Confessions of a Career Loving Mum

I am a wife and mum to three amazing children, a girl who just turned six and a set of twins who are 3 years 6 months. Beyond that, I am also a marketer for a multinational company. My job involves a lot of travel that takes me away from my family a lot of times.

About two years ago, I accepted a work assignment that moved us to another country, away from our extended family and support structure. While I love my family and I am fully cognizant of the fact that I am the only mother my children have, the truth is, I also love my career!

Many women in my position struggle trying to balance their love for these two things. In this article, you’ll find some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years as a working mum.

 

Be kind to yourself

As mothers, we often have the tendency to judge ourselves based on what our children can or cannot do. I remember, when my twins were younger, I once overheard a mother speaking of how her 10-month-old baby was already potty trained and slept throughout the night.

At the time, my twins who were near twice that age were not potty trained and barely slept throughout a whole night. For a moment, I felt that I was not doing something right – maybe if I spent more time with them it would be different.

Then it occurred to me that I am not in competition with anyone and neither are my children. With patience and at their own pace, my kids would soon figure out how to use the potty and sleep through the night. Most importantly, I needed to be kind to myself.

 

Use the right words

Having often heard words such as “full-time mom” being, I have always wondered what it really meant. Did it make me a “part-time mom” because I was away working for eight hours?

The truth is, despite being a mum who goes to work, I am also still a full-time mother to my children. Yes, I don’t spend the majority of my days with them, however, I still fully embrace my full-time motherhood responsibilities just as I do in my career.

 

Block the naysayers

My first business trip was when my twins were four months old. Luckily enough for me, my mother came and looked after my twins for the four nights I was away. However, when I got back, one not so gentle colleague cornered me and asked me what kind of mother I was to go away and leave such young kids.

This experience and many others taught me early on to learn to block such people. I had a conscious choice to be both a mother and to continue work. Therefore, I knew what I was doing and wouldn’t let others judge me for my choices.

 

It’s okay to ask for help

People and society, in general, will always have opinions of what you “should” do and should not do when it comes to your children. You should do X by yourself when it comes to your children you should do Y and not the nanny.

There was a time when I would do everything that needed to be done for my children by myself. Not only was this not sustainable, but I soon realized that I was no superwoman and had to learn to ask for help and accept it when it was offered.

Don’t give in to pressures that say you have to do everything – it’s okay to ask for help.

 

Build a network with other working moms

Sometimes, it’s easy to think that you are the only going through what you are going through. Personally, talking with other working moms helped me realize that I was not the only one going through stuff.

Getting together and sharing what we were going through as working mothers truly helped. We were able to share notes on how we were handling certain situations.

Inspired by this, I created the Mum’s in Stilettos community where through social media and the blog, working mum’s come together to share their lessons. Such platforms encourage you that you are not alone and that you can manage being a working mother successfully.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

9 Business Lessons from My First Year of Business

Like many people, I was faced with the dilemma of deciding whether or not I needed to attend business school to start my business as I had no experience. However, I finally decided to be brave and start my business without any experience.

In my one year since starting, I have learned the following lessons.


1. Never take things too personally.

When operating with people, it’s often very easy to make arguments, criticism and other relations personal. However, if you want to succeed in the business world, you need to remember that at the end of the day, how you deal with your customers and partners is strictly business and not personal.

2. Separate your business life from your personal life.

When you have a friendly relationship with your clients, it is very easy for the lines to get blurred. Sometimes, this can end up in sticky situations where one party does not fulfill their end of the deal. To avoid these situations, it is important to set the lines clear between your business and your personal life. You need to maintain a work-life balance.

3. Be clear about your job description.

As a service based business, one of my ethos is going beyond and above for my clients. Sometimes, this results in taking up certain duties (aka unpaid labor) that are not part of my job description. This can get overwhelming.

Therefore, it is important to be clear about ALL the services that your offer from the onset. If necessary, you should draw up contracts that reflect your services and your limits.

4. Review your prices regularly.

You might be doing yourself a great disservice if in a bid to come across as affordable you under-price yourself. It is important to review your prices as often as possible. Especially when you’re in an industry like social media where your responsibilities are flexible and subject to change.

5. Be accountable.

In the absence of a business partner or a co-founder, you need to learn how to hold yourself accountable. This can be as easy as setting small, medium and long-term goals and working toward them. These goals are important to give you a sense of direction and to keep you in check.

