I had always wanted to work for myself and I had always wanted to learn to paint and draw. But my working life was very traditional and once I had completed my business degree, I went straight into full time work, first in retail and then in the Financial Services Industry. Here I had a 14 year career as an internal auditor and then in project management, but by the time I got to my late 30’s I was resenting Monday mornings and feeling shackled by the traditional working week. The work I was doing wasn’t fulfilling and I felt like a cog in a large corporate machine. I was convinced there was another way to live; a way of life that still earned money and gave me the space to explore other avenues.
My first move was into a consultancy that was small and local. I just jumped and didn’t think it through. I ended up in an environment I didn’t respect and financially the business was a disaster (I hadn’t done any research) and they went bankrupt. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The business didn’t pay me my final salary and I hadn’t been there long enough for any useful statutory redundancy payment. I had to earn money… but instead of getting out there and getting a job, I found myself setting up my first consultancy business! This was an opportunity I wasn’t going to miss. I wanted to see if I could make a go of it.
My initial consultancy was based on my financial services and internal audit career. I knew nothing about setting up, marketing and networking and therefore hadn’t planned for the sheer time it took to build client relationships and win new business. Looking back on this adventure I can see I learnt a lot and that I did many things right. But I just didn’t have enough funds to see me through the setting up phase.
After 6 months, I was running out of money and as luck would have it another local consultancy approached me to help them expand the Board level support part of their business. I decided to take the job and found myself a director of a niche consultancy. I was at least part way to my goal and I would have the opportunity to learn a lot.
However, after 6 years I again found myself dreaming of running my own business and making time for creativity. Again, I felt shackled by the traditional working week and the inability to do other things and explore new ventures.
Coaching was my future
My break came when I discovered coaching and realised that this was what I really wanted to do. I discussed it with the consultancy but they didn’t want to develop the business in that direction. So, I used my holiday to complete a coaching qualification with Henley Business School, develop my coaching skills and get to know the coaching profession. I just knew that I had to set up my own coaching practice. This was it!
At the end of 2006 I set up my practice and resigned from the consultancy; launching Élan Coaching on 1st January 2007. This time I had the funds to keep me going for at least 9 months and I had good contacts that meant I started my coaching practice on a much firmer footing than my previous consultancy. I haven’t looked back since. My coaching practice has expanded. I am now running ART in Coaching as well as Élan, bringing my creativity and coaching together. I am also a qualified coach supervisor and have had my first book published – Coaching Beyond Words – Using Art to Deepen and Enrich Our Conversations, Routledge 2019.
I now run my own business from home in a gloriously rural setting. I can work whenever and however I want to. I can take advantage of exhibitions, events and classes that are run during normal hours…I work hard and I am happier and more fulfilled than I have ever been.
My working week is flexible and, as a result, I have been able to develop and grow as an artist. I have even exhibited as part of the Wylye Valley Art Trail (WVAT) and sold some work.
I can take advantage of sunny days (if my diary allows!) and being rurally based, I can walk in the country air to think and take a break. I can choose to work at odd hours, weekends and holidays if I want to and I can flex my working week to take advantage of exhibitions, events and classes that are run during normal working hours.
This doesn’t happen all the time as coaching is so rewarding and my clients come first. It is just very liberating to know I can if I want to.
My whole life has become happier, better balanced and fulfilling. It has different stresses and these can sometimes be tough, but I wouldn’t change a thing.