It’s probably time for a little bit more explanation on my new ‘look’! And tell you the story behind the rebrand.

I’m drip-feeding the changes as I rediscover lots of the work I’m most connected and committed to.

What I’m up to these days

I’m doing lots more writing (some business-y, some not so much!), focusing on my key clients. I work as a General Manager for a few small businesses. And using lots of perspective to help me with a variety of projects in the mix of the two.
Combined with working on big plans with Sage Room Co-op Ltd, it’s all keeping me out of trouble! (I refuse to use the word ‘busy’ when I remember to catch myself). And making the best use of my skills and experience.

The Creative Process

I lost touch with my creativity for a while there, so I was delighted to work with the inspirational and talented SteinArt Graphic Design to create something new. I wanted to combine the existing and familiar themes of Connection and Collaboration, with my creative side.
I’m so happy with the outcome, and even made sure to incorporate the colours that inspire me from my home country. The photo below was taken by a good friend in Scotland, Brendan Murphy, who posts his work in some photography forums online. I’d been enjoying seeing his work, and then this one popped up and stopped me in my tracks. The colours hit me on an emotional level. I felt really connected to my country of origin looking at it. I immediately knew that I wanted to incorporate the colours into my new logo. I’ve always made sure my branding was meaningful and gave some insight into who I am as a human.

The (un)Familiar Logo

The logo took a little while, as I wanted to have something that still evoked my collaborative nature. Lots of entities combining to create something more substantial together. Most of the projects I work on, and the clients I work for, require much more than the skills I have. Rather than trying to wear all of the hats, I look around me at my extended network for the people who are specialists, and where possible, I ‘delegate’ the work out. Sometimes, it requires me to start the process, and once we get closer to a tipping point, I will hand it over. Then I can manage the overall ‘project’ – become the General Manager.

The result of describing all of this to Kathryn from SteinArt, is the flower at the top of this page. It combines the collaborative ‘circle’ I had originally, with the concepts of creativity and growth.

The General Manager (GM)

People often imagine a General Manager to be a role mostly seen within large organisations. I could see it was a relevant concept to bring from my work in corporate businesses. I took the basic principles and began to create foundations for growth within smaller entities. You don’t have to have hundreds of employees to put structures in place. In fact, it can make the growth much easier if you put them in at an earlier stage.

The New Adventure – to be continued..

So, join me on the journey – I’ll be travelling a while. I’m in no rush to get the finished and polished product out there. I will be putting my own foundations in place, to be ready for the next stage. Like any adventurous journey, I expect I’ll navigate some obstacles along the way. And I have a great network of resources to support me, so I’m as ready as I can be.

Here’s to transitions!

Credit: Brendan Murphy

I get a real buzz out of providing business support.

Especially when I see business owners wasting precious time, making things more difficult for themselves, or that they could be happier in their lives. And I do that in as many ways as I know how. It’s what I’ve built my career on in many varying forms, including through customer care, sales, marketing, and operations.

I spent almost 6 years running flexible workspaces and promoting the (at the time) still relatively new concept of coworking. During that time I helped many businesses improve and expand. It gives me huge job satisfaction to see people succeed and reach their potential, and to feel I supported or helped them in some way.

I’ve also supported some people who might have given up otherwise. Helped them try to figure out why things weren’t working as well for them as they’d expected or hoped. Finding them the right collaboration partners – ones that matched with them for personality, values, expertise, or even from a cost perspective. In fact I’ve been called a Business Cupid! I can often save people the months or years of frustration before they realise they are in a (business) relationship with the wrong kind of collaborator or referrer. Or maybe they’re not working with anyone at all.

If you want to go fast, go alone – If you want to go far, go together

I’m not even going to try to tell you who said this quote, as it has been said in so many places, by so many people, over a very long time (this article from an Australian data scientist actually shows it’s almost impossible to tie down to one individual, although he does interestingly point out that the research became much easier when he asked other people for help….!).

I think Simon Sinek’s work around The Infinite Game is another indicator of this being a true phrase. We have to work together to create real sustainability.

Working From Home

To be clear, working from home is a great idea – I did it for about 7 years. It’s extremely cost-effective!

