We held our 3rd annual celebration of Flexible Working Day last week.

Each year, to help promote the flexible work concept, we offer free coworking desks, to let people from the local area and surrounds see what flexible working might actually look like for them. And to show that there is an option in between working from home and commuting to the office.

There was an incredible varied mix of professions including :
Virtual Assistance | Project Management | Marketing | Accounting | Management Consulting | Introvert Business Coaching | Cabinet-making | Environmental Science | Autism Mentoring.
Having all of that expertise in the one space was one of those moments where I felt really, really proud of what we have created and achieved within the community at Central Business Associates.

workspace
Flexible workspaces

I was delighted to be asked to be a Flexible Working Day Ambassador by the team at Flexible Working Day .

I was able to showcase the fact that I have truly worked flexibly for the past 14 years, since my first son was born. This has not always been easy (nor is it yet), but it has always allowed my family the flexibility we needed for our lives.
Our need for flexibility has changed consistently over the years, but I have become better at adjusting after each iteration!

When I decided to write an article to go into the Flexible Working Day magazine, I did my usual procrastination trying to decide what to write, when to write it, until eventually, the head of procrastination remembered she had the perfect solution – our new copywriting coworker!
True to her usual level of excellence in her field, she was easily able to write a wonderful piece about the benefits of flexible working, and to write it from my experience.*

Collaboration

This is just another example of the incredible success of true collaboration within a community.
To have the amount of expertise available in one office that we now have, puts us in the enviable position of being able to all offer so many more services to our individual clients.
We can manage the whole process ourselves, and remain our clients point of contact, but not need to ‘do’ the work ourselves.
By accepting that we cannot be all things to all people, and getting experts in each field to carry out the tasks, we provide our clients with a much higher level of service than we could do alone.

What’s not to love about flexible workspaces and collaboration and sticking to what you’re great at?!

*to read the amazing article I refer to, head here (2019 magazine, page 24, ‘My Journey in the World of Flexible Working’). To connect with the amazing copywriter we use, click here and let us know, and we will put you in touch!

What collaboration means to me…

I really wanted to take a bit of time to delve in to explain what collaboration means to me –  why I feel it is such an important part of what we do here at Central Business Associates, but also why it is of great importance for us all to learn how to do it, and do it well!

You really do say it a lot…!

I know, I know! I never particularly used the word ‘collaborate’ until I began planning the concept of Central Business Associates, but I found myself naturally saying the word increasingly when I was explaining my business concept, and also came to realise that I had been ‘collaborating’ for my whole working life! It was actually one of my major strengths, so I started looking more closely at it.
My research found me suddenly seeing the word everywhere  (you know how that happens – it feels like coincidence, but it’s just your brain seeing what was always there, in a new light!), but there were varying ways that it was being perceived and understood. So I wanted to clarify to you what it means to me, and how I use itin this business, so you can understand how it might benefit you, and how you can access the relevant services for you.

Teamwork!

For me – collaboration is about teamwork – it’s about recognising you can’t do it all alone, or more to the point – you don’t have todo it all alone! If we all work together and use our strengths, we don’t have to battle away alone, and try and do the things that we are not so good at (or that we secretly really don’t enjoy doing!). It’s about give andtake – for a partnership to work, everyone has to be bringing a strength to the table, or the imbalance will eventually weigh heavy on the relationship. But it’s also not about expectingsomething every time you give – it’s about the teamwork – knowing that if the other person or people can help you, they will.
Knowing you have a group of people who have your back is an amazing feeling, and makes you all stronger – isn’t that worth pursuing?

What is your purpose? What is your ‘Why’?

Why are we here? What is the meaning of life?

 

Jeez, got any harder questions for me, small business world / other parents / family / world in general?

If, like me – you are exhausted with being asked all these things, and you are weary of reading articles on how to be a small business owner, or an entrepreneur, or a parent, or a good human being – welcome to my world of ‘no judgement’!
I welcome you into my like-minded little cocoon, where no-one is going to ask you to fill out a form to say what are the 3 things you are most passionate about, or your strengths and weaknesses, or your purpose, or your ‘Ikagai(Japanese concept – ‘reason for being’.)

Welcome to quiet.

Just breathe.

I’ll put the kettle on and make us a cup of tea. (just black tea here, no herbal, green, not even peppermint or an Earl Grey in sight!)


Welcome to warmth, and fluffy clouds, and mindfulness….. (WHAT, wait a minute?!)

No, but seriously – it all gets too much sometimes doesn’t it? The expectation we put on ourselves to know it all. To have life figured out, to be ‘the best you’, to have everything organised – to have your s**t together basically.

