Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
On arrival in Canada in September 2006 we were full of good intentions and bursting with anticipation of the adventure we declared. Arriving in Vancouver on a warm late summers night was wonderful and we thoroughly enjoyed exploring our new home in the first couple of weeks of arrival.
We could not believe everyone’s positive attitude and open nature to connecting with us. I have travelled a lot during my professional career and have met some incredible people however the warm welcome and genuine interest of the Canadian people as well as their willingness to help is really something else!
Soon we would realize however the magnitude of our move and the challenges that we would have to overcome in order to settle into a ‘normal’ life.
Although we had spent thousands on engaging an immigration consultant to help us with our paperwork prior to leaving our homeland, we had also hoped for ongoing guidance on next steps to prepare ourselves adequately, eliminating any potential unwellcome surprises on the way.
Unfortunately we had to overcome a number of very crucial issues that could have very well been avoided if only we had known in advance. Things like:
- Retaking our driving tests (theory and practical) within 90 days of arriving in the country nearly put us into serious jeopardy,
- Not having the right paperwork from our car insurance company from the UK, which meant ‘no-claims’ could not be accepted costing us thousands in unnecessary car insurance costs
- No credit history causing huge problems to set up utilities, cell phone and bank accounts (credit report from Equifax UK was not accepted)
- Threatened to privately pay for schooling for our children by not having the right landing status on arrival in the country
These are just to name but a few to give you a flavor of what enormous challenges we had to overcome in order to be able to live in Canada.
Things you take for granted when you live in your own home or somewhere within the European Union. Suddenly you are a second class citizen having to proove yourself all over again. Not easy when you come from a nice home, well paid jobs and certain social status not to mention the fact that you are missing your family and friends like crazy!
Monday, July 13, 2009
So right now I am not sure if I should continue to write or leave them in the belief, that the grass is so much greener on the other side?! Recent TV shows have been around ‘Escape to the Country’ or ‘Starting a New Life Down Under’ as fly-on-the-wall documentaries, on how families up sticks and take to new opportunities, facing probably the most trialing challenges as couples, parents and professionals.
Well, let me tell you a little about the trials first and then I will give you the advantages afterwards. As you can see, for us the benefits far outweighed the challenges.
However, since we have arrived in Canada three years ago, we have met a ton of families that would return back home within months and sometimes even a year or two later. And I have the greatest respect for those people because they have taken a chance on an opportunity, explored it, considered it and then changed direction based on what they learned.
It takes a lot of guts and vision to even attempt to follow your dreams and trying to see if it is worth turning them into reality. And it takes commitment, persistance and a strong belief not to be swayed by an easy way out.
So for us, we arrived with two small children, a two year work visa and a promise of a better life...
Thursday, July 9, 2009
As truly entrepreneurial spirits who love to discover and explore, an opportunity presented itself in 2006 for us to try life in Canada for a couple of years.
Making the most of the skill shortage experienced nation wide, we decided to put our idyllic life to the test by challenging everything we knew and seeking the adventure to come to the West Coast.
Initially we decided to go for a little break, leaving behind anything we new and getting prepared to venture into some unchartered territories for us. At that time we both enjoyed great careers, a wonderful home and lots of friends and family around us.
However realizing that opportunities are there to be grabbed with both hands, we sold our house and made off to the self proclaimed most Beautiful Place on Earth.
It can not be underestimated the impact such a move would have on everyone’s life! By now, back home we had both grown to be the go to expert in our chosen fields whilst financial freedom was within easy reach.
Having said that, we knew, that the more we were prepared to venture out and stretch our comfort zone, the more we would grow and enrich our knowledge and expertise even further.
So by coming to Canada, we had not only found the adventure and thrill of the unknown but soon we would realize, that now we were in the land of endless opportunities!
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
All my experiences in business have been very varied and I have had masses of exposure to so many different business models and industries coupled with the first taste of entrepreneurism, that now was the time, to put some of my practice into a structured support network for small businesses.
