insurance is probably going to be your responsibility.

Contents insurance

Whereas premise insurance protects your building, contents insurance provides cover for the items within. It is not legally required, but is recommended if your business relies on expensive equipment. If you want to work from home then be sure to review your current policy. If it doesn’t cover your business equipment then you might need to revise or replace it.

Public liability insurance

Although not mandatory, if your business is going to have any contact with the public, including clients, then you should look closely at public liability insurance. It will protect you if a third party enters your place of business, whether home or office, and is injured in any way or their property is damaged. Consider, for example, that you run an art-studio from your home and a client trips over an easel during a portrait session and fractures a limb. You would be insured against any potential reparation claims by a public liability policy. It is also helpful to note that public liability insurance can protect you if you conduct your work events off-site.

Income protection insurance

There are a host of insurance products designed to protect your income if you fall ill, have an accident that prevents you from working, or are unemployed for a period. These are broadly split into short term and long term income protection, with the former covering your salary over a short period of time and the latter covering your salary if you were unable to ever work again. Most policies will be able to cover up to 70% of your gross salary as a maximum and pay-outs are tax free. Income protection insurance can be a very sensible option for the self-employed or small business owners, who don’t have the safety net most employees have in terms of redundancy packages and sick pay.

There are plenty of insurance options available, but your initial focus should be on the policies that are essential for protecting your business. Take the time to review the needs of your company and find an insurer that will tailor your insurance policies accordingly.

About the author: Matt Sanders is a spokesperson on insurance for Gocompare.com. He has commented extensively on a whole range of insurance and money related matters and closely follows the latest changes and trends in the sector.

Finding Your Own Au Pair Vs Using an Au Pair Agency

Finding Your Own Au Pair Vs Using an Au Pair Agency

So you’ve made the decision to get an au pair as an affordable child care option, but how do you begin the process of looking for the right person?

You can either look for someone on your own, or make use of an au pair agency.

Advantages of looking for an au-pair on your own

 

1.There are plenty of places you can find au-pairs

You can advertise online for an au pair, look at job board websites (such as gumtree) where au pairs may offer their services, or perhaps you can even find someone through people that you know.

2. Direct Communication

If you find someone who might be suitable, or when people respond to your advertisement, you can communicate with them directly about the au pair role. With technology such as email, Facebook and Skype, you can learn all about your prospective au pair, and you can tell them about your family and expectations.

3. Save costs

Finding an au pair on your own will obviously save you some money. You may feel that you have the capability to employ someone, and perhaps you believe that you might be able to find someone trustworthy through a friend or relative.

Advantages of finding an au pair through an agency

 

1. Administration

Au pair agencies are familiar with administrative and legal requirements for bringing an au pair from overseas. Depending on where your au pair comes from, she may need a visa. An agency will ensure that all the administrative requirements, including contracts and insurances, are met and done timeously.

2. Support in managing au-pair issues

When you find an au pair through an agency, you have a representative or company available to provide assistance and support should the need arise. If you face difficulties with your au pair, or are unsure about anything relating to their role and responsibilities, you can contact the agency. Your questions will be answered and they may have suggestions that you had not even thought of to solve the difficulties. Au pair agencies that have been in business for some time, are likely to have come across every situation you may encounter.

3. Applicant screening

Working through an agency provides you with greater peace of mind regarding the person that you select to live in your home than if you are to go through the process on your own.

Au pair agencies screen applicants so you will be aware of the experience that they have working with children. Agencies also commonly provide comprehensive candidate profiles, which include a police clearance from the au pair’s home country, a medical report and a minimum of two references.

Agencies are objective in this process, unlike a friend or family member who recommends someone they know, which can create complications if you are subsequently unhappy with the way the au pair is caring for your child.

Author. Smart Au-Pairs. For more information on how an agency can help you to find an au pair to help lighten your load, visit Smart Au Pairs to request a call back or email info@smartaupairs.com.

