career

Can starting a business alongside full-time careers be fun? I catch up with two gin-makers who think so.

2 years ago, when researching my book, I met Kate Gregory who founded a gin distillery with her good friend Helen Muncie - with limited funds alongside their full-time corporate careers. Read the original article.

I caught up with them both to see how life has changed and was thrilled when Kate made me the best gin of my life (recipe to follow).

Kate Gregory and Helen Muncie from The Gin Kitchen - who founded their gin distillery in the evenings and the weekends, alongside their corporate careers. Their career change story is the first featured in my book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill.

Kate Gregory and Helen Muncie from The Gin Kitchen - who founded their gin distillery in the evenings and the weekends, alongside their corporate careers. Their career change story is the first featured in my book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill.

When I first met Kate, the Gin Kitchen had moved from their kitchen into their first premises - a shed behind a pub in their local town, Dorking Surrey.

Two years later, I drove into a little enclave of black barns on the outskirts of Dorking and creaked open a huge door into their fully-fledged distillery on the day that the new still was producing its first batch. There was also a beautiful barn with a comfy office and their own bar (above), storage facilities and a shop.

It was clear that things had moved on in the Gin Kitchen world but exactly what has happened over the last few years.

The personal and business highlights:

  • All of their gins won Silver Medals in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (and were placed higher than our closest competitor!);

  • Being invited to a trade fair in Singapore and ultimately now exporting there;  

  • Being listed as the Spirit of the Month in Fortnum & Masons...twice in their first year;  

  • Building their own bar - “a destination for gin-lovers”; 

  • Bigger premises where they could do tours, hold events, create personalised gins and… “have we said have our own bar?”

  • Making customised gin for other companies (Dashing Dog for Fortnum and Mason; Lovely Lingfield Gin) or for special occasions like weddings (I do gin

  • Buying a much bigger still (see photos of the new giant still and the two original copper stills); 

  • Employing our own mixologist who is professionally qualified to make high quality cocktails.  

  • Being able to afford to bring in people with other skills to allow them to run the business more like CEOs rather than having a hand in everything.

  • Transforming from hobbists into professional gin makers

Observations on the growth journey from a gin-making, side-business to running a substantial gin distillery. 

As always, I was interested in how this obvious growth had impacted Kate and Helens’ views on the world of work and what they’d learned on their new career journey. Here’s what they told me.

  • Defining success from the start

We always had an idea of what good looks like to us, right from the very beginning.” says Helen as Kate instinctively opens up a document on her phone to read me some of their original goals. 

When we were in the experimental stages of setting up the business, we just wanted to make one bottle of gin that we liked.

We then hoped for 100+ likes on social media and a brand launch in a local bar. Later we envisaged orders from a few local bars and to be featured in a magazine.

Our longer-term dreams involved winning medals, being listed in more venues and making our competitors worry!

  • Choosing the right people 

(Kate) Making good decisions on the people we choose to employ has been key to creating the business we always wanted to create.” 

Not only in terms of bringing in specialists to allow them to focus on running and growing the business but also in creating opportunities. Kate and Helen employed someone to help them with the events side of the business. This person has had such an impact that events have grown to almost a third of their overall revenue. Their tours are full and they’ve sold out their Create your own gin in a day courses for the next year. 

  • With growth comes risk

(Kate) “In the beginning we could take risks because the risks amounted to a few hundred pounds. Now our size means there are so many more opportunities but the risks amount in multiple thousands.”  

  • Corporates and family

(Kate) “It's very hard to balance a high-level corporate career with children, especially when you're a single parent with no access to childcare. You can't get to meetings or travel easily when you have to be back in time for the school run. Our lives are very integrated now.” 

Helen laughed and suggested that one of her older children might be coming to them for employment soon!

  • Experimental mindset

Both Helen and Kate’s careers were in the field of innovation so they both love that they can experiment constantly and are often surprised by the results. 

(Helen) “Some of the investments that we thought would lead directly to ROI didn’t and others where we had low expectations, blew us away! So, we continue to experiment all the time which is really satisfying.

  • Who gets paid first? 

(Kate) “When we were small, we only had to pay (or not pay) ourselves. Now, we’re very clear on who gets paid first - the staff, taxes, our suppliers and then finally - us. While we are bigger and more successful, our costs are bigger and we need to keep growing to keep getting paid.” 

  • Staying connected to the local community

Kate suggested that the local community has been instrumental in their growth journey. 

