Committed to the Business and Each Other: An Interview with JJ Associates International


Today I’m speaking to JJ Associates International, a husband and wife team from Bradford who now work internationally. Today they’re speaking to use from their European base in Portugal.

JJ Associates International, established in 1987, is owned by Phil and Yin Johnson.

Elevator pitch time! Please tell us about your business.

Our company is renowned for providing clients with any information they request. This could be as simple as an address or as complex as an in-depth company or individual profile (with the subject’s permission) to be used in a Due Diligence background verification check. This legal and licensed information is gained through research and databases specific to the clients requirements, budget, and most of all permissible cause. We do all of this in the strictest of confidence and in line with data protection regulations.
Our clients are mainly commercial and include a vast range from large corporations to smaller companies, including lawyers, solicitors, banks, security consultancy, HR recruiters, hedge funds, insurance companies and stores.

Thinking right back to the beginning, what prompted you to go into business with your partner/family member?

Yin :-

For me it has been something I have known all my life. My parents were the some of the first Chinese people that came to the UK and were in business together running a food stuffs shop that supplied restaurants throughout Yorkshire as well as their own restaurant and take away. Family business is something I grew up with.

However, taking over JJ Associates International required a career change and grassroots training in a area I knew nothing about. I was reluctant at first. I overcame these obstacles and gained training and knowledge of the law and legal fields with some great people and companies and haven’t looked back since. In fact I am very proud to say that in the first year of taking over the business, Phil and I trebled the annual turnover and gained a new client base.

Phil :-

The opportunity to work together in this industry came from a telephone call from a long-time friend who I had worked with in the investigations and credit rating business. This friend was retiring and offered me the chance to take over his business, JJ Associates International.

My very first job was as an office boy in a detective agency and credit rating company in Bradford. 
The grounding I gained in that role, including shorthand, typing and outside investigation experience, gave me a real opportunity for the future.

Did you consider how your relationship would be affected by being in business together?

Yin :-

Very much so. Working with someone close to you can be problematic, however we are both very positive thinkers and up beat. We both have our areas of strength and deal with different areas of the business. It’s been the way we have worked from the beginning. Phil’s previous experience was invaluable at the start. The business has evolved and totally changed from day one, and we do feel we are at the forefront of our industry. We are specialists in providing international coverage and have networked and travelled extensively together to achieve this.

Phil :-

As you can imagine, I was very enthusiastic about taking on the company because of my previous experiences. I thought it would be hard to convince Yin that our future was in an industry she had never been involved with, especially as it sounded like the premise of a TV series! As usual it was no problem and she is amazing in our company.


What kind of business planning did you do?


Our main plan in the beginning was to grow the business. This we achieved: we became one of the leading firm of legal support agents in the Yorkshire area and we had numerous sub-contracted agents dealing with cases for us nationwide.

Over the years we could see that there were big changes taking place in the industry. This was due to law firms merging and changes in legislation, the data protection act, privacy laws and human rights. Of course, changes in the financial market also affected company budgets, and cases were being handled in bulk at discounted prices.

At the same time, in the early 90s a huge thing changed: technology! We needed to retrain ourselves. This was really the start of JJ Associates International as the business it is today. Planning to buy the first computer for the office was exciting and has proved to be one of the most important ways we have evolved.

Our visits to the USA and being part of our business community there has taught us both a lot about our business and professionalism in our industry as investigators. We are members of many of the state associations there and continue to learn and speak at conferences there.

Phil :-

The business planning initially from my point of view was to re-establish and re-connect with all the contacts in the legal and business profession that I had when I previously worked in the industry. Fortunately many of them were still there and some had risen through the ranks ad were able to use their influence to recommend us to their clients.

Our business planning now continues in making certain we keep monitoring the way the information market is changing and keeping up with it. Of course we are no longer restricted to the UK, so that means working in different time zones. We also work to make the best of the technology that is available.

Would you say that you and your partner have similar strengths or different ones?

Yin :-

We certainly have different strengths and abilities.

I organise and delegate well, which I was required to do each and every day in the beginning, with regard to the route planning and case load distribution nationwide. In addition to this, I was the surveillance operative for many of the insurance fraud matters. I would be out at different locations with my video camera and camera waiting for the evidence. Most of the time I used covert surveillance, but on occasion I was out in the open. I was rarely challenged as my cover was a stereotypical Chinese tourist: loaded up with my camera I had a pass to almost any place without question! We were proud to be one of the only companies to offer this service to our insurance company clients.

I am also a speaker of different languages and have used this in translation matters, especially when it comes to Chinese/Cantonese. One of the high street banks would use me for most of their translation or undercover matters of investigation. It also worked with normal undercover cases as I don’t necessarily look like what people expect when they hear ‘Mrs Johnson’. This has worked tremendously well for information gathering.

