Leaving a corporate job behind to start your own business is never as straightforward or simple as it may seem. Norma Kimber, an operational excellence director at an established, global financial services firm who pivoted to become a virtual assistant and business owner shares her journey of walking away from her stable, senior role in the corporate world to start her own business. In episode 86 of the Career Relaunch® podcast, we also discuss what impact organizational politics can have on your psyche and the relationship between your own health and your career decisions.
Norma and I have crossed paths a few times in the past because she’s joined some of my virtual firesides, and I’ve also personally chatted with her about some of her virtual assistance services when I was exploring the idea of hiring a virtual assistant myself. She shares some of the realities of not only leaving a full-time job behind but also the impact it can have on your psyche when your spouse still works at the well-known, global company you left behind while you try to build your own business from the ground up.
Key Career Takeaways
- When you’re in a corporate environment, it’s very natural and almost expected to keep up with your peers and climb the corporate ladder.
- Consider how much you thrive on or get disillusioned by the politics of your organization.
- Delegate a task when doing it detracts from your ability to focus on what you’re uniquely good at or from your income-generating tasks. Finding the right assistance isn’t about identifying someone who not only has the skills necessary to do the job but also a work style and approach that clicks with you.
Tweetables to Share
Freelancer Resources Mentioned
- Virtual Assistance: check out Norma’s profile on Pink Spaghetti.
- Business tasks & projects: I use Upwork (for longer-term projects) and Fiverr (for simple executional tasks). I’ve also used Squadhelp for naming ideas and Crowdspring, 99Designs, and DesignCrowd to crowdsource creative assets.
- In-person help: I’ve used Taskrabbit for help with tasks that require in-person assistance.
- Task list management: I use ToDoIst.
- Scheduling, I use OnceHub.
- Social media management: I use Vista Social to manage all my social media accounts in one place. I’ve used Buffer and Later in the past too.
(note, affiliate links above)
During this episode’s Mental Fuel® segment, I challenged you to think about one time consuming task you’ve been doing that detracts from your ability to focus on one of your other professional or personal priorities. Or something you feel someone else could just do more effectively and more efficiently.
Delegate it. This way, you can can take that time and instead focus on something you’re uniquely positioned to do.
About Norma Kimber, Virtual Assistant & Business Owner
Norma Kimber is a business owner and virtual assistant. After a varied start to her career, including office management and accounting software management, she moved to Brighton, England in 2003. Then, a couple years later, she started a 16-year career at an international financial services company, initially as an executive assistant. She took on several internal roles and promotions and ended her corporate career as a Director of Operational Excellence. She then left the corporate world behind to start her own VA business as a Pink Spaghetti franchisee.
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Thanks to Harmoni for Supporting the Career Relaunch® podcast
Thanks to Harmoni Design for supporting this episode of the Career Relaunch® podcast. The Harmoni Standing Desk offers a smarter, healthier way to work with its simple design that fits into any workspace. It’s the standing desk I’ve used myself since 2020, and Career Relaunch® podcast listeners can get 15% off any Harmoni order by visiting CareerRelaunch.net/Harmoni and using discount code RELAUNCH when you check out.
Interview Segment Music Credits
Thanks to Reeve for producing the music in this episode.
Episode Interview Transcript
Teaser (first ~15s): You do lose a lot of your identity when you move away from an organization, especially if you’ve been in one place for a very long time. Then, when you move out of that and you’re suddenly just on your own, and it’s just about you and the services you can offer, it is kind of a scary place.
Joseph: Hello, Norma. Welcome to the Career Relaunch podcast. It is great to have you on the show.
Norma: [02:26] Hi, Joseph. Thank you for having me. I’m very happy to be here.
Joseph: I would love to talk with you first about just setting the scene and getting a sense from you of what is keeping you busy in your work and in your life these days.
Norma: [02:40] In my life, these days, my almost two-year-old is what keeps me most busy, I think as most people with small children would appreciate. Then, with work, I have fairly recently started my own business. Building that up is my main focus at the moment from a work perspective.
Joseph: I am also the parent of a very young child, and I’m just wondering what’s that balance been like for you between running your own business and also, motherhood.
