Lessons Learnt (So Far) In Lockdown

Just a couple of months ago if I had told you that we would be living in isolation and that our schools would be closed would you have believed me?  Probably not.  And who had heard of furlough before the end of March?  To be honest even my friends in HR didn’t know what it was and were frantically googling! 

We are undoubtedly living through unusual times with anxiety and negativity running alongside positivity and heartfelt thanks for our key workers and beyond. Over the last couple of days I have been reflecting on some of the things that lockdown has taught me. 

The Value of Hairdressers

I am sure that most of us will agree with this one?  I miss my 8 weekly hair cuts and root touch up (but let’s not talk about that).  With an ever widening grey stripe I succumbed to temptation and home coloured my hair. I’m actually quite pleased with the result but my boyfriend watching a couple of YouTube videos definitely didn’t make him a hairdresser and he will never be coming near me with a pair of scissors! 

Whilst I was sat having my hair coloured it made me think about how much we undervalue the services we sell and question the value of our own experience and worth.  Consider this; my hairdresser makes what she does look easy.  When I pay my hairdresser (who is also a good friend) I’m not just paying her to cut and colour my hair.  In reality I could go anywhere to get that done.  What I am paying her for is her 30 years of experience and because I trust her with something that’s important to me.  I’m paying for her to choose the right products and colour, to know how to cut my very thick hair in the right way and sometimes for her to say to me “No Amy! You can’t do that with your hair!”   

How many have thought you need to discount our products or give our service away for free because of lockdown?  Before lockdown who suffered imposter syndrome or mind monkeys about what you charge? But if you don’t believe in the value of our service or products why should anyone else?  If someone sees the value and believes that what you sell them is what they need and can help them then …… they will definitely pay you for it. I would love to be able to pay my hairdresser to do what she does best.  Wouldn’t you?  

The Importance of Support 

The lockdown announcement was on the day of my Grandad’s funeral.  We were lucky in that we still got to have a funeral, albeit only close family, and we didn’t have the restrictions that are in place today.  Saying goodbye to my Mum that night, when we knew what was potentially coming in Boris Johnson’s speech, was horrible. I see my Mum most days and she is a massive help with the boys but I also felt like I was abandoning her at a time when we would normally have been rallying round and supporting her.  As time has gone on I have still been able to see her even if it is just on her doorstep with supermarket shopping or to sit in her garden at the appropriate distance but it isn’t the same. Receiving andgiving support is important to both of us.  

In business, small businesses I have spoken to have turned to colleagues and other businesses for support and that support has been even more forthcoming than usual. At Connexions we have seen this with recommendations and engagement in our group proving that women supporting women and networking can work.  If you’re struggling then reach out, whether it is to share your perspective, to shout about something great that has happened to you, to rant about something that’s gone wrong or just to connect with others when you are feeling lonely. 

Support is available and Connexions is a great place to be.  Donna and I are both very grateful for the support you have given us as we have moved online and as we celebrate our first year anniversary as business partners.   We love it when we see the business connections and friendships you have made. 

By Amy Hobson, Co-Owner of Connexions, Digital Marketing Trainer and Owner of Focus Your Future helping small and micro businesses find their digital focus so their customers can find them online. 

Meet the Leaders – Shirley Billson

We love being Leaders at Connexions and thought you might be curious to know a little bit more about us.

In the second of our Meet the Leaders Series we talk to Shirley Billson, one of our newest Leaders from our Pershore group.

1. Who is your heroine?

When I was growing up it was Marie Curie…the only woman we were ever taught about who was recognized for achievements in a man’s world. Now, it’s probably Greta Thunberg. Her total commitment to do the right thing is mind-blowingly inspirational.

2. What was the last book you read?

The Wall by John Lanchester – a great book and a very unnerving take on our world. I hope it isn’t prophetic, but it’s close enough to make you worry.

3. What is your favourite thing about what you do?

Always being able to contribute something positive

4. Who was your first crush?

A boy at primary school called Peter Watson – dark hair and deep blue eyes. 

5. What is your favourite thing about The Connexions?

Camaraderie comes first

6. What was your first job?

A Trainee Line Controller for BOC Datasolve….in modern terms, a Computer Network Engineer!

7. What is your biggest pet peeve?

Crikey, I’ve probably got lots of soap box topics….and I don’t sweat too many things these days. However, if I have to go for one, I’d say it’s when people don’t wash up cups properly. I hate taking out a ‘clean’ cup to discover months (or years!) of grime caked into the inside. I can’t have a drink once I discover it. 

