This week I’m excited to introduce Kim to my Parents in Business series, who is a partner at Allcott Associates; a firm of chartered surveyors and structural engineers. I have loved featuring Kim on the blog today who shares her business story after adopting their two children in 2018. Kim realised quickly after this that her current career path wasn’t quite right for her and her family, which gave Kim the opportunity to join her husband at Allcott Associates, where Kim now works on the business development, strategy and marketing.
It’s a really insightful story, sharing how she has switched careers, which I think a lot of us can relate to once becoming a family. The team certainly sound like they have flexibility at the heart of what they do, allowing them to be with their children at critical points of the day – school run and bedtime, which I feel is hugely important.
Do have a read of Kim’s story below and her top tips for making your own business work for you.
Tell me a little bit about you, your background, and your business?
My husband Tim and I met years ago on a night out in Birmingham – I don’t think either of us thought we would meet our future spouse, let alone business partner, on that night out! Thirteen years later, we now live in Oxfordshire. We’re parents to two children that we adopted in 2018, and we’re partners in Allcott Associates, our firm of chartered surveyors and structural engineers.
Allcott Associates provides residential and commercial building survey services across England and Wales. Most of the people who come to us are buying a house and want a building survey to make sure that they are fully aware of the property’s condition and any structural issues. We also offer a wide variety of other building consultancy services, and we have projects ranging from large commercial structural designs to listed and heritage building conservation surveys.
What motivated you to set up your own business?
Just over a decade ago, after a few years serving in the army, Tim decided that he would rather survey houses. He went back to university, retrained, and along with our other business partner Matthew Baker, took over a small independent surveying practice.
Ever since Tim took charge of the firm we’d talked about working together, but initially my career was heading down a different path. I was studying for a PhD in cancer sciences when I met Tim, and after graduating I pursued a career in medical communications, developing articles and other communications materials for pharmaceutical companies. While it was really interesting work, it was a high pressure environment and involved long hours and lots of travelling. That all meant that I didn’t have much time to get involved with the surveying business.
When our two girls came along, I soon realised that going back to my old job wasn’t going to be right for me or my family. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to put the kind of effort that I used to into my old job if I was going to have enough energy left over to parent in the way I wanted to, and vice versa. I was extremely lucky in that I had an alternative career path ready and waiting for me, in the form of Allcott Associates. I jumped at the chance of joining the company to work on business development, strategy and marketing. I built up my hours slowly, while the kids built up their hours in nursery. Now the kids are in school full-time, and I have a job that allows me to work from home, work flexibly, use my existing skills and learn new ones.
How do you balance or juggle your business around family commitments?
Work–life balance is central to our company ethos. Like us, a lot of our employees have families, and we don’t want anyone to feel that they have to put work before spending time with their children (or any other life commitments that they have). Our days are flexible and our surveyors all work from home. Tim is out on the road most days, but leaves after rush hour and is always home in time for the kids’ dinner and bed time. Many of our surveyors do the same, so that they can be available for school drop-off and pick-up. It does mean that there is often work to do in the evenings, but we wouldn’t trade that flexibility for anything.
We can take our work with us, so we are often able to get out and about as a family to the countryside near our house, or further afield for holidays. But, while it can be advantageous to be able to work from anywhere, it can be a bit of a double-edged sword. There’s no such thing as a ‘get away from it all’ holiday for us – we need to be available at all times and rarely a day goes by when we don’t have to jump on the laptop when we’re away. And of course, we’re always at the end of the phone if we’re needed. Tim’s even carried out business calls from a ski lift in the past! However, it’s really fulfilling to be working for ourselves and we have a lot more family time than most, so we’re not complaining!
What do you view as your biggest success since setting up your business?
Over the years the company has grown from just Tim and his Dad to a team of 30. The rate of growth is increasing too – we’ve taken on 8 people since March and feel extremely fortunate to have been able to continue expanding the company during these strange and difficult times. As well as developing a fantastic team of people that we’re proud to work with, customer satisfaction is at the heart of what we do. We’ve had some brilliant reviews from clients; being able to deliver a great service and provide helpful advice during the moving process – which is often a very stressful time – is really rewarding.
What are your top tips for anyone who is thinking about setting up their own business?
A good support network is so important. However much you plan and schedule work, if it’s your own business there will be times when you need to change your plans and put in extra hours. If you have friends and family nearby who can offer some impromptu childcare that can be a huge help and relieve a lot of stress!
As your business develops it’s a good idea to plan flexibility into your days and weeks. If your child gets ill and needs time off school, can you set aside some time in the evening for work, or arrange for them to head off with someone from the aforementioned support network at the weekend to buy you some time. Conversely, remember that you only answer to yourself and you don’t need to feel guilty about taking spontaneous time off if the opportunity arises – chances are you’ll have more than made up for the time already!
Thank you so much Kim for taking part in my series. It’s been a pleasure to feature you and I wish you all the best for the future.
If you like what you’re reading and would love to be part of my Parents in Business series just drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or have a nose at some of the other businesses I have featured in the series: Mum & You, Marienne Pachonick Architects, and The Practical Planning Company.