Interview with Jane Johnson – Founder & MD of Feel
Successful in her chosen career, Jane established Feel when she found her options limited when seeking a new role that would allow her to continue to develop career wise and also offer her the flexibility she desired for her family life.
Feel is now established as “the only recruitment consultancy in PR, marketing and communications that helps candidates and clients to discover the benefits of flexible working. Feel looks for quality over quantity; perfection over presentee-ism”.
Describe your business – what do you do?
I am the MD of Feel, a recruitment company that exists to keep women in the workforce, in jobs commensurate with their experience and qualifications, after they have children. Our clients range from large international corporates to smaller SMEs. We focus on jobs in Marketing, PR and Corporate Communications because these sectors are dominated by women at entry level but then haemorrhage talent once the women have children and need some kind of flexibility.
What gave you the idea to start up your business?
After 8 months on maternity leave I went back as a Director at HSBC and shared a job as head of internal communications. It was fantastic. We really made it work and kept our stakeholders very happy. But I’d been there for 5 years and started to think about where I wanted to go next with my career. I had a degree from Oxford, 20 years’ experience in Corporate Communications, and with a 12-month-old baby I knew I was going to still need a job with an employer who understood I would need some kind of flexibility for a few years to come. There was not a single recruiter who was able to help me or start a conversation about where to next with my career.
I just couldn’t believe it, when I was talking about a sector that is overrun with talented women. So, I left the bank and set up my own recruitment business to help women in my position.
Which aspects of your business did you need help with? Where did you get that help?
Pretty much every aspect! From negotiation, legal, changing industry, business development, social media, you name it, I needed some advice. I was driven by my vision of what needs to change rather than a big business plan. I have had so much help from so many amazing people, and I am extremely grateful.
If you’re thinking of going it alone, just build your network – and especially if you’re female, build your own girl gang. Women do business differently from men and there aren’t millions of people ahead of you to follow. So, share your ideas, make the most of every opinion you get, and you’ll naturally find your group of trusted advisors.
What is the most rewarding thing about having your own business?
Being your own boss, not having to go through layers and layers of sign for sign off and approval, so you can react and respond in a truly agile way to what is happening in your business world.
What has been the biggest challenge?
The same thing, is also my biggest challenge. I am a very reactive, gut-instinct person and not having that group of colleagues or management structure that challenge your decisions can mean you sometimes make the wrong decision or spend a lot of time on something that wasn’t so smart. But you learn as you go, and you learn very quickly from every mistake.
If you could go back and give yourself some advice what would it be?
Your business is neither made nor broken in a week. It takes time and a lot of very, very hard work. If we have a good, or bad, month it can be tempting to think that’s your fate sealed but it isn’t. You have good months and bad months – you just need the good to be more frequent than the bad to get to the end of the year.
What are your plans for the future?
We are always looking to grow the client base and we need to get much more focused and structured on that. We’re planning to bring on a couple more people to help do that, all working on flexible hours and from any location. I’m also starting a blog where I can share all that I know about finding flexible work from CV writing and using LinkedIn to great effect, to how to ask for flexible work and where to look for the flexible jobs. We get so many candidates applying and we just can’t find jobs for them all. When I look at a CV or sometimes even their introductory email, I can usually see how they could make immediate improvements. By sharing this information though the blog, that might mean they can find jobs elsewhere even if we can’t help them. At the moment we’re a group of over 1.3k working mums on Facebook, called Careering into Motherhood – if anyone is keen to sign up.
To find out more about Jane and Feel…