Blogcast #34 Gill Moakes, Award-Winning Business Coach Championing Female Founders

Gill Moakes, Host of the Heads Together Podcast and Award-Winning Business Coach Championing Female Founders

Gill: Hey Rebecca. I am really good and I am very happy to be here. I’ll be looking forward to this.

Rebecca: Yeah, me too. So the first thing we have to talk about is the elephant in the room, or rather the sign that’s behind you that says, don’t be a dick. Not why I love it, by the way, but tell me about that.

Gill: Absolutely. I mean, it’s the mantra really for me, it’s the thing that I will, it’s the hill. I will dial, stand and die on whatever that expression is. Don’t be a dick for me is like it’s the number one rule of business. There are so many over complications in business, but actually, if we can just remember this one thing, don’t be a dick. It’s going to serve you really, really well. To be honest with you, it was a joke between myself and Lauren Jones, who’s the founder and CEO of Brand by Boucdica, and it was something we would often joke about together and she ended up actually buying me the sign. So it’s one of my favourite possessions now.

Rebecca: I love it.

Gill: It’s an absolute talking point as well. And Dave, my partner, will quite often say, you can’t have that up there when you’ve got clients, when clients are coming on or breakthrough sessions. And I’m like, well, I really can because anyone who doesn’t find that funny is going to really hate working with me.

Rebecca: Yeah, you have to position yourself, you, I’m just in the middle of developing my podcast room. I’m creating a library, and one of the rooms  of my children who have left home I’ve commandeered is a library slash podcast studio, and I’ve bought a sign and it looks like it’s in the similar kind of style, but my sign says, Welcome To The House Of Fun. Nice. Yeah, that’s going to be behind me as well, along with a neon sign that says Rebel Rebel. So that’s going to set the tone there. So anyway,

Gill: I love it. So I dunno if I’m showing my age, but that says to me, David Bowie or Madness.

Rebecca: Totally, totally. And we are of the same vintage, I suspect. So yes, it has the same meaning to me now, Gill, what do you do out there in the world of business?

Gill: So I’m a business coach. I work predominantly with other coaches and consultants, and I help them bring to life the full fat version of their business. So my main thing is helping women to stop playing small and to really and unapologetically go after what they actually want and bring to life. That building any business is hard, and I always say to people, building any business is hard. Why on earth would you do it? Building the wrong business or a light version of the business that you really want. So yeah, that’s my thing.

Rebecca: Good. Do it properly or not at all?

Gill: Yes. Oh yeah. Oh, that’s a good one. I haven’t heard that for a long time. That was one of my mom’s definite standbys was if you’re going to do something, do it properly or not at all.

Rebecca: Yeah, if you’re not going to do it properly, don’t bother.

Gill: Exactly.

Rebecca: Yeah, yeah, definitely. So I really like that unapologetic thing, and I really like the full fat version because I think, and I know certainly in my younger days, I was guilty of not bringing my full fat version to the party. And I dunno about you. You started off in insurance, didn’t you?

Gill: Yeah. Oh yeah. I mean, I worked in corporate insurance for 25 years, so I didn’t start my first business until I was 42, and that really was as a result of, so I lost my husband to cancer. So it was a combination of things that really led me to be like, yeah, life is way too short to be commuting to London with my head in someone else’s armpit. That’s not okay anymore. I do not wish, I do not wish that to be my life anymore.

Rebecca: How unreasonable of you, Gill?

Gill: Exactly. The thing is, I didn’t know how to do anything else either. I just didn’t know how to do. I thought that was, well, I’m destined for a life and insurance. That’s all I know, and it’s all I’ve ever done since I left school. And I think that wake up call to how short life can be was very much a call for me to look inside and say, is that just a story you’re telling yourself? Because a tonne of other things you can do that you are really good with people and you way around a spreadsheet. And unfortunately, I definitely didn’t at that time have a great mindset in terms of playing big. So I actually started the wrong business for me twice.

Rebecca: Okay, well done.

Gill: Which I think was quite, there’s nothing, two huge pivots to get you to where you want to be.

Rebecca: It’s a talent, it’s a gift.

Gill: Exactly. Yeah. My first business was as a virtual assistant, and I would often tell anyone who would listen, I’m not interested in being a coach myself, I’m very happy in this supporting role of helping other coaches build their dream businesses. And it took a long time before I realised that that was such a lie. It was like I definitely wanted to be a coach. I thought that being a VA and then subsequently to that an online business manager, I felt like that’s what was available to me. And that bigger version of what I really wanted was a step too far. It was beyond the ceiling that I’d set for myself of what was available for me.