Well, I’m here to say I don’t agree. (sucks in breath like a mechanic looking at your car…) – a bit controversial Celia – I’m interested to see where you’re going with this…

Can we all please just slow down?

 

Accept that we are all very different – we have different things going on in our lives, we have different strengths and weaknesses, and therefore – we CANNOT BE ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE, and WE ARE NOT DESIGNED TO BE PERFECT.

My idea of perfect is different to your idea of perfect anyway. My perfect day is different to yours. My way to relax is probably different to yours. And that’s all perfectly OK.

 

So what’s the point of todays rant? It’s a combination of things – it’s my frustration at constantly seeing people around me trying to match up to others expectations, and then being horribly disappointed in themselves when they don’t meet the other persons ‘standards’. It’s then seeing these strong, clever, talented individuals begin to wear themselves down over a period of time, about not being ‘good enough’… And it’s about the fact that we all need to

STOP

BREATHE

(now, have that cup of tea I made you earlier – this is essential.)
Now – do you have a place that is your ‘comfort zone’? It might be somewhere you can be on your own (I’m not going to lie – one of mine is the bathroom at home – and even then, the dog sits outside the door with her tail sticking underneath, just to let me know she is there…). Or it might be a networking event that is full of like-minded people who ‘get you’. Maybe it’s even going supermarket shopping (alone!) on autopilot.
Just somewhere that you feel good, or feel comfortable, and you can STOP your brain.
Here’s some more examples of mine: 

 

at my kids swimming lesson, playing word games on my phone

    • – I feel rested and content (as long as I’m winning..!)
  • at my kids gymnastics class for 90 minutes, reading LinkedIn articles that I’ve saved 6 months ago (ok, more like 2 years ago!)
    • – I feel like I’m learning new things
  • in my shared office space, laughing with the other parents who work from there, about the latest disaster in my life (it feels good to laugh about it afterwards, rather than mull over it).
    • – I put things into perspective, and knowing that others have similar things going on in their lives helps. And sometimes someone has a brilliant solution for me that I hadn’t considered!
  • Out and about in my community, popping into local shops and buying gifts
    • – I feel connected to my community, and good about supporting the local economy

You know what? You need to figure out where your ‘moments’ are, and conserve them, and don’t skip them.

And over time, when you are feeling calm and comfortable, and rested – THEN maybe you can write down some thoughts on what your passions are, and what your purpose in life is, and how you can figure out ways to improve your life.
Take a moment to smell the roses (or the jasmine in my case). But don’t try and do it because you feel you have to, or let others rush you into figuring it all out.
You are YOU, and you have your own greatness – and once you are ready, you can open the door of the cocoon and proudly show it off.
But for now, concentrate on finding the ‘moments’, savouring them, and eventually using them to slowly figure it all out.

Disclaimer: Yes, I did mostly write this about myself, and no, I haven’t got it all figured out yet. But I’m a lot clearer than I was, because I’ve found my moments and used them wisely!

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration and Problem-Solving

One of the biggest challenges for any new business can be Business Development, Sales, Self-promotion – whatever you want to call it…
Add in a big dose of ‘introvert’ and ‘been a stay-at-home-mum for many years‘, and as you can imagine, the challenge just gets bigger!

I absolutely LOVE ♥ what I do – I get to help entrepreneurs, micro and small businesses work through issues they have, or connect them to collaborative opportunities, or find the services they need at a price they can afford – these things are so fulfilling for me, that most of the time, it seriously doesn’t even feel like work.

However – ask me to promote MYself, or MY business – well, that’s just too hard!

But what if we turn it around, and think about what happens if we don’t self-promote? What about all the people who are coming into the world of small business, or coming up with new entrepreneurial ideas – what if all they see is us, hiding ourselves away, not wanting to ‘talk about ourselves’? Hmm, not much inspiration there then… Maybe I shouldn’t bother trying to bring this new product to market – looks too hard – I’ll just shelve it.
BOOM – there goes the cure for the common cold…! ( just to give you some perspective on the importance of stepping up!)

So I recognised that there were two much more comfortable elements for me instead of ‘self-promoting’ – Inspiration, and Problem-solving. I can Inspire other people by telling my story, and showing that no matter how terrifying it all seems, it IS possible to put yourself out there. And I can Problem-solve instead of self-promoting – tell people what problem I fix by providing whatever my service or product is.

So I started to tell my story, and explain how my services can solve problems – and you know what – it felt so much easier!
Below is one of the interviews I did with a wonderful local woman who asked me to share my story – and I actually really enjoyed it, even though it was a teensy bit uncomfortable to start with!

Have a think about how you can tell your story, and explain how and why you do what you do – and what problems it solves.. If you still struggle to see how you can present it, give me a call, and let’s see if we can figure it out together – while we cowork of course!