And for many, especially with the effect that Covid has had on everyone’s working life in the last few years, the flexible-work bandwagon is on an exceedingly fast roll! But you know what – the novelty wears off quite quickly. And is often replaced with loneliness. Especially if you work for yourself. It almost (almost!) made me consider going back to the commute, and working in a city. But deep down, to be true to my proudly introverted personality, I wanted to be based close to home. So I went out and found like-minded people, and opened the shared space.

Flexible Workspaces

I’d often be asked why I set up the flexible workspace, as I would get so frustrated that I didn’t have time to spend with the very people who I set it up for! Others would ask why I didn’t hold more networking events there. But returning to that introvert personality I mentioned, I was already running low in the energy banks, and had little left to give.

Over a period of time, I realised I was spending more time marketing and selling the workspaces to make sure I could pay the enormous rent bill every month. And not as much time doing what I loved. Helping the community of people who were choosing to work there.

Not everyone who worked in the space wanted the connections and the collaboration opportunities. Some people were just there to use the facilities. And I think that’s when I realised that I had already achieved what I’d set out to do. I’d created the base community, and cemented the idea of being able to grow faster together.

That’s when I made the difficult decision not to renew my lease when it came up. It was time to move on to the next stage. Delivering the services I’d been struggling to find the time for, in amongst the role of being the workspace host. I could see all the possibilities within the trusted network we had created as a community, but I wasn’t finding the time to help move us forward.

Our core community were able to take our big leap towards independence, by taking on a shared lease. One that was just slightly bigger than we needed, so we could still have occasional coworkers and meetings as required, and room to grow.

I now spend my days, in my element – knee-deep in research, reports, marketing and business development. Being part of the growth and support of those individual businesses in our suburban community.

Collaborative, Co-operative

We have even taken things a stage further, having just launched a co-operative called Sage Room Co-op Ltd. We plan to offer services to assist others in their growth journey. I now have more time to write – blogs and books, which I have been procrastinating about for the last 6 years (and then some..), and germinate my ideas.

Suburban Collaboration Hubs

One of those ideas, is to help other groups create a similar co-operative way of working. Demonstrate how we can create more Suburban Collaboration Hubs. Where there is no one individual expected to take on the huge commitment of a large-scale commercial lease. Each hub considers keeping a little bit of extra desk space that can be hired/utilised by those who need a place to collaborate or connect. Let me know if this is something you’d like to know more about.

Business Directory: coworking

As an aside, I’ve kept my business directory running in the hope that we can make this happen. I did such a good job of marketing my space all those years, that I still get pretty consistent enquiries from people who are looking for somewhere to work in this area. I’d love to have more potential places to tell them to contact. So get in touch if you are local to me, and have an office that you’d be happy to let out occasionally!

So, in essence, although once again my method of delivery has changed, I am still right where I wanted to be, doing what I want to do. In the midst of a community that I love, helping other businesses find ways to improve and grow, sustainably.

Here’s to Flexible-work practices, Collaboration, Sustainable growth and Business support services!

As I wrote this article, I was able to see my own journey. I’ve been talking about these same subjects – collaboration, flexible working, work-life balance and sustainable growth – for a number of years now. And whilst I’ve made some changes to my business in that time, the message has been consistent.
It’s funny how sometimes you don’t see it yourself until much later. My colleagues have always maintained I was consistent, but I’ve often felt I was being a bit ‘random’!
So I’m glad I wrote this one, even if I’m the one who most benefits from reading it.. 😉

The past few years have been a different kind of chaos for those of us in small business.

I’ve heard people talk recently about how it was actually nice to have the occasional 3-day lockdown and spend time at home with family or binge-watch that show you’ve had on your watchlist for 6 months. And I agree, that time was precious, and should be repeated more often!

However, for those of us who rely on everyone being out and about and doing ‘normal’ stuff to keep our small businesses financially viable, we were more likely living in a state of anxiety day-to-day. Wondering when everyone was coming back out to spend with us again.

As most of you know if you’ve been following me for a while, when I started Central Business Associates, I wanted to find ways to bring people together.

To show them how to collaborate, to share their skills and learn from each other, and team up with others who were good at the tasks they didn’t like doing so much. Or that just weren’t within their range of expertise.