I did thoroughly enjoy working surveillance matters and on numerous visits have assisted our American colleagues whilst on visits there, which has brought back memories. We now have teams of operatives that we use for these matters worldwide, with up to the minute equipment and technology.

More recently I deal with all the organisation of our travel plans, flights, accommodation and city and country knowledge, including language.

Phil :-

I have a passion for the technology and have done since the inception of the internet. I knew and fully believed that within a few short years of it being more prevalent every household and business would have an access to information that previously they could only dream of.

I made it my purpose to make certain that JJ Associates International had a presence on as many social media platforms as possible. We were one of the first members on LinkedIn. This was because we realised it wasn’t a threat to share information, but to quote a friend of ours: together we are better. I have the confidence to know that there are enough opportunities to go around, especially when you cover the world as we do.

I cannot take all the credit for this, but I did realise early on that it was very important to create a brand image and as the USA was becoming our main market place in the last few years, we knew we needed to have an attention-grabbling look.

Yin developed our graphic branding to convey this message and I now only wear Hawaiian shirts, even with a business suit! This has proved a very successful way to get attention for myself and our business.

We use the same profile pictures for all our media and brand images and this is really very important for our online presence. We also use Facebook Business pages to promote our image and services as do many forward thinking clients.We also use LinkedIn as a CV and Twitter every day to promote our company.


What has been the biggest challenge to you for working together?

Yin :-

Being patient! I think we will both agree on this one.

Phil :-

I agree with Yin! I also try (but do not always succeed) to think before I speak. This is true not just of working together as a couple, but as a general rule I have found during our 28 years in business.

What do you consider your biggest achievement so far?


I think it’s being able to convey our business across continents and make our business fit in with how we wish to live. It has it’s ups and downs as all businesses and self employed people will agree, but we enjoy a lot of freedom purely because of technology and now social media, which we both love. We are available all times of day or night which is something our clients like, we have in-depth knowledge of various places in the world as we have experienced them as locals rather than tourists. We are very flexible which we have to be as working with people in different time zones can be a challenge, but it works for us. Our social time may be different to everyone else’s as we can be handling matters at any time. Most of our family and friends understand this.

Phil :-

Many of our achievements during the past years have really sprung from the reach that JJ Associates International have gained and the trust our clients place in our company. Some of the most satisfying achievements have been non-financial. We were involved as instigators of a further investigation in the USA which prompted the release of an inmate who had been convicted several years previously. We have also handled cases in many countries that achieved the returning of children to their lawful guardian after the breach of court orders. Our normal day to day activity continues, in my opinion, to be our biggest achievement as we never know who is going to ask us to do what next. The mere fact that some of the most high profile and largest corporations in the world continue to ask Phil and Yin Johnson of J J Associates International to assist is mind blowing to me!


Has working together changed your relationship outside of the business?

Yin :-

I would say that yes we have changed, but that would happen as part of life. We are fortunate to be able to spend time together both with work and outside of that, and business certainly doesn’t get in the way, it’s actually our way of life.

Phil :-

We are so much more confident in our relationship outside of business and I believe it is our ongoing experiences doing so many different things within the business that has enabled us to develop this attitude. It is a real pleasure to share these experiences together 
Have you made use of any outside resources to support you? If so, were they helpful?


People in our business, especially from the USA, have proved to be invaluable to us as a company with our continued education in this industry. We have found the American Investigators a great group of people who are willing to share and learn together in order to move forward. We have learnt a lot from their forward and positive thinking attitude.

What advice would you give to other couples/families who are thinking of starting a business?


It’s a big decision to make and to be with your other half can be very testing 24/7. It can also be very rewarding. There are lots of factors to take into consideration. Working together is not like being together, our work ‘head’ is very different to our relationship ‘head’: your feelings will be knocked along the way so you must think about that too.

Phil and I work together within the business but are not ‘joined at the hip’. We have very different ideas and sometimes we do clash! This would happen in business with any other colleague so you have to remember that, and try to pocket your ego.

My advice would be to define your roles, and to remember roles do change from time to time.

Phil :-

I would advise any couple who have some exciting plans together to go ahead and develop them. The world has changed and you cannot rely on a job for life anymore. If you have the foresight and confidence go for it! Before taking the plunge make sure you do your research and see if there is any way you can make your company stand out from the rest. Be understanding with each other and realise even couples are different people. Think before you speak and when you do talk to each other only use positive terms, that way you will both always feel good about the way ahead.


Do you have any future developments you would like to share?


