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I have the pleasure of introducing Melinda Dixon, owner of Red HR. Based in Brisbane, Australia, she has one child and started the business in mid 2009. We met when our husbands were working together and have since had a few conversations about family work balance!
Here’s her story:
How did you come to start your business?
With significant change across the Australian industrial relations landscape that came into effect in 2009, I had observed many businesses within the SME space who were taking a greater interest in HR/IR matters and how, what, when and why such change could and would affect them. As many businesses within this space cannot always justify the employment of a dedicated HR practitioner for themselves, engaging an external HR Consultant tailored to their business needs would prove attractive.
I had already set up a fully functioning modern home office from many years of working in roles that always extended well beyond the 38 hour working week, so the decision to combine my HR and Consulting background and use my knowledge to assist SME’s was an obvious decision and the demand was there for such a service.
What was life like “before children”?
We definitely had a more spontaneous lifestyle before kids, we had greater ownership of our time, I also had greater financial independence. I was far more independent in general. We also had more time for friends, I had a few less wrinkles, and hubby had a few less grey hairs.
Compared to “after children”?
In the early months after bringing Reilly home, I have to say I found the adjustment quite challenging in the respect that I had totally under estimated the significance of the change to our lives. I honestly believe that how well one is likely to adjust to the life experience of bringing home a baby is based on how closely matched one’s expectations are to the reality of the situation. For me they were way off the mark. Not having brothers or sisters myself, I never spent long periods of time looking after babies of siblings, and although I had received many offers from girlfriends with babies to spend a few hours or a day with them so I could acquire some hands-on experience, I was way too confident I would be fine.
Just days before I was induced, I had told my clients that I would be taking a couple of weeks off, however if something should come up in that time, please don’t hesitate to give me a call or email. After some months had passed, it was becoming very evident that I would need to pull back on my business commitments. This was a tough decision for me for many reasons, however it was necessary, as at the time, it felt a little like I was trying to manage one too many balls in the juggling act. I felt guilty that I was not devoting enough time to Reilly, and I equally felt guilty when I was not able to support my clients to the level I had been previously. I had felt a sense of losing an element of control of my life; my identity – what I had achieved as far as my career was concerned and in more recent years as a business owner. I had lost a lot of my independence which was a major part of who I felt I was as a person.
In looking back, I would say it took more than twelve months for me to return to a place where I was getting back some of that control. Daily routines with Reilly were starting to work well and I was in a position where I could put aside dedicated time in the office for my business, even if some of that time was late at night in my home office. When I spend time with Reilly, he has my undivided attention and I have quality time with my son. For me it was better to be focused on one thing at a time and do it well, than too many things at once and only perform each of them at 70%.
In my 20’s, I hadn’t given a lot of thought to when I might have babies, what type of person would my baby grow to become, what would I be like as a mum etc. I simply thought if it will happen it will when the time is right. Little did I know back then that I would fall in love watching this little person sitting across from me at the dinner table, enjoying a meal I have prepared for him, whilst he refuses to accept any help from his mum in using his cutlery, as his determined little self works it out for himself………..just like his mum.
What was something unexpected about starting a business?
How long it would take to build a regular client base where you could see a stable income stream.
Advice to others starting out in business?
Similarly when you have just had a baby, speak with and spend time with others who are moving in the lane you want to enter. Learn from other people’s mistakes and successes and identify from that information what is relevant to implement in your business. Consistent networking with a broad cross section of groups consisting from potential clients in specific industries you want to target your business towards, to network groups consisting of other likeminded business owners where you can bounce off your ideas to, and broaden your own base of knowledge. Speed Networking events are also gaining in popularity which are another great way to meet multiple contacts at one event.
If you know of someone in particular who has built a successful track record in business management, and/or someone who is particularly strong in the areas where you are not, ask them if they may be interested in acting in the role of a mentor or coach for you.
What kind of work does your partner do and are they supportive of your business?
My husband is an Aeronautical Engineer in the area of Defence Aerospace. He is very supportive of what I do as he identified a long time ago my passion for working in HR. He is also a great sounding block if I want to run something by him.
Some tips for family work balance?
My hours per week in the office do vary quite significantly, as my work is presently very project oriented. On average I am working approximately 20-30 hours per week. I think the work/life balance can be a continual work in progress as there are so many variables that can be dropped on you in the course of a day with running your own business. However one thing I have learnt in order to achieve a reasonable work/life balance is that you have to be incredibly disciplined with your time and to constantly remind yourself of the consequences if you’re not.