8. What did you want to be when you were little?

An actress…it’s probably why I choose professional speaking now.

Why we’re addicted to achievement

by guest blogger Yogeeta Mistry

“Career suicide is better than suicide by career” Miss Sloane, movie 2016

I can only speak my truth. And the truth can do a few things: rattle cages, ruffle feathers, make you feel uncomfortable, offer insight or create a light bulb moment. 

If it does make you feel uncomfortable, the type of uncomfortable where you start saying to yourself “yes, but….”, then listen to the feeling. One thing I trust is my feelings. It’s how our bodies speak to us. 

There’s wisdom in uncomfortable feelings.

Anyway, I’m not going to talk to you about being better in business, how to find more customers, how to make more money or how to be more successful. So if that’s what you wanted to read then I’ll give you a choice: if you want to save another 90 seconds or so of your life, then feel free to stop reading this right now.

If you’re still here reading this then here’s what I want to talk to you about: what constant striving, climbing ladders and the ‘chase’ actually means, once you peel back the layers.

And why, in amongst our pervertedly progressive lives, why many of us find that we still don’t feel whole. In fact, despite striving for more, why we can still feel like a massive part of us is still missing

Because, we’re addicted to achievement. 

I know this feeling all too well. I was trying to prove my worth for years by climbing. 

Bigger. Better. Faster. 


More Success.

More Power.

More Prestige.

More Money.

More Status.

More {you fill the blank}

These unrelenting, gods we’re taught to worship who admonish us to: 






Get to the next level. Uplevel your life.  Six figure income. No, let’s go for seven figure. Climb the property ladder. Climb the career ladder. A better car. A bigger house. Don’t stop. Keep progressing. Keep achieving. And then do some more.

And here’s how the inner tyrant speaks to us:

“Keep your nose to the grindstone”

“Winners never quit and quitters never win”

“Work hard and die trying”

“Work harder and play harder”

That’s what we’re taught that this life is all about, isn’t it?

All in order to keep proving our existence on this planet. Because if you don’t prove your existence, then what the f**k are you doing here? 

And resting, slowing down or taking time for ourselves? C’mon, that’s just not even on the cards it? Feeling guilty for doing something other than constantly checking our phones and ticking to do lists, whether that’s taking the time for an exercise class during the day or slowing down for a proper lunch. And to top it off, feeling guilty for not thinking about work even when we’re not at work.

We live in the grab culture: grab breakfast on the run. Grab a sandwich for lunch.  Grab a cup of coffee. Grab a quick loo break. Whatever you do, don’t you dare slow down. Fill every second of every minute of every day. And if you don’t, why the hell do you even exist?

Being stressed and working to the max is glamorised, something we wear like a badge of honour, like a perverted accolade. I’m sure you’ve been there and know exactly what I’m talking about.

It’s insidiously drummed into us all of our lives to believe that true fulfilment, meaning and purpose only comes from constant achievement, that the only way to gain self-worth is by constantly doing more to prove our existence.

And the more we feel validated by recognition and approval in our progress oriented society, the more we become accustomed to feeling good onlywhen we’re achieving. 

Otherwise we feel shit about ourselves.

So we feel compelled to Do more so we can Have more so we can feel good, getting locked in a constant residual of Doing, but never to get the feeling that we’ve ever arrived. 

So we need another ‘fix’. Like a drug habit.

That my dear is the addiction to a cultural zeitgeist we never seem to question. 

But perhaps maybe you have started to. 

And it starts with inner nudges that life doesn’t feel right.

You see, I’ve lived this way before. 

I’ve ticked the boxes of the conventional idea of ‘success’:  the fancy title, the designer wardrobe, where throwing money at things would temporarily fix my problems. Bragging demurely over a Friday night drink about my latest possessions and the destination of my next 5* holiday. Prestige, kudos and fake friends.

But it doesn’t matter what I achieved next or how much I spent on my next possession: I never felt complete. Something just didn’t feel right. And it was a hole I couldn’t seem to fill. 

What I didn’t realise back then is that instead of finding myself, I was losing myself. I was actually killing who I really was. It was soul suicide. And I knew I was losing the real woman within me in this relentless chase.

I’d gotten to the top only to realise my ladder was leaning firmly against the wrong wall.