Just over a year ago, I wrote an article on LinkedIn about flexible working (you can read it here), and this month I found myself back researching, this time from a local perspective. I recently got in touch with the creator of a new facebook page – another local mum. Frustrated by the lack of jobs available during school hours, she had set up the page to see if there are others in a similar situation – keen to get back into the workforce, but not so keen on going back to full-time hours at this point in time. Within a matter of a few days, the page already had almost 300 members, almost entirely Mums within our community!

The whole workplace flexibility issue came back to the forefront of my mind.

What you may not be aware of, is that I have been running my business for the past two and a half years on flexible hours

I have two children at school in our local community, and one of my initial reasons for opening the flexible workspaces was to be able to create an income for myself which didn’t require commuting to the city, and wasn’t going to be awkward if either of my kids needed me for any reason. Being in another country at the other side of the world from our family means less opportunities to call on someone to help out when things don’t go to plan! I’m a ‘give everything to whatever I’m doing’ kind of a person, so the idea of letting my work down, or letting my kids down, was not something I wanted to do. So the reality is I drop the kids at school in the morning (and it’s two schools now – primary and high school), so I’m not at work until about 9am, and then I have to leave at about 2.30pm to start the school pickup process… And eat lunch at some point…

Imagine trying to start up a new business, and only being available during those hours to meet people, to talk about the services we could offer, and then to actually make it all happen. It wasn’t pretty that first year or so, I can tell you – but the more people who got involved, who understood the concept, who became workspace users – the more I was able to breathe out and relax a little. And the more people realised where I was in my chaotic life, the more they opened up about how crazy theirs was too, and we were able to start finding solutions for the crazy – helping each other out when things got difficult, and spreading the word about how it was ok to admit that we weren’t actually available to work 9-5 every day, we couldn’t attend those breakfast networking events, but that these things had no impact on how good we were at our jobs! In some cases, being able to let go of that guilt of trying to pretend we are as available as someone who is working full-time, with no commitments, actually makes us better, more focused – more productive and relaxed. How good does that sound?!

happy workers

So – when I heard about Flexible Working Day, and Flexible Working Week – I re-ignited my passion to help others push the world towards having more options available – for everyone – this is not a ‘women thing‘, or a ‘Mum‘ thing – there are so many people looking for flexible options, for so many different reasons – sports people who want to pursue their activity, and need flexibility to attend events or competitions, people who are on the way towards retirement, but who want to stay active in their career for longer, and PARENTS – male and female –
statistics show that Dads DO want flexibility – a Workplace Gender Equality Agency report states:

  • 79% of young fathers would prefer to choose their start and finish times but only 41% actually currently do.
  • 79% of young fathers prefer to work a compressed work-week but only 24% actually do.
  • 56% of young fathers would prefer to work part of their regular hours at home while only 13% actually do.
We opened up the flexible workspace for free on Wednesday 21st June, to celebrate and raise awareness of Flexible Working Day – we had some new faces come in a try out the coworking desks. I also shared my story of how I came to be working flexibly – you can read it here Suburban life – coworking & collaboration credit: B Donnet - Neuroworks Labs

I think there is some good traction happening in this area, and I look forward to seeing what I can do as my part in it all – no matter how small, all movement towards change is good. I’d love to hear others ideas or experiences, so feel free to email me on collaboration@centralbusinessassociates.com.au

Customer Service

How often do we actually ASK our customers what they want?

Do we get too focussed on what we like, what we want to be doing, on what we THINK they want?

Do you carry out customer satisfaction surveys, customer care calls? These touch-points with your existing or past customers can be the lifeblood of your business, and if you are not doing them, your competitors might be….

Every customer who doesn’t return means extra Business Development for you to find new clients – imagine if they all came back, over and over again…

Contact us if you’d like some assistance in this area – we love helping businesses improve their Customer Service, and have many years of experience of customer care and retention.

For more thoughts, read Celia’s full article on LinkedIn – and if you’ve not connected with her yet, please do so while you are there!

boardroom collaboration
I wrote about this already in 2015, but some specific examples came up and I thought it would be good to share them, to show some actual examples of how working in a shared space can be of huge benefit to your business, and sometimes even to your social life!
serendipity
ˌsɛr(ə)nˈdɪpɪti/
noun
noun: serendipity; plural noun: serendipities
  1. the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
    “a fortunate stroke of serendipity”

flexible workJust how flexible is your flexible work?

