featuring Kathy Thornton
An overflowing inbox. Endless lists of things to do. Never enough hours in the day. Sound familiar?
Somehow, when we all started out dreaming of and visualising our own businesses we just didn't factor in all the juggling that takes place... and endless bits of paper! Despite our good intentions, and cute stationary sets, things can get seriously out of control. In fact, many entrepreneurs are struggling to keep things organised - both for work and our personal lives. It's tough to keep on top of all the things required to start and grow a successful business, especially as so many of us are working alone most of the time and don't have a team to delegate tasks to.
So, what can we do to avoid drowning in our to-do lists and getting overwhelmed with obligations? Cue the very lovely Kathy Thornton, a real life superhero for busy entrepreneurs, and her amazing business Serendipity Business and Lifestyle Support.
A lot of women in business get caught up in the idea that they must do everything themselves, what are the big advantages of getting help from a service like yours?
The main advantage is that I can remove the pressure instantly. Serendipity provides all-round business support, meeting a variety of needs including office admin, marketing, design and project management. This means I can help business owners avoid both the hassle and inconvenience of employing different individuals for different jobs. This is particularly appealing to small businesses who can’t afford to take on permanent, salaried staff, as it allows them a way of meeting the demands of the day-to-day running of the business on an 'as and when' basis. Meaning they only use Serendipity when their business requires it, which in turn frees up cashflow.
I work very closely with my clients to ensure a bespoke service which is unique to them and can continue to evolve to suit their needs. My knowledge and experience across various industry sectors allows me to develop and nurture a relationship that enables my clients to feel they can happily and confidently leave their entire ‘To-Do’ list at my door and walk away with the peace of mind that all those jobs are being taken care of in a professional and organised fashion to the highest of standards; thus freeing their time to concentrate on the real reasons they started their business in the first place.
What do most female entrepreneurs that come to you need help with?
Women are very good at juggling and putting on a variety of hats, so are inclined to take on too much. The simple fact is that there’s not enough hours in a day to do everything ourselves. It’s usually at this point that I get approached, and to be honest, by then they usually need everything from sorting their admin and accounts to marketing and promoting their product or service. Usually when people go into business they do so because they’re driven by a passion for something, but many fail to understand just how much administration is required to ensure that the dream is sustained, and that the business doesn’t collapse. It’s a little like decorating your home. You can create wonderful interiors but if you’re not looking after the shell then eventually it’ll fall down. The trouble is for most of us, the actual day-to-day running of a business isn’t quite so much fun, so many avoid it until it’s quite out of control and they have no choice but to address it.
What are your top tips for avoiding being overwhelmed and staying organised?
My number one top tip is ‘allow yourself more time’. Not enough time but more time! Most of us tend to under-estimate how long we’ll need for something, usually because we’re trying to fit too many things into our day. So, give yourself extra. I call it ‘Faff’ time. I add an extra 15 minutes to every hour that I tell myself I’ll need. If you do this, you’ll do a far better job and be far less stressed in the process because you won’t be racing the clock!
My next top tip is an extension of the above. Learn to say no! Don’t take on too much. It can be very flattering when you’re approached for work, and incredibly tempting to say yes when you’re trying to develop your business and drive it forwards. Unfortunately though, many of us say yes to work that really, we haven’t got time for. This can be disastrous, as not only can it result in feeling overwhelmed and disorganised but can be detrimental to the success of your business. Try not to worry about turning work away, as more-often-than-not, if you’re building yourself a good reputation and you’re in demand, potential new clients will be happy to wait.
Another helpful tip, is keep either a day a week or a couple of hours a day free to focus on your admin and that growing list of tasks. It’s easy to get carried away with all the nice bits, but you’ll thank yourself in the long run if you just get all the nasty boring jobs out the way first. It’s that old adage, don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.
And finally, if all the above fails, then of course, the only option left is to take advantage of the best possible tip of all, use Serendipity!
How and why did you start Serendipity?
I come from a long family line of entrepreneurs so it’s in my blood to want to run my own business. I’d put it off for years for all sorts of reasons, and like many didn’t take the leap until it presented itself as almost the only option. I’d been working for the family brewery for years which was great but when my children came along I found it increasingly difficult to find a good work/life balance. I felt increasingly compromised and on a constant guilt trip, never feeling I was giving enough to the brewery or to my growing family. I quickly realised that the only way I could achieve some balance was to dance to my own tune and set my own rules.
The actual idea for Serendipity’s business model started from a similar place. I identified with other working parents, small businesses and individuals who were also struggling to meet all the demands of work and home life. I recognised a distinct lack of affordable, flexible and professional support specifically designed to take the pressure off these demands. We’re constantly chasing our tails, so I wanted to create something that would alleviate the stress and help people slow down. The most precious gift we can give is time, so, Serendipity was born! I give people back their time, so they can spend it on the things that truly matter to them, whether that be driving their business forwards, spending time with their family, or running away on some far-flung adventure.
What have you learned about running a business and staying organised along the way?
All the above! I take my own advice. I must, otherwise I can’t possibly help others. However, I’m also learning to give myself and others a break. Both metaphorically as well as literally. I set very high standards for myself and can’t help but expect the same of others, but we can’t be all things to all people all the time. Sometimes we need to tell ourselves and others that it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to fail every now and again. We can’t possibly do it all, so schedule in some down time. Literally put it on your task list and cut yourself some slack. You’re only human.
And lastly, what's the best part of running your business?
I love the unexpected. Hence both the name and nature of my business, Serendipity: that unexpected meeting that changes your life! I needed to create something that provided me with a variety of work which would both surprise me and challenge me every day. Serendipity has done that and continues to do so, which makes it wonderfully exciting. And the best part, where Serendipity has surprised me the most, is in how incredibly rewarding it is. Being able to quite literally watch the stress evaporate from the faces of my clients and be replaced by relaxed, happy smiles is just the most wonderful feeling, and the best, most unexpected gift that my business has given me!
If you'd like help getting your business back on track then here is how you can get in touch with Kathy:
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