I am the founder and owner of 2to3days.com, a private community matching and connecting enlightened employers with professional, educated women looking to combine stimulating flexible work with raising their children. I am passionate about helping companies access an (as yet) largely untapped pool of talented women who have made the choice to raise a family alongside work.
Before setting up 2to3days.com, I was a senior business coach at Shirlaws and ran my own executive coaching business for four years. Prior to that I was a Chartered Surveyor in the retail property sector for 12 years; ran my own property consultancy; and was chair of Macmillan’s largest fundraising event in London, raising £650,000 in three years.
Outside of work I love travel, good food, living an active lifestyle and spending time with my husband and two children.
What inspired you to start your current business?
In my role as a business coach, I had the same conversation over and again with companies who wanted talented people to work for them but were struggling to find really good people to fill part time roles. I also knew an increasing number of women who were working full time, part time or who had had a career break, all of whom wanted to work part time flexible hours but didn’t know where to find good jobs or even believe that they existed.
I saw a gap in the market to focus exclusively on connecting employers to mothers for part-time work. I wanted to be the one to make that connection happen, which was the catalyst for 2to3days.com.
By far the greatest challenge for mothers in the workplace is how they are pigeon-holed by society.
What do you feel is the greatest challenge for mothers in the workplace and what advice can you give our members about navigating this?
By far the greatest challenge for mothers in the workplace is how they are pigeon-holed by society. The focus is on being a either full time mother or full time career women and those who wants to combine the two fall between the gap in the middle: on the one hand society projects the importance of mothers raising their children and on the other, the world of work sends out the message that you are only committed if you work full time.
The current difficulty in finding part time flexible roles can leave some mothers feeling undervalued, bored and frustrated at home. And there is a huge disconnect between what is right for raising our children and what is right for business – when actually the two are the same… a happy, motivated woman makes a great mother and a great employee!
My advice would be that you can have both and you need to be confident that it is possible. Don’t give up hope. The business world is changing its attitude towards flexible working and there are lots of employers out there already who can see the value to their organisation of employing a mother part time. Be confident and be clear in what you want out of your career and family life.
What advice can you give us about managing a return to work after taking time off to look after children?
Half the battle is making sure that your children are happy and settled, so if you need to sort out childcare, don’t leave this to the last minute; investing ahead will make a marked difference. You also need to be very clear about what you really, really want to do, by methodically and realistically assessing exactly how much time you have and how much you want to earn. We can help you do this through our “reality checker” tool.
Try and set out parameters for you, your family and your work colleagues as clearly as you can so that you have times when you are focused on work and others when you are focused on home. While your timings and patterns will shift as you need them to, having clarity and ground rules will help. Above all make sure that you are communicating these boundaries openly.
Half the battle is making sure that your children are happy and settled, so if you need to sort out childcare, don’t leave this to the last minute; investing ahead will make a marked difference.
What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?
My biggest challenge on a personal level has been dealing with lack of sleep: as the founder and owner it is only me at the end of the day who wakes up in the middle of the night to work through an issue. When you combine that with raising a family the demands are 24/7; young children have no concept of what you are trying to do which makes it doubly hard! Managing your energy through the highs and lows of launching a new business is very tough.
I have had to learn to let go at times and accept that there is work that my equally passionate team are now able to take on; this has been particularly tough because I am only working part time myself. Another challenge has been managing cash flow and it is the old adage of it always takes longer and costs more…
The greatest reward of being my own boss has been to embody the values of 2to3days.com in starting a business that I find incredibly exciting and fulfilling, while also being able to be there for my son and daughter when they need me. The fact that my business is helping others to do the same by both directly employing mothers part-time and matching mothers to others employers is also extremely rewarding.
How have you benefited from any mentoring or coaching?
I have surrounded myself with great advisors who are experts in the various aspects of the business which has been invaluable and kept me sane.
Coaching / mentoring is an invaluable tool to have open and honest conversations with someone who holds your best interests at heart. It is vital to have someone who is there to channel your ideas and energy, as well as to challenge your beliefs and assumptions.
I have also used all of the coaching methodology that I trained in at Shirlaws to build this business. This meant that from day one we had well thought out structures and processes enabling us to respond quickly, as well as helping to set up the right cultural framework so that we have highly motivated, capable people working in the business.
Determination and trusting yourself enough to stick to your guns: don’t compromise your family for work, or work for your family, but make it a priority to find a role that works across all parts of your life.
What one thing could you advise women to do to help them succeed professionally?
Determination and trusting yourself enough to stick to your guns: don’t compromise your family for work, or work for your family, but make it a priority to find a role that works across all parts of your life. At 2to3days.com we are pushing for flexible working to become the norm and not just a special case or compromise to retain top talent in an organisation.
On a typical day how does it begin and end?
My days always start early and I try not to work in the evenings. I set myself clear boundaries and work in short focused bursts of time, making my children my priority before and after school.
What are your goals for 2015?
2015 will be a big year for 2to3days.com – our aim is to become the No1 place where employers can come to find highly capable and motivated mothers who want to work part time flexible hours, creating a dynamic and engaged community.
We want to drive forward the conversation around flexible working and working mothers and to encourage our community to catalyse the quiet revolution, which is already underway – helping women form their own norms for working, networking and career progression.
I also want to create time for me, so that I am not rushing from one thing to another to be there for my children. I will walk my talk and only work part time myself!