“We launched in a local bar, used local artists to design the artwork on our bottles, rented the outhouse of a local pub, tested our gins on local people.” 

“We were outgrowing our previous premises when someone mentioned in passing that a local farmer had a few outbuildings that might be good for us.” That passing comment has enabled the Gin Kitchen to grow their brand, their revenue, their offering and the farmer’s revenue.  

  • Controlling destiny

(Helen) “Our identities and self-esteem are very tied up in our work and that feels really satisfying. We both feel that we have taken more control over our destiny.”

Recipe for the best Gin & Tonic ever

  • Here’s that recipe I promised for the best gin I’ve ever tasted. Helen and I are drinking it in this photo - I put it down for a second to take the photo.

Heaven in a glass!



Lots more stories to inspire your career change

Kate’s story of moving from Defence & aerospace expert, to full-time gin maker is the first story in my book X Change - How to torch your work treadmill. Read it to uncover the patterns behind happier career change and get 20 different stories of individuals who designed more satisfying work, their way, get your copy here.

Kate Gregory - pointing our her story in my book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill. I gave her story a bit of a Mission Impossible theme given her previous career in Defence & Aerospace.

Kate Gregory - pointing our her story in my book X Change: How to torch your work treadmill. I gave her story a bit of a Mission Impossible theme given her previous career in Defence & Aerospace.

How to choose a career coach (even if you’re not sure you need one yet.) 

When you’re feeling stuck in a career, industry or job that no longer fits, a career coach can be the life-line that helps you identify and evaluate possible new directions. 

Even though career coaching is not the norm yet for senior professionals - at least not in Europe - it’s definitely a growth market. If you were to do a google search for a career coach in your city, you will have tonnes of options.

If you do a google search for “career coach” in your city, you’ll be overwhelmed with choice but without a personal recommendation, it’s difficult to find a career coach that suits you and your specific requirements.

If you do a google search for “career coach” in your city, you’ll be overwhelmed with choice but without a personal recommendation, it’s difficult to find a career coach that suits you and your specific requirements.

But how do you find one that works for you? 

There are low barriers to entry in the murky world of coaching so anyone can give it a go.  Some are amazingly talented and some are...not.

When I went through my own mid-career crisis some years ago, I might have bitten off your arm for the telephone number of a career coach who came highly recommended.  

But as I felt so ashamed of my successful but increasingly unhappy career, I didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t ask anyone for help so I missed out on a great opportunity to make my career change less painful, less expensive, less stressful and far speedier. 

I reckon a decent career coach could have saved me at very least £20,000 in career change costs so I’ve put some thought into a few recommendations to help you go about selecting the best career coach for you and your personal situation.

My top tips on how to choose a career coach: 

Choose a career coach who is EXCELLENT at doing one thing - working with one particular style of person, one particular career problem or opportunity. It takes confidence to specialise.

Choose a career coach who is EXCELLENT at doing one thing - working with one particular style of person, one particular career problem or opportunity. It takes confidence to specialise.

  • Does your specific problem sit within their specialist niche?

You wouldn't choose a builder for your Grade II listed building if they’d only worked on new builds, would you? 

Choose someone who is REALLY good at doing one thing, or working with one particular style of person, problem or opportunity.

It’s my strong opinion that a great career coach must have chosen a niche  - otherwise you might be paying them to learn on the job!

Examples of specific niches:

  • Industry - intimate experience of the idiosyncrasies of the industry you are interested in or want to continue to progress within could be very useful.

  • Level - early, mid-career, executive level positions all have requirements that are different which impact coaching niches.

  • Situation - if you can assess the specific problem that is making you feel career stuck as coach with specific situational experience can be very helpful. Examples include cultural acclimatisation after entering a new country, returning to work after maternity leave, entering new industries, setting up a first business, enhanced leadership techniques, managing different styles of teams, entering new levels of seniority or specific skills like persuasion or emotional intelligence.

For instance, I specialise in working with individuals in their 40s and 50s who feel stuck in their successful but unfulfilling careers and want to consciously design more satisfaction into their future work.  That’s a very tight niche that fits my experience, knowledge and passions.

  • I don’t know a thing about the problems or psychology of millennials so that’s definitely not my niche. 

  • I’m not experienced at coaching individuals on their way up the corporate ladder so neither is that my niche.

  • I’d never be chosen to coach teams towards high performance…you get the gist!

