Wow moments!

03/21/2013

I’ve blogged in the past about how running What’s On 4 means I never know what the next email will say and that’s what makes it so exciting.  As the business has grown this hasn’t changed and now helps me get through the challenges.  You see I know that just around the corner there will be something wonderful or a ‘wow’ moment.  It’s this fact – I say fact because I know it will happen – that helps me push through the tricky times. 

I think this works in life in general too.  We all know there are bad times and there are good times, and there are some amazing times too.  So if you’re having a tough time at the moment don’t forget that just around the corner will be a ‘wow’ moment for you, hang in there, it’s coming!

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Everybody wants flexible working

03/07/2013

This morning I’m being interviewed by Moneywise magazine (www.moneywise.co.uk) about flexible working and my story in wanting it – and achieving it.

Flexible working is something I think pretty much everyone wants but it becomes more of a need when you have other things going on in your life that require a dedication of quality time.  Most commonly this is having a family but there are other reasons too such as caring for relatives.  Sometimes it’s because you need to balance your own life better, an event such as a death or illness can open your eyes to the need to enjoy the life you have more fully.

For me it was having a baby they meant I needed a flexible way of working but where I could still use all my skills and experience plus learn some new stuff too.  But during that process I’ve retrospectively realised that I also needed to spend some more time for me making my quality of life better.  Because of the flexibilty of What’s On 4 I now take 3-4 Body Combat or Zumba classes a week so I’m much fitter and healthier than I ever was, my weight is down, my confidence is up and stress is managable.  This all means I perform better in my job too so wins all round!

Only now looking back do I realise how unhealthy I was when I worked full time, thank goodness I took action when I did, I think I would be on the road to some very nasty illnesses if I hadn’t.

Whatever your want, need or motivation is for flexible working I am proof it is possible and worth it.  I’m very happy I found it and even happier that with What’s On 4 I can help other people find it too.

Employment or childcare – both are important

01/08/2013

Recent government announcements have really annoyed me as they seem to be so biased towards us working rather than looking after our own children.

The reduction and then complete removal of child benefit kicks in when one person in a household earns more than £50k, so if both parents earn £49k they get to keep it.  This is blatently unfair to families where one parent has decided to look after the children rather than work.

Then yesterday an announcement that there will be a tax relief system to compensation working mother’s for childcare.  Details are not yet available and I applaud what it seeks to do for mothers working but there seems to be no flip side to support woman who are looking after their children.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m very much ‘live and let live’ and I don’t think there is a right and wrong way to do it, for some people there isn’t even the choice.  But what gets me ranting is the lack of acknowledgement that if one parent is looking after the children is an equally important role for the country.

It seems to me that it boils down to the fact that if you aren’t in paid employment you are therefore not adding to the economy or the government cash with your tax and ni payments so what you’re doing is not worthwhile.

I’d like to see a method of rewarding parents who take a break from employment to care for their children too.  Howabout some tax incentive when they do go back? Or a way to transfer their tax allowance to the partner that is working?  It can’t really be that hard to get the balance right can it?

Can you help us?

mumandworking is all about finding a way for parents to have a job and look after their children – so acknowledging both roles are important and vital!  We have a survey running at the moment to understand how different types of jobs fit with family life – can you spare 2 minutes to do the survey for us please?   It’s even support by Claire Young from The Apprentice!

Take the survey here —> http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e6okqc0uh9uyrcec/start

Fancy a change?

12/04/2012

I’ve just implemented a massive change in What’s On 4 that’s taken over a year to make happen.  All my working life has been about change as I was in IT then project management before setting up What’s On 4.  Nothing has stayed the same for very long.  I like change and I’m used to it but even I find it tough at times.  It’s hard to bid farewell to what you know even if you are excited about what’s coming up!

This time of year is all about change I find.  Little things like putting the Christmas decorations up, more social events, travelling to see family and friends, having a break from work, eating different things, drinking different things!!  Of course, things do have to do back to normal in January so it’s only a temporary change.

More permanent changes can be harder to adapt to but we do.And we forget what it was like before a big change.  The transistion can be tough though and quite stressful so here are my ‘dealing with change’ tips if you’ve experiencing one at the moment

1) Make sure people know that you are going through a change.  So if it’s a change at work let your family know, and vice versa.  Talk to someone about how you feel about the change.
2) Believe you can make the change.  Think of other big changes that you have successfully lived through, you did it then so you can do it now
3) Don’t expect yourself to just cope immediately.  Take things slowly if you can, find time to do things you enjoy and take a break from the ‘change’ if you can
4) Think of all the positive aspects of the change and focus on these rather than the glitches that might be causing you problem at the moment.  Imagine yourself once you’ve worked through the change and how life will be then.

