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So Who Am I?

So Who Am I?

This week I changed my life. Last week I was Managing Director of a business I co-own with my husband, Mo. This week, having hired a new MD, I am simply Claire. I have spent the last 6 years working in our business and, with my husband and an amazing team of people, have grown it to a proper company. Last year Ideal turned over £11.5 million and we employ nearly 50 people from brand new offices in the centre of Brighton.

I never intended to become a Managing Director and for a long time I resisted owning the title. To me a Managing Director was male and middle aged. I was female with primary responsibility for 4 kids. How could I marry the demands of the business with a busy family life? I owe a massive debt of gratitude to a group of women MDs I have met with regularly for several years. Spending time with other women performing the same role as me, I gradually accepted that I was indeed an MD and it was up to me to make it work for the business and my family.

Countless times over the last 6 years, people have asked Mo and I how on earth we can work together? For 4 years we explained that it was unexpectedly great. That it had added something to our relationship- giving us a shared focus outside of our family life. We had clearly defined roles in the business and our different approach to relationships, strategy and risk gave the business a perfectly balanced engine. I am really proud of what we have achieved together with our marriage still intact, but running a start-up is different to running a bigger business and increasingly there was a cost of balancing our different perspectives to deliver that perfectly tuned engine.

So, a year ago we decided we would make a change. We would no longer work in the business together and I would look for an experienced MD to support us in driving Ideal’s continued growth and success. But how on earth do you find someone to take over your own role? Just like with any hire, first of all you look in the mirror and try and recruit yourself but gradually you come to understand that hiring someone different to you will bring strength and advantage. After several months of hunting we eventually found our perfect candidate. Experienced, steady and full of integrity, Mike Henson has slipped into my shoes at Ideal and is poised to drive the business forward to meet our ambitious goals.

So what do I do now? And who am I now if I’m not a Managing Director anymore? The truth is I don’t know yet- I have been the face of Ideal, and will no doubt continue to be for sometime. As business owner I am in a unique position to spread the word about Ideal. My challenge is to find a way to exploit this ‘founder’s mentality’- the bloody minded ambition, passion and drive which comes from owning something- and still give Mike the space to make a success of his new role.

So today is day 3 of my new life. For 3 days I have left the house wearing lycra and trainers rather than a work dress and heels. I have run for miles, worked from my kitchen, cleaned my house, listened to radio 4 in the daytime and read my book in the bath. What is that person called?

As MD I have loved writing for our blog so am going to write my way to defining my new role. A friend has advised me to face the void before racing around, filling it with my next thing. Sage advice I feel and those that know me doubt my ability to sit still and wait. It’s a scary place to be but I’m ready, waiting for the next thing to come.

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