Through being involved in local networking events and running the workspaces in Wynnum for almost 6 years, I was able to find people I needed most to work with. They had skills that I either lacked, or that I needed an enhanced version of, in order to move my (and their) business forward. And others found me, for the same reason.

I thrive being able to help people achieve their potential. My main values are Leadership and Ethics, and I want to inspire people towards self-leadership and learning. In a sustainable and purposeful way, and not only for financial gain (we can’t ‘take it with us’, as we are often being told!).

In general, I’ve met and connected with, so many incredible and talented people, all within this suburban community of Brisbane’s Bayside in Queensland. I’d never have imagined it was possible in such a small part of this vast country we live in. It’s made me realise the huge potential there is for this type of collaborative working (and co-operative – more on this in a later blog – there is exciting news coming soon!) – not just flexible-working – which is the big buzzword out there at the moment (and I was talking about it more than 5 years ago by the way. Just saying…).

I see collaborative working in the small business context like corporate teamwork in a way . It’s getting together with, or putting together, a good group of people with a great mix of skills who can do just about everything between them – high five!

So – back to that chaos..

There is no way to properly explain the difference that having those others around made to that chaos. The calm that it brought to the panic that each of us individually felt, at different moments, over the last few years.

  • I can’t do this!
  • I need to go and get a job, I can’t sustain this business any more!
  • There’s not enough work!
  • I’ve got too much work, and not enough hours in the day, but I can’t afford to hire anyone to help!

Slowly, we all came to realise that we were all in different boats, but in the same choppy waters. So, we tied our boats together. Shared our fears, and funny stories, and our skills and experience.

And we are still here. And we are probably stronger, and much more sustainable (dare I say buoyant!) than before.

Collaborative Partners

So, I just wanted to do a bit of a shoutout to a few of those collaborative partners, and say thank you for rescuing me from the storm – I’ve come out the other side, and I’m in much calmer waters now, and excited about the next bit of the journey. In no order of awesomeness (actually, I made it backwards alphabetical, for a change)

Michelle, from MobyCo

Lauren, from Bayside Admin

Kelly, from Adaptable Quality

Kathryn, from SteinArt and

Amy, from Nurturing Confidence

My thanks to you all for your various contributions to my survival, and my business growth in the last few years!

Next time, I will be talking about what I got up to when things were not so busy in my consultancy boat…

Sometimes I miss the corporate world.

About two years ago, I realised that one of the things I missed about the corporate world (and there are actually quite a few!) was getting together around a boardroom table, discussing how each of our departments had performed in the month.

We would include positives and negatives, and as a team, discuss how we might be able to help one another with issues we had encountered.
I began to realise that one of my biggest strengths was being able to see simple solutions, utilising existing structures where possible. Being able to collaborate with others. Helping others see how instead of butting heads, we could pool resources and create win/win outcomes.

I put the concept to a few colleagues I was already collaborating with, and we decided to run with it for 6 months to begin with, see what sort of format we could work with, and whether it would be beneficial within the world of small business. I drew up a basic plan for us to work through.

Our Leadership and Accountability group has now been running since 2018,

with no sign of slowing enthusiasm! We actually now have at least two business retreat a year as well, to ensure we take a few days out to work on our biggest business challenges. Every one of those businesses has grown considerably in that time, and I’m delighted to have seen us all benefit from the process.

For some, particularly if you are the only person in your business (whether a sole trader, or just a one-person entity), it can seem strange to consider yourself a Leader. Who exactly are you supposed to be be ‘leading’?

The answer is ‘everyone you interact with’, in one way or another. You need to be able to lead your business – and that includes any contractors, suppliers and even your customers. You need to bring them on the journey with you, and show that your business vision is worth them coming along with you.

We embedded this same concept within the Memberships at Central Business Associates. You would join a Leadership group and work through your challenges with other small businesses or sole traders. These groups had a real mix of people, with different-sized businesses, within various industries, but often some of the challenges were similar, and someone around the table would offer some insight – even if it’s ‘what not to do’. Brainstorming these issues can bring so many different strengths out in the participants, and can lead to innovative and successful solutions.

Although we no longer offer this specific service, we do now offer collaboration consultancy services. This can help you determine, or even find, the right people to work with, with similar values and different skills. Contact me if you’d like to know more about this option.

