Guest Blog written by Christine Hollywood
“I’m different now,” Amanda says. What made you different? I ask. “Well It was a slow burn rather than a short stab...”
It was while Amanda was the franchise owner of Molly Maid Horsham, the cleaning company she built from scratch, that she realised she had to change.
Although the business was making money from the start and her family life was happy she was experiencing ongoing work stress. Problems were escalating and literally coming to her door. The final ouch was when one of her employees turned up at her home with a problem on the morning of Amanda’s son’s birthday. She had taken the day off to go with the family to Thorpe Park but she was thinking about that problem all day long.
She really resented that and knew something had to change.
“Personal responsibility is everything - if you don’t take responsibility for your own life you abdicate power. I knew I was responsible.”
It was looking at how her thoughts were driving her feelings about the business which began to improve the way Amanda felt about it. At the same time she was doing a lot of reading and realised she had the opportunity to change things for herself.
She tried lots of different strategies. One of the most effective was creating “mind movies” of affirmations, images, happy times and future dreams. She saw how this affected her thinking and her results.
She also listened to CDs by Abraham Hicks and Mike Dooley, but it was finding and embracing compassion for herself and others that Amanda feels brought about the biggest change for her. It enabled her to shift her view so that she was not only thinking about herself and how she was feeling at any moment, she became much more aware of the feelings and perspectives of others.
With this awareness came a gratitude for her own life and an empathy for the different situations of others and how this might impact their behaviour.
Amanda grew up in Stoke Prior, with her family in a small village near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. Her mum, Hillary worked as a chauffeuse, before becoming a full-time mum, and was the daughter and grand-daughter of sweet factory owners. Her Dad Martyn, was a bookbinder working on ornate, bespoke projects.
On finishing Leicester University, Amanda joined the Royal and Sun Alliance Graduate Scheme. She enjoyed the social life, at the same taking full advantage of the opportunity to work across the underwriting departments, finally landing in Specialist Technical Claims at Head Office.
She dealt with court and civil cases coming into contact with stakeholders across the board. This gave her a good grounding in human behaviour, not only corporate office politics, but the amount of cases that were deemed fraudulent. She remembers with a laugh stories like the man with an ‘injured’ ankle caught leaping over his fence! Eventually the number and scale of investigations made her uncomfortable and eroded her love of the job.
After 18 years she took the leap to become her own boss buying the franchise for Molly Maid Horsham in 2007.
“Only a few people can clean really well.”
From the outset, Amanda had a 10 year plan to build the business and sell it on, leaving her time to pursue another career. It was actually 11 years when she sold the company for a six figure sum. By that time she had eight cleaning teams, with each team cleaning 20-25 houses per week, and 200 regular customers.
She had also initiated a switch to largely water-based eco products - “except for Cif”, she says. She held onto that “to keep the team happy!”
Early days Amanda would often be cleaning alongside her team. She wanted to get to know the business inside out and also to demonstrate this to her cleaners, along with her commitment and respect for the work.
The majority of her cleaners were women. Amanda noticed they generally possessed highly-developed communication skills, but in an “unstructured environment” she saw this could lead into gossiping, back-biting, and competition. She found a lot of her time was spent dealing with the problems that resulted.
“Challenges are tightly wrapped gifts.”
After investing in leadership training she recognised a common thread to any difficulties that arose was the reluctance of individual team members to address any problems they had with each other. Instead they preferred to express their frustration by talking to someone else about the issue or person.
Amanda realised it was difficult to know the ‘truth’ of any situation, as each person has their own perspective, but found that when she gave her employees a safe space to bring their problems, conflict between her staff diminished.
A further shift happened when she realised that instead of feeling she had to sort everything out for each person she could empower them to fix their own problems.
Amanda did this through good modelling - e.g. not gossiping herself, fairness, and creating a trusted work environment where people’s personal strengths could develop and effective relationships organically occur.
Coaching and Mentoring
Amanda now works exclusively with women entrepreneurs and business owners to empower them to thrive in their business, and create the life they want rather than feel they have to endure. She believes every single one of us has the ability to live the life we want.
The key to this, she says, is becoming aware of your thoughts. This leads to deeper understanding about what drives us and our sometimes unhelpful and repetitive thinking. Is it fear, feelings from the past, lack of confidence? She says, awareness gives us power, opening a way to change our thoughts from the ones that lead us down rabbit holes to thinking that nurtures and inspires us. And then, good things can really start to happen very quickly.
Amanda draws on her own experience as a woman and recognises there are life events and societal pressures on women which don’t feature in the lives of men. Together with a lack of access to support, information, and networks she understands these factors can hugely impact women and their opportunities, finances, and prosperity.
She says she particularly enjoys working with women who have had different life experiences to her own, helping them find their path when they don’t know which way to turn. She enjoys holding a space for people to be heard and seen; listening compassionately, with empathy and without judgment.
People have to be ready for change though, she qualifies, they have to want something different. Like she did, “Everything changed for me when I recognised that success is more than what you achieve and the money you make, it’s the joy you feel in your life.”