My first consulting client was a printing and promotions company and although the Managing Director running it had himself come from a corporate background, he used to be in charge of operations and knew very little about sales and marketing - an ideal first client!
The company had been in existence for 4 years at this point but was still not making a half way decent income for the owner. He was making just enough to cover his overheads with a little left over for building and equipment maintenance. Luckily this guy had a number of shares in his previous company and drew sizable dividends to contribute to the household income.
I was surprised that this was an ‘established’ business with clients and everything, employing 4 people but no business development plans or activities of any sort. Still yet, somehow the business managed to pick up the odd client but even then the opportunities within were never maximized.
Initially the MD wanted my help to establish a telesales department seeing that that was something I had successfully implemented in the past on an international basis.
So of course I went through a serious phase of analysis to really get a handle on where the immediate opportunities lay without any additional overheads to the company. We devised a strategic three months plan focussing entirely on the creation of cash flow through low hanging fruit.
As I said, looking back, this was the most exciting first client I could have ever wished for.
We created internal business policies for the employees and customers, made sure sales were maxed with existing clients whilst implementing a strict payment policy. By the end of the three month, not only was my client feeling really enthusiastic about his business again but he was also able to draw a decent income for the first time in 4 years!
I had found my absolute passion in life - building businesses internal and external market opportunities with minimum investment and maximum returns!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Sounds daunting? Well, maybe a little but all the things you get in turn will make more than up for it but of course only if you place a great emphasis on these benefits for yourself and your family.
You will get total freedom of strategy, direction and implementation as well as an enormous amount of flexibility. You can create your own schedule, decide the priorities of the things that are most important to you, both professionally as well as personally.
Your dedication and quality standards will be the brand that you create for yourself. You can take enormous pride in everything that is achieved because it is based on your own hard work. The passion you have for your product or service will make a huge difference and of course the earning potential is exponentially higher if you focus on your model and belief in your success!
Perseverance and patience are the key to making it past the 1, 3 or 5 year mark but for us moms the flexibility should far outweigh anything else.
So in our case when we managed to make it into our third year, we were really starting to see some great results with money coming in all over the place. The only thing was that as a husband and wife team, we found it very stressful to work together. Financial aspects especially in the early days were tough. The fact that we were continuously thinking about business 24/7, considering different elements and over thinking some more, was not very healthy but I suppose inevitable.
So at the three year mark we decided to re-think how we could go back to just being a couple without having to be business partners.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Here I was with a background of a large, corporate expense accounts, size-able marketing budgets and a team of experts in each department taking care off - well I didn’t really know all so well what it was they were taking care off every day!
It seems less significant when you are part of a massive machine, that has been well oiled and is fitted with it’s own GPS system telling you exactly which turns to take next and the direction it is heading.
Now as the maker and creator of your own destiny, well quite another story altogether!
So how does one get the word out about your product or service if you don’t have much money to spend? And how do you build a thriving business on a shoestring? By the time everything else had been purchased for the business such as tools, a complete office set up with computer, all in one printer, fax machine, business stationery, office supplies, oh and did I mention the new business mini van (company car had of course gone back...), insurances, there was no more money in the kitty!
So yes, maybe the corporate world had prepared us both very well in our various professions on big scale projects, but running a small business however was really quite on a different scale and magnitude. Everything starts and stops with you - no safety net, no emergency funds.
All of this and we haven’t even spoken about the actual work. Trying to figure out exactly HOW you want to do business. Your policies and rules on any aspect of how the company should feel, act and progress.
My marketing planning used to be based on fitting into the corporate business plan with extensive macro and micro environment research (Exactly!!!), the right marketing mix of communication tools such as print, PR and radio or TV with maybe a trade show thrown in!
And my husband? Well he is the very best money can buy when it came to actually doing the work, but customer consultation, design, quoting and quantity surveying - well these are all very specialist things that take a lot of time to define, practice and refine!