19th January 2015..
I don’t really remember that first day. Bit of an exhausted, excited blur..

Probably have little memory of the first year actually – it just flew by, with all it’s newness and excitement and my heart beating out of my chest, and some things going very wrong, and some things going very right…!

And here we are, half a decade later.

Central Business Associates – we are celebrating five years in business, and I wanted to do a little ‘check in the rear view mirror’.

Starting a business like this, making ‘flexibility’ the core concept – if I’d known what that would actually involve, I wonder if I’d ever have agreed to do it!
But I’m so glad I did – making flexibility my key offering has opened up so many more doors, meetings and opportunities that never would have happened if I’d stuck firmly to a plan.
So my version of a ‘plan’ has really been around ideas – and values.

Flexibility, Community & Collaboration – those have been the core values that have helped me make big decisions along the way.

  • We’ve had businesses move in, flourish, grow and then move into their own spaces,
  • we’ve seen businesses collaborate on hundreds of projects, and
  • we’ve made lots and lots of friends – lifelong friends, that we might never have met if this business didn’t exist.

We’ve held events, hosted workshops, created membership programmes. We’ve laughed, and cried, been angry and ecstatic.

We have consistently looked for new ways to help local businesses connect, collaborate and grow.
I am grateful for every person who came through these doors, and thankful for all the lessons that I have had to learn along the way.

Whilst I can’t predict the future, and what the next 5 years have in store for us, I do know that if I learn as much as I have in the last 5 years, things will definitely be flexible, fun and phenomenally interesting! 😁

Our Community Manager, Celia Newlands, brings a wide variety of skills to the business.

“I’m always looking for new ways to help small businesses and sole traders in my community. As a Community Manager and now Co-operative Director, I’m able to connect people who could collaborate to resolve multiple problems. And as a result, grow both businesses. Over time, people have often joked about me being a ‘business dating service’ (I wasn’t so sure about that one!) and a small business surgery. The second nickname has kind of stuck and is now an integral part of our service offering.”

Different stages, different needs

Celia meets people at all different stages of running a business. From developing a great idea, through struggling to grow beyond a plateau. Or trying to find ways to work less hours, or more flexibly.
“In the midst of working ‘inside’ the business every day, business owners often can’t see the ‘wood for the trees’. Having worked in change management, I am always looking in from the outside. This often makes it easier to see how simple tweaks could really improve things. I don’t shy away from the hard questions. If I need you to see that your business will only grow if you stop micro-managing and give people some responsibility, I will (gently) tell you!”

Finding the right support

Some people might need to find Marketing support (where there are are so many different areas of speciality – social media, SEO, advertising and PR. Others might need a great Graphic Designer to build or create brand consistency.
Maybe the business isn’t growing because the business owner is undervaluing his or herself and not charging enough. Maybe they lost their passion in amongst the business development. Or the numbers don’t make sense, or they feel the staff are letting them down….

The list goes on, but Celia’s enthusiasm to find a solution doesn’t wane. It’s what drives her. Gets her jumping out of bed every morning, excited to go to work. Those who work with Celia will testify to this – even on Mondays!

Two people in a meeting room, talking and smiling.

How does it work?

The Small Business Surgery service is a general information offering, tailored as much as possible to you and your businesses needs, based on the information you provide. We try to find a local, trusted service provider to help if we can, as we are really passionate about growing the local economy.
We ask questions to help clarify the areas a business may be struggling with. Or determine where they need a service provider, before making suggestions of who may be able to assist. It will often consist of more than one option, so you can compare and see which provider fits your needs best.

Celia says “I try to help clients by letting them know what is available in their own community. Often people want to make a human connection with a service provider. We can all search online for answers these days. However, sitting down for a face-to-face chat with someone you may be deciding to hand your hard-earned dollars to, or entrust with your clients, is sometimes the best option to gain a real sense of trust. I am a real believer in authentic recommendation. If I’ve not used the services personally, but have worked with them and feel they could be the right match, I will say that.
I know a little bit about a lot of business subjects. Accordingly, in these situations, I am really a provider of information as opposed to a specialist – hence ‘small business surgery’! Finding the ‘specialist’ can be time-consuming. I’ve spent most of my career striving to provide excellent Customer Service. Finding the right product or service to meet the client’s needs is something I’m proudly confident about. I’ve built up a large network of local connections, and researched what is available in our business community. Allowing me to save people a lot of time if they need assistance and aren’t sure where to look.”

