74 How to build a business that works for you and your family – Jess Heagren, That Works For Me

Jess Heagren is the CEO and Cofounder of That Works For Me™ – a progressive digital B2B platform that connects exceptional, proven talent with businesses that need it. That Works For Me embrace and promote flexible working to combat the lack of gender diversity in the UK, which is estimated to cost £189bn in GDP

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Today I’m talking to Jess Heagren, the CEO and Cofounder of That Works For Me™ who brings together skilled professionals who can’t necessarily work full time with brilliant businesses who don’t necessarily need people full time. 

Jess is a mum of 3, soon to be 4, and we discuss employing expert support in your business, building a business around your family, flexible working, and setting boundaries between work and home life. 

Listen in to hear Jess share:

  • An introduction to herself and her business (0:57)
  • How That Works For Me is accessible to businesses of any size (1:59)
  • The importance of flexible working for parents (6:17)
  • The recent changes to our working culture and the future of remote working (8:30)
  • Balancing work and family, involving your partner, and letting go of guilt (15:03)
  • Setting boundaries between work and home life (20:28)
  • How she cofounded That Works For Me with best friend Nicola Good (26:13)
  • How Jess and Nic define their roles and delineate between friendship and work (28:44)
  • Advice for going into business with a friend or family member (33:05)
  • Her main piece of advice for other business owners (37:35)

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Transcript
Vicki Weinberg:

Welcome to the, Bring Your Product Ideas To Life podcast, practical advice, and inspiration to help you create and sell your own physical products. Here's your host Vicki Weinberg. Okay, today on the podcast. I have Jess Heagren. Jess is CEO and co-founder of That Works For Me a progressive digital B2B platform connects exceptional proven talent with businesses that need them. So I've invited Jess here today to talk to us about working flexibly, working around the family, setting boundaries around work and home life. Um, there's some of the topics we're going to cover, but we're going to get into them much, much more. So I'm really excited to introduce you to Jess. Hi. So I've given you a very brief instruction there, but do you want to introduce yourself please?

Jess Heagren:

So I'm Jesse Heagren CEO and co-founder of That Works For Me. I am a mother of three, soon to be four, literally just in a few weeks time. Um, and yeah, we launched our company back in December, 2019. And, um, yeah, I've been working on it.

Vicki Weinberg:

Fantastic. And can you talk a little bit about the company and what is that you do?

Jess Heagren:

Yeah, sure. So you've mentioned That Works For Me. That's all very formal description B2B actually in it's nice, simple terms. What we aim to do is bring together skilledprofessionals who can't necessarily work full time with brilliant businesses who don't necessarily need people full-time. So for businesses that can access the skills as they need when they need them. And for people, we can introduce you to businesses that are looking to either employ permanently or employ on a freelance basis, skilled people who are really good at what they are doing.

Vicki Weinberg:

Fantastic. Thank you. And when you say companies, I mean, um, do you mean big companies or are you happy to work with sort of solo preneurs and really tiny companies who are just looking for someone to help with their accounting or marketing or whatever it might be?

Jess Heagren:

So companies of all sizes, the actual background to the company is that. So I was previously a director up in the city. And I unfortunately had to leave that job after I had my second baby. Cause it was just too much the flexibility kind of wasn't there and they needed more hours from me than I had to give. And I've realized kind of how many people there are out there like me. So people who have these great big careers, you know, we need these talented, really experienced and just fell out of the workplace because they didn't fit in that nine to five model. I didn't quite know what to do with that to start off with, oh God, this is a problem. Anyway, there's one particular day. A friend of mine rang. She's an incredibly talented women, runs a high-end catering company in London, and she was having real financial problems because her very junior finance person had miscalculated her cashflow. And, and at the time I said to her, why don't you have a CFO? You know, you're at that point now where you really need an FD, you need someone who's good at this. You can keep tabs on your finances for you. And she said something that I've heard from so many businesses of all sizes, which is, you know, I don't think I'm quite big enough. I don't know if I've got the right work. You know, I don't know how I would pass it on. Um, and I said to her, if you hired a mum and we're not just for mums, but you know, they are a huge part of our audience. If you were to hire a mum, you could get somebody here who's incredibly experienced and someone with all of the right skill sets to help you, that maybe they're only looking for a couple of hours work a week, so it would suit you and it would suit them. And I think that's the thing, no matter how big your business is, sometimes you need help with something that you either can't do yourself or that you've got too much of. So we talked earlier about an example of, uh, some people needing a VA. So actually it's just some help with some admin. You just need someone who's good at that thing that will come and work.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that sounds fantastic. Thank you. That's really nice to know as well that you have people who are happy to work with really tiny businesses as well, because I think, um, for lots of small businesses, I think it's, you could often think, oh, I could never get someone. Let's say finance director level that would want to work with me because I'm so small. Um, using the example of your friend. Cause I can say I can, you know, I'm a small business. It's just me. That's the sort of thing I know. I would think, you know, I can't have someone max me means why would they want to work for me? I can only offer X amount of hours. So I think what you're saying is actually really reassuring.