Norma: [03:10] It’s fairly challenging to manage a small child and starting a business. But it all came about at the right time because I think it would have been far harder to try and manage a corporate career with a small child. At least, I’m only answering to myself and my very selective clients, as opposed to the corporate organization that probably doesn’t have that much sympathy for a small child needing your attention.
Joseph: I can relate to the idea of the flexibility being invaluable once you become a parent and being able to control your own schedule. Also, can you just tell me where are you based and where are you originally from?
Norma: [03:56] I’m based in the UK in Brighton of South London. I’m originally from South Africa, but I have moved here in 2003. It’s almost been 20 years that I’ve been in the UK.
Joseph: What originally brought you to the UK from South Africa?
Norma: [04:12] I was very interested in traveling in Europe. Europe is far away from South Africa. At the time, when I came over, we had a working holiday visa scheme. I was lucky enough to be able to come over on that. The intention was to stay for two years, see a bit of Europe, and then, probably, head back to South Africa. But I met my husband here not long after, probably about three months after arriving here. I just got stuck here.
Joseph: It does happen. Before we go back in time, could you give me a snapshot of the work that you’re doing right now at Pink Spaghetti? We will get into more details on that later. Just real quickly, what’s an average day for you right now?
Norma: [04:57] It’s very varied. That’s actually what really attracts me to this type of role. So it’s a virtual assistant services business. Every day looks really different depending on what my clients effectively have on. It range from having a day of research or networking or general administration, sometimes, calls, luckily, not too many calls. Every day looks different, which is really what keeps me interested in doing it.
Joseph: We’re going to come back to the VA work, the virtual assistant work that you do. I would love to get into more details on the exact types of tasks you help people with. Before we do that, I know you haven’t always been a business owner, and you haven’t always been a virtual assistant. You spent 16 years working in the financial services industry. So I was wondering if you could tell me how you got started in that industry.
Norma: [05:50] I fell into it, more than anything else. When I moved over to the UK, the intention was, as on the two-year working holiday visa, to do fairly limited work and do traveling. The intention was really to end up going back, of course.
At the time, when I started there, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted to do. I started initially as a temp, doing call center work. Then, when I was hired as a full-time employee, I started as an executive assistant. It’s kind of gone full circle a little bit. Then, I just worked my way up really through the business. I moved from being a virtual assistant into a re-engineering type role, doing a fair bit of training on Six Sigma process engineering type activity in the services industry, and then, from there, eventually, ended up in operational risk management.
It was just a case of being there. Initially, I was very happy there. It was an exciting place to be because a lot is going on in the financial services industry. I got to see a lot of the world traveling and lots of exciting things happened in my career in the financial services industry. It was never really thought through or planned that way. I kind of fell into it and then, seemed to do pretty well, and then, just kind of carried on from there. It was kind of more luck than anything else.
Joseph: You kind of just, I guess, climb to the corporate ladder, for lack of a better term. Then, you eventually became director of operational excellence at your company. What was that corporate life like for you when you were at director level in a large multinational corporation? Could you just give me a sense of what your day-to-day experience was in that role?
Norma: [07:38] I would say what I liked about doing that role was having teams of people to manage. So I love working with people and working with my teams. Being a team manager was something that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Most of my time though, I would say, in the latter part of my career, was spent on phone calls. When we eventually had to work from home with COVID, it wasn’t much of a transition because we all did a fair bit of flexible and hybrid working in the organization. Even if we did go into the office, I would spend, predominantly, my day mostly just on the phone talking to various people.
Joseph: Team members or clients or suppliers?
Norma: [08:20] Team members. It was all pretty much internal. So it would be internal. I think this was part of the reason why I eventually left. One of the many, many reasons was that you would end up spending phone call off the phone call, talking about meetings that you were going to have or meetings that you did have. It was mostly just talking about meetings all the time or talking about things that should get done, but very little in terms of actual work that I did myself within the last few roles that I held. Much of it was coordination and problem solving with other teams internally and making sure that they were delivering on projects that they had to deliver.