6. Toot your horn.

One of the few things I still struggle with is putting myself out there as I’d like for my business to speak for itself. But the game has changed and the internet is over saturated. The only way for you to be noticed or to come across as a thought-leader or an expert in your field is if you put yourself out there.

There are no two ways about it. Do you want to be the go-to person for a particular service? Put yourself out there and let people know.

7. Have confidence in yourself.

When you are running a business, you’re gonna need all the confidence you can muster for the tough days ahead. You will face people who don’t believe in your dreams and your plans may even fail. It is important to keep believing in yourself even when others don’t.

8. Find time to improve your skills.

Work/Life can be overwhelming sometimes and before you know it, three months have gone by without you learning anything new. In this ever-changing world, there’s a need to constantly improve your skills.

Thankfully we have the internet at our disposal but finding the time can be a challenge. To fix this, make a schedule maybe during the public holidays and learn something that would directly improve your daily activities.

9. Customer service is key.

Just because you’re not selling a product to a consumer doesn’t mean customer service is any less important. You’re selling services. Treat your clients with courtesy. Referrals are still king.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

 

5 Work-Life Balance Tips For New Entrepreneurs

You know that popular quote that says that the first year of business for any entrepreneur particularly a solopreneur is usually the hardest? Well, nothing can be further from the truth.

What they also didn’t tell you is that in that first year, in order to get things rolling, you might lose yourself to your business. This also includes but is not limited to your family, friends, network and social life.

Depending on your perspective, this might seem like an investment in the long run. After all, the first five years are the most pivotal point of any business. After that, it’s supposed to get easier.

But does that mean you have to wait until your business has fully taken off to get your life and have a semblance of work-life balance?I think not.

Here are five simple work-life balance tips that I have found works for new entrepreneurs.

Separate your business from your personal life.

This might seem like a walk in the park but believe me, it is easier said than done. In a bid to be always available, accessible and offer excellent customer service, the thin line between your business and your personal life might be blurred.

So, it is key to separate them. This can be as simple as getting a different phone/WhatsApp number for your business. This way, you’re not tempted to respond to messages that are not urgent outside work hours.

Determine your work hours.

As much we live on the internet, it can be tough for internet-enabled businesses to switch off for the day but it’s important for work-life balance.

Entrepreneurs are known to work around the clock but by determining your work hours you are giving your business structure and leaving out time for yourself and your life.

Make plans ahead

It’s one thing for you as an entrepreneur to not have a social life, it’s another thing entirely to not make plans outside your business.

The great thing about making plans ahead and following through with your family and friends is that you’re completely distracted and not tempted to work. No matter how little it might seem initially, it means that out of your super busy schedule, you are making time for your loved ones and that is one of the keys to a balanced life.

So, draw up a special calendar and slot in some dates and fun activities for the next three months. This gives your friends enough time ahead to prevent a clash of schedules.

(SLA TIP: Google Calendar is your plug)

Observe public holidays

As an entrepreneur, it’s so easy to become a workaholic. But as much as strong work ethics are admirable, it’s important to know when to take a break to re-energize and avoid burning out.

One of the most simple ways you can achieve this especially when you don’t have the luxury of taking vacations yet is by observing public holidays.

Turn off your work phone and emails. If possible, stay off social media and cultivate a habit of resting.

Learn how to rest

Everyone has their definition of rest but one thing is certain, it does not involve work. One of the key things I learned over the Christmas holidays is the ability to sit down and do absolutely nothing.

As difficult as it was initially particularly for someone that has worked all year, by the time I got into the state of inactivity and idleness, it was refreshing to truly rest.

Try it and see!

As a compliment, you can also find passive non-work related activities (such as listening to audiobooks) to pass the time.


Got some advice for new business owners and entrepreneurs? Share your advice with us here.

Just Omomo Ibe: Rule as a Boss, Rock like a Mum, Slay as a Wife

Business strategist and work- life balance expert, Just Omomo Ibe, is helping women create a balance between their work and personal life, so they can chase their dreams and make money while at it. She also helps individuals identify the various opportunities in their business to make more profit.

Just Omomo Ibe has been in the banking sector for over seven years and is the founder of  The Just Ibe Network; thus living her dreams while been an employee. She is involved in speaking engagements, coaching calls, online courses and business consulting for SME’s.

