From Little Feet
Kate Hardcastle is an internationally-respected commercial expert who is regularly asked to comment for the BBC and Sky News.
Household name brands ask the Huddersfield entrepreneur to help them reach more people, transform their customers’ experience and become more successful.
But as a working mum, she knows only too well what it’s like to be up with a teething toddler all night and then to face back-to-back meetings the next day.
“I love my daughter – she is my absolute priority, but I always wanted to continue with my work and career,” she said.
“I knew it would be tough – and almost impossible without my support network of family and partner – but it has been really challenging at times.
“It’s not fair to say ‘you can have it all’ or paint a picture of a superwoman. Let me tell you some truths – I remember when I was in a crucial year for the business, and my daughter started teething. She was awake almost all the way through the night – every night.
“Everything I earned, I spent on just keeping my appointments for six months with the logistics of needing a driver (I was exhausted and would have made a dangerous driver), extra childcare and support.
“I had to be careful to take on work that I knew I could achieve well and not commit to work that I would not complete to my standard and therefore lead to a longer term reputational issue.
“Not long after that was six months of catch up – life had almost had to come to a standstill. I was getting fines upon fines for an unpaid parking ticket, missing family events – just too exhausted to attend – it was not for the faint-hearted.”
Kate says the lessons she has learnt – which she hopes may help Little Feet readers – are not to aim to be perfect and “don’t beat yourself up over anything”.
“You are trying your best – but also don’t expect many allowances,” she said. “People expect the same quality work, whatever your situation. And most of the time, they don’t want to know about what you are going through – they just want the service or product they paid for.
“BE IN THE ROOM – this is my key piece of advice. Whatever you have agreed to do, commit to it. If you are in a meeting, focus 100 per cent and give your all in that meeting.
“If you are with the children, be a mum – not a person on the phone. People (of all ages) would rather have you interact with them and be fully dedicated to them for less time, rather than feel ignored or second best for a longer time (people do know when you are typing a text under the desk – I promise).”
Kate’s achievements make for impressive reading. An award-winning professional, consultant and entrepreneur, she is invited to speak at international events across industries including travel, spa, interiors and retail.
She is known for her determination to transform the customer experience in the UK and beyond, and is often referred to as the “queen of customer service” as it is central to her belief of how the retail sector can engage with consumers.
In 2009 she launched her own company, Insight with Passion, whose staff devote 20 per cent of their time, energy and resources to the community. This has so far equated to 8,000 hours of charity and micro business support.
She has travelled the world to speak at renowned seminars alongside presidents, prime ministers and Olympic stars.
And she has been recognised for helping other women in business, with awards from the Inspiration Awards, Tesco Mum of the Year and more.
She said the speed at which her daughter, Nya Ella, is growing up helps her balance motherhood and her career.
“My daughter will be a teenager in just a few years, and it feels as though each day speeds up a little more. I have to take time to be with her, enjoy being a mum at all the stages of her life,” she said.
“I look longingly at her baby pictures now, thinking, ‘where has the time gone?’ as I look at this kind and grownup school girl. I need to grasp every opportunity to do that and so I have to plan to make that happen.
“Spontaneous moments may often be the best, however by planning in times to spend with her – in the diary – I know that I have that time. Important dates like school concerts, plays, going away for birthdays and Christmas are blocked out in advance, and then I add in random fun days out like the day they finish early for Christmas – we’re heading out ice skating and for play time. No phone, no Christmas chores – just me and her and fun!”
Kate’s advice to other working mums is “you have to know that you want it”.
“I stand backstage at a lot of conference and events for business advice, waiting to go on stage. Often they will have speakers who touch on family life and work balance. I think that people tend to be nervous about telling you the real facts – as if it is a failing on their part to admit it’s been hard or there were times when it could not be done.
“We need to be honest – unless you have the most flexible work a d most ordered family – it’s going to be a struggle from time to time.
“Write three things down each day that you really must do or achieve. Agree with yourself a list of things that can be done tomorrow or not at all if needed. Don’t set unrealistic challenges for yourself.
“For instance, I am a really crafty and creative person and I have loved ensuring my daughter has enjoyed parties with lots of theming and lots of excitement.
“This year, the pressure of work, charity work and everything was so high and I didn’t want to do a poor job for her party. I also didn’t want to hire someone in. Chatting to her and my family about it, I soon realised I was the person creating the high bar. We all went away for the weekend instead – it was brilliant, different and a memorable birthday.
“You can’t make the Christmas costume after a 12-hour day and cleaning the house for four hours so be strict with yourself – what do you really NEED to do and who needs your attention the most?
“Another tip I always give is how much are you worth? Work out an hourly rate for yourself and use it regularly. I use my working hourly rate – you might need it another way – but ask ‘how much of my time will I spend on this? Is it worth it? Do we need it? Is it an essential or something we want? Do we need to find someone else to help us with it/can we afford to do that? Is there another way to tackle this?’”