I kept up the façade and lied to myself that THIS was my path. But deep down, I knew a part of me was dying, something that needed to be expressed. A part of me that needed to be excavated and reclaimed. 

It’s dangerous living this way. For me it led to eventual breakdown.  

You see, in the constant rush to strive, we sacrifice time with family and friends and more dangerously, we unwittingly sacrifice our body, our soul and the spirit of who we really are as women. I actually missed my best friend’s wedding because I needed to prove how committed I was to my career and work. And I lied to her why I couldn’t make it because I was too ashamed to tell the truth. Yes, I know, I had sold my soul.  

Unbeknown to us, we operate and live in a hyper-masculinised mode that doesn’t fit us as women. 

You’re right if you’re thinking we have no choice but to work. But, to sacrifice so much of who we really are?

You see, with this ‘fitting in’ to cultural models that we haplessly accept comes the contortion of who you are, bending yourself, your values, the real you, completely out of shape, and driving the real spirit of who you are even deeper. You think you’re trying to find yourself in striving but in the process you end up losing yourself even deeper. 

We have tokeep ourselves motivated to reach goals that society says you should have.  Remember goals need constant motivation.  

But we’re not taught how to live an inspired life. Inspired living fuelled by a driving purpose that simply needs no motivation but is a beautiful expression of who you are. 

Do you really know what your true inspired life would look like? Like Rumi says “when you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy”

Inspired living is going for the life that feels bestfor you that feels rightfor you. Most of us are in waking sleep state, unconsciously Doing what we are conditioned to Do and live in a way that fits the needs of society, not in a way that fits you.

Instead we lose our entire sense of Being in the race and the rush to Do so much. We are taught over and over again to prove ourselves with a societal definition of success and status which without, we are simply not enough and ‘less than’. 

We end up acquiescing to this linear, hyper-masculinised and unforgiving template of living. It’s the only template we’ve ever been sold.

But what if I told you that there was another template to live by? What if I told you that you don’t have to ascribe to this way of living, that there is another way?   

Well, there is and if you’re open to knowing more, I’m going to be sharing more about the seasons of our lives as women, and the Heroine’s Journey:  how we lose ourselves, how we eventually find ourselves and the true path to inspired, expressive living. Come and hear me speak and share candidly about my own journey at Connexions Birmingham on 8 January about Life Beyond Ladders – The Heroine’s Journey and ‘Un-Becoming’ You.

Autumn Perspective: How things aren’t always what they seem

Last weekend I went for a long walk with my dog and other half.  Later the same afternoon I posted a few photos on Facebook and one of my friends commented that it looked like a perfect Autumn walk.  In many ways it was – clear blue sky with barely a cloud, it was dry, the sun was warm enough to not need gloves but not too warm that we were sweating during our eleven mile circuit and the trees were a beautiful mix of colours. 

My friend’s comment made me think about what the photo doesn’t show and about how we see ourselves and others. My photo of my picture perfect day actually hid a slightly murky truth. It had rained for all of the day before which meant most of our route was waterlogged at best and thick mud up to our ankles at worst, both of which made the walk hard going.   Autumn leaves were beautiful but even where it wasn’t muddy fallen leaves made it slippery underfoot and we discovered about half way round that one of our pair of boots were no longer waterproof (thankfully not mine!).  Shortly after I took the photo we realized that despite following the directions we had done an unexpected circuit and were effectively lost with only written instructions to guide us.  None of which could be seen in my picture.  

As business owners, and particularly as women, we are very quick to compare ourselves to others.  Whether on appearance, confidence or success it can be very easy to look at ourselves, our career or our business alongside others and find ourselves lacking.  The reality, however, is similar to my walk.  The picture I showed on Facebook didn’t show the full picture – just a snapshot. It didn’t show the struggles we had made to get there or the rest of the journey we took which was heavily waterlogged in places and, thanks to our wrong turn, slightly different and longer than planned.  

When we look at someone or their business we only ever really see a snapshot.  We don’t see the journey that they have taken to reach that success or level of confidence.   We don’t see the mistakes that they have made, the “mud” that they have had to wade through to get there or the wrong turns they may have taken along the way.  