Recently, she launched a Youtube show which focuses on motivation and strategies from experts in various fields, the channel is aimed at further helping her target market achieve success in their life and business.

 

It's an act of self sabotage to neglect your dreams because you have a job Click To Tweet

Tell us about The Just Ibe Network

The Just Ibe Network is a group of company that comprises our consulting firm, training and mentorship platform, it also includes an online training academy and media arm. At The Just Ibe Network we pride ourselves in delivering superior quality trainings, coaching and consulting for our esteemed clients both offline and online.

What market research did you carry out in the course of starting your business, and how did you go about it?

 

The first research was that of my competitors, I needed to find out what my competitors were offering and what gap they are not filling. This helped me make informed decisions as to how best to penetrate the market. A lot of businesses offer homogeneous products, therefore market research helps you understand how best to position your business in a way that not only meets the needs of your consumers but also positions your business as authentic.

Innovation keeps you in the business long after your competitors have gone Click To Tweet

What challenges have you faced so far in the setup of your business?

The greatest challenge I faced in setting up my business was creating time to actually execute my plans; creating and fine tuning strategies that would keep me relevant in the market place today and always. Innovation keeps you in business long after your competitors have gone, so you must constantly innovate.

What are your launch plans once your business registration is completed?

Honestly a business registration isn’t stopping any major launch of my business, as all facets of my businesses are in full gear at the moment. The registration  would just allow me operate a corporate account in the designated banks. So my take is it doesn’t matter if your business name is ready or not, keep adding value to your ideal clients and grow your business regardless.
It doesn't matter if your business name is ready or not; keep adding value to your ideal clients and growing your business Click To Tweet

What inspired the book ‘Rule as a Boss, Rock like a Mum and Slay as a Wife?

Rule as a Boss, Rock as a Mum, Slay as a Wife is a book dedicated to helping women create a work life- balance.
Last year I started my career in public speaking, leveraging on several online platforms and offline avenues, despite been a full time banker, wife and mum.
So people started asking me how I was doing all I was doing, so conveniently. I started documenting steps I have taken that helped me overcome my otherwise very tight schedule and results I achieved. This book is aimed at providing practical steps that can help women fully integrate all aspects of their lives, thus living a balanced and fulfilled life.

 What kind of investors and partnerships are necessary for your kind of business and what strategies are useful in achieving this?

Media investors are required for the talk show arm of my business, which is targeted at providing strategies that would help entrepreneurs succeed and grow in business. Corporate investors also play a major role, especially companies who have CSR projects, ours can successfully pass as a CSR project aimed at helping young and budding entrepreneurs.

Who is the one person from anywhere on the globe, you would love to interview and why?

 

The one person I would love to interview is President Barack Obama. He is the one person I look up to the most, because he is probably about the best public speaker that exists in this day and age.
If you can think it you can definitely birth it Click To Tweet

What quote resonates with your business and how does it inspire you?

We at The Just Ibe Network live by this mantra: if you can think it you can definitely birth it. So dear corporate ladies, your dreams are valid, they are your dreams for a reason, it’s an act of self sabotage to neglect your dreams because you have a job; the world needs you to live to the fullest.

Have you mastered the art of work-life balance?

Share your story, let us know more about you and your story here.


Are children the enemies of progress?

How do you balance the priorities of having a child and building an empire? Click To Tweet

Being a woman is one of the greatest privileges I feel I have been given in this life. We are all aware of the history of oppression that women have suffered in the past and the many women who fought off the oppressors and paved the way for us.

Now we delight in the possibilities and opportunities presented to us, to carve out our own destinies. I once heard someone say, “Some of us (women) have become the men we dreamt of marrying”. That is certainly an ode to all you badass females kicking down doors and handling your business. That is not to say, we don’t need our wonderful men.

Should my time upon this earth be up very soon, I will forever be proud of starting Demur and hope to be counted amongst those badass women who have kicked down doors and shaped history. I know I have started something that will forever live on.

Along with that, one other thing that I know I want to leave on this earth when my time is up, are some little Noreen’s. Some beautiful children who I can help mould into pleasant human beings who will also go on to make a significant contribution to the world during their time here. I also want to be able to chase them around whilst I’m still young and fit.

