What does the word feminist mean to you?

What does the word feminist mean to you?

By | News

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this because my definition of feminism is probably different to a lot of people’s. It saddens me that ‘feminism’ has become such a dirty word recently, and so as a woman in a position of privilege I wanted to discuss what I feel being a feminist is.

Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines it as:

A person who holds the belief that a woman should have the same opportunities as men.’

Urban Dictionary says:

A person, usually but not necessarily of female gender, indoctrinated to find fault in everything a male does whilst believing all females can do no wrong. Feminists will use any lies, deceit, dubious statistics, manipulation, aggression and threats to eliminate any sense of fairness, justice or decency to men (or boys) irrespective of creed, ethnic background or colour. This includes the aim of eradicating traditional family values, ensuring children are deprived of all contact with their father wherever possible, and to dictate to the majority of truly sensible feminine women what they can and cannot do with their life.’

As you can see, some vastly different interpretations there.

Clearly, one is exaggerated but I think that a lot of people feel this way towards feminism now. Even some women are embarrassed to say they’re a feminist because some people immediately imagine that you’re a man-hater when, in fact, you can be a fabulous feminist and still enjoy the company of men and respect their rights.

I am a proud feminist. I also have four brothers, a dad who I am incredibly close with, an amazing stepdad, a wonderful male partner, and two beautiful little boys. As you can tell, I would struggle to be anything but respectful to men as I would just be arguing around the clock.

For me, being a feminist means supporting and helping other women, especially those less fortunate. It also means championing equal rights and respecting whatever decision a woman makes in her life with regards to work and family. I don’t believe all women should work, as much as I believe we shouldn’t all be tied to a sink somewhere. I think we should all have the right to choose what we want to do and be given the same opportunity as men would have.

I was always interested in what boys did as a child. Like I said, I had two brothers and we would wrestle, play manhunt, climb trees, play football; all the usual ‘boy’ things. My mum would try to make me wear dresses and I would scream bloody murder – I wanted to wear a football strip like everyone else! I struggled with girls outside of school because we didn’t have the same interests and those girls would think I was a weirdo because they wanted to play with Barbies where I wanted my GI Joe to shoot them all, or my Ghostbusters Slimer to slime them.

My best friend growing up was a boy and we would play Wally or Heads & Volleys every day. We played on the same football teams and I was always the only girl there. At a young age, he got to play for a good team in Manchester so I could no longer play – I got too old to be on a mixed team and there was no girls team so my dream of being a footballer died. This was when I realised life wasn’t equal between boys and girls.

As I got older, I would help my dad build things, help my stepdad renovate the house, and continued to play football as a hobby; anything that would keep me busy. The years went by and I entered the construction industry with Design & Build UK and then later, We Connect Construction.

I have experienced sexism on hundreds of occasions, but I have a bollocks to ‘em attitude which helps me move on. Recently, though, I’ve realised that not everyone is like this and incidents involving sexism can often be enough to throw some women off guard, making them give up on their careers purely based off how they’ve been treated.

I never thought anyone should have the power to stop someone from living how they want to live, and the more I became educated on other women’s experiences and the lack of equal opportunities within business, careers, and in general life the more I realised I was quickly becoming a feminist.

For me today this simply means equal opportunity, the right to choose what you want for your own life. We don’t all have to burn our bras or protest, but we must stick together. A lot of bad experiences of mine have come from other women. For years I think women have felt threatened by other women, judged on their decisions – if you work full time, you’re a bad mother to your children, if you stay at home, you’re not much more than a housewife. We can’t just be women.

I’m the kind of person who thinks you can have it all – go to work and still be a fabulous mother, drink Prosecco with friends and leave the fella to babysit, start a business with long work hours but still have time for the kids. Just do what you want and if someone is trying to stop you, speak to another woman in your position for support.

I don’t think being a feminist is a bad thing. It doesn’t have to be extreme – be nice, kind, open-minded, and help give a voice to those who aren’t as fortunate as you. Give a voice to the other women fighting for equality and help them with what they deserve; equal pay, equal rights, and no bother for seeking them.

How to be an Empathetic Leader

How to be an Empathetic Leader

By | News

When I first started up Design and Build UK a decade ago, having to understand beyond what I needed in the business didn’t seem like anything I’d have to consider.

Interpersonal skills, communication, and an empathetic ear, whilst important, are sometimes seen as a league below the steadfast, organised nature of a good business person who can get the job done and the money brought in.

What surprised me, though, is that empathy and these so-called “soft skills” are integral to successful long-term business.

So, what is empathy?

In basic terms, empathy is putting the views and knowledge of others before your own by placing yourself in their position. When seen in a business context this involves listening to your team, giving direct feedback, and ultimately creating a working environment focused on mutual respect.

Studies show that most of the communication we process is non-verbal. Body language, eye contact, and the position of our bodies towards those speaking to us convey more of how much we’re engaging than most of the words we respond with.

Personal engagement is especially important to the younger workforce. A 2019 Gallup Poll reveals that two thirds of millennial workers are not emotionally connected to their work, and over half aren’t engaged at all.

