When Justine Cox became a first-time mother at 43, it inspired her to launch her leadership coaching business, so she could spend more time with her son. One of her biggest challenges learning to put a value on herself with pricing. Here, she shares her leadership lessons and some great tips for integrating work and life.
What inspired you to launch your own business?
At 43, I became a first-time mum, and while my employer was flexible, not flexible enough, so I took the opportunity to start my own business. I had always wanted to but was never courageous enough to leave a good-paying job. I took 12 months off to spend with my son Nash and, at about the 8th-month mark, needed to be mentally challenged, which is when the idea started to grow. Originally, I thought I would start as a side hustle and see if I could generate enough income, but in the end, I decided to make the jump and see what happened, so I launched the Leaders Change Room.
Starting a business takes courage. What obstacles did you have to overcome?
From the beginning, I thought of the business as an experiment because you can’t fail an experiment. Experiments are to test and learn; that mindset has helped me during tough times. My biggest early obstacle was the courage to tell people what I do and sell my services. Asking for the business was really uncomfortable and sometimes still is, but I have built my confidence.
What challenges have you faced running your business, and how did you resolve them?
Pricing. It always felt like I was putting a value on myself. I now focus on the value I am providing, but I still get a little caught up in pricing every now and then. Probably the biggest challenge has been managing the fluctuating cash flow. I have two strategies for this. I separate personal and business finances; I use the profit-first principles and The Barefoot Investor method of buckets. Every dollar has a job, income comes into my working account, and I use a percentage system redirecting a set percentage into the different buckets (bank accounts). I also looked for retainer work which gave me some certainty and peace of mind. Last December, I launched my first online group coaching course as a way to scale.
What achievement/s you are most proud of and why?
I’m proud to have built a successful business that makes a tangible difference for managers and leaders. I believe in paying it forward, and it is through my business that I can do that in a meaningful way, which includes being a partner with B1G1 (a micro giving platform) and volunteering. Leadership can make tomorrow better for all of us, and Leaders Change Room is one way I can live that belief. I can also provide a great life for my son and be there when he needs me. As a solo mum, that’s very important to me.
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? How did you address it?
Definitely! For me thinking about things as an experiment helps. I also have a morning routine that prepares me for a great day. It includes 20 minutes of guided meditation, 20 minutes on my treadmill listening to a podcast and 20 minutes of journaling where I express gratitude, reflect and choose some affirmations. I also use lavender oil in my morning shower, where I set my intention for the day. I find this helps get me in a positive frame of mind and keeps my little imposter quiet.
Who has been your biggest champion on your journey, and how did they help you?
My friend Janice is always there to pep me up, provide a sounding board and celebrate my wins. I also have another friend, Karranne, who is also in business and is a very wise council; we have a standing monthly catch-up.
What skills do you believe women must have to succeed as a leader?
Be strong and kind. Strength and kindness are not mutually exclusive. Leadership is about relationships. Investing in building and maintaining trust (including in yourself) will improve your opportunities to influence and impact positively.
Work/life balance can be difficult. How do you manage it, and can you share your ‘tricks of the trade’?
I’m not looking for work-life balance. My business and my work are essential parts of me, my life, and who I am. I love what I do, live one life, and all the parts have to work together. I reward myself with a monthly massage, I’m in a book club, I connect with friends, Nash and I go on travel experiences, and it all needs to work together. It didn’t start this way, I was treating my business like a job. Here are my top tips for an integrated life:
- Live in your calendar – everything goes in the calendar, both business and personal.
- Don’t focus on time management; focus on time choices.
- Work in 90-day cycles, reflecting, celebrating and resetting every 90 days.
- Create a system for anything you need to do more than once and include templates of emails, etc., to reduce rework.
- Stay focused on a small number of outcomes – the things that really move the dial.
- Get help as soon as you have the budget for it.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I would have gained a clearer understanding on what support I needed before engaging support. For instance, I have engaged Virtual Assistants and specialist support with only a general idea of what I wanted. I should have spent more time thinking through what I really needed and the different options available to access that support. I also would have spent more time defining my ideal client and engaging in targeted PR to establish my brand and thought leadership. It’s a long game, so I wish I has started that earlier.
Justine Cox’s top 3 Leadership Lessons Learned
© Laini Bennett, MBA