Is it selfish to want to build something first and delay starting a family? Click To Tweet

Putting your empire building on pause

Whilst I am working hard to build an empire and ensure I have all my ducks in a row, the little Noreen’s project is not an urgent one, but it’s one that’s on the agenda. Never mind the fact that I’m fast approaching 30 and should I not reproduce soon, society will be looking at me with cause for concern as if I am some strange creature. The body clock theorists do not help much either.

I am surrounded by friends and family members who have given birth in the last 2 years. Not only have I had the joy of watching these beautiful children grow, I am also a godmother to three of these children. I can certainly tell being a mother is not an easy job at all from watching these mothers raise their kids.

Being a mother to a young child is very demanding. There are many sacrifices you have to make including for some women, putting their careers on hold. If you are in employment you get your maternity leave and various allowances but when you are going at it alone, can you afford to take a year or so out of your own business?

I have a friend who has a business that has just taken off and there are opportunities lined up that will only take her business higher. However, those opportunities require her full attention to go forward and now her partner is asking for kids. She asked me, “Can you choose between having kids and taking your business forward?”

You can’t chase two rabbits at the same time that’s for sure.

The choice to take a career break and have kids or try and juggle both is a personal one. No one can choose your destiny for you, not even your partner. For me personally, I feel, if I was to have a baby in the next year or two, one is going to have to suffer. It’s either I will not be able to give my child the full attention she deserves (I really really really want a girl first by the way) or I will not be able to fully commit myself to Demur. So, I am seated here asking myself the same question as my friend, what do I want more? To some people that is an absurd question to even ponder about.

You cannot compare a baby to a business. Although to a certain extent it often feels like I have a baby already. As much as I can delegate things to other people much like leaving your baby at the babysitters, you still must make sure that the baby is looked after. You must protect your baby, you must protect the integrity of your business. I cannot go on holiday yet without worrying or checking in on Demur, just like a Mother who has left her child at home.

You can't chase two rabbits at the same time that's for sure Click To Tweet

So, can my friend say to her partner, “Baby I want a child but you are going to have to wait until I finish building my business,” When will that be though? I can certainly understand why some women chose not to have children at all. Oprah once said she chose not to have children because she knew it would get in the way and well look at the incredible empire she has built. There is no telling whether she would have had the same level of success had she chosen to have kids.

You can have your cake and eat it too

On the other hand, there are women who show us that you can have it all. Beyoncé had her first child when she had already created a wonderful legacy and went back to business and there is no doubt she will get right back to business after the twins.

I once read a quote by Shonda Rhimes, where she said: “Motherhood is not about shrinking down, it’s about showing your kids how to be a powerful woman.” For Shonda Rhimes that means juggling being a mother and running her Shondaland empire. How do you balance the priorities of having a child and building an empire? Is it selfish to want to build something first and delay starting a family? Success is a long winding road, what if it takes you 10,20,30 years to get to the level of success you want, before having kids?

I’m often asked, “Why don’t you want to have children now?” and my honest answer is, “I am building privileges for my children so that when they are born they will want for nothing.” With what I am building, I hope when I have my kids I can devote all my time to them. I hope to have built Demur to a level where it can run without me and I can afford to take a maternity leave without any financial constraints. I hope to be able to attend as many sports days as possible, stay at home with my children for sick days, cook their favourite meals and sit there and listen to their long-winded storytelling. These are the joys of being a mother I want to fully commit myself to and enjoy fully.

On the other hand, I also get asked, “Why do you want to have children?” I want children because I want someone to carry on my legacy when I’m gone, although I must admit childbirth does not look like fun. The thing is I know I can have it all but perhaps not all at once. It’s more of a question of what do I want more and when do I want it? Can I afford to put my dreams on hold for a year or two to start a family? Is it wrong to think of children as a hindrance to my dreams?

Juggling post-grad studies, family, a briefcase and the world

You need a tribe of humans who will be there when you need some downtime and rebooting Click To Tweet

What exactly does this mean for us when juggling work, studies, and the world? It is a universal assumption and truth that women are the backbone of every family. We are inherently prepared for a purpose. Prepared on purpose.

What does this entail and do we have any choice in what we allow to take up space in our lives? How can we better channel our energies into affirming our loved ones, building empires and pursuing our innermost desires and dreams?

I am a Womxn. What is your superpower?