So when we weren’t busy looking for work, creating supporting documentation, planning, strategizing and learning accountancy - we fell into bed, exhausted, with two small children wondering if maybe tomorrow would be a day when they could ask for that play date they had been longing for so long!
And on the upside...................
Monday, June 1, 2009
I had the opportunity to speak to a number of different industries and sizes of companies during my campaigning. The passion and determination was incredible and fueled by what I experienced coupled with my husbands vision to own his own construction business, it was sealed - husband and wife team setting out to going it alone!
With his technical expertise and my background in sales and marketing, we figured to stand a pretty good chance of success. We knew little about the finer details of running our own business. The accounting side was a new challenge that I had to master and it is today that I wonder why we went about it in such a painful and long winded way!
I was determined to learn a Sage Accounting System to ensure our financial wealth was well managed and carefully controlled. It took hours upon days if not weeks and many very late nights to educate myself in the art of accounting. Something that easily takes years to perfect and should be left to the experts!
Hindsight is a wonderful thing however when you are very close to your own business model, sometimes you just can’t see the obvious solution to more efficient and profitable processes.
The dream of being your own boss, running the business the way you think it is best and getting the opportunity to do things your way, come with an inevitable trade-off:
No-one holding you accountable to the objectives that you set
Full responsibility for every aspect of running a business, even the tasks you may not enjoy or are no good at
Working with a partner who holds equal shares, trying to agree on the most simplest of things
Managing your cash flow to survive as a business and as an individual with bills to pay
Getting out and drumming up opportunities
As you well know my fellow entrepreneurs - the list is endless!
To be continued.......
Monday, May 25, 2009
When I started out as a young adult, I was full of idealism on how life should be and I was very firm on the rights and the wrongs! I suppose that this is no different to the younger generation who shares their opinions quite vocally.
Then, as you get older you start to realize that things are not always as cut and dry or black and white! So my idealistic views were replaced by more realistic alternatives and I started to understand the importance of choices, opportunities and circumstances.
Now looking behind the scenes of the political world, I was having one of those epiphanies where I experienced first hand the process of decision making and the real driving factors for some political entities.
My motto throughout my campaign was to serve the greater good of others, be honest and dependable and offer a channel for voices of the community to be heard.
I know now what it is like to have your own press officer, to run a political campaign, the endless PR activities and public debates with the opposition. Canvassing door to door was something that was very scary at first!
I suppose not unlike trying to do some prospecting in a business sense. You know your target market and you go and engage in a dialog to see if you can close the deal or win the vote in this case!
This experience has given me a lot of understanding and training in many aspects that can be translated into the business world.
One thing is for sure, stay true to yourself and focus on your model! The rest will come!
Monday, May 18, 2009
We somehow managed to live on one wage and strangely it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. By making a few changes and getting better control of our finances, it appeared that we had been dwindling away the second income on needless and lavish extras that we could quite easily do without.
Phew, one less thing to worry about!
Being a busy body, I threw myself into a whole lot of exciting alternatives such as my oldest son’s school community. Soon I became Vice Chair of the Parents Advisory Council, was elected as parent member of the School Board of Trustees and started a book club.
I rallied around campaigning for speed restrictions in the school zone and fought the amalgamation of two Elementary Schools in the district.
This raised serious awareness of current hot issues as well as the outstanding capabilities of Conny Millard. Soon one certain political party asked me to become their new candidate for election as MLA for our area.
And of course, my ego was flattered and my full resources required, so next thing I knew, there were posters all over the region saying “Vote Conny Millard” - “Conny Millard for Council”?!
To be continued....
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
This one really wasn’t easy! By now I had become an integral part of the company, had a gorgeous company car, laptop, expense account and made a massive financial contribution to the family income but yet, the position was swallowing all my time and energy. However this time I was determined not to let it get in the way of my family life.
When I approached my boss to discuss how I could cut back on my working hours so I could create a better balance, well lets just say the conversation did not go as I had hoped. I was practically laughed out of his office?!!! My working colleagues thought I was weak and couldn’t handle the internal competition! There was nothing else for me to do but tell them what they could do with all their perks! That’s right, find a replacement who cared more for that stuff than me.