Yes, 2015 is going to be very exciting. We will be continuing with our involvement with another Yorkshire couple who work together, Bob & Carol Bridgestock. They are crime writers and TV storyline consultants who have written and published 5 books so far about DI Jack Dylan. The sixth is being published and the launch date in May 2015. They are the advisors for Happy Valley TV program which was aired last year and achieved much acclaimed reviews and awards with the writer Sally Wainwright and actor Sarah Lancashire. They also advise on storylines for Red Productions which produces Scott and Bailey. Our involvement is actually as characters in their book series! We were introduced in their fifth book Reprobates. We will also feature in the sixth book as assistants to DI Jack Dylan who will be solving a crime in Hong Kong.

Phil :-

We are really positive about 2015 as it will be a fantastic year of opportunity for us. As well as what Yin has outlined which is so exciting, we have have also been involved with some investigator colleagues in the USE with their Radio/Podcast. They are setting up a new venture called Global Investigators Media Group and I have been asked to get involved and possible become a host on one of their shows. We can’t wait to get started.

If you’d like to find out more about JJ Associates International, you can find them online at You can also find them on Facebook at, Twitter at @jjassociatesYin and @philjjassociate, and at LinkedIn at and

Thank you for speaking to us Yin and Phil!

Six Things to Consider Before You Go into Business With Your Partner


The festive season is a great time to sit down with your family and talk. Many of us will have time off from our usual roles and responsibilities, and the chance to talk to our loved ones about something other than the usual day to day details of our lives can be golden.

Perhaps this year you’ll talk about starting a business with your partner. Whether your passion is photography, marketing, accountancy or manufacturing: the lure of you and your partner becoming your own bosses can be very strong. If these dreams do start to turn into more concrete plans, there are lots of things to think about.

If you’re thinking about going into business with your partner, my advice would be to consider these six things first.

1. Is your relationship strong enough?

This may not be an easy question to answer, but I do think it’s really important to ask it. Running a business can be very draining and it can put a real strain on you both. If you know there are issues in your relationship, it might be wise to work on them before you start writing a business plan.

2. Are you both going into business for the same reason?

People want to start their own business for many different reasons and you and your partner might not have the same one. If one of you wants to go into business to build acclaim for themselves while the other wants to do it so they’re free to finish early every afternoon: you may have a fundamental clash!

3. Do your skills compliment each other?

In an ideal world business partners would all have different skill sets that compliment each other perfectly. Before you jump into buying domain names and setting up a website, you might like to sit down together and honestly assess what your skills are and whether you have the key areas covered between you.

4. How will you separate your work selves from your personal selves?

If you’re going to be working together, think about how your relationship will be different in the office than it will be at home. You may be becoming business partners, but it will be important to make sure you have time together as life partners too. Discussing how you plan to make this work right at the beginning could save you from disappointments later on.

5. Are you compatible professionally?

You already know that you’re compatible personally, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be able to work well together professionally. The traits you love about your partner while you’re enjoying free time together may drive you to distraction once you’re in the office. Be honest about whether you think you’ll work well together!

6. Do you share the same values for your business?

I’ve saved this point till last as it’s one of the most important. If you remember anything from this post I hope it’s this: if you and your partner don’t share the same values for your business now it will likely lead to big problems in the future. This is true whoever you’re thinking about going into business with, whether it’s your partner, a friend or a colleague. It’s really important that you have a clear shared focus of what you’re working towards and how you plan to get there.

A new year can be a very exciting time, both personally and professionally. If you have big goals for a new or existing business in 2015, I hope you get some quiet time over the coming week to think about how you’ll achieve them!  

Introducing Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business

Michaela Oldfield Business Coaching

A few years ago I had a high pressured professional development career in the corporate world. I was good at my job and really enjoyed it, but over the years the needs of the business had shifted meaning less investment in people and the role just didn’t work for me anymore. I made the decision to step away from my career and into something new that would be a better fit for the life I wanted to lead. After some careful consideration I realised that I wanted to work with other people to help them make decisions about their professional and personal future, and thus Green Shoots Coaching was born.

Because my business started in a very organic way, I’ve always worked to ensure that it develops that way too. My newest offering Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business is no different. I’ve worked with many business owners and though they have been facing some very different challenges, often the basic struggles of entrepreneurship are the same. One key aspect of this is that business owners are often focused on growing their business and the outside factors that will enable them to do that before they look inwards. In my experience, it’s vital to look carefully at yourself and any internal factors that may be preventing your business from growing before you do anything else.

Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business is an ongoing business support programme designed to work as a regular personal and business health check. Members will receive a coaching session each month where we’ll be able to discuss ongoing issues, develop strategies for moving forward and tackle problems as and when they arise. Over the years I’ve found that business owners who take the time to work with me in this way develop a far better level of personal and business resilience which, in turn, makes them much more likely to succeed.