Firstly, a solid support system is necessary. You need a tribe of humans who will be there to listen, extend a helping hand and generally hold you down when you need some down time and rebooting.

It is imperative that we know where to go or when to refuel so that we can do the things we are equipped to do. Contrary to popular belief; this is not at all selfish, this is a reminder to oneself that you are a soft thing and that you should breathe. Inasmuch as life is often a juggling act, one needs to attend to the body, mind, and soul.

With a consistent circle of support, it is easy for one to focus and achieve the objectives you have set out for yourself. A great way to stay on the ball is to write up a set of goals and hold yourself accountable to them.

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A human being actually…

How does one strike the work-life-balance? Is this even an attainable feat?

This would undoubtedly be a pertinent question for working mothers as one would want to be there for the kids’ milestones whilst breaking new ground on the work front. There have been ongoing studies regarding how one can achieve all this and then some.

Ultimately, you should live a life that doesn’t require that you need a vacation from your day to day existence. Sometimes all it requires is doing the things that really get you going, like reading a book, going cycling, having tea with your mother or just having a night out with the girls and/or date night with your partner. Down time is really necessary.

You should live a life that doesn’t require that you need a vacation from your day to day existence Click To Tweet

Sometimes the lemonade may taste like medicine

It is not the end of the world, some experiences are lessons that need to be learned along the way. At the end of it all we need to make decisions about the kind of partners, colleagues and parents we want to be and stop self-sabotaging ourselves.

Facebook COO and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sheryl Sandberg shares, “If more women lean in, we can change the power structure of our world and expand opportunities.” She further states, “Shared experience forms the basis of empathy and, in turn, can spark the institutional changes we need. More female leadership will lead to fairer treatment for all women.”

Whenever in doubt, or when we question if we can lean in; we ought to remind ourselves that we are the magic and the medicine; and most importantly, we were born for such a time as this.

lemonade

We can be selfless whilst putting ourselves first, it is possible Click To Tweet

The world was never ready for your juggling prowess

We can be selfless whilst putting ourselves first, it is possible. We can be there for our humans – juggling our itinerary, to-do lists and still have an endless reservoir of love and sustenance for ourselves.We have the power to be whomever we want to be and with the assistance of a steady routine, consistency and positive affirmation, anything is within our reach.

Thus, one cannot stress enough the importance of engaging with activities which reaffirm your calling or destiny. It’s also important amidst the juggling to remember that self-care also means giving yourself permission to go through the ups and downs of life and get within your feels.

Inasmuch as it takes more than nights away or hours lost in a book; but you can certainly be assured that any dose of self-care can and will go a long way for the spirit, body, and mind. Go out there and SLAy!

Master the art of the side hustle in school

If you are an active person in school you probably have 2-3 things going on at the same time Click To Tweet

In university, it becomes important to effectively balance the primary purpose of being on campus (school) with every (and I mean every) other activity you have going on.

From my first year in school, I was always involved in multiple activities. I worked at the school’s radio as an OAP, I worked as an event host within and outside the school and the state. I worked with several magazines, writing for them, raising funds, planning events etc. I had obligations in church…phew!

In my final year, there was the main school project, several committees, freelance writing jobs, a sewing and a buying and selling business, a costume creative group, and of course church.

For a student, this is equivalent to having side jobs and a main job. In this case, the main job is school and that is your starting point. How do you juggle all of this?

1. Your primary focus will determine the spare time you have

Like it or not, love the school (course) or not, you are bound by your academic schedule. That is your 9-5. (Or 6.30-5 in some cases ).

When you have your school schedule (timetable ) down to a pat, then you can begin to fix other pieces in place.

2. Work smart,not hard.

Cliché but true. And no, I am not advocating for class skipping. It will go a long way to help balance your multitasking if you quickly figure out which classes are necessary, important, compulsory and useful.

I have seen students wait around for the next class, staying on in spite of there being no classes. They just hang around. Except when you are networking or gathering information, you don’t have that luxury.

3. Every second of the day counts.

Tick tock.

You work with time. 30 minutes is ample time to fix one or two things within a given period. You might end up wasting time if you have no idea how to effectively use the free moments you have.

4. Know those who can help you ease your burden.

In this case, the “who” will be your class representative. A cordial relationship with your class representative puts you in a position of information.