Jess Heagren:

Yeah. It's mad and we, we kind of. We're inclined to stop ourselves access in the help that we need sometimes because of this mental barrier of like you just said about why people would want to work with you, actually, people want to do the thing that they're good at. And if that happens to be different to the thing that you're good at, then you can have somebody for just an hour if you need them, or, you know, maybe a day or two days, whatever it may be, then you know, this, that works for me as a place where you can access that. We also, you just prompted me actually, as I was saying about, um, Much smaller companies who work on their own. One of my big things, when I set out to build this business was about making it accessible to small businesses. I think the cost of the cost of accessing good people these days can be really expensive because lots of people go via the recruitment road and actually recruitment companies can often charge a bit. A prohibitive amount for a small business. So, you know, if you were going to find somebody just to help you with one small element of your business, you know, going down that road wouldn't necessarily work. So what That Works For Me sets out to do is provide a really accessible, affordable solution for small businesses, of any size.

Vicki Weinberg:

And that's not, it sounds like a great solution. Cause you can get someone who's really experienced. Who's great at what they do, but they're not looking for full-time work. They just, you know, they're really happy to work with, you know, for a couple of hours a week doing what they're good at. And I think that sounds like a great solution for anyone looking for something. So let's talk a little bit more. So, so flexible work in, in, in general. Um, let's start with, why, why do you feel that working flexibly is the way forward for particularly for parents?

Jess Heagren:

Anyone, anyone who has children knows that? They're I'll just, excuse me, one second. Vicki hang on sorry. Um, so yeah, flexible working, why does it work for parents? I think anybody with children knows that they are, they can need you at any time. Can't they? So even when we think we've got it nailed and we've got childcare solutions set up, and we've got lifts in place and that type of thing at any second, your child will turn around and get a huge bug or they'll the nursery will be closed for the day or school announcing inset day. And it's not very easy within. Companies that don't offer flexible working to, to be there and be around for that. And I think one of the big things, not just parents actually, but everybody, these days, once it's just a bit of, a little bit of wiggle room around the rest of their lives. So I think if any, if we've learned anything during kind of these recent COVID times, it's that you know, having a bit more say over how we spend our time is just more critical than it ever has been. And I think that's whether it is taking children to school or whether it's getting out to go to the gym or whether it's, you know, being able to go out for a walk for 20 minutes. Cause you know, that's the thing that clears your head. I just think we're in an age now where that sort of social contact is quite different than it looks and it feels different than people expect to have more control over their lives. Basically.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, definitely. And I'm completely with you, I think it's very important. And actually the reason I do what I do now is that, um, after having children being employed just didn't work for me. I actually didn't go back to employment after having my first child, because the hours that they wanted from me just didn't match what I was prepared to do. We've a relatively young baby at that time.

Jess Heagren:

There's an incredible statistic that 72% of mothers drop out of the full-time workforce within three years of having a child like 72% is just absolutely massive. And I think just demonstrates everything that's wrong with our work culture in this country.

Vicki Weinberg:

Absolutely. And do you think, or are you seeing, or do you think that there might be a shift because of the, you know, the events of the last year and the fact that more people are working from home and people I'm assuming employees have had to be a bit more flexible because of, you know, people's family situation.