Contact Celia if you are interested in an appointment with the ‘small business surgery’. Or click here to find out more.

How often do you actually ASK your customers what they want?

Do you get too focused on what you like, what you want to be doing. On what you THINK customers 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…

I’m in the midst of research for a current Customer Service Consultancy project, and came across this fantastic set of quotes.

“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” This really rings true. I worked in Customer Service and Sales in the UK when the competition seriously kicked off in this area. Watched many businesses struggle who were mostly price focused – highest (“Ah, but you get what you pay for…”!) or the lowest (is it automatically low quality if it’s low price?) This just wasn’t what people were motivated by any more. Customer Experience, Customer Service, Customer Care – call it what you wish. Customers began to drive change in business. They simply walked away if they weren’t treated well.

I genuinely believe that today’s consumers are heading back in this direction in their droves – they want businesses to appreciate their custom, not just ‘take the money and run’.
Are you prepared? Would your Customer Service stand up to a service-driven customer base? Maybe you believe price still wins the day. Would love to hear your thoughts.

We love helping businesses improve their Customer Service, and have many years of experience of customer care and business retention.

*Originally posted as an article on LinkedIn – and if you’ve not connected with me there yet, please do so while you’re there! Updated 2023

Anyone who knows me already understands my passion for collaboration.

I wrote a blog about Accelerated Serendipity on my website last year, to try to explain some of the stand-out benefits of Flexible Workspaces. If you haven’t read it yet, you can see it here – Accelerated Serendipity – showing how and why the concept of Flexible Working / Coworking works for so many of us.

One of our regular coworkers – a graphic designer, was telling me today how much she has benefited from coming into our workspace – every time she comes in, she meets a potential client, or a colleague, or a possible collaborator. Stories like this are what keep me going, confident that this is the way forward for the workforce – not only small businesses and entrepreneurs, but also employees, if given the opportunity to have a day or more nearer home – the chance to achieve a genuine work/life balance.

Central Business Associates is an ‘office of the future’, as described in an article recently from Officing Today  (an online magazine delivering the latest news, tips, trends, and insights of the flexible workspace industry, first published in 2004 – way before flexible working was ‘the new black’!) – I was delighted to be featured alongside some other great examples of collaborative hubs within Australia. Read the article here

As always, I’d love to hear others thoughts on the subject – would you like to know how you could work more flexibly, or do you manage this already in a different way?

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”

And so begins my foray into Blogging….

This is all new to me. My expertise is in Customer Service, Staff Management, Office Management, CRM systems etc.

Social Media, Website Administration, Blogging – all new to me, but I’m very excited about the learning opportunity this presents me with. I have always loved learning; but conversely have never been any good at studying! I’m all about ‘doing’ things to learn – so here I am – ‘doing’ things I have little or no experience of, but will learn as I go along.

Such is the journey of an entrepreneur I think.

Unless you have already completed all the studying beforehand, the entrepreneurial story is one that writes itself as it unfolds!

I have been working on creating this business for a number of years now, but in the last 2 years, as it began to become more defined and closer to completion, I realised that for all my relevant experience in my intended area of work, I had very little experience in Commercial Real Estate or setting up a Company – to name but two new areas of learning for me!

One thing I learned very early in my career in Management was to ask questions – I have never considered it to be a weakness to admit I don’t know it all – in fact, I consider the ability to ask the right questions in order to improve/ learn/ move forward, as a strength.    

And so I follow this belief, and I ask questions of all the ‘experts’ I meet, about things I know little or nothing of, and I slowly build up a small amount of knowledge about a huge amount of subjects. I remain an ‘expert’ in my main field of work, but I suppose I am now a ‘General Practitioner’ in Entrepreneurship – so Mum – maybe you get a daughter that’s a GP after all!!

So I suppose that constitutes the topic for my first Blog post – ASK QUESTIONS to improve and grow your knowledge base, and never, EVER stop learning!