This programme is designed for business owners who understand the value of investing in their personal wellbeing. After all, if you are not functioning at your best, you’re not going to be able to give your business 100%. I’m offering regular protected time that will be your opportunity to relax, step out of your business, talk through your challenges, deal with ongoing issues, build on insecurities, and develop resilience that will allow you to move forwards. Entrepreneurship does entail a lot of data and number work, but there are also many emotional aspects. When business owners ignore these emotional aspects their business often suffers as a result.

The thing about business coaching is that there is no such thing as one size fits all. I’ve always had a strong focus on providing an individual service for individual clients, and Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business won’t change that. This programme isn’t designed to be an identi-fit option. Instead, it’s designed as an easy way to budget for and schedule in time for ongoing business support. What that support looks like is, as always, completely down to what you and your business need.

Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business may be a new service in name, but it developed organically out of the needs of my existing clients. Some of them use the programme as a way to sit down each month and talk one-to-one about sensitive and private issues. Some of them have used the time to develop strategies for building a better atmosphere in their workplace and creating happier employees. Some have even used the time to work with me to build a performance management system that’s perfectly tailored to their business. Whatever your business needs, I can offer the emotional and practical support to make it happen.

If you’d like to know more about the Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business membership programme and how it could work for you and your business, I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch to organise an initial consultation free of charge.

Is it Worth Investing in Yourself?

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Investing in business is one of the key ways entrepreneurs seek to grow. There are many ways to do this. Perhaps you could spend money on your workspace, your equipment, your staff or your infrastructure. Many business owners choose to invest by researching new products, developing services or by adding additional certification to their work.

My advice, however, is to invest in your business’ biggest asset. When you think about that, what do you picture? Your key equipment? Your laptop? Your website? Think again. Whatever your business, quite simply; it’s biggest asset is you.

Most likely, you are the person around which your business revolves. It’s you that manages the day to day work, you who develops the strategy for moving forwards, and you who deals with any challenges that crop up. If you really want to improve your business, it might be time to think about how you can invest in improving your own capabilities.

Broadly speaking there are two ways to do this. The first way is to choose to build on your education. You might decide to take a short course in an area of business you struggle with day-to-day, or even decide to invest in a longer term option such as a masters degree.

The second option is to choose business coaching. Working with a good coach could help you make sure your business gets the best of you. Often it’s our own insecurities and habits that hold our businesses back: working with a coach can help us to identify and overcome these and ensure you’re able to be the absolute best you can be for your business.

I’m a very firm believer in the idea that a happy, confident business owner results in a forward-facing, successful business. When you’re spending forty or fifty plus hours every week focusing on entrepreneurship, it can be very easy to neglect your own needs. This may sound like smart business sense in the short term, but in the long term a run-down business owner is not going to be able to provide as much value to their business as they’d like. After all, would you treat your other vital business assets in the same way?!

In the next couple of weeks I’m going to be launching a new service: Taking Care of You, Taking Care of Business. This business coaching service has grown organically around my experience of what business owners really need from a coach like me. I’ll be sharing more details about it soon, but in the meantime, why not consider when the last time you really invested in yourself as a business asset was?

Nine Resources for Couples and Families in Business

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You might think that being in business with a partner or family member would mean you needed less outside support. After all, you’re spending every working day in close proximity to one or some of the people who know you best. However, in the work I do with this kind of business, I often find that the opposite is true. Though family and couple businesses can be hugely successful and efficient, the additional dynamics at play often mean that a pair of outside ears can be very, very valuable.

If you think your business would benefit from a bit of outside support, look no further. I’ve gathered together a list of great resources you might benefit from.

Family Business United

Family Business United is an online and offline community dedicated to bringing family businesses together. The website is packed full of interesting news and opinion pieces, and they also run annual family business awards.

The Great British Family Business Conference 2015

Speaking of Family Business United, they also run The Great British Family Business Conference. The 2015 event will be taking place in March and tickets are already on sale.

Married to the Business: Honey I Love You But Our Business Sucks

If you’re looking for a book to help you navigate some of the challenges that come with being in business with your partner, this is a good one. I often recommend it to the couples I work with.

You and Your Partner, Inc: Entrepreneurial Couples Succeeding in Business, Love and Life

I also recommend this book if you’re looking for guidance as a couple in business. It’s filled with examples and inspiring case studies, which can be very helpful.

Institute for Family Business

The IFB is a non-profit membership organisation that exists to support the interests of the family business sector. They campaign for policies that will help family businesses grow, provide resources, bring businesses together via their forums and run a yearly conference.

Family Business Place

Family Business Place is a dynamic organisation that exists to support and celebrate British family businesses. They publish Generation magazine, offer consultancy and strategy services, organise regular conferences and seminars, and share latest news on their website.