5) And don’t forget that you’re probably not alone! Others will be affected by the same change so do all you can to pull together and help each other.

The sun always shines on TV

10/16/2012

I’ve recently tested a new feature on our websites to include video on the activity listings.  This has been about 5 years in the making.

I originally wanted to do it back in 2007 but after doing some research we were advised against because of putting videos of children online and the risks that this would bring. This was pre the massive phenomenon that is YouTube when video and TV online was the exception rather than the rule.  Nowadays video and TV online is common place so we now have videos in our listings. 

Of course all our advertiser must ensure they have permission for the video and we check all of them before they can be seen by the public – just like we do all text and still images. 

Video is a fantastic way for our advertisers to showcase their classes.  A short video can capture the content and atmosphere of a class that no amount of words and images can.  I’m really pleased we’ve finally been able to give this option to our advertisers and visitors.

My point here is how quickly attitude and tolerances change and how we must keep up personally and professionally with changes.  Whilst it can be harder for us ‘oldies’ (I’m 40 now!) to adapt to new ways of interacting it’s important to keep up and understand why things like twitter, facebook, YouTube, pinterest, to name a few, are such a part of people’s daily lives.  It doesn’t mean that traditional ways of doing things are wrong but there is always room for new ideas and improvement.  Image

When I set up What’s On 4 at the beginning of 2006 I would never have expected us to have 30,000 Twitter followers (Twitter hadn’t even been invented!) but if you’d said that we’d be sending 140 character messages to parents I’d have thought you were mad.  (Did I mention Alan Davies replied to one of my tweets last week!)

It’s slightly crazy to think about what the next 5 years will bring but I’d like to think that me and What’s On 4 are at least ready to give it a try and then make it part of our business if it’s the right thing to do!

But let’s not forget the good old days – check out our off shoot facebook page When we were little ones!

And if you’d like to see video in action here’s a couple of nice example of it in action!

http://www.whatson4schoolkids.co.uk/activity_listing.asp?ActID=5543&Who=Shin_Gi_Tai_Martial_Arts_Academy_Activities_for_Karate,_Judo

http://www.whatson4me.co.uk/activity_listing.asp?ActID=6980&Who=TEDxSalford_-_Sunday_21st_October_2012,_The_Lowry,_Salford_Activities_for_Adult_Education_and_Study,_Business_Services_&_Activities,_Days_Out,_Socialising_and_Networking,_Special_Interest_Societies

 

 

Life Begins…

09/11/2012

Last month I celebrated the big 4-0! I was swept along on a whirlwind of surprises, presents, outings and a lot of fun with family and friends. I’m a very lucky girl!

I did get me thinking that if life really begins at 40 then I’m not sure I can keep up. You see my 30s have been an amazing decade for me so it would be quite hard to beat!

It started with the arrival of my daughter who is now 8 and of course the most precious thing in the world to me but even more so because it was the massive change she brought to my life that led to the start of What’s On 4 nearly 7 years ago.  I shan’t repeat the whole story here but you can listen to it on the mumandworking home page as I did an interview recently with our new Career Coach.

As well as What’s On 4 I found myself in my 30s:  I found the job I loved, found out much more about what makes me tick with the help of my business coach and found out I liked exercise!  Yes, I’m addicted to Body Combat and Zumba that have helped me lose weight but even more importantly I’m fitter now that I was in my 20s.  And all these things have created a much more confident and happier Sam Willoughby.

I’m far from perfect and there is a lot more I want to achieve all round in my 40s.  I certainly believe that it doesn’t matter what age you are if you want to make changes to your life.  I’m very pleased I’m entering my 40s as the person I am today, certainly a good place for my life to begin!

EveryGirl

06/06/2012

Hello!  I’m facing a room full of 300 15-18 year old school girls in a few weeks as part of the EveryGirl event in Basingstoke!

I was chuffed to be asked by the amazing Liz Jackson (of Secret Millionaire fame) to get involved and I didn’t hesitate to say ‘yes’.  I remember very specifically someone coming into my school when I was about the same age to run a business workshop and then I went on to do Economics at GCSE and A Level.  I didn’t have any grand plans to run my own business when I left school as there weren’t any role models that I could aspire to be like.  The only option that I thought I had was to get a job after education.  I still think having a career does set you up for running your own business but I also hope that some of the girls at the EveryGirl event will come away knowing that having their own business is an option for them, if not straightaway, then in the future.