That night I drove home worrying how to break the news to my husband. I had quit my job without another offer on the table or the faintest idea what I should be doing instead. After many years of being responsible and dedicated to my work, I just left all that I knew for the complete unknown.
I felt very guilty and stupid but also unbelievably free and exhilarated. I knew there had to be a better way of doing this. Being a mom and a business woman had to be something that can be achieved without needing to give up anything. But first I had to try one more thing - becoming the ‘mom at the gate’.
Maybe that was my true calling and I should be a stay at home mom, looking after the families needs, getting involved in the local community, prepare home cooked meals and wait by the front door for my husband to come home.
Needless to say that he was thrilled by the time I got back that day. Me? I was not sure if I should be celebrating or calling my boss to ask for my job back. What had I done?
Monday, March 30, 2009
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before you consider taking the plunge to become an entrepreneur.
Having done exceptionally well in the corporate world, does that automatically qualify you for success? Are you able to live with the trait offs? Do you have the courage to set it up and then hang on in there against all adversities?
Are you a visionary? Do you seek solutions rather than worry about the challenges? Are you committed to see it through and work hard even in tough times? Do you know where to start and who to turn to for help? Do you have a plan all mapped out to help you stay focused on what the next logical steps will be?
All these questions should give you some food for thought! We will take a look at other start up stories before I continue to share my own. So lets hear it from the field and leave us with your comments!
There is a great German saying for people who are self-employed: Translated it is ‘selbststaendig’ also understood as ‘staendig selbst’, which means ‘constantly, by oneself’!
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Working for a small family run business certainly had a completely different feel than being part of a multi national, large organization. Decisions can be made quicker and the ability to react to change is much faster. Certainly the dynamics of a small company seem to be more adaptable and vibrant.
The individual employee really matters to the contributions in terms of skill set and expertise as well as any deals closed. You become part of a close knit team where everyone’s effort counts every day.
Another great aspect of working for a smaller concern is that your vote counts whilst your strategy and vision can make a real difference as long as it fits with the overall company plan.
I loved working for the software house! It was very cutting edge with a whole bunch of opportunities to expand and grow. This was certainly recognized by capital investors in London and once the company had raised vast amounts of money, it exploded with new members of staff, marketing events, PR activities as well as new layers of middle management to cope with all the new arrivals.
A new operation in Chicago was set up and whilst all of this created huge excitement making for an amazing sales pitch to my key accounts, it also meant that lots had changed at a dizzying speed. In this situation communication is the most important factor to make sure, everyone is still on board and is up to date with all the changes.
My role became a key component to the sustainable growth strategy and I was therefore very much under pressure to deliver significant results. So I was back in the same position as I had been in my previous company. Lots of traveling, participation at major trade events and my own targets ensured that I was working flat out. In addition due to the major expansion there was some pretty significant internal competition among staff to carve out their own positions - a tough environment if you are seeking the work/ life balance to reconcile your families happiness!
Monday, March 16, 2009
Family life is a wonderful thing as long as everything is working smoothly, the financials are not a worry, everyone is healthy, mum and dad get a lot of quality time together, jobs are good, the children behave well, the in-laws are good friends, living accommodation is acceptable, the relationship with the spouse is just right. Can you see where this is leading?
Exactly, this is not life! This is an ideal set up that most of us strive to achieve and no doubt do we have many things in place that are just the way we want them to be. However it is the other things that throw us off track, make us grumpy and stressed and in turn, cause trouble with the people around us.
If I have learned anything in my time than it is that everything comes with a compromise. In our personal and professional lives we have to be prepared to accept the challenges that come with every opportunity.
In my position as Sales & Marketing Manager for 3 countries in the previous company, I had been working for, I enjoyed financial freedom, a certain status within the company and among colleagues whilst reaching professional development goals. The downside was the divide it caused in my family.