Jess Heagren:

Yeah. So I think that what's happened has been really interesting. So the first thing that I quite often talk about is this to have live testing of remote working. So companies over the last year, getting on for 18 months now, it's been quite a while, hasn't it, but they've had to live test that remote working piece. So it's fairly unlikely if ever you worked in the corporate you'll know that everything's based on building up a business case. So what's my cost versus my benefit. And there's nothing else that would have come about that would have bought it, bought it about on this scale now for the, for most companies they've said, oh, actually this is interesting. You know, the world hasn't fallen apart. Our income line hasn't dropped off that much, you know, and they have really questioning whether they need. That office, that really expensive office in the city, in the current, in its current format, the smart companies are talking to their employees now saying how's the last year, 18 months been for you because let's be honest it's quite different if we're, if we're parents. It's made school runs that much more easy and things. Then the flexible working has been a great thing. If you're a, somebody who lives in a shared house with five other people and you don't have, you know, you don't have decent broadband or you don't have a sort of office space in your room, and then it's been quite difficult. And it's the same with lots of people who are new to companies sort of trainees. Entry level graduates in that type of thing. It's been quite a challenging time. So the smart organizations are now out there talking to all of their people and saying, how do we design our office footprint? And how do we design our working practices? How do we adapt our management styles? How do we do all of those things to make flexible and remote working work for people in the way that they want it to. And what we're hearing is lots of talk around something called hybrid working, which basically means a mix of homeworking and office-based working, but that suits the individual and that's the narrative is quite interesting. So I think, like I said, a lot of the good companies who kind of get what's going on, that's happening. There are some at the other end of the spectrum. I won't name names because it's not very professional to do so there were some who were doing a flat nope, everyone back into the office. But I think the way that this will play out in future is that we'll have a set of businesses who are very demanding and will attract a certain type of person. Then you'll get this other set of organizations. Who've generally look to employee wellbeing. They've looked at what they need to do for their customers. And they've come up with a hybrid solution that works for everybody. And ultimately I think they will end up attracting the best talent. So it will put pressure on these other companies that aren't being quite as flexible as they need to be at them.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah. And the thing that's really interesting, and presumably there's also going to be, I don't know how many, but a number of businesses who perhaps are fairly new and have just started completely remote the I'm coming across more and more businesses now that are just fully remote, have never perhaps had an office footprint and never intend to. And I think that might be an outcome of the last 18 months as well, that there might be people starting up. And now, you know, now that so much is online. Um, people who say, well, actually, yeah, I'm not even going to bother thinking about an office over shop or whatever the thing is, the physical footprint. I'm actually just going to be online from day one and not have to worry about that. And I think that's positive.

Jess Heagren:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. We're, we're an example of that business. So we, we launched in December, 2019, and like I said, I have four people that work with me who up until about three weeks ago, I'd never met them face-to-face and I think for some people they find that out. You're crazy. And how can you work with these people that you've never met? But why do I need to, you know, I've, I've, I've seen them, I've spoken to them, you know, we work together and ultimately isn't it about the productivity and the, the work that somebody is doing for you, as opposed to whether you've sat across the table from them and, you know, had a face to face conversation. So I think, I think for small businesses, it gives us a real advantage because it means that we haven't got to be worrying about these massive overheads from day one. You know, it's a, it's a far easier entry into the business world with, you know, fewer overheads and less commitments and a bit easier if you can sort of do everything in a remote way. And actually what's interesting is lots of small businesses at contrast now, instead of saying, so what are you seeing at the beginning actually were some people that would call and say, Hey, I'm looking for a social media manager, for example. Um, do you know anyone in Bristol, wherever they may be that can help me out. Actually, now that conversation goes, have you got a really good social media manager I can work with, and it doesn't matter where they are. And I think that's a real sign of the times. And again, demonstrates that sort of adaptability of business owners to know that, you know, it's not all about seeing someone face to face.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, I think that's really good. I'm really true. I hadn't even sort of considered that because like you, I mean, I work with a lot of people. I have a lot of clients who I've never met. Some of them I've actually never even spoken to, you know, so online on the CSO, I have a small, a small percentage, but there are people who I don't even know what their voice sounds like because all the communication has been via email, which sounds a bit crazy. Now I'm saying it, but it's definitely the way things are going. We have, we definitely have those two types of customers. So we have businesses that will they'll come onto the site. They will search through our membership, like the look of some of the, you know, skills and talent on offer. They will register they'll post an opportunity. They'll connect with people, they'll talk to them and they go to work together and said, it's exactly the same. Then there are. The other type of customer who like a bit more conversation and they like a bit more handholding and they want to know who's behind the business. And I think, you know, that's okay. Again, it comes back to this being flexible around people's work preference. Definitely. So let's talk a little bit more about, um, working flexibly, Jess, because you mentioned that you've got three children, you've got four on the way. Obviously you've got a relatively new business. How are you managing, um, to balance your work and family? Or are you managing