Advance preparation for your return to work

Advance preparation for your return to work

At the moment our household is in mid-exam crisis mode. With two teenagers sitting important exams, I’m supporting from the sidelines. Alongside making many cups of tea & stocking the constantly-emptying fridge, I’ve been doing what I can to help them to prepare. They’re completely focused on revision, so I’m stepping in for the practical side – finding the missing compass before the maths exam, stocking up with black biros & filling the water bottles. I’ve also been encouraging them to prepare mentally – positively channeling their adrenaline and discussing what to do if they have a crisis of confidence just before an exam or start panicking when they can’t answer the first question.

Advance preparation is similarly vital when you make the decision to get back to work: you need to start to prepare on three fronts – professional/technical, mental and practical.

Top tips:

1. Don’t wait for a job application or offer before you start to prepare

2. You may not have your mum to help you out, but do prioritise finding your own sources of emotional and practical support.

Professional/technical preparation

Bring your knowledge back up-to-date. Re-subscribe to professional journals, read related press, take update/refresher courses if you need to. Go to seminars & conferences. Meet up with ex-colleagues and talk shop again. Remind yourself of the old jargon and learn the new.

Mental preparation

For returning mothers, this is the moment to address any looming guilt feelings about leaving your children – as we’ve said many times on this blog, there is no need to feel guilty for working (see here for advice).

Remind yourself of your motivations for returning and the positive rewards for you and the family: studies have shown that if we focus on the positive aspects of combining work and family life, we’re much more likely to feel good about our work-life balance, and to overcome any challenges, than if we focus on potential work-life conflict.

Increase your energy and enthusiasm for your return by spending time with the people who are encouraging you to make this change, rather than those who are questioning or critical of your decision. Also take steps to build your confidence; don’t discount yourself and what you can offer (see here for confidence tips).

Practical preparation

Make time for your return by giving up other activities, such as volunteering work that isn’t using your professional skills. Get practiced at saying ‘no’ to free up your day. Start to delegate more to your children and encourage their independence. If you’re the default taxi driver, still ferrying your older children around, let them get used to public transport. Same with your partner, if you have one – start to hand over and share out more of the home responsibilities.

Build your practical support networks. If you need to sort childcare, it’s worth planning this as far in advance as possible. Don’t wait until you have the job offer! And start to contingency plan too – work out what will be your back-up for your back-up childcare before the inevitable problems arise – line up other mothers & local grannies/students. If you don’t have a cleaner, get recommendations now so you can avoid spending all your free time doing housework when you’re back at work.

Think carefully about how work can fit with your life. Map out a balanced work week for you. When do you want/need to be at home & what for? And critically, work out what you are not going to do any more at home. What can you let go of or delegate? Don’t be the mother sewing a fancy-dress costume at 2am when a cheap bought or borrowed one will do just as well. You’ll need to be flexible about how this might pan out once you get into job discussions, but being clearer on your non-negotiables will help you to target the right opportunities.

If you’re also a mother who tells your children the benefits of not leaving everything until the last minute, this is the moment to practice what you preach!

julianne&katerinaJulianne Miles, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

end of competitive advantage

What does success mean to you?

What does success mean to you? It’s an interesting question to consider as you go through your career and particularly when you are considering your options after a career break.

Conceptions of career success

When we talk about how successful someone is in their career, we still tend to use the obvious external markers. How much are they earning? What level have they reached in an organisation? If you consider that being the CEO earning £1m+ a year is the pinnacle of career success, it’s easy to feel that you have failed in your career once you’ve stepped off the career ladder to the top.

In fact, research has shown that the majority of people tend to judge their own success by more subjective measures. A classic study by Jane Sturges found that factors such as enjoyment, accomplishment, influence, expertise and personal recognition rated highly in a group of managers’ descriptions of what success meant to them. For all of the women in the study, the content of the job was rated as more important than pay or status. Balance criteria were also used by some of the managers – meaning that success for them was how effectively they combined a satisfying home and work life. From my perspective, achieving fulfillment and satisfaction in both home and work life is one of the greatest measures of career success, yet one that is rarely mentioned when we commonly talk or read about successful people.

What does success mean to you?

Developing your own success criteria can help you to feel more positive about the choices you have made to date and to develop clearer objectives for this next stage of your career.