As a result, the millennial generation, more so than any other, move freely from company to company because they don’t get what they want from work; namely: opportunities to learn and grow, a sense of purpose, high-quality management, and financial growth.

From a business perspective, this is detrimental to sustaining a loyal, effective workforce. In simple economic terms, Gallup estimated the annual cost of millennial employment turnover in the US alone to be in the tens of billions.

But to focus on economic cost alone would be to ignore the wider-stretching, interwoven benefits of empathetic leadership. Putting yourself in other peoples’ shoes can favour everyone you come across in your work life.

A huge part of leading a team comes from making the right decision for everyone and empathy is an exercise in knowing that you’re not always right. Knowing when to open up to your team and their diverse range of knowledge and experiences can only help with whatever issue you’re facing. In turn, this will declare to your team that they have value within the company, that their opinions are respected, and that they have a small part in the success of their workplace.

A real-world example of this comes from none other than Google and their 2017 study known as ‘Project Aristotle’ which set out to identify the traits of a successful workplace. Over two years, a small internal team studied hundreds of new and old Google employees in order to understand what made the most effective working team.

Amongst key traits like clear goals and well-defined roles, ‘psychological safety’, or an environment where you feel safe enough to let your guard down and take risks was an important factor in creating effective working teams. Google found that teams with ‘psychologically safe’ working environments were ultimately more successful and created some of the company’s most important ideas.

The results of Project Aristotle are crucial source material for team leaders to understand how employees’ output is affected by their wellbeing within the company but beyond the mutual benefits that empathy yields between employer and employee, how does it affect the customer experience?

Empathy in business lies in knowing and anticipating what the customer needs and how to market your product or service to them. As well as this being useful in short-term business, customers who feel a better connection to you are more likely to recommend your services to others; creating strong referrals and more repeat customers over a longer period.

With both of my companies, We Connect Construction and Design & Build UK, I am confident enough to say when our services aren’t right for customers. I don’t want to take money from someone who will never get much from what we provide but I will always advise them in whatever way I can when I understand what they are looking for. That way, I will have a customer who will return and keep a good name for my business.

As you can see, empathy in leadership is a simple but highly effective skill that favours everyone involved in your business. Maybe more importantly though, having a better understanding of those around us can make for a better world to live in whether we’re doing business or not.

Empathy is a simple concept that doesn’t always come naturally to us, but whether in a business scenario or in everyday life, having a better understanding of those around us has the potential to make everyone’s lives that little bit easier.

Ambitious creative studios plan in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter

Ambitious creative studios plan in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter

By | News

A heritage regeneration company has put forward bold plans to revitalise an under-used area of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, with a creative and media centre, complete with commercial studio space, retail and housing.

Post_hoc Developments, which specialises in creative sector projects, has submitted a planning application to Birmingham City Council to transform the Key Hill area, off Great Hampton Street, into a 100,000 sq ft creative hub, with film, photography, digital, music and jewellery studios and workspaces, as well as commercial space, shops and homes.

The plans for Key Hill Studios includes the refurbishment of the grade II listed Harry Smith Building on the corner of Key Hill and Hockley Hill – one of the oldest buildings in the Jewellery Quarter, dating back to 1824 – and the grade II listed Gem Buildings, also on Key Hill, which were built in 1913.

The site has been pieced together from a number of separate owners, with PCPT Architects given the brief to create an urban mixed-use scheme for a site that has been derelict or under-used for 20 years.

Included is a mews of 18 townhouses, plus apartments above shops and studios linked by a series of squares in a traditional format, with new pedestrian routes through the whole site.

In addition to Key Hill Studios, the plans also include a new bar/restaurant in the Gem, to be designed as a key meeting and networking base, supported by cafes and useful shops.

Award-winning conservation architect David Mahony, the principal architect on the scheme and co-director at Post_hoc, said: “We wanted the ground floor to be vibrant, which also fits in with the proposed new masterplan for the Jewellery Quarter, so adding shops for independents made sense.”

Key to the development is The Lampworks, a film and creative studio set up by Jewellery Quarter-based Post_hoc and Birmingham Film Festival’s Kevin McDonagh, after they acquired a former factory and two adjoining Victorian houses in Key Hill Drive. They launched the studio in June 2019 and it has already played host to filmmakers, photographers and videomakers, as well as dance companies, musicians and television production companies, some of whom have travelled from Yorkshire and London to use the space.

Chris Barrow, co-director at Post_hoc, said: “We saw the opportunity to add further spaces and resources for creatives, at the same time as regenerating a lost part of the Jewellery Quarter. Consideration is being given to the commercial spaces being owned and managed by a community interest company (CIC), thereby assuring long-term survival.

“This project is very much looking to support smaller, independent companies, producers and artists from the ground up, helping them to realise their projects, as well as working with creative companies that create content for the BBC and other major channels.

“The whole scheme could accommodate up to 150 full time jobs and the proven interest in using The Lampworks, which is only a few minutes’ walk from the tram and railway station, has shown the need for managed studios, so we look forward to adding more flexible spaces and bringing more essential resources.”

