Movers and Shakers | Karen F Burke | Business Owner/ Co-founder
Karen F Burke , ACMA, MAAT, DipPPC, is a business owner, Power Up coach (Personal Performance & Business), author, speaker and accountant.
She is also the author of Power Up for the Year and co-author with Devon, of The Calming book of Healing Hugs, a book of tips and techniques on looking after yourself, expressing yourself with the ones you love and your communities within the wider world. She has been in business for 13 years.
What drove you to start your own business?
I always knew that I would like to be the master of my own destiny, I imagined soaring like an eagle, free to roam where I please! So, it was always in the back of my mind. On reaching near 40, after a career in the financial services sector, I thought “it’s now or never” and my partner, Devon always wanted to start a complementary centre, so we said, “let’s go for it!” I love the eclectic nature of our work across varying companies.
What was your career path prior to starting your business?
I always worked in finance and became a Chartered Management Accountant, working in varying posts to Group Accountant for RBS Insurance.
I was also into poetry writing from a teenager, performing where I could, whilst writing various pieces of work and running young women’s groups at the same time. Eventually, I studied coaching and entered into the world of wellbeing.
Tell us about the business planning stage
Before 2008, there was Business Link, an agency to help people start their own businesses, the Business Library and reading business books, which I did in my spare time whilst working for the bank.
I wanted to learn as much as I could about areas outside my remit; such as marketing, advertising and therapy businesses before we started. I also did a business plan, which wasn’t too onerous for me, being an accountant.
In the end, we used our own money to start the business and only needed to redo the plan when going for our own premises around five years later in order to get help from bank loans. However, I would always say you learn the most by just starting the business in some form or fashion, starting from what you can afford as you will learn so much along the way, from clients, staff and suppliers which you cannot learn from a business plan.
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I’m quite goal-driven, so have always planned 3 – 5 years in advance for personal and business purposes. It helps me to define my path more, rather than allowing myself to be thrown around by whatever whim may come my way. There is always room in the plan to be flexible and adaptable otherwise no one could survive in business, what says life!
What keeps me on track and motivated is always to ‘do better, be better’ plus being able to keep and pay staff but most importantly touching clients lives by giving them a ‘healing hug’ each time they enter the centre or get treatments from us or the people across our businesses.
Can you describe a typical working day?
I have a 7am start on weekdays, to medu-pray (meditation, daily reading/motivation tips and prayer) before getting up to home exercise, take a walk or if I have an important project deadline, straight to the desk to cover emails, then do core ‘thinking’ work in the morning. I always try to stop for lunch these days.
During the covid lockdown, I found I was working more incessantly which was weird, in trying to keep the businesses going and I wasn’t stopping fully, so I promised myself that I would no longer do a 6 day week (7 days at start of business and growth periods) but try to pin it down to a 4-5 day week, leaving time for my husband, adult children, family and hobbies.
In the afternoon, I check emails again, then do transactional work, checking emails before running over the next day’s tasks/meetings and logging off around 6 – 7pm.
What has been the most amazing day in your entrepreneurial life so far?
Opening our own premises, where we could show and sell our own and others’ products. That day we had to turn over the Centre fast, we had builders finishing off the build, as well as helping us to clean down the windows, we had team members who came in to help organise the place and we had our first clients booked in that same afternoon.
It was a fantastic team effort, which enabled us to fulfil putting in further processes and procedures, to get a great manager in so that I could be released to work ‘on’ the business and not just ‘in’ it. A-mazing!
What has been your scariest moment?
When Covid-19 hit in 2020 and looking at the blank booking appointment columns on the Centre booking system for approximately four months, then intermittently throughout 2020/2021. We’d never seen that before and wondered how, without that revenue, we were going to survive.
We were determined to keep going, so we concentrated on forging ahead with online products sales, vouchers and writing the next book(s). With the help from the government, our teams and resigning ourselves to owing taxes and rent, we continued, knowing that recovery would take some years but that we retained staff and clients came back.
How do you work on making your business grow?
By staying in touch with what our clients’ need (whether individual or business), listening to comments in the Centre, feedback from the staff, client testimonials and feeding that back into our businesses through ourselves and the team.
We have always believed in a ‘win win’ situation, so if we can keep our teams happy, we can keep our clients even happier. We also look for opportunities, say ‘yes’ when they come and have done years of networking/serving at local festivals and events, which we have found to be the best advertising after word of mouth and internet searches.
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them?
The challenge is the responsibility: that if you do not drive the business, no one else will, like you, especially in the beginning, which can feel overwhelming.
Also, the lack of free time in the beginning or when going through a period of growth, as your eyes need to be constantly on the business. We tackle them by building teams around us who have our ethos as well as follow it through when we are not there. Also, by adapting, expanding or detracting all the time, to meet the demands of the business, staff and clients. It takes perseverance, courage and a solution focused mind.
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
Other small business owners up and down the country who are innovative, hard-working, adapting and turning up every single day for their staff and customers/clients.
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
Know your strengths, understand the roles within your business and allocate accordingly plus delegate to others in order to build your teams. Do what you do best at and leave the rest to others to do what they do best at. This was from a book called the E-Myth revisited which was my ‘friend’ at the beginning, especially when working with your partner or other team members, who do things differently from yourself!
What are the three books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
Acas.org.uk – a good source of HR information when building your team
‘Anyone can do It’ – the story of Coffee Republic, very frank and down to earth with real-life business tips
Teach Yourself series of books – from starting a business to growing one, to accounting for it, they were good reads to dip into at any juncture, especially in the early days.
What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?
I love to relax on the verandah, listening to music and/or reading a business or leisure book, more leisure these days. Also,I love a good film night, long drives out into the countryside or seaside plus gardening, especially ‘watching things grows’, it still fascinates me.
To reset and recharge, I stop, breathe and sit still whilst watching nature, that’s when I get to recalibrate and replace any negative thoughts or issues with positive ones and solutions before I reach out to the world again.
Connect with Karen on social media: Twitter & LinkedIn: KarenFBurke
Facebook & LinkedIn: MindBodyTherapyCentre
Instagram: MBTherapy | Twitter: @mindbodytalk