At the end of the day, really, in terms of what I achieved or delivered myself, it was very, very minimal. I just spent most of my time on the phone talking to people what they should do or should have done. That was pretty much my life.
Joseph: You and I have spoken a few times before. I think you know that I spent about a decade myself working in the corporate world. Did you find that the work you did earlier on in your career, in more junior roles, was more focused on the work itself, compared to when you were at a more senior director level, where it can be a bit more about stakeholder management or internal alignment building or as you put it, meetings about upcoming meetings. Maybe that’s a bit of a leading question, but did you have that experience at all?
Norma: [09:50] Absolutely. In hindsight, I do ask myself sometimes whether I would have taken a promotion when it was offered to me at the time, because, of course, as you’re going into a career you do want to progress, you do want to climb the corporate ladder when you’re in a corporate environment. You want to do better in comparing yourself with peers, you want to comparatively do well. It was something in the early part of my career that I wanted to do and push myself to get as far as I could.
What I did find more rewarding was when I was actually in more junior roles and could deliver results. You could deliver projects and be accountable for, to an effect, your destiny, and your deliverables because actually, it was just much more about doing things and getting things done. As you get more senior, you do just manage stakeholders. It does just feel like you remove a conductor in some respects, as opposed to actually delivering anything.
Some of that is fairly rewarding, but I do think that you get to a point where it doesn’t feel like you ever really get that sense of achievement as much. I certainly didn’t feel that way, because I do thrive from seeing actual results. If you’re ending up just helping people or pointing their signposting and pointing them in the right direction, it’s easy to lose that kind of sense of really being able to make a difference or deliver anything of substance.
Joseph: That makes a lot of sense. I definitely can relate to pretty much everything you just said, where I felt like at more junior levels, oddly enough, although they always encourage you to get promoted and to advance in the organization, I found those roles too, at times, be more rewarding and satisfying because I was doing stuff, rather than just managing the opinions of others. How did you come to your decision to eventually depart?
Norma: [11:37] I mean, I’ve been thinking for years that I would like to have my own business. The sticking point for me was always in doing what. So I had this idea that I did want to have my own business but just could not think of the idea. I was kind of waiting for this great idea to hit me at some point so that I could start my own business.
Joseph: What was it about starting your own business that was appealing to you?
Norma: I think just having the autonomy of making their own decisions for yourself in terms of where you want to head and not necessarily having to answer to somebody else.
The one thing that, from a corporate perspective, really negatively impacted me was politics. Politics is just not something I cope with very well at all. I managed okay in some respects, I would say. I, actually, probably, didn’t in very many other ways. I didn’t get on with it. I did not enjoy it. I, not for a second, enjoyed politics within the corporate environment. For a long time, I thought this is just really not the place for me. So I just knew that I needed to probably do something else. So having that autonomy and actually, just being really in charge of your destiny to an extent was something that drew me to having my own business.
Thinking about that big idea that people think that they should have when they start their own business or something truly unique was the thing that helped me back because I wasn’t sure what that might be. I grappled with that for a very, very long time, before I decided to, then, eventually make the move.
I think much like very, many other people, so I’m not unique in this space at all, when I had my daughter in 2020, I was, right when we were in the pandemic, of course, as well, I knew that once I went back to a corporate career, I probably would want to make that shift fairly soon after that. Unfortunately, a few things happened, of course, in 2020 and 2021 that made me push to make that change. We had the pandemic and that focused a lot of people’s minds on what they wanted to do with their lives because we all had this focus on what could happen.
Unfortunately, January last year, I lost two very good friends in a fatal car accident. Along with that, and wanting to also make sure that I’m a good role model for my daughter because I wanted my daughter to feel, grow up thinking anything’s possible. She really can do something that she enjoys. So I wanted to be a good role model for her. I just thought staying in that corporate career with so many things showing me that life is short and life, you really should value life, and wanting to be a great role model for my daughter, I decided that it was just a time for me to go. I couldn’t put up with a career anymore that was making me very unhappy at that point.
Joseph: Would you mind just taking me back to that moment, because you mentioned you lost two friends in a fatal car accident? What exactly happened? What was running through your head after you found out that they passed away?
