Ruth Oshikanlu is the founder of Goal Mind, ai coaching consultancy that helps individuals improve their performance at work and small businesses improve their profits through employee engagement. Tune In To Your Baby is a subsidiary of Goal Mind, and supports pregnant women who have had assisted conception or previous pregnancy loss to enjoy their pregnancy without fear.
What drove you to start your business?
The need for flexibility as a single parent led me to leave the NHS and start my own business. I remember missing some of my son’s development milestones and feeling very guilty. I was also stifled by the bureaucracy within the NHS.
Being free-spirited and a non-conformist, I often felt frustrated with having to request permission to undertake a project and having it declined because my manager did not think it would succeed. I had a personality clash with my manager who felt I was “too risky”. She micro-managed me, which I found quite exhausting. I decided to leave the role and compile my CV to apply for another job. It was then I realised that even I, would not employ me as the average time in a role was just over a year. Having been recently introduced to motivational mapping, my map suggested that I would best be suited to entrepreneurship. I decided to embark on the business owner journey.
The lack of diversity in senior management also influenced my decision to set up my business.
What was your career path prior to starting your business?
I had been a nurse, midwife and health visitor in the NHS for about fourteen years. Throughout my career, I was drawn to working with marginalised groups of people and had specialist roles working with HIV positive women, new mothers that required high dependency care and premature babies.
My last role within the NHS was on a Department of Health project – The Family Nurse Partnership, a nurse-led parenting programme supporting first-time pregnant teenagers to give their babies the best start in life whilst they too thrive, fulfil their aspirations and contribute to society.
Upon leaving the NHS, I embarked on a period of soul-searching, stumbled into personal development and have never looked back. I trained to be a life coach and acquired training in other personal development techniques and strategies including personality profiling diagnostic tools and neuro-linguistic programming.
Tell us about the business planning stage.
In business, if one fails to plan, one plans to fail. I enlisted the support of my local business advisory service, The Women’s Business Centre in East London and The British Library Business and IP Centre. I set up a coaching consultancy and put together a comprehensive 5-year business plan. As I had acquired knowledge about what keeps me motivated, I ensured that my business would play to my strengths and I would employ the expertise of others in areas where I needed further development such as sales and marketing.
I joined networking groups that supported women in business in order to combat isolation in business and ensure accountability.
I am obsessed with planning but not necessary in the traditional way. I totally believe in whole-brain thinking as my business name – Goal Mind suggests. I love setting goals and using my mind to achieve them. I do not just write my goals, I also draw them. As humans, we usually dream in pictures. So I draw pictures of what goals I want to achieve including why, when, who and how I will achieve them. I have annual, quarterly and 6-weekly goal maps. I also journal regularly as it helps me work through any resistance I may have. Ticking off daily checklists and bringing down my goal maps from the wall having achieved them, gives me a feeling of fulfilment.
In order to balance motherhood and business, I plan six-weekly as my son has a break every six weeks. Having taught my son how to create goal maps, we both plan how we will spend our holidays and the incentive is to achieve the goals we set and celebrate with a holiday. In that way, we both grow and hold each other to account to achieve the goal maps we have co-created.
Can you describe a typical working day?
I left the NHS because I detested unnecessary routine. I love spontaneity and get bored easily. As such, I have no typical working day. I tend to plan in weeks. So I dedicate certain days to marketing, managing finances and service delivery either face-to-face, in groups and virtual support.
I also continue to deliver a consultancy service, am a Trustee for a charity, guest lecturer for several universities and write for several professional journals. And, I am a single mum of an adolescent! There is nothing typical about my day.
There have been so many amazing moments. But I will never forget the feeling I had when a copy of my newly published book: Tune In To Your Baby: Because Babies don’t come with an instruction manual was delivered through my letter box.
I decided to write the book after I had a series of three client visits in one day. All three clients were in tears having read and tried to implement the advice contained in a well-known very prescriptive parenting book without success. By the end of that day, I remember saying: “Enough is enough! I’m going to sort the world out. I am going to write a book that is based on evidence, practical, and works by empowering parents;, not taking their power away!”
I did some research and chose a 90-day book publisher. I planned the book and wrote it in seven weeks waking up at 4 am to write for two hours every day. I enlisted the support of thirty women (pregnant women, new mums and mothers of toddlers) and ten professionals to critique the book as I wrote it. It was an intense twelve weeks, but that’s what makes me tick. I am intense! So when I saw the finished product in my hands, it felt like I had given birth to a second baby.
What has been your scariest moment?
The scariest moment I had in business was when I decided to start it. Even though I had drawn up a plan, I had no evidence to suggest that I will succeed in business. My colleagues thought I was mad to leave a successful career in the NHS. In that moment, doubt set in. “Maybe I am really mad!” I thought. “An early mid-life crisis, perhaps?”
