Women in Business – Flexibility AKA Happiness is our priority

It’s taken a few generations but we’re getting there, women in business can now confidently and proudly declare that their profit is calculated on the happiness scale more so than by the bank balance. We no longer need to declare that our mission is to conquer the world and make mega millions. We can be honest, be ourselves, be feminine and quirky in our own ways and not only declare that a good work/life balance is our priority but substantiate it.

The infographic from the NatWest monitor is the hard evidence for the cynics hanging onto the 20th century. Having a good work/life balance is a no brainer for the female entrepreneur of 2017 because it is clear to us that our life memories are far more important than our work memories. We have happiness values in bucket loads, for us materialistic values are in the tv vaults with Dallas and shoulder pads. Furthermore, we have found out that if we do what makes us happy, we can also make money.

By being focussed on happiness rather than sustainable profitability, we create businesses which are more customer focussed than ever. We know who we are and what makes us happy, in turn our customers know how we are going to make them satisfied, they connect with us and enjoy a personalised cultural experience. They feel good, so do we, and we all keep going back for more. With our focus on having enough income to live on and flexibility of business around our lives, customers are attracted by our lack of heavy sales and identify with our values, they want the same as us, their empathy breeds loyalty, supporting their own dreams.

Breaking with long standing perceptions, Domestic Angels is one of the new era of home-based franchises on the market which breaks the materialistic mould instead generating profit and happiness in equal balance for its franchisees. Trading since 2002, the Angels can fully substantiate their winning formula that hits an excellent work/life balance, providing sufficient flexibility and income to do ‘life’ yet enough challenges to grow franchisees as business owners. Director, Samantha Acton says “I deliberately created a business which fulfilled my need for happiness in all areas of my life and not have work as the dominant time consumer. I want to share this opportunity with other budding business owners. As it goes these days, I probably work just as much as I did in my ‘career’ the difference being that I do it all for myself and I genuinely enjoy my work, it’s not work, it’s fun, it’s about helping others to be happy.’ Times have changed, for the better.

Meet the successful businesses that start at home and stay there

We’ve probably all heard stories of businesses which start in a spare bedroom and become multi-million pound concerns.

But what about the businesses that stay – and thrive – in that spare room?

For some, work can be done wherever there is a good internet connection and a phone service – even when it involves hiring and managing other people.

Sam Acton started Domestic Angels, a domestic cleaning and home help service, in her home at Southbourne in 2002. Not only has it expanded and won a national award, but she has recently turned it into a franchising opportunity.

“I started with an ad in the Daily Echo on April 11, 2002. At 11.10am, a woman phoned up. She was my first client and stayed with me for 11 years,” she says.

“I quite quickly had four staff, then stayed at that level for a few years. I learned to be an employer.”

She now has around 20 staff looking after around 1,000 client hours a month. Although the business has moved to a home office in the garden, she has found no need to find separate premises.

The agency started in the days of home produced flyers rather than websites and social media, and the advance of technology has been vital to keeping a sizeable business going from home.

“The business would never have got as bit as it has if it wasn’t for technology,” she says.

“Email is very speedy and I can email and communicate with our clients whilst they’re at work. You can email for a reference and get it back straight away, which makes the business scalable anyway.”

She chose to franchise as a way of expanding the business while keeping her own operation a manageable size. Franchisees buy into a way of running the businesses and the processes it has evolved.

“Our reputation is the most precious thing we have because we’re in a service industry. It’s a really big deal. Franchisees are buying into the reputation and the culture,” she says.

Kate Shaw runs her own public relations business, KTPR, from home in Westbourne. Having been involved in politics and the private school sector, she launched the business in an area that has no shortage of PR agencies.

“It was my husband who had the belief that I could make it work. I started totally cold and I did have many doubts and kept my eye on the job market for quite some time but I gradually picked up and it’s gone from strength to strength,” she says.

The business has moved a couple of times within the house and is now in a spare bedroom.

“I found when I was in the back room it was starting to take over my life. My office is confined to one room in the house,” she says.

Both women have learned about finding boundaries between work and personal life. Sam Acton says she had to make it clear early on that working from home was still working.

“I was making myself too accessible. I had to say ‘I’m working at the moment, can I get back to you?’” she said.

But both say they benefit from flexibility in their working days.

“I like the fact that when [son] Jack comes in the door, we can have a chat. It’s being able to do those kinds of things and enjoying life and not feel like anything’s getting out of hand,” says Sam.

“When you get to the end of the day you’ve got the chance to sit at the table and have a chinwag.”

Kate Shaw added: “Quite often when I’ve got a press release to write, I’ll go down to the beach and take my laptop and be inspired by the surroundings. I’ve been quite flexible about where I might go during the day.”

There is little danger of feeling isolated from not being in a busy office, she says.

“The nature of my job is quite social anyway and it’s not just me sitting in my office,” she adds.

For Sam Acton, the success of the business outstripped her expectations. She took the title for home based business at the Venus National Awards for women in business in 2013-2014 after winning the local award. The confidence boost from that success has helped her expand the business, go into franchising and meanwhile organise annual Parliament Week events locally.

“In 2013, when I won the Venus, I struggled to take it on board that I was a business person. I was Sam who did Domestic Angels,” she says.

“When I won the national award, that’s when the penny really dropped.”