Jess Heagren:

Great question. Uh, do you know what they generally generally I am. I'm not going to lie to you again last year. It hasn't been, you know, it hasn't been tough between homeschooling and nurseries being closed. That type of thing. My children were quite young, so I have a, two-year-old a four-year-old and a six year old. Um, so when we were homeschooled in the six year old, it wasn't like we could kind of put her head set on and leave her at the kitchen table. It was very much, you know, letter formation and, um, spelling rhymes and that type of thing. So it's, it's been really full on, but you'll notice when I'm talking about my children, I talk very much about us. So my husband and I entered into parenthood on a 50 50 arrangement. Um, I, at the time, as I mentioned, had a corporate job up in the city, um, and he, he was employed at the time actually, but our deal was no matter what happens. We will parent on a 50 50 basis. So that means that, you know, I get time to do me and he gets time to do him and our children have access to both of us. Um, because that's the way, you know, we want to bring up our children. Um, and it's, and it's, it's panned out that way. We're both completely committed to it. Now I know that. I'm quite, um, people, people quite often say to me, or you're lucky in that your husband, um, you know, contributes and plays an active role and the use of the word. Lucky always ruffles my feathers for a better expression, because it's not luck. It's by design and I've always been very demanding of him. You know, that's, that's the way that I want it to work, just because I was to become a mum. That doesn't mean that I was going to drop everything. Um, and I think at the moment it's something that's particularly important. So I felt like moms have a, a moment here. To try and maintain some of the, the flexibility that they've had over the last year or so. So dads have been around more when they have been generally, you know, doing more of the school runs and more activity involved and something I'll quite often say to our members is have that conversation, you know, talk to your partner now about how you balance things a bit more evenly at home. Cause this is almost like a once in a lifetime opportunity where, you know, where we can really grab this of both hands and change that dynamic. And I know that it's easier said than done for lots of people, but I still think it's a, it's a good reminder for people to think quite actually, you know, are we having that chat? Are we have in that conversation?

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that's really good. Thank you. Definitely that definitely, that definitely makes sense. Um, I was pausing for a second because I'm thinking I probably need to have that conversation.

Jess Heagren:

Well lots and lots of people say it. And I think that sometimes we just need reminding of that, that actually, this is our life too and just because I gave birth to this baby, it doesn't mean that it's mine. It's still our baby, you know, and it's our life. And it's, you know, we, we deserve to have our own career as well. So why should we?

Vicki Weinberg:

I think it's just very easy, isn't it? To just fall into habits. So, you know, I'm the one that does this. I'm the one that does that. It just, I think you, maybe you don't, you don't never have a conversation. It just becomes, you know, the way things are. And, and it's never been talked about. I'm sure that people can relate to that way. You just sort of wake up one day and think, why is it always me that does the school run or why is it always me that for packs the lunchboxes or wherever it is. And it's, you know, you've done that role for so long. It's kind of just been accepted as default that she that's your job.

Jess Heagren:

Yeah. And I think the other thing that I think we often, I think particularly as moms and as we're in that we. We often sort of beat ourselves up for is, is accessing helps and not necessarily from partner, you know, not everybody has one, but accessing help outside. So I remember toying in a really wrestling with myself about whether to put my son into nursery for an extra three hours on a Thursday afternoon. Sounds so, so minor, but because I hadn't done it with the two girls before him, I felt really, really guilty about it. And then I wentto Pregnant Then Screwed actually. And I heard, um, a lady called Nina Malone talking from Dope Black Mums, and she was talking about this, just letting go of the guilt and, you know, accessing the help that you need and being okay about it. And I made a commitment to myself that day. I think this was about 18 months ago now I made a commitment to myself that day just to drop the whole guilt around it, because actually there isn't absolutely nothing wrong with running your own business and allowing, allowing yourself to have those, you know, that mental challenge that you need and the challenge of, of running your own business or, you know, whatever it may be having your own career, basically outside of your, your family commitment, you know, it's okay to have both like it's perfectly okay and we shouldn't feel guilty for wanting that.

