Julie Suttle from JS Project Management - Parents in Business
Welcome back to our first series about parents in business.
In these blog posts, we will introduce you to the achievements of wonderful parents who also run their own businesses. We hope you enjoy finding out about them and what they do.
Name: Julie Suttle
Business Name: JS Project Management
Nature of business: Project Management - Construction and refurbishment, commercial, retail and residential.
Years in Business: 7.5 with my own business but 25 years in the industry
Tell us about yourself..
I am a mum of 1 plus 2 step children, I grew up in leafy Surrey where I lived with my Parents and my younger sister. We lived in the same house all throughout my childhood (my parents are still there today !). Both my parents were from poorer backgrounds. My dad was not the best student in his school days but went into apprenticeship and continued to further his knowledge throughout his working life. Mum was working in the Insurance industry until she had me ! Then went on to support Dad with the admin and accounts (having my own business now this is not to be underestimated), as well as all the running round for school and clubs we attended and the majority of the housework. I saw the trials and tribulations, stresses and appreciation my dad went through as a self employed Company owner, through recession and out . On the other side, I also saw his passion for his work, his way of communicating with others and the pride he had when the jobs he worked on had completed. It was a family joke that whenever we went anywhere in the car dad would say ‘look to your left, that’s one of my jobs’ , or ‘if I just turn down this road you can see one of my jobs’. I do believe his work ethic and passion for his job made me determined to find a job I was passionate about and would enjoy too.
I took a year off after my A levels partly as I didn’t truly know what I wanted to do. I then attended London College of Fashion, completing an HND in ‘Fashion and Finance’ which led to me being offered a job after a work placement with ‘Oasis Stores Ltd’. I worked my way up and across 2 departments in the 5 years I remained with the Company, then moved into a Project Manager Role for ‘Tie Rack Ltd’ where I was involved in the ever changing world of retail unit fit outs in airports and stations in the UK and Europe. After 6 years, personal circumstances meant I moved to Spain for almost 3 years where I was Managing Director of an Estate agent.. slight swerve in industries, but still with a link to construction on the new build property side.
Recession hit Spain with an almighty crash in 2009 which is when I took my first foray into self employment. We set up ‘Spanish Holidays Direct’ which was collaboration between the company owner I worked for in Spain, his IT lady and myself. A more people friendly website for holiday bookings that would link into the Estate agency. This didn’t really take off, but had given me a taste of managing my own time, however was not going to pay the immediate bills. I returned to working at Tie rack Ltd after a short stint at LV insurance, where I stayed until returning from maternity leave. I quickly realised that the corporate world and the position I held would not give me a very good life / work balance so I put some feelers out to see if any of my previous contacts would be interested in me as a self employed, independent PM. I spoke with one of the contractors I had worked with for a number of years and we came to an agreement. I left the ‘safety’ of PAYE in December 2013.
Tell us about your business..
Having set up ‘JS Project Management’ in Dec 2013, I worked with a number of contacts from the past and through word of
mouth and recommendation by year 2 I was working full time hours, but on my own terms.
Covering all aspects of Retail, Commercial and Residential Project Management. I specialise in Travel Locations (airports & stations), as well as Grade 2 listed building. I pride myself both in the long standing relationships I have with Retailers, landlords, contractors and building control and the delivery of the Projects.
In November 2014 myself and my Partner also set up our own business ‘Joint Interiors Ltd’ which is a family run fit out and refurbishment business. Believe me , keeping 2 businesses running as well as the work itself, relationship building within new projects and sectors and school / club runs keeps me very busy. You can often find me with my laptop still on at 11pm with Made in Chelsea on the TV in the background, catching up on paperwork.
How do you balance work, personal life and parenthood?
I am separated from my sons dad so I plan work where I can on the weekend he is with his dad, and work in the evenings to catch up on working hours lost. Most of the people I work with have had kids themselves and there is an element of my business that fortunately can be done out of working hours. I try to arrange my site visits on days when my son is at a school club so I get an hour longer to get back .
The key to creating the work / life balance is planning ….. my company moto is one which Sir Winston Churchill stated ‘He who fails to plan is planning to fail’.
I write a to do list each evening and highlight the priority jobs as well as keeping a weekly to do project plan in my note book.
What did you find was the hardest challenge about having a business and how did you overcome it?
I struggled for a while with this. I like to be in control of things and letting others help is not so easy when its your child and your business.
I have learnt to be honest with my clients and often tell them I can’t make that meeting as I am on the school run at that time. More often than not I am arranging the meetings so I pop them in everyone’s diaries at a time that suits me and that I know may suit other working parents in the group.
Planning your time and saying no (which I still struggle with !) is key.
Also, a dedicated place in your home, if you work from home, where you can shut the ‘work’ stuff away is a must.
How did you find home schooling your children during the first lockdown?
My businesses were hugely affected by the first Covid lockdown and therefore I had 80% of my usual working time to be able to home school my son and my 2 step children. I loved it !!! However, once my business started to pick up again and the schools remained closed I did find it hard to make those necessary calls while trying to explain what an expanded noun was , or having 2 laptops on Bitesize telling different stories in the background. I was lucky (if you can call it that) that my partner had no work for a while either so between us we managed the kids schooling , house stuff and work.
What are your top three tips for parents who are thinking to start their own business or have just started their business?
1. Plan but don’t plan too far ahead – write a very basic to do list each day showing clearly the hours you will be working that day (eg between school runs).
2. Set intentions rather than goals – goals are black and white, intentions are more of a mind set, don’t try to be everything to everyone.
3. Use Facebook groups and playground chats to tell other mums about your work, you don’t realise how many people you know and the power of word of mouth is huge.