I was recently doing some research into ‘flexible working’, and discovered this PwC article, which summed up quite strongly my understanding and experience since opening the business centre. Flexible work means many things to many people, but generally, the business world is changing. More employees, small business owners and entrepreneurs are trying to achieve that work/life balance that many of us spend our whole life trying to create. I have to agree that the statement in the article rings very true for me (not just Millenials!) –
For their part, Millennials do not believe that productivity should be measured by the number of hours worked at the office, but by the output of the work performed. They view work as a “thing” and not a “place”. ”

I wrote this piece on LinkedIn Pulse discussing it further – have a read – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

LinkedIn – Celia Newlands – Flexible Work

When I first moved into a Managerial position in corporate, many more years ago than I’d like to admit, I remember very quickly making mental notes of the ‘people to know‘ within the different departments. Not in the influential sense, but in a ‘these are the people who know the stuff that matters in this business‘ sort of a way… The people with the real day-to-day understanding of how the business works, who were verging on INDISPENSABLE …..

What a word! – indispensablesynonyms: essential, crucial, necessary, key, vital, needed, required, called for, requisite, important, all-important, vitally important, of the utmost importance, of great consequence, of the essence, critical, life-and-death, imperative, mandatory, compulsory, obligatory, compelling, urgent, pressing, burning, acute, paramount, pre-eminent, high-priority, significant, consequential

Wow! Who wouldn’t want to be described with all those words?

Soon after I identified who those ‘indispensable’ people were, I began to see another interesting difference amongst the same people. Those who wanted to share what they knew, and those who didn’t. Each thought their way was the best way. The ones who didn’t want to share their information thought they were making themselves even more indispensable and important. Unfortunately, they were wrong. They were not indispensable.

To consider yourself more important because you do NOT share information that is crucial to the running of a business, is very short-sighted, and has become more and more outdated. We live in a very collaborative society now. No-one is ‘indispensable’…, not really.. You may be an amazing employee or colleague, but ultimately, when the old chips are down, as they say; nothing can save you…..

Oh, no wait!
Of course you can be saved! What was I thinking!
I forgot to mention those people who DO share information, who DO collaborate, who DO love to impart their knowledge to others, to see others success as partly their own success in the world.
They are the new ‘indispensable‘!

There has been a huge shift in how we decide who to work with. I am not suggesting that you tell everyone all the ingredients for your massively successful new chocolate slice that’s ‘taken the dessert market by storm’ (although seriously, if it’s that good, you can PM me…, I won’t tell anyone!) or the specifics of how you made that new invention that ‘no-one is going to be able to live without’ by 2017..
In fact, all I’m really saying is…play nice!

Collaborate: The new Indispensable?
collaborate -synonyms: cooperate, join (up), join forces, team up, get together, come together, band together, work together, work jointly, participate, unite, combine, merge, link, ally, associate, amalgamate, integrate, form an alliance, pool resources, club together

The words that are floating around in my business network at the moment sound like this: collaborate, develop, unite, blend, fusion, alliance, emerge, create, do. We are doing some amazing connecting!

As one, we can only do so much – if we collaborate, we can achieve anything!

Love to hear your thoughts, or your stories of how collaboration has worked for you?

*First published on LinkedIn 24/11/15: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/do-you-dare-share-celia-newlands

The video below came up in my newsfeed today, showing the benefits of coworking, and I just loved the phrase ‘Accelerated Serendipity’! Plus it described my day today so accurately, that I felt compelled to share it with everyone…
I held a free coworking morning today – I’ve been holding one every couple of months, just to try to bring those people in who have either not heard of coworking, or don’t think it is something that would work for them. I tend to find that once people have tried it out, they understand how it can work for them, and can see (and feel) the benefits.

The benefits are different for everyone – for some it’s not having the distractions of home – the family pets, the dishwasher needing emptied, the washing piling up in the corner, etc etc…
For others it might be just feeling part of a social community – having other people to run ideas past, or to talk about ‘that’ TV show that was on last night, or even discuss your thoughts on the economic development of the area we live in….!

But ultimately, it needs to be of financial benefit to be coworking, or sharing an office space – otherwise why wouldn’t you just stay at home?

Well today showed me all the reasons why it works.

I had about 4 conversations with different people, which resulted in no less than 6 collaborative situations, which may result in more income for all 6 people! Not bad for a couple of hours work…
Then I did some client work, as the office was so busy I felt I had to contribute/type faster (that’s the competitive side of me!) than the other people I could hear around me.

So I did some paid work, got details of some fantastic prospective clients/collaborations, networked, and had a bit of a laugh too!

So next time you’re wondering what the fuss is all about, bring a chunk of work, your laptop, some business cards, and see if you can have some Accelerated Serendipity too! Watch the video that started the conversation, below…….

Coworking – How coworking is changing how and where we work