Rebecca: That’s really interesting. Now, one of the things I advocate in the process of building new coaching businesses, baby steps. So those were the baby steps, steps that you needed to take in order to get to where you are now. And I’ve seen other VAs do, and do you know Gloria? Who knows Lauren?

Gill: Yes. Yeah, love Gloria.

Rebecca: Yeah, Gloria, she’s a really good VA. She’s completely wasted as a VA because she’s got so many other amazing talents. But it’s almost like that coming out the corporate world, you’ve got this massive safety net, which is in fact an illusion because they can get rid of you at any moment in time whenever they want. Oh, absolutely. But you’ve got this perceived safety net and this magic money that appears in your bank account every month, and to go out and let go of that is quite, I mean, it’s really scary for a start, isn’t it, for most people that you’ve got bills to pay, you’ve got a mortgage we’ve got, and you have a life-changing event, Gill that kind of pushed you towards that. How do you consider that a tool in the previous 25 years before that life-changing event?

Gill: Yeah, I, in fact, I would sit on the train as I was commuting to London for probably a good couple of years before I started my first business. I would sit on the train and I would listen to podcasts aimed at entrepreneurs, but for me it was listening to a fairytale or a story. And I ended up being quite well-informed about starting a business before I ever started a business. But I had no concept of that actually being a possibility for me when I was still working in corporate at that time, it was a fantasy land, and that was because the story of you don’t know how to do anything else. How could you possibly start a business? I think there was probably some legacy stories as well from my dad. My dad was a small business owner and he never encouraged either me or my brother or my sister to become self-employed or to do our own thing. I think he saw it as a really tough life. He owned a couple of shops in the village we lived in when I was a child. I thought it was a Lord of the manor because everyone owned Mr. Shaw. He was actually a small village shopkeeper, but as a child, I definitely felt like he was lord of the man I

Rebecca: Blended.

Gill: I know. So I think there was a bit of a story there as well that yeah, he definitely didn’t encourage us. And if anything, he was very much like you said, this illusion of security within a nine to five, you’ve got to get a good job with a good pension, you need that security. So risk taking was definitely not something I was brought up to embrace.

Rebecca: That’s really interesting. That was going to be one of my questions about your family background. So you’ve gone to this safe, secure, and 25 years is a very long time. Did you come out of it and did you feel you’d been institutionalised?

Gill: That’s a good question. I don’t think I did.

Rebecca: No,

Gill: I don’t think I did actually. Now something’s just come up as you asked me that that I’m not sure I’ve ever really acknowledged before. But that is that in the last year or so of working with Incorporate, I can remember I put myself forward for different projects and things, something I’d never really done before. I’d always been quite happy. I was in sales for a lot of the time, so I was out on the road a lot. I was visiting different brokers and I enjoyed that part of the job. But I remember in the last year or so that I definitely put myself forward for more project based stuff that wasn’t necessarily the underwriting and the sales part of the work that I had. That was my day job, if you like. So I wonder if that was the start, perhaps of me, yeah, just testing the water, I guess, of feeling that need to do something different.

Rebecca: That’s

Gill: Really interesting. I don’t think I felt institutionalised. I felt relief. I just felt relief that I was able to now focus on doing work I love and not work that just pays my bills.

Rebecca: And I think having a sales background helps because you know, can build relationships, you know, can create money from nothing. And I think it’s one of the key skills. I’m a huge advocate of young people going to work in retail in hospitality because they can see how the sales process works in real time and in real life, and obviously out on the road, sales is an extension of that, et cetera, et cetera. So when you first went out on your own, what were the first steps you took? Because a lot of people, I’m thinking of other people who are in corporate now listening to entrepreneurial podcasts like you were on the train. Yes,

Gill: Absolutely. I often think that when I’m podcasting, I often think, gosh, yeah, I wonder how many people are still kind of doing that commute and listening to this. It’s a future pace story.

Rebecca: Yeah. So what were your feelings in the first three months once you’d left corporate, the magic money was no longer appearing in your bank account every month. What were you going through?