Vicki Weinberg:

Absolutely. Thank you. And that leads on really nicely to what I wanted to talk to you about next, which was around some of the boundaries around work and home life, particularly as so many of us are working from our homes. And do you have any thoughts or advice around this? Um, so for example, when you were talking, I was thinking about the fact that, yeah, I quite like the fact most of my children are in school now because it kind of gives me, um, set hours almost. Yeah. And then in the evenings I can think, okay, I'm going to focus on them because I haven't seen them all day. So sometimes having a bit of childcare can help in the sense that you're not trying to do everything and doing everything with, you know, you're only half present for everything.

Jess Heagren:

Yeah. And it's not being bound by this, you know, traditional sort of nine to five piece. I just don't think there's, there's a need for it. And quite often you find that your customer's demands aren't necessarily nine to five either. Well, so I do similar issues, you say the children are. At school slash nursery three days a week. And then my husband has them on a Tuesday and I have them on a Friday. So for me, a Friday is a no work day. I'll I'll check emails on my phone, but that's it otherwise I don't turn the laptop on and yeah. Um, they're embedded. And on the weekdays, when they get home from school, I shut my laptop, whether it's three o'clock or whether it's five o'clock, there's a various clubs and things. I shut my laptop at that time. And I'm entirely present from three until half seven when everybody's in bed. And that means that I can be the most present mum when I want to in that space. And I can be completely immersed in my work. Um, in my work time now, of course there are times when, when things bleed across, but as much as possible, I try and stick to that. I have it on my auto signature or my email. I have it on my out of office. I'm very open about it. And actually I think that's something that's okay as well. You know, it's okay for us to publicly say I'm not available on Fridays because that's my time that I spend with my two-year-old and my four year old. And we got to Peppa pig world or go to the local duck pond, whatever it might be. Um, but being quite precious about that, um, I think that's, that works from a time point of view then I think there's the, the sort of physical space piece. So we recently moved house. Uh, my husband built himself. Uh, our, we call it the shed of dread. That's obviously not a shed. It's a proper office. Um, but an office out in the garden, and we've both found actually having that space that's slightly separate from the house where you even the walk from the door to the shed door kind of just feels like a bit of a entering a workspace. Because before that I would always do the kitchen table. And before that it was the sofa. But even when I was working from the sofa I would. Again, this sounds absolutely mad saying out loud, but I would sit at one end of the sofa inthe daytime but then my laptop on my lap and then in the evening, I would say the other end of the sofa without the laptop. And again, I think just having that sort of those little demarcations between this is, you know, this is my workspace and this is my home space really, really helps.

Vicki Weinberg:

That's really useful. Thank you. And I'm totally with you on the sofa thing. I, for a long time used to work from a specific chair, um, in our living room. And I never used to sit on that chair when I wasn't working, because there was such a strong association of this is where my work that, um, couldn't, couldn't be sit there in the evenings anymore because it was like the work. And then this is, I really liked what you were saying about your, your email signature as well. So were you very upfront about the hours you're available?

Jess Heagren:

Yeah, totally upfront. That's I think it's really important. I mean, I appreciate that it can be really difficult for people, particularly in, so more kind of service-based sectors where you've got people calling you anytime of the day or night. Um, I have a business partner, so have a nice sort of are able to manage things between us, but I am very public about it because I think in today's world, everybody is used to immediacy, but we don't necessarily need it. So, you know, we'll send an email. Yeah. I don't know about you, but if an email lands in my inbox, I immediately feel that pressure to answer it. And actually it doesn't always need to be answered. Now that doesn't matter. So quite often, if I speak to somebody on a Thursday and they want something and I say, I was okay if I send it on Monday, cause I don't work on Fridays. They're absolutely fine with it. We, I think we put pressure on ourselves for everything to be done now and everything to be done today. And actually it that's just not always necessary.

Vicki Weinberg:

Thank you. I totally relate to it. The email thing, I actually, sometimes, you know, an email might come in sort of just before I head off on the school run, for example, and I actually have to close my laptop lid to stop myself thinking I'll just send a quick reply now, because actually, I don't know about you, but if I email somebody and they don't reply for a day or two days, I don't really think anything of it. I just think they've got a life and other work and they're going to reply, you know what I think, as long as you have lions of a reasonable timescale, and then I was,

Jess Heagren:

I mean, the way most people work, so I've done it this morning. I had a massive backlog of emails, so I spent three hours, 20 going through emails and responding. If everybody responded to all those emails straight away. I'd be completely immersed again, you know, it's not, it's not a natural sort of, it's not a natural pattern. And I think we fall into that trap. So again, sort of just reminding ourselves that, you know, not everything has to be done straight away and being a bit more strict with yourself about urgent things have to be not done now, versus things that are done later is perfectly okay.

