Things you learn when your husband is your business mentor

Growing up in South Africa I always thought of people who owned their own companies as renegades. Risk takers and daredevils who Make Things Happen For Themselves. I’m not that kind of person. My parents weren’t either. We were the “It’s safer to work for a boss. Even safer if you have a government job. Can’t go wrong working for someone else, my dear.” type of family.

But that was then. Now, many years later, I’m married to a fellow South African who started his own company in the UK three years ago. He also grew up in a family adverse to risk. And guess what. I went ahead and started my own company too! I became Director of Natasja King Coaching Ltd on 3 September 2020. That’s a big deal.

(Before I go further, I have to clarify that I have not yet quit my fulltime “working for someone else” job. Natasja King Coaching needs to grow before I can call it quits, but it’s still a big deal to my a-regular-pay-check-is-the-safer-option mentality. Small steps. (I often coach myself and my clients.))

So what made me think I could be a daredevil risktaker? Why do I suddenly want to make my money by Making Things Happen For Myself? Because I watched my husband go from employee to business owner, and be much happier than he was working for The Man. I want a piece of that action!

I was with John when he made the jump from fulltime “safe” job to setting up his consultancy, John King BIM Solutions. Watching him, I learned about valueing yourself and sticking to your rates. I learned about the stresses that come with owning your own company. Also, the admin of accounting, VAT, Corporation Tax and the shock when you realise how much of your income you have to pay over to Her Majesty. I’ve also seen the worry when business was slow, but even then, the worry wasn’t as bad as the childhood Natasja had imagined working for yourself would be. John sets his hourly rate high enough that we have our living expenses covered even if nothing else is coming in. It just makes business sense to have money in the pot for when business is slow (or in case of a global pandemic!).

Lockdown, and working from home together for the past six months, proved to me what I had always suspected – that John is a nice guy who knows his stuff. I was able to listen to him when he spoke to his clients. He is always calm and respectful, and I can tell that he knows what he’s talking about. He also manages to turn clients, into friends quickly.

The most valuable lesson I learned from my business mentor: your rates reflect how much you value yourself, your level of expertise and the quality of the work you do. Don’t under value yourself, but also don’t under deliver. In fact, give a little extra.

Another lesson John taught me was to chill out. He kept me in check when I wanted to rush ahead with the millions of plans I have for NKC. When I was four modules away from qualifying as a coach, I started to finalise my website, registered the company and got a business bank account. I started thinking of how I would get clients, what a newsletter would be useful for, the contents of my free email course. I could easily have rushed ahead with these things. In his trademark sensible and calm way, he advised me to make a list of all my ideas, but to focus on finish the course first! (My husband often coaches me.)

The most impressive thing about JKBS is that John has never done any marketing. I was the webmaster (I use the term very loosely) for his website, and we thought it had to be perfect, with lots of blog posts and content to get the clients. Not so. He doesn’t have an Instagram account, he doesn’t hang around on LinkedIn all day and barely has a personal Facebook account. Every single consulting client he has ever had came to him because they had worked together before, or were referred to him by someone who had worked with John. John just keeps on doing what he loves and that continues to bring him the clients. Easy.

What gets you the clients, what makes clients come back to you, the thing that makes clients value you so much that they offer you jobs in their company, is that you provide an excellent service and you’re a pleasure to work with.

True, clients may want to push you on your rates now and again, but that’s just business. You can always come to a compromise (like the time John agreed to work 10% fewer hours per month, rather than dropping his rates by 10%) but your rates are what they are because you have a company to run (just as your client has) and if you add value – not just do the job, but add something special – the rate you are charging, is the correct rate. 

My mentor has been running his own company for three years. My coaching company is only a month old, but when you sleep with your business mentor, it’s only a matter of time until you’re just as successful as he is.