Norma: [14:50] It’s pretty horrific. I haven’t talked about it much, so it still feels very raw. Two very good school friends of mine, they were in the car together. They were a couple. We grew up together. The school that we’ve been to in that area is a very foggy area. I mean, visibility is pretty terrible then. I’m surprised there’s not more accidents, even though there are a lot.
Joseph: This is in South Africa.
Norma: [15:13] In South Africa. They drove into the back of a big a truck. It was a horrific shock because we were so focused on COVID at the time. We were kind of expecting people to get COVID and possibly, pass away from COVID. They both had it not long before that and came out the other side of it. We were so relieved. Then, together, this happened. It was a big shock.
After that, I wasn’t recovered from that yet. Maybe it was stress as well but had a big health scare as well, just not long after that, and at the same time, was returning to work from maternity leave. Frankly, the treatment from a corporate perspective, when you’re going through a lot of stuff like that, like returning from maternity leave, is the big, big thing. I think a lot of people underestimate what it’s like coming back after a year and having your whole life turned upside down, even if it’s something that you wanted. Then, these other things happening, as well as the health scare that I had, yeah, it was quite shocking how little room there is for people to be people, and for people to go through things within an organization the size of the one that I was in.
They all put it into sharp focus for me, that I just didn’t want to be in a place where I was just effectively a number, that would be treated the way that I was with all of this stuff going on, on top of previously thinking it, probably, was time for me to go anyway.
Joseph: It sounds like a lot is going on there, Norma. You’ve got the birth of your first child. You’ve got COVID. You’ve got a health scare. A couple of your very good friends were killed in a car accident. At what point did you make the leap to leave? Do you remember that day when you made that decision?
Norma: [17:04] It was February last year, about two or three weeks after this car accident, which I, then, decided this is time that I need to go. I thought I would give myself a year at that point to kind of spend a year saving a bit of money, and thinking through what’s next for me. At that point in time, I was pretty determined that I would stick it out for a year or year to 18 months, probably. Then, I got the health scare. So I was back at work from March for two months. Then, I had to take time off. So I was, then, off effectively for pretty much the rest of the year.
As I was thinking about what else to do, that’s when the idea came to start this business, I just needed something that could be more flexible and something where I had a bit more control over things. I decided pretty much by July time last year, I decided that it was time to hand in my exit soon, which I, then, did by November last year. So it’s all pretty recent, still.
Joseph: What exactly was the health scare, if you don’t mind talking in more detail about that? Because I know you’ve mentioned it a couple of times. It sounds like it had a big impact on how you were thinking about your own life and what you wanted.
Norma: [18:20] It was a condition called adenomyosis, which is a form of endometriosis. I think people are probably more familiar with that term. It is slightly different, where the cells grow. It’s caused me to hemorrhage. I had extreme bleeding for about three months in the end, where I thought I had probably something like uterine cancer.
I just come to terms to the fact that well, I just had my baby not long before that. We had tried for several years through many successful rounds of IVF to conceive her. It was a really big turning point for me because I just thought, “I’ve just had my baby. Now, I’m going to die. I’m going to leave her without a mother.” It was a pretty big thing. Thankfully, all of the tests came back negative. It was, I say just, adenomyosis. It’s pretty terrible condition as well, but it’s, at least, not what I thought might be uterine cancer at the time. It seems to be okay now and manageable now.
Joseph: Thanks for sharing that. I’m glad you’ve made a full recovery. If it’s okay with you, I’d like to kind of shift gears now and talk a little bit about the actual shift to doing your work as a VA and as a business owner at Pink Spaghetti. I know you mentioned before that you knew you wanted to be self-employed, you wanted to run your own business, you want to be a business owner. How did that idea come up for you going from not knowing what you wanted to do to “Hey, I’m going to look into VA work”?
Norma: [19:57] It was actually a friend of mine that suggested it. At the time, I thought, “If I can’t think of my own thing to do, what I might do is just do something part-time.” I thought the full-time hustle of being on the phone all the time just does not work.