A useful coaching exercise to help with this is to mentally fast-forward to your 70th birthday. To put you in the right frame of mind, imagine who is there with you, where you are, even what you are wearing.  Now imagine you’re giving a speech discussing what you’re proud of having achieved in your career and your life as a whole. What comes to mind? What will make you feel you have succeeded in your life? Write down whatever comes to mind and you’ll have a good starting point for developing your own personal view of success. And that’s what really matters…

julianne&katerinaJulianne Miles, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

6 Popular (and effective) Marketing Techniques for Small Businesses

6 Popular (and effective) Marketing Techniques for Small Businesses

As a mum running a small business you understand how important it is to get your name and brand out there, ready for those potential customers to discover and, of course, head straight to your website to buy your products or take on your services. But you don’t want to spend bucket loads of cash on such a task.

There are ways of effectively marketing yourself without breaking your budget. Here are six popular (and effective) techniques, perfect for small businesses to utilise:

Social media

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Instagram are all now being utilised by businesses to get their brand recognised and seen by the masses. They’re a great way of discovering who your audience is and what they want from you, as well as what they get up to in their spare time, allowing you to tailor your tweets and posts to appease them. However, bear in mind that if social media is your main marketing route, it’s a good idea to consider paid for techniques such as Facebook ads and sponsored tweets later.

The traditional flyer

Print isn’t dead yet and handing out or posting flyers is still an easy way of getting your small business in front of potential customers. Whether you opt to design and print them yourself. You could look into the option of flyer printing from Helloprint. Take care when designing your flyer to ensure it appeals to your target audience and then get distributing!

On page content

Your website shouldn’t just be where you house your product listings, it should also be a place for customers to visit when they are looking for advice, guidance and inspiration within your industry. Ensure you have a blog that works as part of your brand and website and fill this with interesting content that can be searched for and discovered through the usual search engines, on top of being shared on social media.

Guest posting

Being seen as an industry thought leader is a great way of marketing your business. Speaking at local events or guest posting on other leading websites, and dropping in mention of your business throughout, is ideal when it comes to spreading the word about what you do and makes you look like the expert amongst your competitors.

Set up an event

Business to business events are a great way of picking up potential clients. Let’s say you specialise in IT solutions; a business event that talks about the best plans a company can have in place, to avoid common IT issues, will go down well and you can get talking to potential clients in a relaxed, non-sales atmosphere.

Offer something for free

People love free stuff and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a product. A small family garden centre could put on a free spring bulb planting lesson or a PR company could offer a ten step plan to writing a good press release that can be downloaded once the interested party has handed over their email address on the website. Think about something your business could give away to tempt potential clients to visit and appear generous.

Author: Patrick Vernon, free lance writer, on behalf of Helloprint (affordable and high quality flyer printing)

Creating my own Flexible Work - Personal Assistant, Entrepreneur, Franchise holder

Creating my own Flexible Work – Personal Assistant, Entrepreneur, Franchise holder

When Vicky Matthews took voluntary redundancy from a high-street bank after the birth of her second child, she vowed no-one she ever employed would suffer the same inflexible and negative experience she’d endured since becoming a mum. She really needed flexible work.

Now, seven years on, Vicky employs three very happy part-time staff in the head office of her personal assistant business, Pink Spaghetti, all of whom work around their busy family commitments.

Inflexible Employer

“I’d worked in project management for the same high street bank since starting as a graduate trainee,” explains Vicky. “When I became pregnant, I requested a three day working week after maternity leave. This was declined and I was told four days was my only part time option. A job-share was never considered.

“An even bigger blow came when I was told my current senior management position was not feasible on a part time basis and that I would need to take on a new, lower, middle management role.

“I had been their golden girl but when I returned from maternity leave, I felt my position within the company was tainted. My opportunities for promotion and recognition were gone, so after the birth of my second child three years later, I took voluntary redundancy.”

A New Start – Flexible Working

After taking time out to spend with her young family for a couple of years, a chance meeting at a baby swimming class saw the beginning of a partnership that would see Vicky’s dream of creating flexible employment come true. A poolside chat with her now business partner, Caroline Gowing, revealed the pair had all-too-similar experiences and after discussions about their respective talents and experience, the foundations were laid for an award-winning business venture.