Full disclosure:  I have worked with very advanced 30 somethings who felt stuck in a career that doesn’t fit but the characteristics of their problem and my ability to help them solve them are matched perfectly…and I try not to discriminate against the young!

A career coach who doesn’t appear to really enjoy their work is a worry. But a career coach who is 100% joyful in their work might not be attractive either.

A career coach who doesn’t appear to really enjoy their work is a worry. But a career coach who is 100% joyful in their work might not be attractive either.

  •  Do they walk the walk?

Beware the stress and anxiety coach who looks stressed and anxious. Or the money mindset coach who drives a 14 year old banger. 

Do some research to figure out if they are taking their own medicine.  Are they practising what they preach? 

It won’t take long.

A 10 minute whizz around their website, watching their videos on social media, reading their blog etc should give you the feeling that they are walking the walk but are being honest about their failings as humans.

Perfection doesn’t exist.

As an example, I tell potential clients that on average, I use a combination of my Superpowers 60-70% of each day. Not 100%, I hear you ask?

I also tell them that if I wasn’t a solopreneur, I’d have outsourced my super weaknesses a long time ago to allow me to use my Superpowers 90% of each day.

But, I love being my own boss and before I outsource anything like marketing, PR, admin or book-keeping, I do it myself for a while so that I understand what good (and bad!) look like. This helps me then select someone much better than me to do it. 

But 60-70% of fulfilling work every day is not bad for a career satisfaction designer, eh? 

  • Do you like them enough to be regularly vulnerable in front of them?

Any decent career coach offers some form of check-me-out call which is a two-way process. 

It’s highly likely that if you feel career stuck that you will need to be openly vulnerable - as it’s the only way you’ll be able to see things from a different angle and begin to figure out potential next steps. 

By asking and answering questions in a short telephone call, you’ll be able to test how sensitive they will be to your situation, to get examples of similar individuals they’ve worked with and to figure out if their style works with yours.

In case you’re wondering, I call my “check-me-out“ call “The Light at the end of my the tunnel” call.  I do lots of these each week and only one or two will end up working with me.

Why? Because it’s got to be the right fit for both of us.

It really bugs me when coaches don’t put their prices on their website - time is precious. I think it’s best to give potential clients the information they need to decide whether you offer good value for them, or not.

It really bugs me when coaches don’t put their prices on their website - time is precious. I think it’s best to give potential clients the information they need to decide whether you offer good value for them, or not.

  • Do they offer value for money...for you personally?

When you’re hiring a decorator do you let them charge by the day? I did it once and was astounded by the cost in the end. And I wasn’t happy with the outcome. I didn’t need to learn that lesson twice.

Of course, coaching is much more complex than slapping a bit of Farrow & Ball chalk paint onto a wall - it’s difficult to quantify benefits at the out-set. 

Instead, I really like it when the coach does the thinking for you and openly offers a range of packages with different outcomes and processes listed so that it’s possible to clearly see how each might benefit you.  

Then you can decide if it’s good value for your personal situation...or not.  

I also really like it when coaches who give access to their prices on their website (as I do). It feels like a huge commitment to pick up the phone to ask a coach what they charge. Don’t you think? 

I’ve personally never charged by the hour as it feels like I’m charging individuals more for moving slowly through the change process. That makes me feel a bit...itchy. 

Choose a career coach with a personality that matches yours. I’m direct but kind, action-driven, energising, self-deprecating but you-appreciating, but mostly I like to laugh.

Choose a career coach with a personality that matches yours. I’m direct but kind, action-driven, energising, self-deprecating but you-appreciating, but mostly I like to laugh.

  • Do they have a sense of humour?

This one might be just me…

But, If I’m going to be working with someone for several hours a month for 6 months on my Big Re-think programme, it’s just more fun if we have a laugh every now and then. 

I used to be a bereavement volunteer for an amazing charity called CRUSE and my time with them reaffirmed for me the idea that grief and humour are located right beside each other.

In the beginning, it always astounded me how much laughter (and tears) our sessions were filled with until it became the norm. Just because you might be talking about some painful stuff with your career coach, doesn’t mean that it always needs to be serious. 

Or maybe that’s just me? 

6 skills to help future-proof your career (and earn a good living into your 50s and 60s)

In this article, you’ll learn what aptitudes you need to either learn or hone in order to increase your potential to earn a very good living over the next few decades.