I started putting feelings out and followed a Facebook group to look for flexible work. On this Facebook group, Pink Spaghetti was advertising for more franchisees. I thought this really looked like a great opportunity to me, because not only can you get to start your own business, but as a franchise, and I don’t think all franchises are equal, but as a franchise, you also get sufficient help to get you to set the business up. You’re not starting from scratch, because I was pretty terrified about starting my own business and, after 16 years in a corporate environment, really have no clue about where to start. I kind of weighed up that I could probably start my own thing of some description. I just needed to decide what that was and really kind of struggled to find my way around how to go about setting up a business and how to manage a business.
Then, when this franchise opportunity showed up, I just thought this is the kind of perfect side of both worlds because it allows me to set my own business up and give me that autonomy and be able to run my own thing, plus get support from a fantastic organization, who will show me the ropes effectively and be there from an ongoing perspective as well, to provide support, as and when needed. It’s almost like buying a business in a box effectively because you’re not, you’re not starting from scratch. It’s all there. The branding is there. The business model is determined. It does give you enough flexibility to do your own thing as well. So it just kind of popped up on a Facebook feed. I just thought this just looks perfect to me because it will give me kind of a bit of everything that I want.
Joseph: This is fairly recent. We’re recording this in spring of 2022. It sounds like this kind of came to its inception late 2021. How’s the journey been for you so far? What’s the good, bad, and the ugly?
Norma: [22:02] So far, it’s been great. I mean, I say great, but it’s when you start your own business, there’s always some downsides as well. So far, it’s been great. The franchise that I brought into Pink Spaghetti has just been wonderful. I mean, the training has been phenomenal. The ongoing support is phenomenal as well. It’s absolutely the right decision for me.
It’s tough as well because as you’re starting, I think you’ve spoken about this on your previous podcast as well, is that you do lose a lot of your identity when you move away from an organization, especially if you’ve been in one place for a very long time. If you leave a large organization, then people, of course, associate you with that and that becomes part of your identity. It’s recognizable. So if you tell people where you’re from and what you do, it is fairly recognizable. People understand kind of which box to put you in.
When you move out of that and you’re suddenly just on your own, and it’s just about you and the services you can offer, it is kind of a scary place and especially if people, then, start saying when you start developing new business and people keep telling you, “No,” then, it can feel really hard initially, when you just hear, “No,” all the time. You’re like, “What is it? Is it my business? Is it me?” then, it’s all these self-questioning and all the imposter syndrome that comes with that is tough to deal with.
That’s been a little bit hard. I would say that I think I’ve come out of the other side of that. I have a great set of clients who I love working with, and things have just become a bit easier. If I do have a moment where I just feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, or I feel a little bit lost in some way, then, I call up the franchise folks who have this great support team, and they always help. It’s been, mostly up so far. I’m enjoying it pretty much all the time. So that’s great.
Joseph: You mentioned the franchise model a few times, Norma. For somebody who’s listening to this, if they’re not familiar with the idea of franchising, how exactly does it work? My rudimentary understanding of franchising is that they, as you mentioned, give you the tools to get your business started. They’re also helping you with things like marketing. They’re giving you some maybe formulas that work well to get the business going. Maybe you do a bit of, maybe, revenue sharing. How does it work with Pink Spaghetti? What’s the model there?
Norma: [24:27] I think it varies a little bit by franchise. Of course, I can’t speak for all franchises, but effectively, you will buy into the brand. The branding is something that you get to use. As you say, so you pay them an upfront fee, so, effectively, purchasing the rights to the Pink Spaghetti.
Particularly, you purchase the rights to a specific area that you’re about to network in. Then, you will pay an ongoing fee as well based on the revenue that you take each month. In return for that, they provide a whole set of marketing materials, as well as training and ongoing support on an ongoing basis. So it’s pretty straightforward.
The great thing about this franchise is that we have flexibility to be creative within your own space. So they give you the framework effectively, and there are, of course, some guidelines that you need to follow. At the same time, you do get a fair bit of flexibility. If you bought something like a McDonald’s franchise, then, I imagine you won’t get a lot of flexibility because it’s very, very clearly defined and well-restricted about what you can and can’t.
Joseph: Can’t make your own burgers there, right? Yeah.