In 2009, three years after their first meeting and with Vicky’s youngest child still at home, the friends launched Pink Spaghetti, a home-based, pay-as–you-go personal assistant service. Clients aren’t tied by a monthly retainer and only pay for the hours they need, which is a major selling point for the predominantly female, home-based clients who are often juggling work and childcare.

Pink Spaghetti, whose strapline is ‘Let us be your 25th hour,’ will take on any task from its clients and to-do lists frequently include the bizarre alongside the mundane. Sourcing reindeer for a Christmas event and attending a client’s wedding as a paid witness have featured alongside travel booking, running social media accounts, holiday cover, managing email newsletters and book keeping.

Growing the Business – Franchise Holder

The formula proved a resounding success, so much so that after three years of steady growth Vicky and Caroline decided to grow their business through franchising and now operate in 10 UK territories, from Chester to Portsmouth.The flexibility the pair needed in their own lives has proved a major pull for franchisees, almost all of whom have children and tales of inflexible employers forcing them out of the workplace.

“Our franchisees come to us with years of valuable business experience and yet find themselves unable to find a job that fits around their families,” says Caroline. “We have franchisees from all backgrounds, but they all share the same desire to not have to choose between work and family.

“From our own experience, we knew that our business model works as both a part time opportunity, to fit around the school day or nursery hours, and that it can also be scaled up as the children get older.

“One of our franchisees has proved just how scalable the business is, by buying a second neighbouring territory and taking on employees of her own. We also have franchisees with very young children who work just a few hours each day. They know that the opportunity for expansion is there once it suits their family.”

Flexible Work from Home

Ever since that first meeting in the swimming baths, flexibility has been the driving force behind Pink Spaghetti. As owners, Vicky and Caroline have the flexibility to manage their business in a way that suits them. For clients, the Pink Spaghetti service frees up much-needed time, and for franchisees, Vicky and Caroline’s model allows them to grow their franchise at their own rate and fit in work around their own commitments.

But, more importantly, the pair have been able to provide flexible employment to busy working parents. Pink Spaghetti’s head office, in Northwich, employs three part-time members of staff. Lucy works school hours four days a week. Katherine does three days, two to fit around school times and a third shorter one to allow for a nursery pick up. Leigh-Anne is currently on maternity leave, but before the birth of her second child she was able to work two long days at the office in order to make the most of her son’s hours at nursery. When she returns from maternity leave, Leigh-Anne has opted to switch to two short days.

This flexible and family friendly approach was cited as a best practice case study in a report handed out at a recent Working Families conference. The charity was greatly encouraged that employees can pick their own working hours, and are able to change them at short notice, where feasible.

“By accommodating our employees’ needs for flexible working we are offering them the kind of benefit that money can’t buy,” says Vicky. “In return, employees work harder and have more work satisfaction as their needs are being met and their voices heard, which is key for retention.

“After what I went through in my previous job, I feel very strongly that I want to set an example to other employers.”

But what about Vicky? Her business is providing a positive work life balance for her employees and franchisees, but has she achieved the flexibility she was striving for?

“I work from home, I can do the school drop off and pick up and I don’t have to miss important milestones like special assemblies and sports days.

“I love my work, both servicing our own Pink Spaghetti clients here in mid-Cheshire and supporting our franchisees to grow their own businesses. When I took voluntary redundancy seven years ago, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next. It’s been a fascinating journey and I wouldn’t change any of it.”

 

Author: PR Agent on behalf of Vicki

April 2015 (2)Attached picture (left to right) Aylesbury & High Wycombe franchisee Rachel Martin, Pink Spaghetti co-owner Vicky Matthews, Luton & Bedford franchisee Anne Little, Pink Spaghetti co-owner Caroline Gowing

Making your own choice on the working/stay-at-home mother decision

Making your own choice on the working/stay-at-home mother decision

A Daily Mail report this week that only 1 in 10 women are stay-at-home mothers, together with the judge’s ruling in a recent divorce case that a mother should ‘get a job’ once her children are seven, have reignited the debate about whether mothers ‘should’ be at home with their children or remain in the workforce. We’re at a strange point in history where there seems to be pressure both ways: a longstanding societal push, reinforced by some parts of the media, to be an at-home mother and a corresponding push from Government and other parts of the media to keep mothers working. Mothers are squeezed in the middle, torn as to the ‘right thing’ to do and feeling judged whatever path they take.