Gill: I’m definitely the rebellious one in my family, and I have a more risk, I’m much more comfortable with risk than anyone else in my family is. So I don’t think I felt that entrepreneurial terror that a lot of people feel when they kind of go out alone. I kind of had this ignorance is bliss feeling of no, it’ll be fine, it’ll be fine. So I think that was definitely there, but also I did have that crushing realisation of, oh, hang on a minute. So I have to work really hard to get the income lined up.

Rebecca: Right? Carry on.

Gill: Yeah, I definitely had that realisation of, okay, I need to bring in enough business to be able to pay my bills and then when the month finishes, I’ve got to kind of reset the clock and make sure I’m giving that in again. Because that was at a time when I didn’t really, hadn’t really thought much about retainer clients and all that kind of thing. I was really green to that part of it, what the business model for me could look like. And I do remember feeling, God, this is incessant, this is like, it’s relentless. How am I going to keep this up? Because everything felt like I was really pushing towards hitting this financial number at the end of every month and then go, ah, okay, reset, right, start again. So exhausting. But of course you know what you said about the baby steps of getting to where I am now. I think that was, it’s like a rite of passage. And I do think particularly being a VA and then an online business manager was the perfect training ground for becoming a business coach because I got to see so many businesses and what worked for them and what didn’t work for them and how they could improve things. And for me, I think that world is the best training ground certainly for business coaches.

Gill: Totally.

Rebecca: Totally. Yeah, absolutely. So how did you transition into coaching? Tell me about that point.

Gill: I changed my email signature.

Rebecca: Okay.

Gill: I wish that I was saying that as a joke.

Rebecca: It’s so true.

Gill: It’s so true. It’s actually true. Yeah, I would just like to add that since then I have become ICF certified accredited as a coach. But no, honestly, honest to God, I literally had a bit of a wake up call. I was talking with a really dear friend of mine across the pond, Rebecca Gunter, and we had this conversation and she was talking, she’s saying, well, but why aren’t you a coach then? I don’t understand. She was genuinely couldn’t really, I don’t understand. And she was repositioning helping me reposition what I did. And I had that kind of absolute flash, bang realisation. Oh, I actually am coaching already anyway, it’s just that people are already paying me for online business management. What I’m doing with my clients is coaching them. And I literally overnight change my email signature and change my social media profiles and became a coach.

Rebecca: I love that. And I’ll tell you why I love it, Gill, because we train business coaches and as you well know, and one of the things they say, well, how do I get started? And we say to them, just change your LinkedIn profile and tell everybody you’re a business coach. And they go, is that it? And you’re like, yes,

Gill: Yes, it’s, and be a bloody good one, be a good business coach. But in terms of repositioning yourself. Yeah, absolutely. And that is all there is to it, and I think we can overcomplicate it. We, I didn’t wait to have the perfect website. I didn’t wait really for anything. I just changed what I was doing.

Rebecca: Brilliant. Yeah, brilliant. Yeah, I mean, similar journey for me. I came out of recruitment, I had six months off my third baby and then went, right, I’m going to be a coach. And I started off being a leadership coach and I just changed everything to being a leadership coach and used all my NLP training to do that. And like you then I went and did my master’s degree in coaching and blah, blah, blah. Exactly. Yeah. But it definitely started with the, I’m a coach now. I had some skills and tools that like you being a VA and looking at business systems and things like that. I’d interviewed hundreds and hundreds of finance directors and partners in accountancy firms. So I knew all the business models. It was the best research ever. Absolutely. Yeah. A lot of people have these skills and experience and they don’t see that that’s like 10, 20 years of research that they can then take into coaching. So no, that’s good. So who do you coach and how do you work?

Gill: I coach female founders, and at the moment I coach one-on-one with my clients. So my model is that I coach one-on-one, and I also have a mastermind group for my private clients, which is called Rise Together. And I’m incredibly lucky. No, it’s not luck. I have very intentionally created a business where I get to only work with women that I absolutely adore. And I think that that makes me one of the luckiest people on the planet. I really, really do. I can’t reinforce that enough to my own clients. The importance of working with people you just adore working with because it changes everything, doesn’t it? And it’s not always been that way. I’ve worked with some nightmare clients and that I’m never going to do that again. So I work, I also have in the past had group programmes and workshops, and Lauren and I are partners in unapologetic retreats as well, but predominantly my main offer is private coaching with me because that’s still what I love to do.

Rebecca: And when it’s your own business, you get to choose who you work with.