Families in Business Community Events

If you’d like the chance to talk to some other people in your position face-to-face, keep an eye on the FiB community events page. They run a range of events including discussion forums, networking events and ask the adviser sessions.

Committed to the Business and Each Other Interview Series

If you haven’t taken a look yet, I recently launched a new interview series on my blog. Each month I’ll be introducing a different couple or family business and speaking to them about their successes and challenges.

Working with a coach

Many business owners assume that working with a coach is only helpful when you’re at a crisis point. This isn’t the case. Working with a coach can be beneficial whatever stage your business is at, and can help you to grow, adapt and succeed without ever coming close to crisis!

Have you come across any other resources that you’ve found helpful? Why not tell me about them either in the comments below, on Twitter or on Facebook?

Committed to the Business and Each Other: An Interview with Colin Murdoch Studio


Being in business with a partner or family member can work brilliantly, but it can also be extremely challenging. I specialise in working with couples and family businesses and I’m fascinated how the relationship dynamics can make or break a business.

I’m thrilled the introduce my new Committed to the Business and Each Other series. Each month I’ll be speaking to a couple or family who are in business together to find out what they feel is the secret to their success.

Today I’m speaking to Colin and Heather of Colin Murdoch Studio, a husband and wife team from Skipton, North Yorkshire. I’m very pleased that Colin and Heather agreed to be my first interviewees, especially as they had so many interesting thoughts to share.

Elevator pitch time! Please tell us about your business. Heather: We’re a husband and wife photography team, mainly providing wedding and portrait/lifestyle photography, with a little commercial work thrown in from time to time. We’re based in Skipton, North Yorkshire and work throughout Yorkshire and Lancashire, as well as further afield (we’ll go anywhere for a good wedding!)

Thinking right back to the beginning, what prompted you to go into business with your partner?

Heather: Colin and I had been living abroad prior to 2012 (we met and married whilst I was working in Bermuda, where he was born). We knew we didn’t want to settle in Bermuda in the long term (it’s beautiful but has an extremely high cost of living!) so we’d steadily made plans to move back to the UK and after lots of research and visits home, we chose North Yorkshire as the place we wanted to be. Colin had been self-employed for a lot of his working life, but we initially thought we’d both go back to ‘9 to 5’ jobs over here. However, after taking a bit of time out when we arrived, we decided that we’d go the different (and ultimately harder, but more rewarding) route of setting up our own business.

Colin: I have a Fine Art background and have spent most of my working life in creative fields, mainly in graphic design and photography. Having owned my own advertising agency at one stage I knew I didn’t really want to go down that route again, and had been trying to get away from design and move more towards doing solely photography for a long time. With the move to England it seemed like the perfect time to try just that and pursue a lifelong dream. If it didn’t work, at least we’d have tried it whilst we could!


Did you consider how your relationship would be affected by being in business together?

Colin: I had been in business with a partner once before, so it was definitely something that I thought about (and possibly worried about) more than Heather might have initially.

Heather: Spending all of our time together, working from home, wasn’t something that worried me but I probably didn’t consider how differently we both work when we first went into this. We both have our strengths and weaknesses and it’s learning how to deal with those so that we complement each other that can sometimes be the hardest. The biggest thing, of course, is that it’s hard to switch off from work, especially when potential clients email or call in the evenings or on our planned days off, and they can’t be ignored. We really have to make a concerted effort to take time out and not talk about work when we’re not actually working.

What kind of business planning did you do?

Heather: Once we’d made the decision to start a business, we took our time doing research about the local market (we were initially based in Harrogate), deciding who our target market would be, what exactly we wanted to provide, and putting together a business plan so we could see it all in black and white and have something to work towards.


Would you say that you and your partner have similar or different strengths, how do you use these?

Colin: Our strengths are quite different but they complement each other well. Heather is really organised and on the ball at dealing with clients, and is good at answering their queries and questions. So she generally deals with that side of things. She’s also really good at writing so she handles our blog, and copy for our website and marketing materials throughout the year.

Heather: Colin is a creative so although we both take photographs, I see him as more of the expert in that department and defer to him. He deals with all the photo editing (which he’s a complete perfectionist over) and things like designing our website and making things look pretty! So I think we work well together. Colin brings things together overall and has a lot of experience and I’m a stickler for the detail and making sure everything happens when it should!

What has been the biggest challenge to you specifically for working together?

Heather: Probably learning how to deal with the differences in the way we work. When we’re not out shooting, I quite like to work alone in my own headspace when I’m in the office. I like to be able to think and if I could sit by myself all day long writing and planning, I probably would (which probably makes me sound very unsociable…and I’m not, honestly!) Colin needs time like that when he’s editing, but he also likes to talk things through a lot. I’m all for that and I know it has to be done so that we can keep on top of things and forward plan but I know that I can sometimes get a bit antsy when we’ve spent all morning talking about things we need to do but haven’t actually done anything yet. I like to get on with things but I understand we have to have regular meetings to make sure we’re on track.


