When Kathryn MacMillan started her business, she wanted something in which she could grow while raising her family and supporting her husband in his big corporate role. Twenty years on, her company has become the big corporate. Here, she shares the lessons she has learned from doing it differently.
What inspired you to launch your own business?
At the time, I was looking for a business where I could raise my family and support my husband, who had a big corporate role. I wanted to work part-time in something I could grow and develop. Since then, my business, CIRCLE Recruitment & HR, has become the big corporate job!
Starting a business takes courage. What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Confidence is a big part of starting up. Also, finding the right information and people to help you. I didn’t know much, so I had to research, find consultants, and educate myself where I could upskill. I picked everyone’s brains!
What challenges have you faced running your business, and how did you resolve them?
Managing growth is always a challenge because growth can send you broke. So, understanding the finances and how cash is king, as well as the financial side of management. Then there is managing personal relationships like clients, employees, and suppliers – you have to be a good people person.
What achievement/s you are most proud of and why?
Many things, including being in business for 20 years next year, growing from just myself and working in my spare room at home to offices and a great team. I am really proud of the work that we do. Our clients stay with us long term, we offer great service, and we are good at what we do. Finally, my brilliant team, the level of training that we do with them pays off, and they are simply awesome!
Also, I’ve got to say, weathering the storms:
- GFC 2008/2009;
- Being absent for a year due to health challenges in 2018; and
- The COVID pandemic in 2020, 2021 and 2022.
We can weather anything ☺
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? How did you address it?
Whenever I had those moments of worry, I have fallen back on the research and studies I have done or gone and searched for the answer. I believe I will not fail, not because I am the best, but because I will work harder than anyone else to get there, and I never give up – I just don’t believe in ceilings.
Who has been your biggest champion on your journey and how did they help you?
I have been fortunate to have many champions. My supportive husband and our young son, who helped with technology and marketing. My parents, whom I saw working in a small business and how did it with such commonsense and tenacity. My father-in-law, who had a corporate background and taught me so much. I also have a mentor sourced from my industry. Sydney University supported me when I completed my Master’s Degree as a (very) mature age student. All these people have supported me, and I would not be where I am without them
What skills do you believe women must have to succeed as a leader?
Empathy, strength, fairness, confidence and an unwavering belief in self and how you contribute to society and the world. Love and humility.
Work/life balance can be difficult. How do you manage it, and can you share your ‘tricks of the trade’?
You don’t have much work/life balance when you are the CEO. It is up to you to make it. One of my tricks of the trade is taking time mid-week just for myself. If I don’t do this, I cannot perform as well. I never feel guilty – it is inherent to my ability to perform at a high level for the rest of the time.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I wished I could have learnt some lessons and come to some realisations sooner. But, I guess that it takes time for one to understand things, so probably, I realised these lessons at a normal time.
Katherine MacMillan’s Top 3 Leadership Lessons Learned:
1. Change your delivery and communication depending on the person/group you are working with.
2. Never change your values and ethics, only your delivery and communication.
3. Learn about DISC personal assessment, so you can alter your behavioural style to get the most out of other people.
By Laini Bennett, MBA