As part of Post_hoc’s new plans, The Lampworks will have three fully equipped studios for hire, with the former factory space being split into a 700 sq ft green screen studio with an infinity wall and a 1400 sq ft “shiny floor” TV style studio. These would be available for independent filmmakers, music and fashion video makers, as well as larger production companies, and would complement the already popular “Loft” studio on the first floor.

The development sits alongside the historic Key Hill Cemetery, the burial place of many of prominent Birmingham people from the 19th century, including the politician and statesman Joseph Chamberlain and his brother Richard, and Alfred Bird, the inventor of Bird’s Custard.

If Birmingham City Council planners give the development the go ahead, Chris and David plan to begin refurbishment of the existing historic buildings later this year to provide working studios for hire/rent, with construction of some of the new housing by early 2021.

For more details about The Lampworks, visit www.thelampworks.co.uk

Vistry Partnerships gets green light on Coupe Green homes

Vistry Partnerships gets green light on Coupe Green homes

By | News

Vistry Partnerships, formerly Galliford Try Partnerships, has been given the go-ahead to build 70 dwellings in Coupe Green following a successful planning appeal, and has this week done a deal to acquire the site.

The Olive Farm scheme located north of Methuen Drive, Hoghton, will see a mix of three and four-bedroom homes developed for open market sale under the Linden Homes brand, along with two and three-bedroom homes for affordable rent and shared ownership.

The regeneration experts will work in partnership with a housing association to guarantee the affordability of the new homes.

A spokesperson at Vistry Partnerships North West, said: “We are delighted to have completed the purchase of the site and to have secured planning permission for these homes.

“The development will create high quality, family homes, with a good mix of sizes and tenures enabling local people to find the right home for them.

“We have a proven track record in building attractive, modern homes across the North West, including within South Ribble, and we look forward to delivering another successful scheme for the community.”

Built as a variety of semi-detached and detached buildings, each dwelling will have access to dedicated parking spaces and a private garden at the rear.

Following the purchase of the land, work is now expected to commence on site in the coming months, with the new homes expected to be available in Winter 2020.

The future is electric, so we need to attract the brightest talent, says SELECT MD Alan Wilson

The future is electric, so we need to attract the brightest talent, says SELECT MD Alan Wilson

By | News

The need for more young people to join the electrical industry in Scotland has never been greater – and those who do so will have an “opportunity for life”.

That’s the view of SELECT managing director Alan Wilson, who says fresh talent is urgently required to meet the ever-increasing demand for new technology and electrical services.

Speaking in a new video interview, the head of the trade body for the electrical profession in Scotland claims anyone entering the industry has “a really bright future ahead of them”.

Alan said: “I’m pleased to say the future is indeed electric as we all move towards more dependency on electricity in our day-to-day lives, whether it’s use of the internet and mobile phones or vehicles and heating and lighting for our properties.

“There is no doubt we will need an increase in the workforce to meet these demands as we go forward, yet we are facing an ever-increasing competition with other sectors to get young people to join our sector.

“Like all industries, we face a challenge to encourage young people into our industry as Scotland faces a well-documented skills shortage. But what we can say is that anyone coming into this industry has an opportunity for a career for life.

“We need to work hard to get schoolchildren more involved and interested at a younger age and for them to see that the whole range of work an electrician does impacts across their lives.”

During the 15-minute video, launched on SELECT’s new YouTube channel this week, Alan also discusses electric vehicles, the future of the trade association, and the many challenges faced by today’s electricians.

He added: “Being an electrician is at the very top of the construction industry tree in terms of opportunities and skills and that’s why we want to attract good quality young people who will bring a great benefit to all our lives going forward.”

Alan also stresses the need for regulation of electricians – and insists Holyrood should act sooner rather than later to make it happen.

SELECT has been leading a high-profile campaign for better regulation of the trade, with the Scottish Government now pledging to publish a consultation on the issue later this year.

And Alan said: “It’s amazing that an industry that’s so safety-conscious and potentially dangerous if not done correctly is still unregulated. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals out there carrying out electrical work who have no qualifications or experience, putting people at harm.

“Regulation is the only solution. Whenever we speak to politicians and the public, no one has said yet that it’s not the right thing to do. The Scottish Government has to have the courage of its convictions and introduce regulation as quickly as possible.”

As the largest trade body in Scotland, SELECT has nearly 1,250 member businesses, employing approximately 15,000 electricians.

Members of SELECT carry out a whole range of electrical installation work, ranging from design and manufacturing to testing and commissioning. They include everything from sole traders up to the largest construction companies across Scotland and the UK.

Click here to view the full interview with Alan.

5 Renovations You Can do Without Planning Permission

5 Renovations You Can do Without Planning Permission

By | Construction Projects

Renovation projects are both exciting and challenging. But what exactly can you do without planning permission, and is it safe to do it yourself? 

Trying to figure out which projects you can do without planning permission can be a bit of a minefield, but don’t panic. As a rule of thumb, most structural changes are subject to building regulations, but some ‘bigger’ renovation projects can be done without planning permission if you adhere to the set size regulations.