Vicki Weinberg:

That's very good advice. Thank you. And you mentioned just then that you co-founded your business. It was actually interesting to talk a bit about that. If you don't mind digging into that a little bit, because that's an option that perhaps people haven't thought about.

Jess Heagren:

Yeah. So I'm, I mean, I'm really, really lucky. So Nick, my co-founder when I came up with the idea of That Works For Me, I kind of said to her, look, I've got this thing bubbling away in my head. I go, I think there's room in this market to develop a platform that brings together. You know, really skilled people with growing businesses that need help. Um, what do you think? And Nick and my skill sets compliment each other quite nicely. So she's very much and I both started out as project managers, years and years ago. Um, and our careers sort of took quite different directions and Nick has stayed in that kind of delivery space, but on a much bigger scale and moved more into the digital arena and that sort of thing. Whereas I went down the business route and people management and strategy and distribution. So actually where we've both ended up with both, um, We're both organized, I would say, but our skill sets have, have developed quite differently. So we compliment each other quite nicely. And we had, we'd always laughed and joked to find that she's, she's one of my best friends in the world and we'd always laughed and joked about working together. So I think we were both surprised with another one. I came to her and said, look, I've got this idea. What do you think? Um, luckily for me, she really liked it and we, we took it forward together from there. Um, And it's, it's, it's actually lovely having somebody else in, in it with you. It's been really interesting. So over the last year, Nick had a baby in November, so she's taken a few months out to obviously be with that baby, which is fantastic, but it's been quite a stark reminder for me. Well, it's like not having her around. So you know, much more what it would be like to be on my own all the time. And she's just starting to phase back in now and it's feeling so much more like I'm sharing the load and sharing that, you know, the pressure because the, let us not, you know, that's not joke about it running your own businesses is tough and it's a massive rollercoaster. And there were so many ups and downs in a day. I think. I don't know about you, but I find that I find it really tough some days. So just having someone who is there at the other end of the phone and someone that you can cry with, if you want to, or, or laugh with and having someone to share those amazing kind of highs with as well is really amazing.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah. Thank you for that. And do you have, um, just be curious if you don't mind, is, do you have sort of clearly defined roles? that each of you sort of undertake.

Jess Heagren:

Yeah, we do. And we were, we were quite religious about it from day one. So I think we're both, like I said, we both have got skillsets, but we've got some, we've got some crossover as well, but I think having that conversation quite early on to say, you know, what sort of bits do you see yourself taking on a future and you know, where are we now? Um, we always had an idea about what those roles would look like and Nick very much the CEO side of things, so that the operational side of the things, how are things working? You know, how's the platform looking and managing all the delivery side of it, whereas I'm much more focused on the sales, the marketing, um, and the sort of strategic direction. But yeah, we were always really quite there from day one. Um, that's not to say that our roles are always that black and white. So there were lots of things that crossover, um, and while I dip out for a few weeks to have number four, then Nick will obviously take over all of those other bits as well. So tough few weeks ahead for her. But, um, but yeah, it's, I think it's really important to not tread on each, each other's toes and allow each other, that sort of bandwidth to go off and do our own thing by having those responsible, sorry, those responsibilities that you marked out

Vicki Weinberg:

yeah, that really makes sense. Has it, um, has it changed your friendship at all working together as well?

Jess Heagren:

That's a really good question. Um, Nick is much better than me at separating the two things. So I'm quite, I find it quite tough in that I kind of blur everything together and I find it much harder to get out of that, that head space. But I think in realizing that, so we would have some, you know, in the early days, Some quite tough conversations. And then at the end of the call, Nick would be like, so how are the children? And how's that? How's that? And I, I would take sort of a little bit more time to separate things out, but I think knowing that that Nick can be so separate about things, is it allowed me to be separate and we're quite, yeah. It's really funny where even when we talk on the phone, will we have a bit of a catch up about how we both are and how life is, and they're standing out there and then we moved to the back part of the call, and then we just talk about that and it makes me laugh sometimes just how, how separate we are. So I think, I think maybe at the beginning there was probably a little bit of cross over far more my side than hers. Just about, well, how's this going to work? Or is this going to be like, but, um, we're we're over that now.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah. Thank you for answering that. I mean, do you mind me asking? I don't know. It sounds like from what you've said, um, actually it might be healthy to have that separation and to see and to see it as two separate things. So this is my colleague and this is my friend, but not the lines below that she sounds like that could be quite healthy boundaries to have actually.

