Welcome to the first legitimate place for my monologues and inner (runaway) thought trains.
I have never needed an excuse to talk and am quick to add to my skillset that I can get conversation out of a rock, chatter out of a brick wall, soliloquies out of a….well, you get the point.
Having found myself the agony aunt for many a befuddled colleague, friend or complete stranger I felt that I tend to give advice best when it comes from experience.
No matter how embarrassing…thank you for taking the time to peruse my musings – enjoy!
The Glass Ceiling…
In 2008 I started swimming teaching and quickly racked up 30 hours a week. I was walking on air, my world was filled with rubber ducks, splashy toes and giggling kiddies. I was infatuated with my job, I was looking down a tunnel of years with nothing but positivity and enthusiasm. By 2013 I was gritting my teeth to get through every shift, I was exhausted. Where once I had nothing but love for something I had been (or so I thought) born to do, I was burnt out and wondering where my passion had gone.
I couldn’t understand it, I was filled with anxiety, tiredness and worst of all I couldn’t see how I could do it another year much less till retirement.
I had previously nurtured dreams of running my own swimming school but the idea of having to be the one to jump in every time a teacher called in sick, of never having space from the business, of my peak hours being evenings and early weekend mornings, meant that this dream rapidly went from something I wanted, to something I trudged towards – because I didn’t have another plan so why change course.
It’s now 2020 and I’ve had a lot of epiphanies. I’ve worked at the forefront of large swimming providers. I’ve covered ungodly times on a Sunday morning, I’ve dealt with the back and forth between teachers, venues and the all important customer service team and you know what? I realised two things.
One, I still love swimming teaching – just not in a way that means I want spend all 40 hours of my working week doing it. I’d rather do a few hours a week for fun!
Two – and most importantly; I reached the glass ceiling in much the same way my target clients do. They have a skill, something they learnt to do through hard graft or were born with an affinity for but this skill does not always remain as something we love unconditionally.
Some turn their skill into a business and they obsess over it, they adore it, their passion endures and they are lucky enough to avoid the creeping apathy that can seep in when you are doing too much of something alongside trying to make it a steady income and spin the other 100 plates we’re so used to having in this modern age.
To be good at something is one thing. To be good at it, sell it, be an accountant for it, market it, manage it’s social media presence, employ other people just as skilled, operate a calendar, handle bureaucracy, carry out health and safety analysis and STILL be just as good at it – can be bloody impossible. Hats off to anyone who can do all the above and have only a rare bad day.
The thing is, since my first grassroots days where I worked for a peer education company, as an events coordinator, swimming teacher, assistant manager, teacher liaison, operations manager and now sitting at the helm of my own business – one thing is utterly clear. Every single business owner i’ve encountered reaches a glass ceiling and it’s their next move that dictates whether they crash through it or are crushed by it.
This glass ceiling can be that they are a one man band maybe a landscape gardener or drama club owner, maybe a karate club owner or a painter/decorator. They all have one thing in common; they have a skill. They have a passion. They’ve made that passion their business and it’s consumed every hour of their lives and they LOVED IT. What happens though when the demand overwhelms? How do you outsource? Do you hire more contractors who are skilled like yourself? Is that the end answer? In the short term perhaps but with more people come more problems.
Suddenly instead of steering a team of skilled people you’re dealing with their personal lives – covering their sickness, family issues, dealing with office politics and trying to plug the holes. You have too many holes in your business and not enough fingers or toes to plug them! Your ship is in danger and now you’re so busy BEING the deliverer of the product or service that the ship has nobody steering it.
As a business owner that tipping point has to be identified, to do this, you need to know how many hours you can feasibly DO your business and RUN your business. What’s the balance?
As an example; if I were running a swimming school I might say that the running of the business will initially take up 25 hours a week of my time perhaps 5 hours a day of administration and the remaining 15 hours will be 3 hours a day of teaching swimming 5 days a week. What happens then when my business grows too big for me to leave the office to teach and I have to bring on more instructors so I can focus on the administration and steering the business to sunny seas of profit? What happens to the shifts of those teachers when they get ill, stop work suddenly, move away, suffer a personal issue and cannot work? Who does the administration if I’m covering every hour in the diary?
I’d say this is where a virtual assistant is invaluable. If they know the basics that your business needs and can see to these needs on a regular basis, the crunch times won’t feel so crunchy and the glass ceiling can be managed without going from a 40 hour week to a never ending slog.
By having someone who knows the basics of your business and your goals (no matter what those are) you can be assured that you have backup in the following ways:
1) Someone who can take care of in house admin, marketing, invoices, client care and venue relations when you can’t.
2) Someone who can help tackle a huge to do list on an ad hoc basis (even just 2 hours a week to keep on top of things) which can then be reduced/increased as and when you need it.
3) Most importantly; a listening ear to pull you back when you’re leaning over the cliff edge of doubt and need help remembering those goals.
My takeaway from the experiences I’ve had is that you can’t stop your glass ceiling appearing – but anticipating in your business plan when it will appear- where that tipping point will be and what form it will take, means you’ll be better prepared, have a plan and find it easier to break through to better things.
By investing in some external support early on you’ll find it easier to break through that glass ceiling – especially when you have twice as much power and a friendly face to help you do it.
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