When Liz asked me if I would like to guest write her Thought this month, I was humbled and terrified (!) how do you follow an act such as Liz Toogood? I immediately heard her voice in my head; “why miss this opportunity Nicole, what have you got to lose?” So here I am, honoured to be standing in for the wonderful woman that is Liz Toogood. Now where to start and what on earth to share with you – after spending a few days procrastinating, I landed on a journey and Liz’s role within it.
I have grown up around business owners, which meant family meal times often fell to business chat, for me, this was the norm. I started on a different path and began my career at 18 working for GMTV in the advertising team. Over the 13 years that I was with GMTV/ITV I learnt so much but there was something missing and that was having my own business. An opportunity arose to take redundancy and I grabbed it with both hands to embrace my dream of working for myself, I yearned for the flexibility and to follow in my family footsteps. Then came the challenge of how to use the skills I had developed to benefit local businesses.
I began my research in local networking groups, asking business owners whether there was a gap for my idea, soon to be named Wild Bird Marketing, in the market. This is where I met Liz Toogood, the welcome she gave was wonderful, we hit it off straight away, she was very inquisitive of my history and how I had become to be in that room at that time and I was very impressed by her unique approach. The feedback was unanimous, yes, it’s an idea but you need to flesh it out and Liz is the person to help you do that. And that is where our journey and my next chapter began.
An absolute must before working with a mentor or coach is ascertaining chemistry and trust from the start which works both ways, that’s what Liz’s blind dates are for. I felt at ease straight away but I also knew that I wasn’t going to get an easy ride. I needed someone to help develop my business but also to hold me accountable for all the things I say I should/could/wish to do. I also needed (and still do) someone to keep my imposter syndrome in check! From the blind date, I knew I could trust Liz to deliver all those things but what I did not expect was, two and a bit years down the line, to have gained a friend too.
My first session with Liz, I had come prepared, we had agreed on a list of to do’s and I was armed and ready. Before I knew it, Liz was making tea and I was helping, we began chit chat, how our weeks had been etc. I’ve come to realise the importance of these 5 minutes; they allow me to get whatever is at the top of my brain off my chest and prepared for our session. We always start with the list, which quickly became called ‘the pledge’. We discussed each point at length, picked it apart and explored the options. What I did not expect from our sessions was for Liz to suggest local groups to attend and introductions to businesses. I was soon to discover Liz’s gift of connecting others. She sees what most don’t and is always thinking of the bigger picture which allows her to see where connections should be made, even before we see them. Liz suggested that I look into the NatWest Accelerator, a free programme for entrepreneurs that are looking to scale. Having access to the programme allowed me to branch out into Milton Keynes, to trial service packages that would allow for new opportunities and to work with some incredible and truly inspiring businesses.
From that first month to this very day, Liz and I ‘meet’ once a month to go over Wild Bird. Our sessions have evolved since the start, we now go over figures to begin with and then the pledge, revenue streams and the next phase for growth. After each session I email her my pledge to ensure accountability. Liz’s razor-sharp business vision backed up by years of experience has benefited Wild Bird tenfold. She offers a different view point and often sees what I cannot. In the past, I have worked with mentors that approach with tough love, this is not for me and I do not respond well to it. Instead, Liz will challenge me in a respectful, logical and explorative way, always imparting her knowledge as we go.
Why share this journey with you? Perhaps you are thinking of working with a coach or mentor and want to understand a bit more. Or maybe you have worked with Liz before and this resonates with you, I hope so. I also know that Liz, being incredibly humble, wouldn’t shout about the impact she has had on me or my business. Without her guidance and support, Wild Bird Marketing wouldn’t be half as successful as it has been and continues to be. In the first year we saw a profit…I wasn’t expecting that. Come year two and we experienced double digit growth in a year that saw a pandemic grip hold of the world and the arrival of our very first child, Edward. Working with Liz is like having someone in your corner, always, fighting for you and believing in you with the utmost conviction. Thank you Liz, for your support, guidance, encouragement and challenges oh and for many, many cups of tea!
I hope you have enjoyed reading this guest thought, it has been an honour to write about working with Liz. If you would like to know more of my experience, I would be more than happy to discuss it with you.
Wild Bird Marketing