A typical day for me starts the night before. I call my class representative to ask for shifting class schedules, classes most likely not to hold, vital information and anything that will save me from making an unnecessary trip inside school.

A good school squad (if your squad is not in your class), is needed to cover up lapses in the case you get stuck conducting other business. They are your support team.

5. Follow a daily plan

My planning culture from school has helped me till this moment. I make a weekly plan, a very big one. It is colour coded to accommodate classes, meetings, jobs, church obligations, business and whatever I might have going on, including fun time (totally needed). Then I break them into smaller blocks by the days.

I then proceed to pen into my mini planner (small enough to fit into an average clutch purse) the activities that are high on the priority list outside school, because that is a constant. The list in my mini planner are the things I must complete. These are the jobs, clothes to sew, meetings, assignments, etc. You consult this planner like an Oracle on an hourly basis. Ticking off one completed task after the other can be fulfilling.

Finally getting yourself into a good head space each morning will go a long way to prepare you for your almost topsy-turvy day. Personally, for me to start a productive day, I need the following; prayer, exercise, a glass of water and a good breakfast.

NB: Priscilla’s all important bag contents for a work day

1. A tote bag (to carry everything!)

2. Bottled water

3. A fruit/chocolate bar

4. Bubblegum

5.Sunglasses

6. Slippers (for when I wear heels or loafers)

7. My planner

8. Any work related items

9. Earphones

10. Hand lotion

11. Lip gloss

12. Wipes and mini tissues

13. Pens

14. A cabman. He won’t fit into a bag but is necessary for mobility.

The Omotola way: 3 lessons on work and life

The Omotola way answers a basic concern. As a woman, the one question that has or will cross your mind is how to pull off a successful career and a happy family all at the same time. This is a question that does not seem to bother the opposite gender so much.

Anytime we see one woman doing it well, it’s always a wonder how exactly they do it. Omotola Jalade is one such woman; with 300 movies under her belt, several awards to boast of, a music career, philanthropy, four beautiful children and a happy 20-year marriage to boot.

This is definitely one woman that works hard and has got everything to show for it. In many ways, Omotola exemplifies all of the advice I have received about life from many different corners.

Let the countdown begin.

#3  Success follows hard work

For the number of movie appearances that she has made, coupled with her modelling and music career, not to mention her philanthropic activities, Omotola has had to put in a lot of man hours.

Omotola seems to prove Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule for perfecting your craft. In one article, she told how she went back to work barely a month after her first child was born.

While some might frown at this decision, it would seem Omotola knew all too well what she needed to do to get her career going.

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#2  A happy family is a woman’s real success

Omotola has never been shy about showing off her beautiful children to the world. If the support she receives from them is anything to go by, then she must be doing something right.

A major piece of advice that I have never forgotten was from one of my aunts who told me that there was no such thing as a super woman. You can’t really pull it all off without making decisions that create room for you to do so.

Omotola shared with Ndani TV that one of the ways she was able to put in the needed time in her career was because her children were in boarding schools. It gave her time to focus on her career and trained her children to be independent.

Having her children at a young age also seems to have worked to Omotola’s advantage. She also says that she is not shy about disciplining her children as she was when she was growing up. Her tough mum act has produced some exemplary children who are off doing great things even at their young age.

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#1 It matters whom you marry

‘’Your spouse can break or make you career, so it matters whom you marry.’’

One of my mentors told me that once. Omotola says that her husband has been her biggest supporter; 20 years into their union, it is no wonder she has been able to make such great strides.

Matthew Ekeinde, himself a busy and successful pilot, has not failed to give his wife the space she needs to grow in her career. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Matthew said he has never been threatened by her success.

He, in fact, met her when she had just one movie under her belt and he has seen her rise in her career.

These lessons from Omotola inspire on balancing work and life. What more lessons do you think Omotola can teach #MotherlandMoguls?

Some things have to take the back seat: Balancing work + life #SheHiveLagos

shehive lagos she leads africa the balancing act

Although undoubtedly one of the most fun events of the year, SLA’s SheHive is also one of the most informative gatherings for smart African women. This weekend, the city of Lagos pretty much exploded thanks to #SheHiveLagos.

We could wax rhetoric about all the wonderful ways you can achieve some balance, but let’s be real. At the end of the day, you need a way out of those particularly uninspiring mornings where you just want to give up on everything.