What do you consider your biggest achievement so far?

Colin: Next year will be our third year of photographing weddings and we’ve now hit the target we set for ourselves in terms of bookings for next year. There’s still room for more but each year so far we’ve more than doubled the bookings we took the year before and I think having moved to a completely new area where we didn’t know anyone and really having to build things up from zero, we’ve accomplished a lot.

Heather: We’ve also made a concerted effort to network with other local businesses (especially of the wedding variety) to get ourselves out there and known. I definitely feel that over the last six months or so, we’re finally reaping the rewards of that and people finally know who we are!

What impact has working together had on your relationship outside of the business?

Colin: It’s been hard to switch off from work which I knew would be a problem, having been in business before. Self-employment really can become all-consuming if you let it. So we have to make an effort to step away from that. Particularly when a business is new and you really want to put your all into it to get it up and running. You don’t want to miss anything and you want to get it right every time!

Heather: Yes, it’s hard to get away. I tend to expect a certain level of service from companies I deal with and I want to provide that same level of service to our clients, or potential clients. For example, if an email comes in at 9:30 p.m. with a wedding enquiry (as it did last night) I’ll reply to it that same night. And if I really can’t, I’ll at least reply saying I’ll be in touch first thing in the morning. I like to build a relationship with our clients right from the start and I know that I would appreciate that as a customer myself, so it’s how I want to handle things but it can be hard if you’ve been out for the evening on ‘date night’ and you come home to work that needs to be dealt with!


What advice would you give to other couples who are thinking of starting a business?

Heather: I had thought about what it would be like to self-employed, working from home and spending time in each other’s pockets, but I never really thought about the differences in how we actually work on a day to day basis. And how do you really know that until you start working with someone if you’ve never worked together before? So I’d say think about (and talk about) your different work styles – do you like a quiet workspace or do you like lots of chat and brainstorming throughout the day? Make a list of your strengths and weaknesses and see how they balance out between you. If one of you is highly organised but the other isn’t so great with that, it might work perfectly within your business that one of you is doing the organising, whilst the other can do what they do best. You’ll each have different skills and talents.

Colin: Also, no matter how much you say you’ll make time for your personal life together, there will be (many) times when work will encroach on things. You’ll find yourselves talking about work when you’re out for dinner, or with friends who ask you about work and how it’s all going, and no matter how much you love your job there will be times when you need to get away from it but you can’t – so can you handle that?

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Heather: Once you iron out the challenges, it’s really rewarding working together and we know that our differences are actually what makes it work and makes our business go from strength to strength. I can’t imagine doing anything else now!

If you’d like to find out more about Colin Murdoch Studio, you can find them online at…

Thank you Heather and Colin for giving us such a great insight into your business!

I’m on the look out for more couples and family businesses to interview, so if you’d be interested in taking part please get in touch.

Should You Work With a Trusted Advisor or a Growth Coach?


There is no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to business coaching. Coaching is unlikely to have much of an impact if you’re working with a coach who isn’t right for you.

Today, I want to broach the subject of the growth coach. By growth coach I’m talking about a specific kind of business coach who businesses choose to work with when they want to see measurable results quickly or take their business to the next level. A growth coach can be an excellent option for businesses who are ready to sell more and improve their bottom line. This type of coach tends to focus on the numbers side of the business, and might not be right for business owners who are being held back for other reasons.

Green Shoots Business Coaching is designed to work in a different but complementary way to growth coaches. I work with people who need a trusted advisor who can support them in being the best business owner they can be. Growth is a key issue in business, and when the time is right I encourage my clients to take steps to achieve it. However, I know that there are often many emotional and relationship challenges to overcome before this will be successful. In other words, if you’re not at your best… your business wont be either!

If you’re thinking about investing in business coaching, how do you know whether a growth coach or a trusted advisor is right for you?

A growth coach might be right for you if…

  • You need help you with the numbers side of your business
  • You’re looking for practical assistance to increase your sales
  • You feel mentally ready and able to expand your business
  • You’re excited about the possibility of doing more of what you’re already doing
  • You would benefit from a short-term injection of growth advice

A trusted advisor might be right for you if…

  • Your confidence (or lack of) is holding your business back
  • You are experiencing unhealthy levels of stress
  • You’re not sure which direction to take your business in next
  • You need someone to discreetly discuss everyday business problems with
  • You need someone who can help you to look at the bigger picture
  • You’re struggling to work with your business partner or employees
  • You’re unhappy in your role and want to make some changes
  • You need help positioning your business against competitors

Ultimately, choosing the right coach is a very personal decision. My advice would be to explore different options and meet with a few coaches face-to-face. That way you’ll be able to see whether you have ‘coaching chemistry’ and make sure your coach has the necessary experience to support you with the individual challenges that face your business.

