For someone who thrives on creating order from chaos, it’s not surprising that Anna Hill found leaving a corporate job to start her own business was the toughest challenge. Six months in to being her own boss things are shaping up nicely. Anna shares the story so far in our Real Women Q&A.
Why did you start your business?
I started Tidy Minds because I’m passionate about helping women fulfil their professional ambitions. I was a PR and reputation management specialist for 12 years before launching my own company. During that time I advised high-achieving women in a range of roles within the public and private sector. Their determination was truly inspiring and encouraged me to think about how I could practically enable more women to turn their brilliant ideas into reality.
What is your product or service and what need does it meet? Who are your customers?
Women have so many competing priorities they can easily lose sight of what’s really important in their own lives. A change of personal circumstances, for example having children or being made redundant, can be the catalyst for changes in other areas. If a great idea for a new business never sees the light of day, we’re all worse off. I want to help budding entrepreneurs get the ball rolling so they’re not just thinking, they’re doing.
Tidy Minds has been up and running for just over six months. At the moment, I am the team but I’m keen to expand in the future. I operate primarily in London and the south east but am happy to travel to other areas of the country and even internationally if the need arises.
Tell us about yourself?
I would definitely describe myself as more of a do-er than a talker. I’ve always been organised with exceptional attention to detail – I’m sure I’ve got my training as a journalist and sub-editor to thank for this. Tidy Minds is the perfect outlet for all my skills and experience – both personal and professional. Friends tend to turn to me for advice rather than a shoulder to cry on and it’s this practical, yet tactful approach that I put into practice when I’m working with my clients.
What are your values and what role do they play in the business?
I’m a big advocate of keeping things smart and simple. The best ideas are often those that fulfil the most basic need. If something seems obvious, don’t try and overcomplicate it with ‘what if’s’. I adopt this approach in my face-to-face sessions with clients where I draw up a ‘Today’s the Day’ schedule to keep our time together focused. The work I do is intensive – usually delivered over 1-2 days – as I’m keen to ensure people see the benefit of their investment straight away. Authenticity is another key value and I pride myself on providing a service that’s tailored to the individual needs of the client. I’m always happy to share my own personal experiences while maintaining the role of impartial observer. I can’t help but get excited when I hear about a new idea for a business so my clients are guaranteed bags of enthusiasm and someone who’s rooting for them from the outset.
What are the high points?
High points are the lightbulb moments when I’m working with a client and they suddenly see everything fall into place. Just talking through ideas in a logical and strategic way can make everything seem more real. It’s great when I hear someone say “I never thought of that” or “Wow, that’s it”! These are the moments that I know will stay with both of us long into the future.
What were the toughest challenges and how did you get over them?
The toughest challenge was probably making the switch from a tried and tested career to an entrepreneurial endeavour that forced me out of my comfort zone. Going out and promoting my expertise to highly effective, ambitious women can be daunting but empathy, a willingness to listen and a good sense of humour go a long way to breaking the ice and building good relationships.
How do you market the business?
The vast majority of my marketing and client leads come from face-to-face networking which I really enjoy. I attend a diverse range of events and tend to view each one as an opportunity to have interesting conversations with interesting people. If the subject of business crops up it tends to be on the back of a rapport that we’ve already established which makes working together an obvious next step.
What technology helps?
I occasionally use Skype to speak to clients before the one-to-one sessions. I’m also a huge fan of organisational apps, particularly Wunderlist which I recommend to all my clients as an easy way to prevent their to-do lists getting on top of them.
Where do you get support from?
I have a wonderfully supportive husband who is always there to listen to my thoughts and reassure me when I have occasional niggling doubts. I’m also very fortunate to have close friends who know that my ideas sometimes get the better of me but continue to love and encourage me nonetheless.
Who has inspired you and why?
Lots of people have inspired me along the way. In my early career, I have to note the significance of the brilliant TV adaptation of Michael Dobbs’ ‘House of Cards’. One of the central characters, Mattie Storin, played by Susannah Harker, came along at just the right time to pique my interest in journalism. Two of my bosses stand out for their willingness to share expertise and provide feedback that has had a lasting and positive impact. Latterly, I’ve been reading lots of biographies and autobiographies of inspiring women and entrepreneurs. I’m halfway through Dame Stephanie Shirley’s ‘Let IT Go’ and am already totally immersed in her story. Caitlin Moran will always remain a firm favourite too – up the women!
What are your future plans or goals?
I’d like to take on at least two ‘Tidy Minders’ in the next 12-18 months and expand my client base outside London so I have more opportunity to travel and meet inspiring women up and down the country.
Three things you have learned?
- The quicker you can move on from the things that don’t go right, the quicker you’ll find success.
- Never underestimate the power of a good conversation. Asking the right questions can unlock a wealth of shared experiences and you’ll be amazed at what you learn along the way.
- Finally, but probably most importantly, do it your way. If others are telling you they know better, reassure yourself that it’s your idea and you know best. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help, just make sure you’re not changing direction to suit others.
Your best piece of advice?
If in doubt, trust your gut. It never lies and it only has your best interests at heart.
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