Gill: Absolutely.

Rebecca: And you don’t have to work with the idiots anymore. You just politely decline and move on to the people that you do want to work with. Absolutely.

Gill: And it’s such a privilege to get to that point, and I’m aware of that and really aware of that. But also there is a pathway to that and it’s really around just absolutely delighting every client you ever work with, giving them the most incredible experience so that they can’t help but refer you to all of their other female founder friends. And it works like a dream if you do that. I think so many of us get really hung up, don’t we, on that, on mastering all of the marketing tactics and the social media stuff and all of that kind of thing. And that’s never really been my bag. I’ve been much more about relationship building and that’s always stood me in good stead, really.

Rebecca: And because you love it, you end up in this virtuous cycle, don’t you? You’d love what you do. So when you do work with clients, you always overdeliver anyway. You love it so much, and then they tell everybody and then you get more work. And it is just a lovely virtuous cycle of gorgeousness.

Gill: I love that. It’s a virtuous circle of gorgeousness. I love it.

Rebecca: And you attract great people because you’re giving off that energy and it’s just a joy and a pleasure. And you are right. I think you have to kiss quite a lot of frogs along the way. Yes,

Gill: I would agree.

Rebecca: Because again, I think that’s part of the process of working out who you do like working with and who you don’t like working with. And I once received some really interesting advice when I was a young teenager from an auntie, my Auntie Sissy, she was, and she said, Rebecca.

Gill: Oh, Auntie Sissy.

Rebecca: She said, oh, and she was a character. She was a character Gill at New Year. She used to what she would call, get into her cups. So she’d have a fag hanging out of her mouth, she’d take her corsets off, she’d drunk, too much gin and euthanasia as she called it. She would light a fag with the flame on the high. So she’d singe the, anyway, auntie Sissy gave me some very sage advice was look, she said, go out and kiss as many boys as you can. She said, kiss the tall ones, the fat ones, the thin ones, the clever ones, the stupid ones. The rich ones, the poor ones kiss. She said, it’s only then you work out which ones you like. And I think it’s a bit like that with clients. You don’t have to kiss them obviously, but you kind of have to try a few, don’t you?

Gill: Definitely. And also I would add to that as well, that it isn’t just about the ones you like, it’s who do you get the best results for? Because it’s that combination of clients you love working with. So right, when you adore working with someone, you are always going to overdeliver. You are always going to leave them feeling good, and you are going to feel good and you’re going to want to do more of it. But also it’s like which of the clients that you adore are also the ones that you get the best results for? Pair those two together. And that’s a business built on referrals for life.

Rebecca: And that’s your niche, Gill, isn’t it?

Gill: That’s your niche. That is your niche.

Rebecca: I think we’ve just uncovered something there quick. Let’s turn it into a model, put a trademark against it and flog it

Gill: Quick.

Rebecca: I think that’s fabulous. So the retreats now, tell me about those because I do like a retreat,

Gill: Love a retreat. So we held our inaugural retreat in Portugal last year. Oh, wow. Which was absolutely amazing. Lauren and I, we didn’t really know what to expect from the experience of hosting a retreat. And I think we both came away feeling like, for one thing, it was not a holiday, it was intense. But the feeling, if you could capture job satisfaction, that would be right up there. Because I think we both came away feeling like, wow, we’ve changed lives in that week. We’ve changed lives, we’ve changed futures in that week. And I think that’s

What we’re all in business for, isn’t it? Is to get that feeling of having made a difference. So yeah, we didn’t know what to expect, and I think it exceeded our expectations in terms of the satisfaction, the experience. It was hard work. It was intense, but so worth it, so worth it. So under the unapologetic retreats umbrella, we’d really love to build that out with other experiences. So maybe some workshops over here this year, I think next year we’ll do another sort of a destination retreat next year. So we’re kind of going to experiment a bit and mix it up.

Rebecca: I like sound of that thesis…

Gill: It’s about experiments, right?

Rebecca: Yeah. I like the sound of that a lot. And what kind of people came on your retreat?

Gill: So the women who came were coaches and consultants, and they were all kind of in a transition period. So either wanting to pivot a little in what they’re doing, reposition themselves a little in what they’re doing, or at a point where they wanted to introduce an arm to their business and explore what that could look like from a business model, from a marketing and from a brand perspective. And so yeah, they were all reasonably a similar stage in their business. They were established entrepreneurs who were really in a period of transition, I think, into something even bigger and better.