Jess Heagren:

Yeah, I think so. I think you need, you need something in there. Otherwise it all gets a bit, yeah. I don't know, everything kind of gets too involved. And then, you know, you're in a business, you're not going to agree on everything and there are going to be different. There can be different dynamics to personalities that come out in certain situations. So I know I'm not normally like it, but if I'm ultra stress and I can be a bit short when I can be a bit irritable, probably like most people. So, but actually, no, you wouldn't, you wouldn't know that in your friendship because why would you see that side of something? So I think having that, you know, this, this is work time and this is a work chat, and this is a work conversation versus let's have a chat about how our babies are and when we're going to see each other and when we can meet up cocktails and London and all of that fun stuff. Yeah. I think having that distinction is quite important.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, because I can, I'm just thinking for my, for myself, I'm thinking that I would probably find that quite hard. Um, you know, if I was talking to a friend in a business context and they were a bit irritable with me, let's say, I think I would find it really hard not to take that personally, just such as knowing, um, because that's who I am say.

Jess Heagren:

Yeah. And I, and I'm, I'm exactly the same, but like I say next much more she's, she's just much more, um, able to sort of distinguish those two parts and yeah. Probably set the tone of that from the beginning, for which I'm really grateful, because I think that helps us both navigate those, those situations.

Vicki Weinberg:

Well, that's really good. And do you have any sort of specific advice for anyone who's thinking of doing something with a friend or family member?

Jess Heagren:

So funny, you should say the family member thing. Cause my sister's involved. She's out there to hold her. Um, she's in focus. So Gem's role is quite different. So she has a full-time job. Um, and she helps us out just on some things when we need it. So lots of the, sort of the content and the writing and that type of thing, but things that she can do more, you know, less against a timetable in a more sort of within her own time, um, in terms of what it's like to work together. So the three of us. Obviously all get on famously well or love each other and adore each other. So there's, there's always that to fall back on. If you're thinking about doing it. You, I would only enter into it with people that you can have really honest conversations with. So, you know, you need to be able to say, this is what I need from you. This is how I'm feeling. What do we think about this? And no. You can have some of those tricky conversations, but it's like I said, you're still going to be able to walk away from, from that situation and be friends or sisters or whatever it may be. And I think people who enter into these situations without ever giving that any thought can sometimes come up quite unstuck. The other thing that we did really early on, almost too early, I think we thought at the time, and I remember Nick saying to me saying, Jess, do you think we're going to fall out? You know, why are you talking to me about what would happen to shareholdings? If one of us went off and did this, or if we, why are you talking to me about whether we, if we had a dispute, but reflecting on it? I think having. Those conversations and set the tone of that work in relationship from such so early on meant that it, it was just always there in the background and nothing has come up where we've needed to, um, refer to those anyway. But actually it's the same as with the roles thing, because we had agreed some things upfront, it made it much easier to. Kind of move forward on that basis and it never, if anything got contentious, there'd never be any difficult conversations because we'd already agreed. So a really good example is, um, we are currently talking to investors about investing in the business. And one of the sort of difficult topics that often comes up is around share dilution, particularly if you've got different, um, shareholdings sizes. So actually we always agreed that if we went out and got investment from day one, we said we would all dilute our shareholding and that's how it would work. And that has. It's one less tricky conversation to have later. Um, cause not, you know, nobody feels like anyone else's being, you know, outdone or anyone's got any bad feeling or anything like that. It just means that that difficult conversation happened a long time ago. So it's not, and you know, it wasn't difficult at the time. It was all very straightforward.

Vicki Weinberg:

That's really interesting. So it sounds like these difficult conversations might not be as difficult if you have them on day one as a pose to a few years down the line.

