Mumpreneur Profile: Joyce of Charis NLP

Name of Business:

Charis NLP

Your Name and Age:

Joyce Campbell 52 (outside) 25 (inside!)Tell us about your family:

I’ve been married to Bob for nearly 30 years, and at the moment, we live by the coast, in the South West of Scotland. We have a daughter, Hannah, who is 14.

What did you do before coming up with your business idea and how was it making the transition?

Bob and I got married quite young at 23. I had studied Psychology at university and afterwards did a post-graduate nursing course, and worked as a nurse while we waited for the kids to come along. When they didn’t, I found myself climbing the corporate ladder instead, and by the time we had Hannah when I was 38, I was in a fairly senior post in the NHS.

I took the maximum maternity leave, and then when Hannah became ill just before I was due to go back to work, tacked a career break onto that as well, and didn’t return to work until she was 20 months old. I was lucky in that the public sector has very family-friendly policies, and I was able to work part-time on my return. I was constantly frustrated though, and felt that I was failing both as a mother and an employee. I felt I no longer had the same focus at work, and when I was at home, I was always checking emails and trying to keep up with work, so that I could achieve more on my office days.

I had initially seen part-time working as a stop-gap until Hannah was at school, but when we decided to home educate her, I realised I wouldn’t be returning to full time work any time soon, especially as I had a horrendous three-hour commute both ways to get to the office. Eventually all the running about took its toll, and a bout of flu turned into pneumonia, leaving me feeling too ill to work for months. During that time I took a long hard look at my life, and asked myself if I was really living the life of my dreams – the answer was a rather resounding no!

A career coach encouraged me to do a skills audit and I realised that I loved training, I loved helping people develop, and I was desperate to write a book! I also had some skills that I was under-utilising, as some years previously I had trained as a coach, an NLP practitioner and a hypnotherapist, and I wanted to do something that would allow me to incorporate these skills.

My parents helped us out with childcare for three months, so I could train as a trainer of NLP and hypnotherapy. As soon as I came home from that, I set up the business. Now I offer corporate and personal coaching, mainly for women; and I run accredited training courses for people who want to train to be hypnotherapists, NLP practitioners and coaches themselves.

The transition was easier than I expected – I had worried that I might be too institutionalised to work in a different way, but in fact I found it a liberating experience, and I felt creative and energised by the transition.

So much so that I have also written a book called How to get off your backside and live your life!, which will be published in October 2010.

When did you launch?

June 2007.

How did you get started?

I set up my website and an ad-words campaign to promote the training before I qualified, so that I had a course set up and ready to run the moment I got my trainer’s license. Failure really wasn’t an option! I was fortunate to get a few coaching clients through a business contact as well.

What research did you do before launching?

I looked at key demographics and trends for self employment, portfolio careers and later life career change to help with targeting. I decided to focus on woman at transition points and offered to act like an OBGYN for: new graduates; childbirth; menopause and retirement.

I price-checked other providers, although I don’t aim to compete on price, I focus on results and quality.

How have you funded the business?

The business start-up costs were funded from our house renovation fund! We had moved into a house that needed a fair bit of work done on it, and we had funds set aside for the renovations. We decided that our horrible avocado bathroom suite and pine kitchen were actually still functional, so we’d be better spending the money on something that would make me happy. We’ve scaled back on holidays as well, so that if it needs a cash injection we can give it. I was always clear that I didn’t want a fledgling business to be carrying debt. And we did manage to replace the kitchen at the end of 2009!

How do you promote your business? What has worked best?

I’ve tried a variety of things. Word of mouth is obviously important, but it is a slow way to build a business, and in any case, people are not always willing to talk about their experience of coaching or therapy, so you can’t depend on it.  I’ve been talked into a couple of print adverts, and I have to say they were a complete waste of money. I’m listed in all the main online directories, and I do the usual networking events.

I also run taster days and do a lot of talks and presentations – I would like to break into the motivational speaking circuit, so that’s a goal I’m still working towards.

I have a couple of Google ad-word campaigns that run in the background all the time, and I ensure my web site is well optimised. I don’t think you can do business nowadays without a good website, it really is your showcase, and most of my enquiries are generated through the website.

Recently I’ve started to work with a PR company, Tally Communications. It’s too early to assess yet what this will mean in terms of actual business, but I’ve been hugely impressed with the amount of coverage they’ve managed to get for me so far, so that is an avenue I’ll be exploring further.

What has worked well about your business?

The flexibility in the courses and coaching packages we offer is important. There have been a few bright ideas that haven’t paid off, but we’ve learned from them. I’m constantly reviewing and updating what we offer, as I would never want to feel we were training or coaching ‘by numbers’. Everyone’s situation and needs are unique and we do our best to respond to that.

What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?

One of the hardest things I’ve found to deal with is bad debts. My credit control really wasn’t stringent enough in the early days, and because of the type of work I do, it was easy to feel that maintaining the relationship was more important than chasing payment. Because of that, we took a fairly bad financial hit about 18 months ago.  Although the sums involved weren’t vast, they were large enough to be significant for a small business.  I learned a really tough business lesson from that process, and although I still like to trust people, I am probably more wary. My accountant has helped me put in some good credit control measures to get prompt payment, and I hire someone else to chase outstanding invoices, so it’s one step removed from me.

How do you fit in work with the family?

I do a lot of training at the weekends when my husband is around, and till recently we had a nanny for a day a week for client contact time, making pitches etc. All my office and admin type work is done in the evenings, and I write in the early mornings. Most of my coaching is done at breakfast meetings. Although Hannah is home educated, she is largely self-educated now, so we often sit and work together. The first year though, there wasn’t a single day when I didn’t do something with the business – and that included Christmas day. It’s hard work, but the rewards are great. I’m getting more disciplined now though, and do ensure that I create proper me-time.  However, like most business people I know, I have a smart phone permanently attached to me, and a netbook in my bag, so that I can get emails and respond to requests on the move. One of my most challenging moments recently was closing a sale on the phone, at the same time as I was trying to cook my daughter something to eat, and then the dog came in and was sick on my shoes.

Initially I only took on clients within a 100 miles of home, but earlier this year we ran our first course in Brighton, which was very exciting, and as Hannah gets more independent we plan to do more work nationally and possibly even internationally.

What advice would you give to someone else wanting to work in this area?

You have to be passionate, and really care about other people’s development. You need a robust skill base, as you can often be in emotionally charged situations, and have to think on your feet. I strive to over-deliver, and certainly don’t bill every client hour – it’s important that people have a good experience, and I do believe that you reap the benefits of that down the line.

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