Whether you’re building a new structure or making changes to an existing one, you’ll most likely need to submit an architectural drawing of the proposed project and get approval from the local authorities. To clear up the confusion, Comparethemarket.com have teamed up with a range of experts to create a tool that helps you work out which projects require planning permission and what to leave to the professionals.

To be on the safe side, leave any hard wiring and installations to a certified professional. However, if you’re plugging into a socket or wiring into a spur, this can normally be done by any competent amateur. For all other electrical work, you should get it carried out by a trader approved through an appropriate scheme, such as NICEIC. Chris King, Head of Home at Comparethemarket.com, says: “Anything involving gas is generally best left to certified engineers due to the significant damage which could be caused if you get it wrong.”

Here are five renovations you can do without planning permission.

Adding a porch
You don’t need to apply for planning permission when building a porch if it’s no more than 3 metres above ground level and if  the ground floor doesn’t exceed 3 square metres. You also have to make sure that no part of the porch is within 2 metres of any boundary of the house or a highway.

However, if you take the front door of the property out the porch, the porch becomes part of the property and would be subject to building regulations and possibly planning permission.

Adding a conservatory
Planning permissions are not necessary when building a conservatory if you adhere to the strict size regulations. The conservatory should cover less than half of the land surrounding the home, and should not be higher than the highest point of the roof. If the property is a single storey, make sure the conservatory is no higher than 4 metres.

Adding a shed or summer house
Building regulations do not normally apply to outbuildings, such as an outdoors office or summer house, if the floor area of the building is less than 15 square metres and the building is not used for sleeping. The same rules apply to sheds, greenhouses and garages.

However, if the building is between 15 and 30 square metres and doesn’t contain sleeping accommodation, you could get away with no planning permission. To make sure you get it right, it’s always best to check each individual project with the local authorities as architectural drawings may need to be submitted.

Adding a loft conversion
Unless you live in a designated area, like a national park or World Heritage Sites, loft conversions do not need planning permission as long as the conversion is no higher than the highest part of the roof and made in a similar material to the rest of the house.

If you live in a terraced house, the conversion has a volume allowance of 40 cubic metres of additional roof space or 50 cubic metres for detached and semi-detached houses. Make sure the roof enlargement doesn’t overhang the outer face of the wall of the original house.

Putting up a fence
You will only need planning permission to put up a fence if it’s over 1 metre high next to any highway used by vehicles or the footpath or if it’s over 2 metres high elsewhere. You would also need planning permission if your house is a listed building or in the curtilage of a listed building or if the fence, wall or gate, or any other boundary involved, forms a boundary with a neighbouring listed building or its curtilage.

Need to take down a fence? No planning permission is needed, unless the fence is in a conservation area.

Chris King warns homeowners about the possible consequences of not doing enough research on your builders: “Make sure you’ve checked their reputation and they have the right liability insurance in place should they damage your property. Most home insurance policies don’t cover poor or faulty workmanship so if the work carried out is poor or unfinished, it’s likely your home insurance wouldn’t be able to step in and come to the rescue.”

Juggling a pregnancy when you have a full-time job/business

Juggling a pregnancy when you have a full-time job/business

By | Construction Projects

Ok so this one is for the girls, and it’s a tough one.

It would be great if being pregnant was a walk in the park, but that’s not quite how reality works. I can understand why there was previously a time when women would sit at home cooking while pregnant while their husband went to a full time job to earn the cash for the household, because quite frankly, it’s a big struggle to work while pregnant. However, I’m glad that times have changed and I’m proud of myself for earning my own money and buying my first house alone alongside being able to support my children, but it’s no easy task.

There were a few things that I did to help me with my pregnancy. Firstly, I want to say that I have had 16 miscarriages, so falling pregnant again was not only a surprise but also a very worrying time in the early days. Anyone out there who has suffered recurring miscarriages will know how difficult it is to keep in the right frame of mind to prepare for the potential good or bad outcome. It’s upsetting and stressful and a different lifestyle to a woman who is gifted with being able to carry children without any issues. That isn’t what this blog is about though, so I don’t want to dwell on this too much, but this does need to be mentioned to understand possible issues that happen within the first few months.

When I found out I was pregnant, it was a mix of emotions, it wasn’t a planned pregnancy Harrison and I hadn’t been in a relationship for that long. We had just finished an amazing roller coaster ride coming off the back of the Apprentice and we were both heavily focused on launching our companies which were featured on the show. We also lived at opposite ends of the country.

I remember the day vividly – we went to Morrisons for some food and I wasn’t feeling too good. I told Harrison and mentioned that I was worried I was pregnant. Harrison went fully green, and, the romantic that he is, he said “f**k off Michaela stop winding me up”. We then bought loads of sweets, a pregnancy test and some Prosecco as I said I was probably just worrying. When I went home and did the test, it came back positive. I told Harrison and he went into what is known as the “man cave” for about 2 weeks. At the time I was hoping he’d talk to me or say something, anything, but he couldn’t bring himself to speak about it. Looking back, to be honest, I was glad he didn’t as I’m not even sure there is anything I could’ve said.