By 2030 (I'll be 58yrs old then!) 800 million jobs are expected to be lost due to automation and the robotic workforce, according to a study on the future of work by the Mckinsey Global Institute. The research was performed across 46 countries and 800 occupations.

So what?

We’ve all seen this happen over our working lives in low-wage occupations (annoying automated call centres, smart cleaning systems, advanced analytical tools, humanless order-taking etc) but what about our high-wage occupations?  

To future-proof our careers, we need to specialise in the very special, high-value human talents that are very difficult to automate or replicate by technology.

To future-proof our careers, we need to specialise in the very special, high-value human talents that are very difficult to automate or replicate by technology.

Can CEOs/MDs roles be automated?

Mckinsey Global Institute specifically estimate that 20% of most CEO’s workload could be automated today by adapting current technology and that percentage is only going to increase each year. But, the line in their report that got my brain fizzing was “Capabilities such as creativity and sensing emotions are core to the human experience and are also difficult to automate.”

So, I picked up Dan Pink’s “A Whole New Mind” again, in which he predicts that career success in the future will rely on our right-brain skills (see below) rather than our logical left-brained skills which got us to where we are today.  

Why?

Because right-brain aptitudes are very hard to automate, so these will be the aptitudes that will offer us high-value work in our late stage careers.

The left-brained activities will be automated.

According to Pink, the Top 6 right-brain aptitudes that hold the power to future-proof our careers are:

  1. Empathy

  2. Using stories to persuade and communicate

  3. Big picture thinking

  4. Design

  5. Humour, laughter, game playing

  6. Seeking out and connecting purpose and meaning?

FB 6 human skills diff to automate.png

How many of your daily activities utilise these aptitudes?

If the answer less than four or five, I’d urge you to work out ways to learn these skills, practise them until they become natural enough to build into your daily work.  This new learning, combined with all of your experience to date, has the power to future-proof your earnings for the next couple of decades.

If you’re already using many of them, keep honing them until they become some of your Superpowered offering that lets you stand out from the competitive marketplace, now and in 20 years time.  

Quick and dirty analysis - my former career v my new career

In my 19 year corporate career,  I used only two of these aptitudes daily (EMPATHY and SEEKING OUT PURPOSE & MEANING) so the writing was on the wall.

I’ve analysed that I'm now using five out of these six right-brain aptitudes in my daily work.  That said, many of them are newer skills that I’m constantly learning more about by reading books, watching Youtube, consuming Ted Talks and generally experimenting with them in my daily work and life.   

Today, (oddly perhaps?) the PLAY element of work is the trickiest one for me to build into my work. Thankfully, my two daughters are helping me out with that one! I’m also in the process of learning more about DESIGN which interests me but I feel way behind the curve having had very little exposure in my life so far.

Should you worry?

There is no need to be in any way worried about the next decades of your career - if the work that you love AND your Superpowers include skills that computers find hard to perform. But even if they don’t, there’s time to learn them and layer them into your future work.

Impacts of right-brained aptitudes in interviews for left-brained roles

In my old world of head-hunting, my specialism could have been described as seeking out the perfect left-brained Finance Director to help companies grow financially.

I saw the left-brained activity forming the basics of a role profile. But, I found those who were able to display high-performance in right-brained aptitudes in interviews were much more successful.  

Success came more often to:

  • Those who could empathise with the specific people problems within the business;

  • Those who could convince the CEO/MD/HRD of their personal fit by telling impactful head and heart stories in a way that fit with the company culture;

  • Those who demonstrated their bigger picture vision of finance and connected it to the design of their roles (and their teams’ roles) to import greater meaning into the purpose of their finance team.

  • Those who appeared to be more fun to work with!

FB Past, present, future.png

Past, present and future for executive roles

In the past, left-brained skills were base level requirements for many senior roles. Right-brained aptitudes were a differentiator.

Currently, value is placed on the combination of left-brained and right-brained aptitudes.

In the future, right-brained aptitudes will be base level requirements.

To earn a good living well into our 50s and 60s, we need to have all six of these skills in our experience tool-kit and have honed them into our Superpowers.

I bet my entire career on it!

If you’d like some help with over-hauling your career, figuring out your Superpowers and getting a plan in place, take a look at a couple of ways I can help you.






Spending more money on your kids' activities than your future career?

Spending on kids’ activities is grand…but are you prioritising their ball-kicking over your future career?

Spending on kids’ activities is grand…but are you prioritising their ball-kicking over your future career?