Now, in the new position as Partner Manager, I had to start from scratch. The technology, the company had developed was in depth and new. Really something to get your head around. New colleagues to gel with, management to impress, new relationships to build with key stakeholders internally as well as externally and a much longer and more complex sales cycle.
Still working everyday and with the added stresses outlined above, it took some time before I could settle down a little better into the new job and in turn be more chilled at home.
So, finally! Surely now was the time to kick back and enjoy work and family.
I had left behind the flat out stress from the previous company and could now start over. Well lets just say, you can take the woman out of a company but you can't take the company out of a woman! Meaning that history started to repeat itself far too quickly.....
Monday, March 9, 2009
I started to spread the word among my network and it was not long until I had a phone call from a head hunting company for a Partner Manager position in a software company based in Bristol, UK. The job description suited me down to the ground with an emphasis on major key account acquisition and management. I was responsible for creating new sales channels by partnering with IBM, Hewlett Packard, Cap Gemini Ernst & Young and Equifax.
The software, the company had designed, was a powerful data mining tool for Customer Relationship Management applications. Build on lasting partnership agreements; I was further trained in Miller Heiman techniques specifically designed for large and complex decision making processes within giant companies.
As employee number sixteen, I was working very closely with our management team to implement company strategies and I had an insight into the mechanics of running a business that was gearing up for a major venture capital investment. When the company finally floated, it had raised $74.000.000!
My personal life had settled back into a more manageable routine. Because I started very early in the morning, I was home at 5pm every afternoon which meant plenty of quality time for our family. Quickly the turbulences of the past had been forgotten about and we were looking into a much brighter and happier future….
Monday, March 2, 2009
In our case we decided that following many attempts to mend the relationship, the only way to move forward was by separating! Not many people could understand how we could give up on each other so easily but really what we saw was that we were young and not prepared to just make do with something that wasn’t working anymore.
This was really a tough time for all of us, emotionally as well as financially. However we knew this was the only way to determine our priorities and what was really important to us. The minute our separation appeared to be final, something wonderful happened! We took notice of one another again and re-evaluated where our hearts truly lay. Now that we put some objectivity into our discussions, we could clearly see where things went wrong.
We started ‘dating’ again and within two months had moved back into the family home together! How wonderful!
From now on things were going to drastically change around here…..
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I had turned around a critically underperforming division and grew profit margins by over 500%, won major key accounts and trained a team of sales people to assist with the growing demand.
If I had thought that I had achieved the ultimate goal and now I could find some balance my lifestyle, I was sadly mistaken.
Of course it only got more busy yet again and now that I was part of the management, I was invited to global events such as sales meetings in San Diego, training events in Dallas, Texas whilst the pressure to keep increasing revenue and profits was ever more paramount.
A part of me loved the ‘high flying’ career, the recognition and financial remuneration not to mention the five star hotels I had become accustomed to. Flying business class and taking clients out for lavish treats was part of my ‘scorching dessert’.
But the affect it had on my family was detrimental. My husband and I had completely grown apart. We didn’t seem to have anything in common anymore. When trying to figure things out by going on a family vacation, I was shocked how far removed I had become from my son as well. I did not know what he liked for breakfast???!!!
My husband and son had a very close relationship due to them spending so much time together and whilst on holiday, it felt that I was no part of it anymore.
What had happened? When did it all go wrong? And why did my attempt for a better life for us all backfire so badly?
To be continued…
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Then why do we feel we have to justify ourselves for doing well? Explain, why we have given our career equal focus to our families and sometimes even more? Thinking that we have to make it up to everyone around us!
Are we still fighting the battle of gender equality? Is it society? Or is it our own expectations and perceptions? We certainly feel responsible to our children and spouses and want to ensure that home and life is running smoothly for everyone. Don't forget, we are really the first generation who is striving to have it all!
