Small Business Advice | Networking – Mum’s the Boss

This week I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of women entrepreneurs in Bedford.  The networking group is called  and it was created to support and network mums in business, and its growing rapidly.  As a mum of three I’m really passionate about how much better, not to mention how exciting life can be for everybody, when you’re in the driving seat.

My talk was on how important it is to have an overall vision, not only for your business but also for your personal life, and how having a big vision accompanied by big juicy goals focuses the mind.

At the start of Tots to Travel, I remember receiving some business advice that encouraged me to think small, so I did.  I went about creating a business with a limiting brand and, perhaps more worryingly, a limiting mindset. 

However, I’ve changed all that now!  My baby friendly holiday business has a 5 year vision, big, juicy goals and a planned exit strategy.  With a 3 or 5 year vision in place you can then work backwards and figure out exactly what it is you need to do today to make your vision a reality.  Everything falls into place then.

Sam, one of the founders from Mums the Boss filmed me afterwards using a nifty Flip.  Here it is…

Generally, women approach their businesses lacking the conviction and the confidence to make them fly. However, with a bit of support and encouragement I believe women – and particularly mums – make excellent business leaders and perhaps more importantly, fabulous role models for the next generation.  I know from the feedback that I’ve had that there were more than a few mums who left with a new found bounce in their step and a grander vision in mind!  Go for it!



Team Tots! Managing a remote team is a team effort!

One of the (many) challenges that we face with our fast growing and increasingly international family travel business is how we train and communicate with our team of remote workers without losing the essence of what makes our business different and special.

Our safe, genuinely family friendly holiday cottages and villas are inspected by my team of mums to make sure that they are somewhere that you would actually want to take your small children.  Scaling this core belief up has been a challenge!  In the early days I darted around Europe myself, visiting houses, talking to houseowners and conducting risk analysis surveys but it quickly became clear that this limited our growth potential.
wendy shand remote working

Building up a team
The next step was to build up a team of British mums – based in the UK, France, Italy, Spain and Portugal – who are trained by us to vet the properties.  We now have 20 ladies based all over Europe.  With the exception of our two day training programme, we seldom meet but we work hard and have sytems in place to make sure that we’re all on the same bus. The next step is to put in place an ongoing training and mentoring programme for all our existing agents.  Our approach has evolved over time and we need to be better at sharing these changes.  For example I have filmed a sales package using my Flip which I intend to use as part of this ongoing training along with webinars and teleconferencing.  All this needs to be automated so that our team can do at their own pace.

Providing the tools
Recently we have implemented an automated online training package that follows on from the two days spent here in the UK.  This has helped to ensure that each team member maintains their momentum and gets off to a flying start.  Within this package there are tasks, support emails, telephone calls and mentoring teleconferences to back up their initial training.  So far this has been a great success.

Middle Managing
Since our team is now quite big, we have appointed a team leader.  Penny is based in the Charente region of France and it is her job to recruit, support and co-ordinate the team.  We use an online package called Assembla which helps us with tasking, acts as a portal for all our documents and is vital to keeping track of what everybody is up to.

Keeping in Touch
The team mostly communicate via our Yahoo forum.  Here they can post their experiences, ask questions, feel supported and feel part of something bigger and more exciting.  It is also an opportunity for us to share information with the team, press news, award announcements, new ideas and so on.  This is a buzzy little world!  Email is also really important and I’m still a big fan of picking up the phone.  We are increasingly using teleconferencing and I see that we will do this more and more as we grow.

People Power
Without doubt recruiting the right people in the first place is key.  We need people who are self starters and have the get up and go to get involved!  For our part, we profile better, recruit better, train better and have the systems in place to make it work.  All in all, we’re getting better!

We still have plenty to do and I’d love to hear how other business owners manage their remote teams!  Do post a comment and perhaps we can learn together?

Warm regards


Putting it into Practice: Flip-ping brilliant video streaming

I’m constantly looking for ways to make my family travel blog more interesting, more appealing, more educational and crucially more useful…. and my latest trick… is to add video!  From customer testimonials to tours around our safe, family friendly holiday properties to a quick sneak preview about what’s in my hand luggage; I’ve come up with stacks of fun and interesting ways to use my little Flip camera.

Once I got going, I was surprised by how readily the ideas came and more importantly how easy it is to do.  I now take my camera with me wherever I go – award ceremonies, media events, holidays, work trips and so on – and I film at every opportunity. Below is one I made recently!

I’ve realised that there are lots of different types of people out there, all with different learning styles and my job is put content on my blog that is appealing to everybody. By using a mix of written blogs, video, podcasts and so on I am also making my blog more varied which is critical if you have an avid following.

The other point about video is that it really gives my blog a personality. The reason social networking is so successful is that readers get a real feel for the character behind the business and there is nowhere to hide when it comes to video! I don’t worry too much that my videos look a bit homespun – I think that that’s what makes them so powerful.

When I have a piece of video that I think I can use, I upload it to You Tube, a process that takes a few minutes. I tap in some of our keywords into the Keyword box on You Tube which helps to optimize the footage. You Tube provides me with a piece of code which I then paste into my blog… that takes another 5 to 10 minutes so the whole process is quicker than writing a blog from scratch. I can then publicise my video blog entry on Twitter and Facebook in the normal way and keep track of how many people have watched it.

Et voila! A quick ‘n’ easy blog entry.