At the time, I was running two companies full time (Design and Build UK and Vantage Utility Connections), I had just launched an extra branch to one of my companies and I was speaking with multiple investors considering investment. I already had an 8 year old that needed my attention as well. The next morning I got up, got dressed, then proceeded to cry for about half an hour (reapplying my makeup afterwards!), then I went to work. I put a smile on my face and told everyone I was feeling a bit rough because I had a few Proseccos the night before.

I made appropriate arrangements for my care in the early days with the doctor and over the next few weeks I just spent time wondering how I would be able to deal with it all. I was completely overwhelmed and concerned but certain I would get through the pregnancy and still be able to secure the investment required.

I continued with my business meetings, I was sick frequently and fell asleep in my board room a few times. I found out that I was about 5 weeks into the pregnancy, so I had a long way to go before I started to tell anyone. I had a meeting with my investor when I was about 8 weeks pregnant. It was the first time we would meet in person and I wanted to make a good impression. So, I had my breakfast early knowing I would most likely be sick around an hour after eating. I drove to the meeting and took a bag of ginger biscuits with me. My investors were lovely and made me lots of cups of tea. When I pulled out my own biscuits, I think they may have thought I was a bit odd, but with me being from Bolton they probably just thought it was some “weird northern thing”.

The meeting went great, and I knew they were going to be the right partners for me. The next day, I went to work and carried on as usual and I dealt with the stress of managing staff by calling my partner or my best friend and crying whenever I couldn’t handle situations. I don’t care what any war machine woman tells you, when you’re pregnant you’re vulnerable and unfortunately can’t deal with the normal day to day stresses as you normally would. There is no shame in crying and no award is given for keeping your shit together in private when you’re pregnant, so let it all out.

I also made sure that I carried on my life as normal. I didn’t wrap myself in cotton wool or expect different treatment from others and I dealt with my issues in private and kept a positive attitude in work. On the days when my head fell off or I was so tired that I thought I would fall asleep at my desk, I would go for a small walk or take myself for 10 minutes or so in the board room to help gather my thoughts. I allowed myself time to be overwhelmed or worried, but I also made myself eventually snap out of this. It’s important to release some emotions but you have to get a grip of these at times and make sure you continue with your day.

When I was around 10 weeks into pregnancy, I accidentally added a midwife appointment to my work’s calendar instead of the personal calendar I share with Harrison. I deleted it around half an hour later, but I still suspected that someone may have seen the appointment. Even so, I still didn’t tell anyone about it.

After several initial scans, we got the signal that everything was going to plan around 14 weeks into the pregnancy, and I was quite confident that we were out of the danger zone. This was a huge relief of course but at the same time reality caught up to me. I was probably going to be having a baby and at this point I was in serious discussions with my investors who were running a fine-tooth comb through my business plan. I genuinely didn’t know what to do. After speaking with a few people and getting their opinions (including, randomly, Claude) I decided it was time to tell my future partners. We had a meeting with the investors, partners and financial advisors a few months later, (I carry very, very big, so I was huge at 5 months) so when I turned up, even though they had prior warning, they all seemed somewhat surprised that I had a huge bump up my top.

They were amazing and very supportive and continued with the investment. The plan was changed slightly as there would come a time that I would have to give birth to this beast, so we factored this in and began our business venture together.

Harrison was as supportive as he could be. He lived 200 miles away and had just launched his business down south so there wasn’t much that could be done. There were times where I was incredibly sad throughout my pregnancy. I really wanted to try and enjoy it as I’ve experienced so many difficult times when it came to pregnancy, but in all honesty I just couldn’t. I had the usual dramas associated with pregnancy – feeling fat, wondering how it would impact my life, hoping my son would get on well with the new baby, etc. On top of this, I also had to worry about launching a company alongside running my 2 current companies. One of which needed a large investment from me at the same time to help it through a difficult period. I had pressure from all sides, which made me question my decisions on multiple occasions.

However, as a person I am positive and very stubborn. I believe the stubbornness is what got me through this. I firmly believe that anything I put my mind to will succeed and I don’t like to fail, so every day I would wake up, hype myself up, tell myself some positive shit I had read somewhere such as “you can do this, try not to kill anyone” 😉 and I would turn up to work and try to get the team going and organise my life so I could achieve all that needed to be done.

Luckily, we have 9 months to prepare for the baby so I was ready for when he would be born, the time I would have off (2 weeks) and the running of the company in my absence. However, I started to go into labour around 7 months pregnant and it started and stopped for around a month. My waters broke early and I managed to hang on for a while longer while going in and out of hospital. I would go to hospital every morning, check if the baby was OK, go into work (in slow labour), then go home, sort out my son and finally clock off for the day. I literally sectioned my life into an hour by hour basis. I would deal with what needed to be done within the next hour, then the next and so on. Looking back at it, I’m extremely proud of how I held myself together in difficult circumstances. I am fortunate enough to have an amazing support system where people would listen to me moan about being fat, lonely or busy or whatever it was and the people listening would push me on. This was invaluable to me and something that I will never forget.

