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Working Parents

Balancing your family and your business

Interview with Fiona Bendall

(CEO, Bendalls Group – Professional Services)

St.George recently conducted a survey with 188 Australian parents and found that 60% felt the biggest barrier to starting a business was being able to find a good work/life balance. To find out how the experts juggle a busy family life while running a successful business, we spoke to Fiona Bendall. Fiona, the CEO of Bendalls Group as well as a mother of three has shared some of her top tips when it comes to finding a balance between work and family.

You’ve run a number of successful businesses across the globe while also being a busy mother. What advice would you give to other working parents wanting to be both successful in business but also have plenty of time for their family?  

I’ve got two pieces of advice, and they’re both really easy to follow:

  1. Take time out alone to just think. I find this really helpful whether I’m just taking time to plan my day or if it’s to try and think of new ideas. Even if it’s just for 10minutes a day, I find it really helpful to just clear my mind of all distractions and just focus.
  2. Don’t be afraid to delegate. Many hands make light work but also surrounding myself with brilliant people helps build a positive environment and encourages innovative and free thinking.

What did you find most helpful when trying to find a balance between family and running a business?

Having a home office was really helpful. It meant that I could get work done when I was at home, but more importantly I had a place to work when the kids were asleep (especially when they were younger).

I also found that involving my family in my business, my passion, my successes and my failures made it a lot easier to streamline my work/life balance. It also meant that my family was really involved in my business meaning that we all shared the triumphs and we all supported each other through the failures. 

Building a professional services business from the ground up must have been a difficult feat, what have you felt has been most helpful in growing your business?

  1. Networking. Networking was crucial when it came to getting my business off the ground. Surrounding myself with a strong network of business savvy people as well as having a business mentor have proven to be invaluable to the growth and development of my business.
  2. Knowing my stuff. Being successful goes hand in hand with knowing your offering inside and out. If you know your stuff, you can cut to the core of exactly how your offer will benefit your customers and it also means you can be entirely transparent with your customers as well.
  3. Giving back is important. Finally, it’s important to give back to others. I spend a lot of effort contributing, mentoring and helping my peers, because this helps build lasting relationships but also in turn they can also help me in the future.

In heading up a solid professional services outfit, your customer’s demands must come at all times of day. How do you manage your clients’ needs vs your families?

  • Using technology smartly! Technology has enabled us to be so much smarter with our availability. But it also means that as a business owner you feel that the door is always open, so it’s important to know when to turn off. I tend to turn everything off to do with work when I’m with my daughter and then turn it back on when she’s in bed. 
  • Multi-tasking is also a good skill that makes life so much easier. As a parent you learn to juggle a number of things at once, and it’s the same in business, you need to be able to multitask.

What do you do for other working parents in your teams to ensure that they also achieve the balance that you enjoy?

Being a parent is a huge part of life, so it’s important that you cultivate a culture that embraces working parents and provides a flexible working environment.

There is much camaraderie about being a working parent and often it’s the one place at work where you can be honest about the trials and tribulations of parenthood! I know there are many meetings in our board room where there has been a download of the trials and tribulations of bringing up teenagers that have become almost counselling sessions!