4 years ago, I realised that while we were spending around £200 each month on my daughters’ swimming, netball and gymnastics classes, I was spending £0 on my future career.

We were paying a nanny to take the girls to their weekday lessons.  For the weekend classes, my husband and I would spend a couple of hours escorting them to their lessons where they learned how to do a decent frog kick, perfect a roly poly and shoot a hoop.

Adoring mum as I am, I had a fairly good idea that neither of my daughters were headed towards the Olympic circuit.   But I was clear that I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing for the next 20 years.

When I noted down what was happening, it was the slap in the face I needed.  

The notes from my wake-up call that promoted a re-think of my career strategy….from non-existent!

The notes from my wake-up call that promoted a re-think of my career strategy….from non-existent!

The slap in the face I needed.

It dawned on me that I hadn’t invested a penny of my own money nor a moment of my precious time improving my chances of doing more fulfilling work in my future.  

Sure, I was attending work events and doing training courses paid for by my company (which of course were designed to make me better at my current job).  But for the previous 3 years, I hadn’t prioritised my future career AT ALL!

When I was honest about it, my long-term future career hadn’t even made it onto my to-do list FOR YEARS. 

Why the hell not?

1.       I was flat-out making my then career-family combo work (at least to a level where I was neither afraid for my job nor breaking as a human. For the record, I had returned to work after my first daughter mid 2008 when all hell was breaking loose in the financial world).

2.       I didn’t know what I might like to do in my future work.

3.       I didn’t know what I might like to do in my future work.

So…I admitted aloud what I did know for sure:

I couldn’t admit this out loud and do nothing about it.

I couldn’t admit this out loud and do nothing about it.

And something changed.

A bit of common sense leaked in, as my Dad might say. 

I sensed that I’d be in the same spot, in the same industry, possibly in the same company, in five years, if I didn’t do something.  

Oddly, I’d begun to sense that the silent but deadly 50-year-old corporate toast phenomena would be rearing its ugly head sooner rather than later.

Little by little

I began to invest a little time and a small amount of cash into learning new things.  Why?

  • To get my brain used to learning new stuff because I figured that would be key to my transformation. If you always do what you’ve always done…

  • To give me hope, through action, that I wasn’t going to be doing the same thing forever.

  • To give me, however small, a sense of control over my future.

It's never been easier or cheaper to learn

Here are some examples, many of them free, that I played around with:

·         Duolingo – Fantastic free app for learning another language from scratch or polishing existing knowledge. (Brilliant for kids as well)

·         Khan Academy – Fairly academic on-line courses on everything from programming to engineering and beyond.

·         Udemy – Unbelievable subject diversity - Speed reading, cartooning, digital painting, social media marketing, photography etc.

·         YouTube – all major players in every field have a YouTube presence.  Try their free stuff first before diving in.

·         Podcasts – like YouTube, every man and his dog in every field has a podcast or interviews on podcasts.  There is so much opportunity to spend your commute learning about something that interests you. Listen while you are doing mundane tasks. If I wasn’t doing what I am doing, I would just walk in mountains listening to weird and wonderful podcasts every minute of every day.

Understanding what you don’t know, but need to

Over time, I started to get a sense of where my interests lay. Even though I wasn’t quite sure where I’d end up, I made the decision that I would be doing something for myself.  

That one decision meant that I could get more specific about what I needed to know and began investing in me. Not bags of cash but more than zero.  

Here’s a copy of my starting list:

·         Public speaking,

·         Work psychology,

·         iPhone photography,

·         Psychology of happiness,

·         Article writing,

·         Blogging,

·         Social media marketing,

·         Running a business,

·         PR,

·         Accounting in a one-woman business,

·         Branding,

·         Story-telling,

·         Advertising,

·         Website designing

·         Book publishing,

·         Design,

·         Agile business,

·         Audience definition,

·         Pricing,

·         Meditation,

·         Mindfulness,

·         Life hacks.

If you are smart…

Do this while you’re getting paid a decent salary. 

Use at least one of your commutes each day to do something future-focussed that interests you. Even 30mins a day, during your working weeks, adds up to more than 100 hours a year. Imagine where you could be and what you could know in 100 hours!

If you are to do anything different, you are going to need to exercise your brain – start before you need to.  

You never know where you might end up!


More articles on prioritising your career

Where to start thinking about your career - the first 10 steps

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Common triggers for mid-lifers to change careers