Around 8 months pregnant, the doctor said I had to stay in and have the baby, who was having a few issues with his heart rate – plus my waters had broken, so he needed to come out. I threw off all plans with work and the business as new plans can be made and the baby was obviously the priority. Labour is slow (for me anyway) and I remember sending emails from the hospital bed which, looking back at it, was fun and kept my mind on other things when possible.

During the birth there were complications so I had to have an emergency c-section, but the doctors and nurses as well as Harrison were all amazing. Grayson arrived safe and sound screaming his tiny head off and proving he would have his mother’s mouth. I’m not going to lie; I was so relieved once he had been born because, finally, I wasn’t the only one responsible for this little human. I could now have help with him and work and not be the sole carer. People would ask me how I was feeling a lot and honestly, I was just on top of the world. My little baby had arrived safe and sound, I was no longer pregnant, and I no longer felt constantly worried or alone.

My pregnancy probably wasn’t the best story ever, but there were times I felt like it was going to last forever and I still got through it. Work panned out as planned and We Connect Construction took off, going from strength to strength, much like my son who has recently taken his first steps, which is amazing. Life has gotten easier every day since.

Here are some things I learned throughout this journey which I’ll leave you with:

Firstly, I hope you can be inspired by my story. I want people to see that no matter what’s going on, us women really can do it all and make it work.

Be organised – allow yourself time for yourself as it’s so important.

Be open and honest with people about how you’re doing.

Prepare for your time off and any difficulties that may occur.

Take walks or swim or even train if you’re up to it.

Eat ginger biscuits!

Have a 3D scan.

Put yourself first – it’s the only time women can be truly selfish, but your health is the most important thing.

Don’t be hard on yourself, it’s all normal even when it’s not.

Eating curry and pineapples and cod liver oil doesn’t work (when you know, you know).

Don’t worry about putting on weight and bouncing straight back, no one gives a shit.

It’s fine to not be happy with the situation because it’s hard and no one will judge you for finding it hard.

And most importantly enjoy every little moment you can because that’s all you end up remembering in the end.

Knowing what to peruse

Knowing what to pursue

By | Construction Projects

Working out how to spend your time most efficiently is one of the most common dilemmas we come across in everyday life. This also includes our business, where, in every sense of the word, time means money.


For example, I am currently running 4 companies, including We Connect Construction and Design and Build UK, while raising 2 children, one of which is a baby. On top of this my partner lives down south while I live in the north, this means a lot of commuting, having to handle these responsibilities while also recently launching a podcast, plus attending events, public speaking, doing radio interviews… Then trying to have some kind of time to myself!


This can be incredibly hard to manage and balance at times, as it usually means that I have to use an order of priority to stay organised. However, having to rank my priorities in life by importance can be gruelling. We are all guilty at some point of getting caught up in the day to day workings of our life, without considering the bigger picture surrounding us and what is going to get us to our end goal.


What I do to ensure I am making the right decisions

Finding a balance between my personal life and business is imperative to make my life as easy as it can be. I know the importance of my family and my children’s upbringing so they will always be on the top of my priority list, however, sometimes sacrifices do need to be made to keep my business running smoothly. Such as having to miss a parent evening to attend an important meeting.


Our heart tells us to do one thing, but our head tells us to do another, it may seem heartless at times but sometimes you have to rationally choose what would be most beneficial in the long term. So, I find it useful to note the pros and cons of each decision that could be made and value each decision based on which outweighs which.


Our optimistic minds tell us that we can manage more than we actually can sometimes, its best to sort such thoughts out for the week to stop reality catching upon us. For example, let’s explore my week and try and think about it realistically. This week I have:


  • 2 podcasts
  • 25 sales demos
  • 1 investment meeting
  • 2 board meeting
  • 1 parents evening
  • Travelling to London for the weekend
  • 7 social media contents to write up
  • My son’s birthday
  • An open day at a nursery
  • 1 sales meeting
  • 1 company development meeting
  • 1 marketing meeting
  • 4 interviews
  • 2 articles to write
  • A public speaking event
  • The daily running of 2 companies


Realistically, this is too much for one woman to achieve in a week, although I will still try to squeeze in as much as I possibly can. In reality, some of these are going to have to get moved.


To help with this, I use an exercise called The Eisenhower Decision Matrix:


Urgent Not Urgent
Not Important




This is a technique that was invented by the previous US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, to help him organise his everyday life which would have been incredibly busy. The principle of this technique is to organise your life by priority using two variables, importance and urgency. If something is both important and urgent, you should do this first. However, if something is neither important nor urgent, it may be worth not even doing the task at all or at least shortly.


Say, for example, I could have a budgeting meeting that is imperative to smooth running of my company that needs to be done tomorrow, but I also have a sales meeting that would overlap. This sales meeting, however, is not as important. It may be worth rescheduling the sales meeting to a later date. This matrix would help you work such decisions out by visualising the problems at handThis exercise helps me remain organised and make sure I remain on track for my end goal. 