You can find out more about EveryGirl here http://www.facebook.com/events/301598636582389/#!/EverygirlModernMuse

School Demands

04/26/2012

Last Thursday, there was a letter sent home from school say that it would be shut on Tuesday as the electricity may be off in the area whilst maintenance was performed.  Whilst I don’t argue that the school should be shut in these circumstances, what I resent hugely is the 2 working days notice of this closure.  In fact, I’ve been ranting to anyone who will listen about it!  I cannot believe that the electricity company gave the school just a few days notice.  Even if the school were investigating whether the school had to be closed they should have warned parents that a closure might be necessary.

Actually, I can cope with this amount of notice as I have a flexible job and understanding colleagues that will work around this with me.  But what about all the parents who don’t have this?  I have a huge bee in my bonnet generally that school seems to think that all parents have no other commitments and can action requests by school at a moments notice.  Of course they don’t think this but they do act a lot of the time like they do.

Schools need to realise that most parents work and they cannot produce a fancy dress costume on Friday if asked on Monday!  They cannot attend an essential meeting with a week’s notice.  And whilst I’m in rant mode they also need to realise that most people struggle to get home from work before 6 and scheduling two school performances in the same week makes it very tricky to attend both.

As I said, I don’t have a problem with any of these requests, but I’m very aware of my parallel life where I went back to work rather than setting up my own business where I can working part time and flexibily – in that life that Sam is struggling with these demands big time as many parents do.

 

Nice work

02/27/2012

I’ve just come back from meeting our US master franchisor in Arizona. It was a great trip and well worth the jet lag! One big difference in culture is how nice everyone else. Obviously I am telling you this based on a week in a suburb of Phoenix and I’m sure that other parts of the US are very different but I’ve decided that it’s worth talking about because it really works. Everyone was nice, nice people greet you in the shops, sales assistants offer you help, nice waiters who can’t do enough for you, nice hotel staff are always smiling, nice cab drivers don’t moan about the weather but ask if we eat trumpets in the UK and even a nice check in desk person at the airport. Everyone seems so chilled, not rushing about and I didn’t hear one cross voice the whole time.

Yes, it’s all quite sugary and I’m sure they can’t all mean it but it’s quite infectious. You get completely swept along with it. I found myself cheerily joining in to reply ‘I’m good and how are you’ with a big smile on my face. I get home to the UK and the difference is stark and I’m back to my normal self going about my business, polite but not that cheery and sometimes a bit grumpy. I found that I started worrying about small stuff again, I hadn’t even noticed that I had stopped this when I was in the US. I’m now thinking that maybe us Brits do deserve our reputation of being whingey? Though I blame the weather for this mostly.

So I decided to conduct a little experiment by going about my day to day life the American way. Every shop I’m ‘Hello, how are you’ + huge smile and it was … well frankly exhausting but such a positive experience too. I had little chats with every one, a joke with the man in m&s, discussion about karate with the lady in Tesco, the assistant in Monsoon complemented me on my nails and I found out she rides a horse! Granted I wasn’t in a rush because all this took time although I think worth the effort, and I didn’t have time to worry about the little things that had bothered me in the morning!

I also wonder what the recipients of my chirpiness thought? I expect it was that I was drunk, insane or lonely – or all 3!

Anyway I’m going to try and keep it up as I like the ‘nice’ me so if you see me grinning insanely you’ll know why.

You have a great day now!

Neither one thing nor the other

02/10/2012

We are led by our children

I do love what I do and having my own business is one of the best things I’ve ever done, I couldn’t imagine my life if I hadn’t created What’s On 4.

One thing I have been thinking about recently is how I fit in with my peers and I find myself neither a stay at home Mum nor a working Mum.  I’m somewhere inbetween.  It means I can’t do many of things my stay at home Mum friends do but neither can I gel completely with my working Mum friends as I have a great deal more flexibility than most of them do.  I’m not complaining but it was just an observation that hit me last week when thinking about the last 10 years and how I started my 4th decade differs to how I will end it (Yes, a big birthday is looming… much much later this year!)

Of course this is where networking with other woman and mums in business is useful and I’ve been a bit rubbish at this recently.  Partly time of year but also now because I have my lovely shiny business partner, Suzanne Borrell, to share all this with.  It really is amazing this past year having someone completely in your corner who understands everything you are going through, the good and bad stuff.  Hopefully I’m not such a business bore to my other friends now too!