To help Motherland Moguls shatter glass ceilings across all industries without breaking a sweat, Arese Ugwu, founder of Smart Money Africa, Nimi Akinkugbe, founder & CEO of Bestman Games and Nibi Lawson, founder of The Kinky Apothecary gave the best advice ever.

You’ll need to bookmark this!

What is balance to you? What does it mean to be able to balance work with life?

Arese: I believe in balance but not in the way most people view it. I spent a lot of time in my 20s trying to find balance. But you can’t have it all put together all the time and that’s fine.

You should be able to focus on your career and not feel guilty. Learn to live with it. Find out what best works for your lifestyle.

Nimi: I have never had total balance in my life. Some things have to take the back seat and that’s totally okay.

Don’t knock yourself out on everything. You can’t insist on micro-managing everything.

Nibi: Find out how things work with you. Compartmentalize them. Do things at the time you’re able to and when at your best.

As busy women, how do you cope with handling personal responsibilities?

Arese: There are times when my daughter says, “Mummy, you work too much”. I used to feel bad but I found a way to make her understand that my working hard is tied to the quality of life I am able to provide her.

Now, while she’s doing homework, I work. This works for us as we have a routine for homework, conversations and play dates.

Nimi: Guilt trips are real. Most times, I’m not able to do school runs but I’ve found a way around that. I decided on 3 days, a week.

Support systems are also critical. You need the help of friends, siblings and a spouse (if you have one). My mother-in-law is my greatest support. She kicks in just when I need her.

Nibi: I’m not married yet and I feel guilty about not having time for my friends (and weddings).

But I find ways around these things. Priority is key.

shehive lagos the balancing actHow do you decide on what to prioritize? What models do you make use of?

Arese:  I think everyone has to learn how to say, ”No”. It’s really that important. If you have to spend all day responding to emails, DMs and tweets, you will never get work done. How then do you pay your bills?

I remember being on a board where their expectations for my responsibilities were quite different from mine and of course,  I politely declined.

Figure out your priorities and focus on them.

Nimi: I have a broad picture of what I do. I don’t have idle time. And yes, even my thinking time is planned! I’m definitely not one to attend four weddings and a funeral on a Saturday.

It takes a lot to juggle family, friends, business and a career but you can’t sit and worry about how hard it is. You’ve simple got to prioritize.

Nibi: My hair business started as a hobby but even as a banker then, I had to decide between the two. You simply have to be courageous enough to decide what you need to do.

Looking back at your 20s, what would you have done differently if you knew better?

Arese: Maybe I would have gone harder on building my career.

Ladies, balance should not exist in your dictionary. Understand that this is a time to build yourself and go hard on yourself.

Nimi: Financial knowledge and discipline are very important as a lady in your 20s.

Also, develop yourself and don’t wait for things to happen.

Nibi: In my 20s, I waited for suggestions on what to do but now, I would say, do you and be focused.

shehive lagos the balancing actHow do you manage people’s expectations of who you are with who you really are? What drives your desire for success?

Arese: What drives me fundamentally is my child. I want to be successful so I can provide her a better life. And so, I don’t keep friends or people who question my drive and desire for success.

Nimi: It’s about purpose. That one thing you love and won’t mind doing for free. Gradually, you would make money out of it.

Nibi: I’m driven by success itself and I try to hang around smart and driven women who motivate me to great heights.

Final words to Motherland Moguls

Arese: If you haven’t found your purpose, that should be your priority right now. You know those issues that make you argue on end? That’s probably your passion. Start thinking of a way to make it work.

Your awesome, smart, and lucrative idea isn’t going to achieve itself if you don’t start doing something about how you’d make it happen.

Nimi: There is so much abuse of everything these days. So look after yourself, exercise and diet properly.

Give back. Have social empathy —think of that one thing you can do to change lives.

Nibi: Your health is very important. If you’re not healthy, you can’t be talking of success in business or career.

You can’t afford to be ill when there is money to be made. Taking a whole lot on yourself can make you flounder out somewhere along the way.

Solving the equation: Work + Life + Family = ?

I have three children ages 4, 6 and 12. I also run three businesses, my legal practice NKS Advocates, Law Query Kenya, an online legal resource portal with an android app and an entrepreneur empowerment company plus online directory with Mpower Limited. Then, I also have a social life.