The Complicated Dynamics of Being in Business with a Loved One

Photo by Mei Teng

Whether you’re in business with your spouse, partner, parent or sibling, working with a family member can be tricky to manage. There can be some really great aspects of this kind of business, but there can also be challenges and complicated dynamics.

I work with a wide range of families and couples who are in business together. Though every case is unique, there are a few challenges I see coming up over and over again. Here they are:

Relationship issues leaking into the business

In my experience, there is no such thing as the perfect relationship. Every relationship has it’s frictions, and it’s important to be open and honest about these frictions in order to move past them. If there are issues between you and your family member/business partner that get out of control, these issues will find their way into your business. Very few humans are able to successfully compartmentalise our emotions, and something you are struggling to deal with at home is bound to colour your dealings with your business partner at the office.

Struggle with ‘role behaviours’

In most cases, we will use a different type of behaviour when we interact with our spouse than we would with our parent or sibling. Equally, the way we act with business associates and colleagues tends to be different than the way we act when we’re at home. However, if you are working with a family member, the lines between these different role behaviours become blurred and it can be hard to know how to behave. This dynamic can become a problem when family or couple businesses take on employees. The type of parent-child or husband-wife role behaviour you are used to at home may no longer be appropriate within a more professional environment.

Blindness to strengths or weaknesses

When you work with someone you love, it can be difficult to be impartial. Some of us find it difficult to accept and address the weaknesses of our family members. Equally, within some family relationships it can be tricky to recognise that family members have particular strengths and expertise. Whichever way this issue plays itself out, it can be a problem within business. If you are blind to your business partner’s strengths or weaknesses, it can make it difficult to properly allocate work and make the most of resources.

Difficulty stepping away from work

When you work with the person you live with, it can be very difficult to leave work at the end of the day. It can be tempting to discuss what’s going on at the office over the dinner table or during family time. Though this is undoubtedly convenient, over time it can put a real strain on your relationship outside of the business. It’s important to remember that you are family as well as business partners.

Of course, though these dynamics can be particularly difficult for families and couples to navigate, solopreneurs can struggle with these too, especially if they seek business advice from family members.

If you’re struggling with any of these dynamics, you’re not alone! Running a successful business is difficult enough without these added strains and many family businesses consider them to be stumbling blocks. Why not set aside some time to sit down with your loved one and discuss what you might be able to do to work towards overcoming them?

The Lonely Entrepreneur


This article was originally posted as a guest post on Business Quarter

Quitting the 9-5 and becoming an entrepreneur is a dream for many of us. There are many benefits to self employment, and these are often spoken about at length in the media: total working freedom, the ability to choose your own opportunities, the space to make your own decisions and take greater control of your working hours.

However, there are also some less beneficial sides to being an entrepreneur. Those brave people who make the break and dive head first into entrepreneurship often discover that it can be very lonely on the other side.

Whats lonely about being an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship often involves long stretches of being on your own. This can be a shock, especially if you’ve moved from a more structured office-based career. Before entrepreneurship, many of us  were surrounded by colleagues, and most of our decisions were made within meetings after discussions and collaborations. Once you’re working on your own, well, you’re really on your own.

Of course, not all entrepreneurs work on their own. Many manage a team of staff and/or work in close contact with clients and suppliers. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the threat of loneliness is averted. When you’re the boss it can be difficult to cross boundaries and discuss business matters with employees, clients or suppliers. These can be difficult relationships to navigate, and you may discover that you have just as few people to discuss business decisions with as the entrepreneur who works from home with their computer. Many entrepreneurs discover that it’s actually very lonely at the top.

The kind of meetings and networking events that entrepreneurs attend will certainly bring you into contact with plenty of other people, but they don’t necessarily help guard against entrepreneurial loneliness. It can be difficult to know who you can trust and who should be treated as competitors or customers. Often there can be just as many boundaries to respect as there are among your own staff. 

What effect can this have?

Loneliness might not seem like a huge problem to begin with, but it can certainly become an issue for you and your business over time. Our state of mind has a huge impact on how effective we are as individuals. The real risk here is that your loneliness could turn into isolation and could make you less effective as a professional.

Isolation is particularly dangerous in business as it can stop you from taking a measured view of your business and your market and can lead instead to blinkered vision. When you spend all your time thinking about your business without any outside influence, you’ll likely find that you have little new inspiration. Instead you may find yourself falling into a pattern of doing the same things over and over again. No matter how much you hope for different results in these cases: repeating the same behaviour over a period of months and years will pretty much guarantee that you won’t be moving forwards.