Norma: [25:33] Of course. Yeah. With our business, you are very much allowed to make your own burgers.
Joseph: It sounds like the best of both worlds as I hear about it more. The franchise model, it does seem like you get a blend of autonomy, you get some support, you’re not completely on your own, but you also have some independence. Related to the actual virtual assistant work, I also got to ask you, Norma, as someone myself, and I think you and I have spoken about this before, who struggles to delegate and carve off tasks, especially when it relates to the business that I’ve worked hard to build, can you explain how someone can tell if they could benefit by hiring a virtual assistant?
Norma: [26:17] Yes. I think if you can sit down and think about everything that you’re doing at the moment that you either don’t have time for, which is the starting point, I think, for very many people is just the things that are always on your to-do list, and you just don’t get to do them. That’s probably the starting point.
Then, the second part of that equation is probably the stuff that you do, but you just hate doing it. Because we all, as business owners, including me, have a whole bunch of things that we just think, I really could just do without doing this because it’s taking you away from the things that you’re good at.
So for example, if you have a business that is, let’s say, a PR company. The stuff that you do that’s going to bring your income and be your talents is doing the actual PR work. There’s a whole bunch of business-related work that is not going to be the stuff that brings you income or joy or add value to your clients. So I would start with that as a list of things that you could probably hand to someone else.
Then, I think the second part of your question that you mentioned there, Joseph, is about letting go a bit of the control piece. I think from a control perspective, it is probably starting, I would say, two things, probably. It’s find the right person for you because all VAs are not equal because different VAs have different skill sets and different talents. Some’s specialized, some are more generalist.
The second bit to that piece is that you have to make sure you find someone that works very well with you. I think communication is the most key part of this. If you get somebody that you get on well with, you can have an open conversation with. If stuff doesn’t work or works well, then, that’s a good starting point, because ultimately, you want to be able to have such a good relationship that you are able to give them something. If it doesn’t go right, then, you can have a conversation about why you want it a different way.
I think start small. It’s probably the last bit of advice that I would say. Pick something that you feel. If this goes a little bit wrong, it’s probably not the end of the world. Get a feel for each other and see how it goes. Then, build up from there. That’s typically how I think unless somebody’s experienced in outsourcing work, then, I would say just start small, so that you start getting more comfortable and also, start working out the relationship and making sure that you’re all clear about how to communicate with each other on how to get things done, and so on. That would be my advice.
Joseph: I’m just going through my list of things, as your invoicing came to mind for me. Very interesting.
Norma: [28.57] You’re not alone. It’s on very many people’s lists.
Joseph: Before we talk about some of the lessons you’ve learned along the way, I understand your spouse still works, not only in the industry but also at the firm, where you used to work. What’s it been like to, I guess, leave the corporate world behind, have a spouse who’s still in the corporate world, and be trying to build your own business? Does that ever enter into your psyche at all?
Norma: [29:26] It very much does. So he’s worked there a little bit longer than I have, actually now. He is still there. Luckily, he is incredibly supportive to me in my journey and the changes that I wanted to make. So that’s very helpful and very interested in what I do. So if I do need a second pair of eyes on anything, he’s always very willing to help me. I’m really lucky from that perspective.
What is interesting for me, though, about the fact that he still is there is that I often hear some of the things that are going on because we have conversations about people moving or changes and all of those kind of things, obviously, nothing under NDA, but if there’s anything in terms of the organizational changes or movement of people and all of those kind of things, and it just makes me, I would say that he’s happy, that he’s very happy there. I think there’s a major difference between where he is and where I was. When he talks about it, it just makes me feel incredibly grateful that I was able to make this change, because it has just put into sharp focus for me that that is not where I want to be.
It’s two-sided because sometimes, there will also be some of the really good things that come with corporate life that I will, then, think about, that I miss and that I have to start from scratch by myself to make sure that I get to a place where he was, because particularly when it’s time for bonuses, and I’m like, “Oh, that.”
Joseph: You don’t get those.
Norma: [30:56] Nice bonus that I would have had. Now, I don’t have that. So I just need to work a little bit harder if I want to get more money. It’s an interesting place to be, but, for the most part, I’m just infinitely grateful that I’ve been able to make the change.
