I’m Sarah Buchanan-Smith and I’ve been happily married (more or less!) since 2002. We have 3 lovely children who are growing up at a rate of knots and we live in a lovely old farmhouse with the obligatory dog and chickens up in the hills of Scotland. It might sound remote but it’s actually only a 40-minute drive from Harvey Nicks so all is not lost! It’s not that I’m a fashionista (although I am a fan of kitten heels); it’s more that I’m not a fully dedicated country lass. I grew up in Singapore, Melbourne, New York and London, which is where I still I spend a lot of my time.
I love travelling all over the world with work and in the school holidays I decamp with the kids to France or Spain where they get brown as berries and I carry on working with my clients remotely (perhaps with a glass of rose in hand!). When I’m at home I work out of my shepherds hut or, if the internet connection is just too awful, from my little office in town.
So that’s me. I run my own business, look after my family (with as much help as I can get!), spend time with friends, cook, run, read, listen to music and make sure I keep excited about life by getting regular doses of London and travelling to fabulous places whenever I can. I live a pretty simple life that I’ve designed for myself and you know what, I’m really happy!
But it most certainly wasn’t always that way.
Not that many moons ago I was a power suited management consultant working with investment banks like Morgan Stanley and Barclays Capital. I admit it, I was a fully-fledged laptop-toting, Gold-card waving, expense-account-flogging consultant, glued to my mobile thinking I was terribly important!
Despite looking like the very picture of success, I was bloody miserable.
I had first class honours and professional qualifications coming out of my ears, job offers and promotions at almost every turn, a fabulous house, a great salary, a lovely husband and 3 gorgeous children, however, as the toll of looking after 3 babies aged three and under took hold and sleep deprivation was added to the mix of dealing with my career in investment banking, I became completely stressed and overwhelmed and ended up with depression. For the first time ever in my life I had to admit that I couldn’t cope. It was a total shock to my system. I felt like a failure. I was ashamed. I felt I was letting myself, my family and the sisterhood down and, after a huge amount of angst and soul searching, I decided to leave the corporate world behind and move from London to Edinburgh to take a break from my career, raise my family and see what adventures lay ahead of me.
Once the children started getting older and I had more time on my hands I realised I was ready to get back to work. My initial reaction was to head straight back in to banking however (thankfully), in the middle of the recession, the banking world wasn’t ready for me and, after a few recruiters politely laughed me out of their offices, I set out to find a better way to work. A way that suited me.
It wasn’t pretty at first.
Four years out of the corporate world had taken a huge toll on my self- confidence. I didn’t know who I was anymore. Where had that woman who could bring men on Wall Street to their knees (metaphorically!) gone? I was tired, I had no time to myself and I was feeling unattractive as I’d put on weight. Not only that, I was resentful of how my husband could just walk out the door and leave me with the task of running the house, looking after the children AND trying to start a business to help keep us afloat financially.
There were not happy times. But I knew I couldn’t go back to corporate. I kept thinking of the strip lights, the work stations, the ridiculous meetings, dress down Fridays (??), the meaningless projects, the commute, 35 days holiday year, the stupid hours…..I couldn’t go back there. The way I wanted to live my life, the travel, the flexible hours, the difference I wanted to make and the joy I wanted to feel meant I had effectively made myself unemployable and it was down to me to find a solution.
I couldn’t even sell marmalade.
I knew a life of coffee mornings, play groups and lunches wasn’t for me. I needed to use my brain, get excited about life again and find out who I was now I was now the kids were getting older. At first I tried all the obvious options. You know, things like jewellery making, selling pretty trinkets at Christmas fairs, wreath making and running children’s craft clubs. I helped out in a friend’s property development company, I tried Internet marketing and I even tried selling slightly burnt homemade marmalade and pretended it was toffee flavoured. Not my finest hour!
Suffice to say none of this gave me the challenge I was looking for or the chance to make a real difference in the world. Neither did my ventures create the income I needed to keep living the lifestyle we loved.
But I was scared, confused and totally lacking in confidence.
I realised that the only real option I had was to start a “proper” business but I was scared. I wasn’t an entrepreneur. What was I thinking? What did I really want to do? What on earth could I offer? Who was I to say I could help other people? Who would pay me money? My self-confidence was still on the floor and anyway, there wasn’t an obvious gap in the market for trading desk re-engineering strategies amongst the Mums on the school run!
But I needed to find a solution and, as I built up my self-confidence and I rediscovered my business savvy, I transformed my hard earned investment banking skills in to something new that I was proud to offer to potential clients and before I knew it I was running my own flexible, exciting and remarkably varied consulting business that was generating a great income and letting me live my life on my own terms.
Look what I got up to…..
- Developed a strategy to build a £22m play park to support the development of underprivileged children in North East England
- Found emergency funding to keep a recently launched air ambulance operational
- Developed a funding strategy for an innovative sporting foundation
- Researched and implemented an art strategy for a local hospice
- Helped a rapidly growing FMCG company manage their relationships with private shareholders through communications and strategic events
And I did it all from my kitchen table, with no outside investment, 3 kids wanting their Mum at every sports day/play/mini concert going and a husband working away in London.
It IS possible to create a business you love, even if you’ve been out of corporate for a few years.
Now, that’s not to brag. I just want to show you that it IS possible to create a business that you love, that makes you happy, that gives you the flexibility you need and the income you are looking for outside the corporate world even if you’ve been out of the workplace for a few years. You can use your brain, you do have amazing skills and there are lots of people out there looking for exactly what you have to offer and are very willing to pay you great money for it.
Now, you may not want to set up a consultancy business like I did. That’s fine, it’s been the perfect solution for me but the most wonderful thing about using your skills outside corporate and reshaping the way you work is that you get to decide what you do, how you do it, when you do it and for whom!
I’ll guide you by the hand.
Whatever you are thinking of setting up I make it my business to take you by the hand and guide you through the process of setting up your own, whatever that may look like. First we work together to rebuild your self-confidence and work out what it is you really have to offer, how you want to reshape your life and what skills you want to use. Then using all my experience of setting my own two businesses coupled with my accounting background we build you a comprehensive plan so you can get yourself back out there, doing work you love, living a fabulous life and earning great money…..without a strip light in sight!
Business & Life CAN Be Better