External Pressures

I hear these mixed messages played out on the personal level as well, from the mothers I work with. Some women feel pressure from partners/parents/friends to give total attention to the family, while others feel pushed to get back to work. And we then have our own internal ambiguity: “I’m being selfish and ungrateful if I want to work and leave my children” vs. “I’m wasting my education and sponging off my partner if I stay at home”. It’s not surprising that so many mothers feel guilty whatever they do.

There’s no RIGHT answer

What I’d love to tell all mothers wrestling with your work-home choices, either post maternity or career break, is this: There is no universal RIGHT answer. This is a time in your life when you need to acknowledge all the internal & external pressures you are experiencing, and then decide what is the best choice for you and your family, dependent on your desires and your personal circumstances (which can also change over time).

So which option do you choose?

If you have no real choice and need the income, then avoid the ‘pro-full-time mum’ press, focus on managing your work-home balance, read our articles on how to ditch the guilt and stop labelling yourself as selfish.

If you do have a choice, then focus on deciding what you want to do, not agonising over what you ‘should’ do. There are many options: working as an employee full-time/part-time/flexibly, setting up your own business, going freelance, pausing your career with a clear strategy to return later, or being an at-home mother. And it’s fine to chop and change over the years as you create a life balance that works for you.

Finding my way

Personally, I was taken aback by the pull I felt to stay at home for a few years when my kids were small – I’d always pictured myself as someone who would never take a break. Being at home suited me best in the early years but after four years I was desperate to engage my brain again in other interests and went back to university to retrain, doing some consultancy alongside. I then worked part-time and grew my own business, working longer hours as my children got older. Many of my friends and colleagues had different experiences; from those who were very happy get back to full-time work after maternity leave to those have remained at home until their children are much older and are only now considering how they can find their way back into work.

Feeling content with your life

There is no single and perfect solution. But you’ll know you’ve made the best choice for you when most of the time you feel (fairly) satisfied with your life and rarely feel frustrated and stuck in a place where you don’t want to be. And if you don’t feel satisfied, that’s when you need to make a change, not when other people say you should.

julianne&katerinaJulianne Miles, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.

working mums jumping with joy

The two minute route to self-confidence

When I work with women feeling nervous before a major event, such as their first interview in ten years, I give them an instant self-assurance tip that is often met with a look of incredulity. I recommend that they find a quiet place just before the event and make a ‘Power Pose’ – taking a Wonder Woman stance or adopting the ‘starfish’ pose which Mick Jagger is modelling so effectively in the photo above. This sounds like the type of ‘too-good-to-be-true’ advice that could give psychologists a bad name, but in fact it is based on a convincing body of research evidence.

Amy Cuddy, a Harvard social psychologist, explained in a wonderful 2012 TED talk* how “making yourself big” for just two minutes changes the brain in ways that reduce anxiety, build courage and inspire self-expression and leadership. Changing our body language effectively changes the way we think and feel about ourselves. If you’re interested in the science, lab studies found that a two minute power pose increased the levels of the power chemical testosterone by around 20% and lowered the stress hormone cortisol by about 20%. What’s more, this has a knock-on effect on how we behave, how we are seen by others and the likelihood of positive outcomes. In another study Professor Cuddy reported that people who adopted high-power poses before interviews were overwhelmingly more likely to be offered the job by impartial interviewers.
This week I followed my own advice. My nerves kicked in before my first time on national radio, appearing on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour to discuss returnships with Jenni Murray, Julie Thornton (Head of HR at Thames Tideway Tunnel) and Carmen Nuzzo, who joined Morgan Stanley in a permanent role following their 2014 Return to Work programme. So if you had walked into the ladies’ toilets in a cafe down the road from Broadcasting House at 9.18am on Wednesday, you might have been surprised to see a blonde middle-aged woman in a green jacket striking a full-on hands-on-hips legs-wide Wonder Woman pose … and now I can personally vouch for the benefits!

julianne&katerinaJulianne Miles, from the blog Women Returners: Back to Your Future aka Julianne Miles and Katerina Gould, an occupational psychologist and an executive coach who support professional women to return to work after a long career break.