As much as such a matrix is useful, it’s important to still not overload yourself with tasks even if it looks manageable at first. It’s recommended that you limit yourself to 8 tasks per quadrant, these tasks would consist of both business and private tasks, separating the lists may trick you into thinking you have less planned than you do. As this is a time management strategy, it’s important that you do not procrastinate once everything has been planned. This would only further complicate your day making it unlikely that you will be able to complete everything you have planned to do. The urgent yet less important tasks may be worth delegating to a colleague while you take care of the more important urgent tasks.


It’s important to understand the difference between urgent and important. Urgent for me is something where there are deadlines, it can’t be done any other time, only I can do this, it is going to ensure I hit weekly sales targets etc. Important would be something which I have a choice about, something I love doing, something that will get me to my end goal so is important to complete but I won’t see the result of this straight away. Anything urgent and important is getting done that week, no doubt about it. Things which are not urgent but are important may be put off until a quieter week. Things which are not important but urgent such as meetings or things which just crop up, I will try to delegate. Things which are none important and none urgent will get dropped for the foreseeable future.


Of course, there are plenty of more variables that should be considered when managing your time, such as personal priority, the complexity of the task, the date of the deadline, and whether such a task requires help from other people. It may also be worth checking the status of the task at hand, for example you may find a task has only popped up the last day or so, a task may be already delegated, the task may have initially been assigned to someone, you may have already started working on it or maybe even completed. It is also possible that the task may no longer be required. Communication with colleagues or family is essential to make sure that either everything delegated is on track or that people understand your plans for the week.


Being able to maximise your productivity will guarantee growth within your business but it’s important to take some time for yourself and your family to guarantee a healthy and happy personal and social life.


I believe that this balance can be improved by increasing the efficiency with which my businesses operate. We have, for example, always found the process for finding project leads in the construction industry to be time consuming and quite often fruitless, with many wasted hours spent searching for projects to only then find that you don’t have the extra details you need to make contact with the correct person or companies involved. This is precious time that I could have spent with my family and/or friends or on various business processes that would further enhance my companies and the construction world. As such, I went to great lengths to provide a website called We Connect Construction, which is specifically designed to make this process faster and more efficient by providing thousands of detailed leads throughout the North West on an easy to use, easy to search website, allowing you to reach those important goals ahead of time.


Thank you for reading my viewpoint on how to manage your time most efficiently, priority is truly personal but with a rationale it’s possible to balance your time in a healthy manner where you get enough of your work done but you also give a healthy amount of time for your friends and family.

The difference between proactive and reactive marketing and how important they both are

The difference between proactive and reactive marketing and how important they both are

By | Construction Projects

Proactive marketing is anything that takes work from your side to get your brand out there or to help with the sales, this includes:


Introductory visits

Door to door sales

Anything where you are approaching your customer direct and having a conversation


Reactive marketing is where you put something out there and wait for a response back, such as:

Billboard adverts

Magazine/TV/radio promotions

E campaigns


Leaflet drops


Most companies use both of these strategies while some just choose to focus their resources on to one strategy. I would recommend doing a bit of both.

Reactive marketing is amazing for getting your brand out there and takes very little effort, when doing this kind of marketing, I would always suggest doing such in a campaign like format. Meaning you do several different types of advertising simultaneously. Such as a magazine advert, e campaign and leaflet drop within a short period of time.

There are many reasons for this, but the main reason is that it is psychologically proven that it takes a customer 3 times of seeing your advert/brand before they decide to pick up the phone to you. So, they may see an advert of yours in a magazine and think that it looks interesting, they may then see you again on a billboard and get reminded of the magazine advert they saw, then finally you may pop up in their inbox or mail then decide to start looking into your business more.

It is also important to make sure you advertise in relevant places, research your target audience and the best places to engage with them, posting an advert in magazine like Cosmopolitan selling lawnmowers would make no sense as you’re appealing to the completely wrong demographic. This would be a complete waste of both time and money.

Ensure that you use a reputable company to deal with your marketing, should you choose to do so, ask to speak with customers, see stats or get testimonials. Don’t waste your money on people who would promise the world and instead provide an island at best.  If marketing is being done in house make sure you are able to track your adverts and their success so you know where you should allocate the budget on your next campaign, this is a matter of trial and error in most circumstances as you are doing the marketing without external expertise.

I’d highly recommend that no matter what budget you set yourself for marketing, always stick to it. Marketing Is very easy to run away with, especially with the millions of opportunities there are out there. You can easily find yourself eating up your profits trying to find a new customer.

Have a strong sales process following the marketing, if you’re lucky, the phone will ring off the hook. If this is the case make sure you have the right people taking the calls and closing the deals, receiving the enquiries is amazing but if you don’t know what to do with them from there then the efforts won’t amount to much.

Always ensure that your adverts/posts are on point. They should be clear, concise and interactive where possible. The content must be of professional quality and enjoyable to read. Again, try to keep track of what has worked where and repeat the best examples with the following campaigns.

If you’re looking for a reactive marketing opportunity, we offer advertising to a readership of 190,000 with our magazine, Design and Build UK, a leading magazine in the construction sector, allowing you to be exposed to our clients in a professional manner and guaranteeing new clients looking your way.

Proactive marketing is a completely different ball game in comparison. It will take hard work. You’ll need good trustworthy staff on fair wages to help you achieve this. However, if successful, it has the potential to turn an entire business around.