As you can imagine, it is hectic. What surprised me a lot is that the hardest task is attending to my family. The needs of the family are financially, emotionally and time consuming.

My family need to be listened to, acknowledged, praised, and identified as individuals. This, I assure you, is quite time consuming. Yet, it is extremely rewarding when the family member feels happy and loved.

The number of hugs and kisses I need to dish out per day keep on increasing. I don’t complain because, I brought my children to this world and I must take care of them. They are a priority! Still, the greatest resource they consume is time!

The effect of being a mother is that, now, my hours are spent more on the children. My businesses are really affected by this. When it comes to this balance, a woman needs to decide what is important.

To me, my family and business are important. And yes, I have friends and social obligations that are important too. So, how can I possibly manage?

Focus on important things first

I struggle with this because I usually like to get everything done.

So, nowadays, I need to balance my day according to importance and urgency. Important means tasks that leave more impact or need more personal input. Sometimes, ME time trumps everything!

Make sure your to-do list not a wishlist!

How you execute your operations or business may need to be revisited. Do you really need to have physical meeting with a client? This takes up a lot of time in travel and may disrupt (in a positive way) your day.

Reducing physical meetings and focusing on deliverables can free up some time. Many companies now have self-help options to reduce physical contact while addressing routine issues.

Technology has helped reduce disrupted time and create more time for actual quality work. This should be used optimally as it can also become a disruption in itself or distance you from your customer.

to-do-listGet help

Without relinquishing responsibility, consider getting someone else to help you get things done. The domestic help can ensure homework is done so you only need to check it and sign the diary (clearly you cannot delegate this). I rely on school transport and lunches for my children. It saves me two to three hours a day.

For my businesses too, I get good help. It costs a lot but the peace of mind is worth it. Of course, I still take meetings but after putting my schedule on my phone calendar, I’m rarely double-booked. Also, I make sure my meeting locations are as near each other as possible or in a logical sequence. One of my top peeves is rushing through traffic.

What I have learnt with getting help is you can’t just instruct and wash your hands off it. There is need for supervision and direction. This requires periodic meetings and checking of all deliverables constantly. I manage this through emails and phone calls.  I have all my office emails transferred to the email on my phone so that I don’t miss anything.

One thing I don’t delegate is strategic planning, and money matters! Also, when there is a crisis you need to show up!

Have good systems in place

Having standard systems and templates helps to manage quality control and brand equity. The customer satisfaction should be the same whether you are serving directly or through your staff.

The system should be linked to your phone or home computer so that you can check on things at any moment. I have installed an internet based management system in one business, and I’m still trying it out.

Peer support

Talk to people who are successful in your field and get enormous insight. In particular, I realize that they have managed the same challenges I have and succeeded. It is amazing how mentors are ready to answer questions and give practical and workable tips. I used to stumble in the dark until I got a mentor who put on the lights for me.

Talk to peers (other entrepreneurs) who can share tips or information on opportunities and are more frequently available. Take thirty minutes out of your day and have coffee with your peers. You’ll always leave re-energized, not just from the coffee but from having learnt something new. Of course, I don’t mean idle chat sessions, that’s for your ME time!Beyonce 7-11 Balcony gif

Capacity building

Learning, networking and growing are key for any progress and success. You cannot know everything, there are new models and concepts coming out every day. Take some time to know current trends and news affecting your industry. Same applies to bringing up children, keep abreast with latest threats and trends.

When you have knowledge of what you are doing, it becomes easy and you can teach someone else. An entrepreneur must have knowledge on key aspects of the business human resource, operations,  procurement, customer care, marketing, finance and strategic planning.

Don’t have time to attend conferences and seminars (this is highly recommended due to the diversity of participants)? No problem, the internet is your university. There are loads of excellent programs online.

I personally love TED Talks, webinars, and online courses e.g. Alison, Coursera and EdEx. These are free resources that can build capacity and keep you abreast with latest trends.

Me time

Schedule ME time to re-energize and refresh. A tired mind is worse than a tired body. I refresh through service clubs, socializing, pampering/exercise, travelling, reading and quiet time. Schedule this and make sure it’s in your list of Things to Do!

oprah-bath gifTo have it all, the key thing is, “First things First, Important things First”. It doesn’t have to be either/or. You can have a life, a family and a business!