If your mindset becomes inverted, it can also affect the way you deal with employees, clients and suppliers. This is problematic as your judgement could be impaired, and you may be prevented from portraying your business in the right way.

Of course, it’s not just your business that can suffer because of entrepreneurial loneliness: your personal life can also be affected. Human beings are not generally able to successfully compartmentalise their dissatisfaction with one area of their lives, and if you’re having difficulty in your work it’s likely that dissatisfaction will leak out and cause problems within your social and family lives too.

What can you do to prevent loneliness?

As a general rule, entrepreneurial loneliness can be prevented by surrounding yourself with individuals you trust and speaking to them regularly about your business. However, finding these individuals isn’t as straight-forward as it might sound.

Entrepreneurs often turn to family members and friends in these cases. This can be helpful as these people will know you well and you’ll probably feel most comfortable talking to them. In most cases, though, friends and family members won’t have specialist business knowledge and may find it difficult to challenge you. The advice given by this kind of confidante can also come with a vested interest.

Another natural ally might be other entrepreneurs. These people are likely to understand the challenges you face as an entrepreneur, and they’ll also have the business knowledge and expertise to make valuable suggestions. Of course, it can take a great deal of time to build up a mutually honest relationship with someone who could potentially be a competitor or a client. You may find that you aren’t able to be totally open with another entrepreneur. Our egos often get in the way, and it might feel more natural to tell entrepreneur contacts that everything is going brilliantly, even when it isn’t.

Luckily, there is a third option. Developing a relationship with a professional business coach can be extremely beneficial for entrepreneurs. Coaches can support entrepreneurs in ways that other business owners, friends and family often aren’t able to.

  • They offer confidentiality and a totally impartial ear
  • They have specialist business knowledge and will be able to give worthwhile advice
  • They have no vested interest in your business, either as a personal contact, a competitor or a client
  • They offer a professional service, which means they won’t require a favour in return

Loneliness is often considered a necessary evil for those who are self-employed. However, it can become a threat to your personal and your business’ wellbeing if it’s not addressed. Taking the time to speak to family, friends and other business contacts can certainly help to reduce loneliness, but these kinds of conversations often don’t produce the same productive, actionable results as speaking with a professional business coach.

One of the biggest reasons why businesses fail to thrive is a lack of quality impartial advice. Building a professional relationship with a coach can help to counteract this, and can be a valuable asset both to your business’ success and your personal wellbeing.

What is the Work/Life Overlap?


When I use the phrase work/life balance, how does it make you feel? My guess is that the answer is something along the lines of “not great.” Perhaps you try really hard to achieve the perfect balance, but the scale always seems to be tipping to one side or the other. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry: you’re not alone.

One thing I’m reminded of over and over again when working with coaching clients is that there’s no such thing as the perfect balance. In fact, thinking of our lives in this way can actually set us up for dissatisfaction, as it pushes the idea that our personal and work lives should be totally separate. There may be a small minority of people who are able to compartmentalise in this way: but I haven’t met them. For most of us there’s a great deal of overlap between our work, our family, our social lives and our hobbies. This means that if we’re experiencing frustration or discontentment within one or more of these areas, it typically leaks out into the other ones too.

It might be healthier for us to accept that there’ll always be a work/life overlap. After all, the more we come to appreciate the different areas that make up our lives, the more likely we are to enjoy each of those areas and experience greater overall happiness.

Why not try these ideas for embracing the overlap?

  • Try to focus on being present in where you are, whether it’s at home or at work. If you’re constantly worrying about the school pick-up while you’re at your desk or the following day’s meetings while you’re eating dinner, it’ll be easy for dissatisfaction to creep in.
  • Give yourself permission to talk about work with friends and family members, especially if there are issues that are bothering you.
  • Think about how much of your personality you’re currently showing at work. If the answer is “not much,” you might want to consider how you can work in a way that’s more authentic to who you are.
  • Aim to address issues head on instead of dwelling on them. Bottled up negative feelings will affect your whole life, even if they just relate to your job or your relationship.
  • If you are feeling generally dissatisfied, it may be time to take a good look at your life and consider which aspects are causing problems. In many cases the problem might be solved with a few small tweaks, but in others you may need to make bigger changes.
  • Don’t underestimate how much of an impact changes in one area of your life might have on another. For example, addressing issues with your relationship might help you to be more confident at work. Equally, re-focusing your business could enable you to be less stressed during family time.

The world is becoming more connected than ever, and as a result the image of the perfectly balanced scales just isn’t working. Instead of taunting yourself with the myth, why not embrace the imperfection of the work/life overlap?