Joseph: Well, the last thing I want to talk about before we wrap up here, Norma, is just your journey and what you’ve learned along the way of your career change journey. First, I was wondering, have there been any major surprises for you along the way as you’ve shifted from the corporate world to self-employment, as you’ve shifted from financial services to VA work, just anything that has surprised you?
Norma: I think a few things have surprised me, I guess, the first one is, and this is probably a little bit more of a negative one, and I am still kind of grappling with how to navigate my way through this, is that people make assumptions about you. So unless they know your history, then, people seem to, I don’t know how am I going to put this in a nice way, maybe look down on you a little bit. When you’re saying that you’re a VA, then, people will sometimes think, “Are you just an admin person, like probably don’t have a lot of life experience or work experience?” I think that’s kind of interesting for me, because I have had a pretty successful career. I could probably step into a pretty well-paying corporate career again if I wanted to. It is strange that people make that assumption without really getting to know you.
What’s good about that is it’s challenged me to think about the assumptions I make about other people, because it’s the contrast that I can see, so obvious to me at the moment. Kind of interesting, but also, I think, good learning for me, because it has challenged me to think about the assumptions I make about other people potentially.
The other thing is just how amazingly creative people are has really surprised me and how kind people are. I have just been astounded by the amount of amazing businesses out there because in a corporate world, I think your perspective is pretty narrow in terms of what you see when you’ve been in one place for such a long time. The amazing small and medium businesses out there and their creative ideas and just how incredibly creative people are and making this stuff work, to me, it’s just astounding.
Also, just out of all of those people, people have just been so welcoming and so friendly and so helpful, that I’ve just been quite stunned by all the kindness of people wishing you to succeed and wanting to help you, with not wanting to have anything back or not expecting anything back, as they kind of point you in the right direction or try to help you. So it’s been really pleasant. I think it’s just been an amazing learning for me to see how much great stuff is out there and how amazingly kind people are.
Joseph: Now, if you had to give advice to your younger or your previous self, as it relates to changing careers, what might that be?
Norma: [34:04] Probably, to relax a little bit more about everything. I think because I was so focused on trying to build a career that I think I probably did a lot of things that, in hindsight, I just wouldn’t have done. This hustle, this trying so hard to get somewhere, and probably, doing it at the expense of my health and expense of relationships or friendships, and the expense of other people, potentially. I think a lot of that, people in that environment get so caught up in that. I just feel like it’s such an unhealthy thing to do. I would probably tell myself just to not get so caught up in it and just relax and enjoy the good bits, but not worry so much about all of that other stuff.
Joseph: Is there something that you wished you had known that you now know about running your own business, for example, because it sounds like that’s something you’d wanted to do for so long? Now, you’re doing it. Any interesting insights about what’s something you wish you had known that you now know?
Norma: [35:09] I mean, that you could do it, that I could do it. I would just tell myself, “You can absolutely do it.” I think just make sure that you find the right people to help you and support you, because, for me, I just think just taking the dive and asking for help where you need it is probably something that I don’t do enough of, still. It’s definitely the thing that I would say to myself is, “Just do it. Ask for help if you need it. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help.”
Joseph: I also know that when you sometimes put yourself in a very different environment, I know I experience this myself and I talk to people who’ve gone from the corporate world into self-employment who have experienced this, having been through this career change, what’s something that you have learned about yourself along the way? I am keeping in mind the fact that you’re still quite early on in your journey here.
Norma: [35:58] That I love to learn new things. I’ve just absolutely thrived so much from learning so many new things over the last few months, about six months or so now that I’ve started this. Just the sheer amount of learning that I can do is just so exciting. It just keeps it interesting. I think that’s probably the thing that I’ve learned about myself more than anything else.
Joseph: Well, I want to wrap up by making sure that we give people a chance to find out more about you. If they’re interested in learning either more about Pink Spaghetti or the virtual assistance services that you offer, where can people go if they want to learn more?
Norma: [36:39] Probably, the best place is pink-spaghetti.co.uk. You can find me on there if you search for Brighton or on social media.