Jess Heagren:

Yeah. And you, because you work, you enter into it all in the right spirit and the right, you know, in the right frame of mind of positivity. So I think, yeah, I think anything like that, that you can do at day one to sort of set the parameters of how you're going to work together and what things will look like. And also it's really fun to sit and do the whole, you know, oh my God. Imagine if our business becomes worth like a hundred million in the future, what would that look like? You know, how, how would that play out for us that that bit doesn't, it doesn't have to all be serious and doom and gloom. It can be really exciting to imagine that as well.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah. And, and do you, um, formalize all of that as, but it's simply, is that something you'd recommend? So actually having something on paper?

Jess Heagren:

Yeah. So we re we just captured it all on a, on a piece of paper, um, which we've just had to sign off, shared drive so that when the time came to actually write contracts and things around this stuff, we all, we always had it there and we all knew it was there. So it was just, again, just, wasn't a difficult thing.

Vicki Weinberg:

Yeah, that makes sense. Well, thank you. Thank you for explaining all of that. And I know I've gone got some things I hope aren't too personal, but I still think it's a useful, um, say before we wrap up Jess, is there anything else that you wanted to touch on relating to sort of flexible working and, and, or boundaries work-life balance? Anything has anything at all that we haven't yet spoken about?

Jess Heagren:

No, I don't think so. My, my only, uh, My only sort of piece of advice to small business owners is to, if there's something that you can't do or there's something that you've got too much of to kind of not shy away from talking to other people about it, you know, and not going out and investigating what other alternatives there are, because we offer, there were so many fantastic people. And I think I said to you earlier, the. But we've got almost 4,000 members now. And I that's been built up over a period of, probably about a year and a half. So I've got to know lots of these people personally, and I know how amazing they are. And I know how niche and specialist, some of the skillsets I mentioned to you earlier about, um, we had a small business owner who was looking for, um, some health and safety protocols to be written for her pilates studio um, to start off with, I just thought, wow, that's a really, that's a really niche request, but it's exactly the sort of thing you would need help with. Um, and to my surprise, there were some people on the platform who could do that and they've gone on to work together and have a really great relationship. And, you know, they've both got out of it, what they would want. And I, it just, it's kind of a daily reminder of there's probably, you know, whatever that difficulty is that you're up against and whatever that problem is there. There's a way of finding someone to help you with that, that just doesn't have to cost the earth. And I think people are quite often surprised at how little help can cost, particularly if you're only looking for in a small amount

Vicki Weinberg:

that's really useful. Thank you for that. And I think that, that does certainly put my mind on people's minds at rest, because like you, I'm a big advocate of asking for help and not trying stuff at all, because I think a lot of us, especially at the outset can try and do it all. And part of it is because you think, well, I can't afford it. Or I'm too small to find somebody who's wants to work with, you know, why would somebody wants to work with me? I've only been going a month, but you know, it's only so small where for the reason is it's quite easy to talk yourself out of finding somebody to help you. And I'm thinking lots of business owners get help a bit later than perhaps they would have liked to or needed to because of going of some of those beliefs that are actually not true.

Jess Heagren:

Definitely. And I think one of the, kind of, one of the real sort of. Positive. They are. One of the things that you can learn really quickly about yourself is knowing where to do that. And knowing, knowing when to ask, I think it's a real, you know, how many times, like you say, we've all struggled on trying to do something ourselves and then actually you speak to somebody who knows it and it's just resolved in seconds, but we, we at the beginning, Nick was quite pushed us quite heavily on making sure that we got expert, um, expertise into all of our user journeys and, and what the screens actually looked like. And at the time I sort of umed and ahhed over it, but actually it was the best decision we've ever made because it's really easy, particularly when you're designing a platform to sort of tie yourself and your users. So kind of how to get to the right places. So having spending a little bit of money upfront on investing in something so important was absolutely kind of critical to our success. And I think that I would challenge, you know, people who are scaling their businesses to ask those same questions. What are the things that are really gonna make the difference here? Um, and you know, do I need expert help on those because ultimately we're all human and we can't be good at everything. People just don't, that's not how the world works.

Vicki Weinberg:

That's really good advice. Thank you. And that's actually a really lovely note to end on as well. So thank you so much, Jess, for everything that you shared today.

Jess Heagren:

You're welcome.

Vicki Weinberg:

It was really nice to talk to you. Thank you so much for listening and I will see you again next week with another great episode.