Rebecca: Nice. God, it sounds lovely. If you do want in Italy, let me know because oh,

Gill: That’s somewhere where we were thinking maybe Tuscany or something would be great. And we learned so much by doing the first one. We learned so much about what works and what we can make even better next time in terms of the venue and things like that. I mean, hotels are great, but actually imagine if we were all together in a villa, how amazing transformational would that experience be? So we’re kind of toying with ideas at the moment of what it might look like.

Rebecca: Great. Great. Right. We’ll keep you posted. You might know the answer to this question because Lauren obviously is our head of brand as well. So this is a question she may ask, and she may have asked this about your business. So if your business had a personality or a character, either, who would it be or how would you describe it, Gill? Oh,

Gill: Now this should roll off my tongue because Lauren is currently rebranding my business.

Rebecca: There you go.

Gill: So I have done this work with her, so I should definitely know the answer to this. If my business had a personality, I think it would be the love child of Oprah Winfrey and Steven Covey.

Rebecca: Oh, nice.

Gill: Great. Wouldn’t that be a really nice combo?

Rebecca: Yeah. Yeah.

Gill: I feel like that would be a good combo.

Rebecca: Yeah. Loving that. Loving that. Definitely. And here’s another question that Lauren may or may not have asked. You asked in her branding process, which I highly recommend to anybody.

Gill: Yes, absolutely.

Rebecca: It’s amazing. What do you think your purpose or your destiny is that drives you, Gill?

Gill: Oh, Rebecca. I love that you’ve asked me this because there were times when I would given you such flowery long-winded answers to that question because I really wanted my purpose to be something impressive, or I wanted my purpose to be something that people would go, oh, isn’t she fabulous? And then I suddenly realised that actually no, I want it to be real and true. So I think my purpose is really to give, and my mission is to really bring about a container for women where there is no dream. That’s too big for them. No idea. That’s too audacious for them to bring to life. That’s my everything.

Rebecca: Oh, I love that. That’s fabulous. That’s amazing. And apart from the retreats and what you’re doing, which is really quite a lot, are there any other plans for the business?

Gill: So I’m currently working on another group programme, and this one’s going to be a bit different. I spent a long time thinking about this. I didn’t really want to add to the noise and there’s a lot of noise. And I wanted to bring together something that combined the best parts of being in a group of like-minded people and the best parts of one-to-one work that really move you forward in your business. And the thing, the part of business that I’m always asked about the most and that clients, when I survey either clients or prospective clients or people in my network, which I do periodically, often what people want is very simple in business. They want to have more of the right clients and make more money.

We sometimes make it more complicated than that, but that’s generally where people want to be and more time freedom. Those tend to be the things. And so I’m putting together a group experience that will be a bit of a longer container than I’ve done before. So it’s going to be a six month container going to really be about creating marketing and selling a really irresistible offer and what that looks like for you and what makes an offer irresistible to your perfect clients, the ones that you’re going to adore working with. So that’s what I’m working on at the moment.

Rebecca: Nice. Which is exciting. That is super exciting and I wish you all the luck in the world, your contact details will be in the show notes so people will be able to

Gill: Get you. I really appreciate that. Thank you for asking that.

Rebecca: No, absolute pleasure. I mean, we’re all about raising each other up. We’re all about sharing the stories so that other people either feel comforted or inspired by what our guests talk about. And the main purpose for starting the podcast is so that entrepreneurs never have to feel alone. And they know there’s somebody out there that’s either been through what they’re going through or what they’re about to go through and they’ve come through the other side or the lessons they’ve learned, and then about the guests we’ve got on being signposted to our audience. So if you’re interested in it, go and contact them. Go and find out more about what they’re doing. If it’s triggered something in your head and you think, oh yeah, fancy doing that, get in touch.

Gill: Definitely. I love that. Rebecca, I think I said to you before, I feel like you’re a woman after my own heart. I think we share a really similar approach to that. You’re a generous entrepreneur and business owner, and I think that that’s everything to me. Those are the people I want to surround myself with.

Rebecca: Yeah, I don’t think there’s any other way of doing it and remaining sane and humane.

Gill: I like that. Yeah, and I think you are absolutely bang on because otherwise you end up being a dick.

Rebecca: What a superb place to finish. Thanks, Gill. What a beautiful

Gill: Way to come full circle.