Monday, February 9, 2009
As much as I would have liked to be involved in my child’s environment, I was always rushing off to some important meeting. Once promoted into a field sales position to continue building strong relationships with customers I had acquired through my telesales activities, I would now have to spend days and weeks travelling around Germany to visit clients.
At this point 50% of my time was invested into travel and soon this would be getting more and more difficult to manage without any outside help.
I would continue to compensate for lack of quality time through amazing presents and lavish outings.
Anyone who has worked in the corporate world will know that you do get recognized for the amount of time you are prepared to invest. If you are there before your boss and leave hours after he has gone, well, you are considered potential for a management position. Strangely, productivity is measured in man hours more so than results.
Of course, it is wrong to assume that you must work at least 12 hours per day to be considered a committed employee. But I didn’t make the rules, I just followed them same as everyone who wants to get ahead in business.
So I continued to do my very best and was rewarded with more responsibility and expensive training courses in London in preparation for my promotion to Sales Manager for Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
To be continued…
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Their new business model worked! Soon the department grew and within a year I was in charge of three more telesales people for the German speaking countries, involved in recruiting, training and motivating my own team of specialists.
Now the pressure was on with my own cost centre, budgets, concerns for targets and profit margins as well as staffing issues.
The 9 – 5 didn’t seem to be feasible anymore. There was always so much to do and as a perfectionist, I could not rest until everything was done, and was done, just right!
My superiors loved my enthusiasm and commitment and the more I was prepared to take on, the more they would throw at me. The incentives were becoming more enticing and soon I was completely sucked in.
Although I wasn’t home every night to tuck my little guy into bed, I told myself:” That’s o.k., I am there for him all weekend! And when we are together, we can now afford great outings to special places!” Thing is, did my three year old care about any of the fancy stuff?
I can tell you that my husband cared a great deal about having to take care of things especially now that my job had turned into a career.
To be continued…
Monday, January 19, 2009
Looking back it still surprises me how I persevered, overcoming language barriers and coping with new terminologies, complex software and services propositions and the sheer difficulty of learning the skills of telemarketing.
After my initial training week which was spent in all various departments including the manufacturing facilities, I was let loose on potential clients.
The company provided me with a phone, pen and paper and a telephone directory, wished me good luck and sent me on my merry ways!
In those days, a computer was a luxury and the internet was not really readily available, yet.
I was taught that cold calling is a numbers game! The more times you try, the greater the chance that you will speak to someone who is interested. And although I heard a whole lot of: “Not today, thank you!”, I was determined to keep this job.
It wasn’t long before I sharpened my ‘spiel’, refined my closing techniques and enjoyed my first taste of success. My first order was for 20 media cartridges and the value could have been not more than $240 but it felt as if I had just landed the biggest deal possible. I had made it!
That afternoon I went home celebrating with my family, treating us all to a special dinner – so far for any commission earned?!
While work was moving along and more little successes started to trickle in, my world primarily evolved around life at home. I worked to live and my husband and son always came first. That’s how it will always be, won’t it?
To be continued…..
Monday, January 12, 2009
Now, that we were leaving the army there was no choice but to find a job that paid the mortgage. Initially working as a hotel receptionist, I soon found that the work/ pay/ life balance didn’t add up and when a position in ‘telesales’ with a normal 9-5, Monday to Friday opportunity came along, of course I did not hesitate. Ideal! Because at least I could spend the important bedtimes with Louis, cook a healthy meal and even read him a story. Perfect!
The IT company was looking to fill an international telesales position for the German market based out of Wales, UK and as a German National I was delighted to be able to utilize my mother tongue.
A minor detail was that I had no idea what ‘telesales’ actually meant. I knew it had something to do with sales. Well, and that was ok! But the only ‘tele’ I had ever heard of, was the television set in our home! I thought, “it’s regular hours and that is all I care about.”
Can you imagine my shock when I realized, I had gotten myself into a highly technical, totally male dominated industry?! And little did I know that this would be the beginning of an immense career, questioning the serene family life as I knew it.
To be continued….