Telesales, door to door sales, promotional events etc are all about meeting your customer physically and establishing quality communication. You will need a strong process/pitch and a clear understanding of how to find those customers.

One of my companies is a lead generation platform for the construction industry, www.weconnectconstruction.co.uk. We provide leads to the construction industry on tens of thousands of projects throughout the north west.

This type of data is invaluable to companies who push for proactive marketing, they will receive these leads then make a call or visit the site. They will then introduce their company and try to tender on a project. In order to win the contract, they will need to be the best price/company to win the job, this may need to go through a few departments within a company before finally securing the contract, but these contracts will be big.

As a company you need to work out how you will acquire those vital leads, the value of those leads, are they hot or cold? What cost can you put on these, how many people can you put on the contract for these leads? The logistics of working with the sub-contractors and the supply chain to produce the best work you can for your client. These steps are imperative to making sure you tender for a project successfully, ultimately turning over a healthy profit.

The construction industry is a highly competitive market and having the right contacts to communicate with on the shortest notice is incredibly helpful to scoring a contract. Marketing is the most important tool that a business can capitalise on if pitched to the correct people. Using both proactive and reactive marketing will allow you to have a maximum outreach to potential clients, opening the most opportunities possible for dealing in a profitable and overall beneficial contract for your business. This power is especially useful in construction as you may have to compete with more reputable contractors if you plan to do larger jobs, so making a name for yourself through contacts is vital. The aim of advertising is to get your name on people’s mind, so they reference you when they think of a possible contractor. By being able to contact as many people as possible you will be able to observe stable or even rapid growth a lot more efficiently than previously possible. Especially with huge cultural shifts to social media networking allowing for instantaneous communication with millions of clients. This would have been unimaginable even just a decade ago. So, if there was ever a time to start advertising your business, the time is now.

Thank you for reading my explanation of proactive and reactive marketing. It’s important to mix and match between the two but these are the main methods for getting your name out there. Make sure to be active with your marketing and that your name is circulating in the target sector all the time, that’s the best way to catch clients attention.

What does the word feminist mean to you?

Business start-up tips

By | Construction Projects

Let’s be frank. A business isn’t official until trading has begun. Stop thinking about the paperwork and do it, the process isn’t anything to fear and it’s the first true step of making your dream business a reality.

Make sure to do your research, you need to know your market and the competitors within the sector. Have a strong understanding of your projections, and your processes. Study the market and ensure there is demand for another company. Look at the companies you aspire to be like and research how long it took them to get to the position they’re in now and the steps they took to do so. This is exactly what I did with my business We Connect Construction, I found a market that wasn’t saturated, and I felt like I could contribute healthily to the sector.

Stay realistic. No businesses are a success over night, everything takes work. There will be times when you want to give up, there will be times when you struggle to sleep at night, you will wonder why you’re doing this and if you’ve made the right decision, it won’t be easy. Understand the struggles you could go through before starting and prepare yourself mentally for when/if things go wrong. You must stick with it, and you must be confident that everything will turn out ok. This again is something that I stuck with when I started my magazine Design and Build UK, which now has a readership of 200,000 after years of growing an audience.

Have a strong and realistic business plan, I would always suggest seeking help from an accountant or book keeper with this. It’s really useful for your targets and keeping check of where you thought you should be at this point and where you actually are. We tend to be optimistic when we are running a business so you will probably find that your projections are on the generous side. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but don’t expect to be constantly on track with these, just keep going until you reach your goal, pacing is important for a stable business.

If you happen to be in the position where you are able to employ staff, ensure that they are the right choice. They will be the core of your business, and, with the right choice, will ultimately be able to help you succeed. Surround yourself with people who have experience in business. If you don’t know anyone, try joining a business club or using linked in. You could even ask people in your town running small businesses such as a shop keeper. (I got most of my business advice off of a butcher) people in business love to see other people grafting and becoming successful, so they are normally more than happy to help and advise you.

Think about your sales and marketing process in great detail, every business needs sales, know your target audience and the optimal way to reach them, ideally have experience or expertise in the industry you are intending to start your company in. This will help you make contacts and give you an idea of how other people in the industry are getting their sales.

There is a lot of merit in social media, I would recommend doing all you can to improve yours, ask friends and family to help you with your business through exposure. This helps you build brand awareness. Have a social media strategy in place for when you begin your company.

You need to understand that you can’t know and control everything within your company, don’t try to work within the company and on the company at the same time. It’s not possible to do every job yourself, know at what point you will have to take on people to help you out and what role you’ll be getting other people to do for you.

In the past year, I have been working on my new business We Connect Construction. Even though some of my other businesses have been running for a decade now, I still experience the same hardships of trying to make sure my business takes off. Starting up is by far the hardest part of making a successful business, I’m saying that from experience. But if you persevere and believe in your choices, you’re a lot more likely to succeed than fail. It’s always great to see other companies grow into a success, so if you ever need more help on how to develop your company, feel free to contact me at michaela@weconnectconstruction.co.uk . I wish you the best of luck for the future of your business!


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