Strong Yet Feminine Profiles are a series of interviews, showcasing ambitious women who are striving to follow their passion. Many are working full-time and pursuing their dream on the side; some have already taken the leap and share their experiences (the good and the bad!).
Any career decision is difficult, but making a leap into a different field, to pursue a true passion, has to be one of the most inspiring stories. I know, for me, hearing stories like these were crucial to bolstering my confidence when considering my own change in direction.
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Please give us a brief overview of your various roles and how you made the leap to start your own consultancy.
I’ve always been a dabbler and a do-er. I’ve never done the same job twice. Over the years I've done stints as a fashion blogger, press officer, fashion show producer, social media marketer and as the co-founder of a media services company with my husband, but the thread has always been in serving an audience with emotionally engaging, strategic storytelling.
I need variety and novelty in my work, and at a certain point it became clear that to retain that, I’d have to design my own role and be my own boss.
You’ve had tenacity from an early age. Tell us about how you’ve used rejection to learn and grow.
I’ve always been hungry: hungry to learn, hungry to develop personally, hungry to serve others. As a teenager, I was desperate to have a weekend job, but was constantly rejected for being too young. I knew I’d have to prove myself, so I always asked the hiring manager: “What can I do to make you change your mind?” And then I’d go and do that thing. Pretty much every time they’d then give me the job.
The only time that approach didn’t work was when I didn’t get my dream job at Airbnb. Everything was going so well, but after 8 interviews (8!), they told me I didn’t have enough experience. But my biggest career failure has since turned into my greatest career triumph. Because it was then I realised that I should no longer try to fit into existing roles or wait to be handed an opportunity, it was time for me to go and create them myself.
What steps did you take to start your own business?
I handed in my notice and set a date before I was “ready”, before I had a plan. I knew myself well enough to understand how often I get in my own way, waiting for everything to be perfect, so I had to push myself out the nest!
I put enough money aside to last me 4 months to ensure I wouldn’t make fear-based decisions in the early days of my business. I then spent a month studying and researching: going to free events, reading books, taking courses, talking to other entrepreneurs, asking for advice from strangers on LinkedIn.
Next, I hired a coach. I chose someone who was also a freelance marketer, and had walked the walk before talking the talk.
The most important thing I did was give myself time and space to think clearly and design my business from the heart. I did an exercise where I drew a quadrant under the headings “Strengths”, “Weaknesses”, “Passions”, “Pains” (a recommendation from my coach). Then taking everything that was in my strengths and passions, ignoring my weaknesses and pains, I designed my business and services from there.
Do you have any other exercises you can recommend for early stage entrepreneurs?
Yes, oh yes! One of the habits we tend to carry over from being an employee is our attachment to “to-do” lists. And they’re comforting, because in the early stage of your business they can help you feel like you’re busy and you’re making progress.
I recommend that you burn the to-do list and replace it with the Eisenhower Matrix, which is inspired by President Eisenhower’s quote: “What’s important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” Too often we reach for low-hanging fruit or get caught up in apparently urgent engagements without evaluating whether they are truly important or not. Using the matrix has radically changed the way I work and made me so much more effective. And some things just never get done at all, and that’s ok, because they’re not important.
The evaluation of importance also feeds into identifying your zone of genius, which is performing the skill that drives your business and only you can do. For me, that’s leading workshops, helping founders get excited and fall in love with their business again, and poring over huge amounts of data to find nuggets of insight. But there are plenty of things outside of my zone of genius that still need to get done. About 2 months into my business, I was fully booked and starting to get overwhelmed. My coach said: “It’s time to start delegating. Draw up a 2-column list, separating out all the tasks that only you can do from the ones that need to get done but could be done by someone else.” So two months in, I was outsourcing research, mystery shopper exercises, graphic design, accounting and copywriting. That meant I could continue to serve my clients from my zone of genius by paying someone else to be in theirs.
What did you find most revealing about starting your own business?
I have to say, one thing I never expected was the profoundly positive effect it would have on every aspect of my life. If I had chosen to listen to some of the conventional expectations about starting a business with little experience, I'd have expected to hustle every day, that it would be harder than anything I'd ever done, and it would be months and months before I made even the tiniest bit of money. The reality couldn’t have been more different for me. But I was very quick to realise that the first step to becoming an entrepreneur is unlearning everything you were ever taught by people who are not entrepreneurs. In becoming a free agent, you do need to approach life with a whole new mindset.
Because I've become so much more aware of my own agency, I'm so much more giving with my money and my time, as I know I can control it and create more of it. I've become a much more positive person. And because I'm so much more positive, I'm so much more grateful. And because I'm so much more grateful, I keep getting more.
I’m constantly running into people I know on public transport or in the street and then they bring me an opportunity; or something I've lost or need shows up magically a couple of days later. Or even better, I show up serendipitously for someone else with just the thing they need at that moment. Life just feels so effortless and playful right now. It's like nothing I've ever experienced.
So I’d say that the most revealing and most surprising thing is that I’ve become a lot more spiritual!
What books have had the biggest impact that you would recommend?
“The woman I wanted to be” by Diane von Furstenberg. Diane’s words made me realise the ‘how’ of my business coming together wasn’t my job to worry about. As long as I had a clear vision of the woman I wanted to be, everything would fall into place because SHE would make it happen.
Turning the belief that you have to be a "go-getter" to achieve success on its head, this little book's message is that adding value in people's lives first will bring you more back in return than you ever imagined, making business effortless.
Laura is a time management expert, who has 4 young kids and has written 4 books. Her approach to being radically honest about where your time goes will change your life and set you free. Books: '168 hours' and 'I know how she does it'.
The One Thing by Gary Keller [search to download free pdf]
It’s the best, most concise guide to success strategy I’ve read so far and should be a must read for everyone who wants to have more but do less.
Where can readers connect to find out more about your upcoming workshops?
Follow me on instagram @imogenroy or sign up to my mailing list at imogenroy.com/success-strategy. I look forward to connecting with more Strong yet Feminine women!