This blog is from Jo Gordon, Owner/Director of Jo Gordon Consulting Ltd. Jo speaks to us about setting up her own business, maintaining a work-life balance and being a perfectionist.
I had a corporate career in marketing analytics for 18 years where I worked for a range of media agencies. Most of this work was marketing mix modelling – an analysis technique that helps brands by measuring the return on investment of marketing activity and using these findings to improve the marketing plan. I worked with world-famous brands across the globe.
In 2017 my husband and I quit our careers in London and put our house on the market, after lengthy discussions about how unhappy we both were in our respective careers. After we moved, I was planning a career change, but contacts kept offering me work on a contract basis in my previous industry. I set up my company and now blend contracts with other analysis work.
I’ve been independent for two years and a company owner for just over a year now. It gives me the flexibility to volunteer in my local community (I have three roles) and more free time to pursue an active lifestyle in beautiful surroundings, which is better for my physical and mental health than city life. I adore being hands-on again with my work and don’t miss senior management!
My day depends on which type of client I’m working with really. If it’s a large corporation like it is right now, I’ll try to be at my desk in my office by 8 am. I’ll either send emails to them before they arrive if there’s anything I need to be able to get on, or just get cracking with my work so that I can finish by early evening. I try to only take on a maximum of 4 days a week for these clients.
Sometimes I take time out of these working days to do smaller pieces of client work, go out networking or to do regular voluntary commitments. I’ll do slightly longer days, so nobody misses out. That leaves me the fifth day to work on my own business – admin, marketing and lead generation – at a leisurely pace. My husband also works from home so we may lunch out!
I also deliberately have a couple of periods a year when I only take on smaller jobs or no paid work at all. Then I ramp up my voluntary hours and get stuck into more strategic business development projects and personal passion projects. At these times, there is no typical day – activity tends to happen between 10 – 4, outside of those times I’ll be lost in a book in the winter or out on my bike in the summer.
A life lived in fear is a life half-lived
Falling into marketing
I sort of fell into my career by accident. I’d taken Maths and Economics at A-Level but didn’t find the careers I’d researched very inspiring – Banking, Accountancy, Economist etc. A teacher told me about a thing called econometrics. I picked a degree course that focused on it and realised along the way that you could get a job doing this in the advertising industry – perfect!
I don’t think that I’d have had the confidence to strike out on my own if I hadn’t worked my way up through the ranks in employed roles.
I’ve got a huge network of contacts at all levels of hundreds of organisations – some are now clients. I’ve also got business development, client handling and management skills so I find the demands of running a business easier than some.
Analytics moves at a very fast pace and young people entering the industry now are skilled in applications that didn’t even exist when I started. Being independent, it’s up to me to keep up with major developments and upskill myself in important areas. For example, I’m learning to code in some of my free time.
I’ve worked out what my unique skills are and sell in my services on those, rather than trying to compete with others or spread myself too thinly learning every new thing that comes out. I’m also really glad that I left leadership even though it was a scary move – not everyone is suited to it, but often organisations have a hierarchy that means you are eventually expected to stop doing the thing that you love and start doing more paperwork.
Mental health at work is something I feel passionate about – whatever your occupation or employment status. It’s exactly one of the reasons why I became independent but working independently brings its own set of challenges too. I solved one set of issues to be faced with others that needed solutions. I’m keen to help others who are considering similar moves.
Drive and Determination
I’m not sure where I get my drive and determination from! I have workaholic tendencies that I work hard to keep in check these days because it’s not good for my health or relationships. I’ve got to be honest, earning good money was a motivator in the beginning. But once I didn’t need it so much (mortgage paid off, decided not to have kids) what I thought was great about my past highly paid roles didn’t seem so attractive.
My biggest achievement is probably gaining my second degree which I studied for part-time over 7 years while working full time. It was a real labour of love that has little to do with my career – driven by a slightly alarming obsession that I have with crime and deviant behaviour. Having my now-husband at the graduation ceremony was awesome and the Deans encouraged the guests to shout and cheer as we were on stage because everyone has worked so hard and for long.
More money does not equate to more happiness if you have no time nor good enough health to enjoy it.
My three tips to young females starting their careers would be…
It may be tedious but get a good grounding in the basic skills needed for your career
Don’t be in a rush to take on more responsibilities, hard to offload once you have them
Find a few women you admire and follow them, but remember – do things your own way
You do you. It took so many years for that to sink in and for me to really act on it.
I know we are not where we need to be in terms of gender imbalance, especially in some industries but personally I am not a fan of hiring quotas etc. I’m a bit out of the loop now but more seems to be happening on flexible working arrangements for all people, male or female. I think that inflexibility was perhaps the root cause of the current imbalance.
My advice would be to take on responsibilities that will get you out into that business talking to a wide variety of people. For example, I took on “people and recruitment” which meant that internally I had to liaise with all levels and externally with recruiters and universities.
There’s nothing innate that makes men – or women – better than one another at leadership. A blend of skills and personalities in a leadership team makes for a stronger team, so focus on what you bring to the party, not whether you happen to be wearing heels or not.
It can be an adjustment to go from “one of the gang” to leading the team. While it’s right to be friendly and supportive, as a leader you’re no longer in the gang and you need to respect that.
Done is better than perfect. I’ve wasted many opportunities that I didn’t go at all for fear of not being perfect. I’ve also wasted energy on taking something to 99% perfect when 85% would have been sufficient to meet the goal.
We loved hearing from Jo all about her life and career. If you want to be even more inspired then check out some more of our inspirational blogs.