In that moment, I had flashbacks of the many people I had cared for whilst dying. What caused them the greatest regrets were the dreams that remained unfulfilled, the relationships they never repaired and the risks they never took. I was not going to wait until my death-bed to find out. I was going to make my dream of starting a business come true. I was going to feel the fear and do it anyway. I am so glad I did!
How do you work on making your business grow?
By being responsive to customers’ needs and gaps in the market. When I first started out, I focused on supporting new mums that were anxious. After writing my book, I decided to use my experience of a traumatic pregnancy to help other women like me. I was so terrified that I was going to lose my baby in pregnancy after a threatened miscarriage. Now I enable pregnant women who feel the same anxiety to enjoy their pregnancy without fear.
I have also collaborated with several fertility clinics and coaches that refer potential clients to me. Being a natural introvert, I have had to learn the art of visibility so that those I serve, can find me. I do this through writing for publication, speaking events, and delivery of university lectures. I have also learned the art of requesting custom as, without customers, there is no business.
I love to learn and grow. As I do, I share and others learn about my expertise and are drawn to working with me. As I grow, my business grows.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
Freedom, flexibility, creativity and doing me authentically. Being my own boss has supported me to be more autonomous. There is no red-tape or policy in the way. I don’t need to be told that my ideas are great on paper but won’t work in practice by people who are not even clinicians.
It has enabled me to be a better parent, especially as a lone parent. When I worked for the NHS and my son was ill, I used to be so stressed having to call my manager to request time off to care for my son. I was often made to feel guilty. Yet, I was supporting others to parent their infants and was made to feel bad taking time out to parent mine.
It has also fostered my growth and development. I have had to learn to get out of my comfort zone. I have learned to be vulnerable. I still remember the feeling when I sent the last part of my manuscript to my publisher. There’s no turning back now, I thought. However, publishing the book has opened numerous opportunities such as speaking at national and international conferences and contributed to my winning several professional and business awards.
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them?
Being in business can be isolating. I am also a single mum in business. It is a continuous challenge to balance motherhood and business especially when I have to spend days away from home. Fortunately, my parents and siblings provide childcare when I need it.
I am very visionary and have extraordinary dreams that scare the life out of me causing me to occasionally doubt my ability. To tackle this, I have several mentors and coaches and belong to a mastermind of mums in business. They offer me the support and the belief I need to keep going to actualise my dreams.
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
I have several heroes and heroines that I look up to. I am naturally drawn to the stories of people of colour who overcame adversity and stood up for the things they believed in such as Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey. By their stance, these people ensured that things were better for people of colour.
I am also inspired by Nigerian women who are successful in business as their struggles are similar to mine. Women such as Foluke Akinlose MBE, the Founder of PRECIOUS Awards; Funke Abimbola, a multi-award winning lawyer; Faustina Anyanwu, the Founder of Divas of Colour Women’s Awards and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, an award-winning Nigerian writer and feminist.
As part of International Women’s month, in March 2017, I embarked on a project to celebrate the incredible women in my life that have supported me in my growth and development. I was able to showcase over five hundred women that had inspired and enabled me to grow in life and business. Some of those included in the list are mentors of mine who continually inspire me including: Dame Elizabeth Anionwu, Dame Donna Kinnear, Joan Myers OBE, Nicola Huelin, Founder of CEO Mums and MPower and Lynda Holt, author of Get Out of Your Own Way.
My mother and grandmother are also fabulous role models for me. They both started successful businesses with almost nothing but a very strong will to succeed. Their resilience amidst adversity inspires me to keep going.
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
One of my grandmother’s many catchphrases was: “You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only option.” This advice has served me and continues to do so, not only in business but also in life. Despite the best-laid plans, there are no guarantees in life and business. Adversity can hit when one least expects it. I have learned to make pepper soup when life deals me pepper, and make backup plans when Plan A fails, especially as there are 25 other letters in the English alphabet. I have had to learn resilience and that is why I remain in business.
What are the 3 books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
The Miracle Morning: The 6 Habits That Will Transform Your Life Before 8AM by Hal Elrod was a book I read last year. All three books encourage the development of a mindset and wholesome habits that will propel business owners to succeed.
What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?
As a single parent, I enjoy spending time with my twelve-year-old son doing the things he enjoys such as football and travelling. We both love water and love to go floatation therapy together, where we get to relax and recharge through sensory deprivation. I also love attending aqua Zumba sessions three times a week. My son plays a few musical instruments. At the end of each day, I wind down when he plays the violin and piano. He makes me so proud.
Ruth was a finalist in the Professional Services category in the 10th Annual PRECIOUS Awards