Equally what we see could be fake. Whilst I didn’t intend to deceive with the photo I added to Facebook it would have been easy to pretend that the walk had all been easy and picture perfect.  I’m not saying that someone is deliberately misleading you but maybe they don’t have it as perfect as they portray either. For some new businesses it’s a survival instinct to “fake it till you make it” and it is rare for someone to admit their business isn’t doing well, particularly publically. So next time you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else, just pause for a minute and ask yourself if you are being fair to yourself or to them.  Your journey isn’t their journey, your challenges aren’t their challenges and maybe, just maybe they are looking at you and thinking that they don’t compare.

Meet the Leaders – Eve Tubb

We love being Leaders at Connexions and thought you might be curious to know a little bit more about us. In the first of our Series we talk to Eve Tubb, our newest Leader from our Oxford group.

What is your background?

I have 20 years of Human Resources experience, mainly throughout the hospitality industry. I have worked for Hilton, Jurys Inns and Millennium and Copthorne Hotel.

Following a short career break to have my second child I decided to take my HR career in a different direction and met with the owner of Businessynergy, a HR Consultancy based in Pershore. 2 years later and it is the best career decision I ever made. I love the diversity of working with SMEs in a variety of industries to support them in managing their people and business.

1. Who is your heroine?

So many to choose from and not one of them famous. If I have to choose 1 then I will go with my first manager in HR! She is now one of my closest friends, I have admired her work ethic for over 20 years, but over the past few years her life has been turned upside down following a personal tragedy that would have broken most people.

I see her positivity every day, leading life to the full and never taking anything for granted. Some days it’s easy to let life get you down and it’s people like her that give me the kick up the backside I need to remember how good I have got it. 

2. What was the last book you read?

Aliens love underpants (I have a 6 year old and a 3 year old – I haven’t read a book of my own for over 3 years!)

3. What is your favourite thing about what you do?

I can’t deny that I do love to get my teeth into a disciplinary and a restructure, but the outcomes give you the best feeling, knowing that we are helping businesses and their people to be the best that they can be.  

4. Who was your first crush?

Joey McIntyre from New Kids on the Block 

5. What is your favourite thing about The Connexions?

  • The flexibility of attending when it suits you and your business;
  • The relaxed environment that each of the groups have;
  • The variety of speakers who inspire us with their talks.

5. What was your first job?

A waitress at Poppins Restaurant (café) when I was 14

6. What is your biggest pet peeve?

Unclear recycling information on products – we know that we need to be better at recycling but without a magnifying glass it is hard to see how and if items can be recycled sometimes – this needs to get better!

7. What did you want to be when you were little?

A journalist – you’ll see from my answers above, this was never going to be the case, but it was a childhood dream, that and working in a shoe shop.

If you would like to find out more about attending Eve’s Oxford group please get in touch hello@theconnexionfwib.co.uk

7 Top Tips for Networking

Even in a world where online marketing is used more and more, face to face networking is still important. Not just to make contacts and connections but also for company and conversation, particularly if you work on your own.  For some, however, networking is far outside of their comfort zone.   Having to speak to strangers, standing up and introducing yourself in front of a room of people or having to “sell” yourself or your business?  Oh the horrors!   

At our Connexions meetings our Leaders work hard to make sure that everyone feels welcome and our informal style of meeting and introductions is designed to make you feel at ease.  Here are our seven top tips for you to get the most out of network meetings:

Tip 1 – Arrive Early

Nobody wants to arrive at a meeting feeling a bit flustered or panicky because they have arrived late.  Always give yourself plenty of time to get to the venue and find a parking space (if it’s the first time you have been to a venue or meeting then check out the parking situation beforehand).  Most networking meetings start with open networking so arriving early also means you can be one of the first people to say hello and start a conversation.  If you are a little shy it is so much easier to start a conversation than to arrive late and feel like you have to interrupt conversations that have already started. 

Tip 2 – Remember Your Business Cards

An obvious one but make sure you have your business cards with you.  Always keep spares in your car or bag just in case you need them.  If you strike up a conversation with someone offer to swap business cards.  Even if you can’t see yourself doing business with them personally they may know someone who could use your services or vice versa so you could form a referrer relationship. 

Tip 3 – Smile!

Smiling and making eye contact can feel scary but it is one of the best ways to make connections.  Smiling will not only make you feel more relaxed but it will also make you more approachable to others.   Would you rather approach someone who is smiling at you and making eye contact or someone who looks unhappy and is looking at anything but the other people in the room?

Tip 4 – Circulate

You don’t have to speak to everyone but you should circulate.  When you start a conversation with someone or you see someone you know it can feel more comfortable to just stay where you are particularly if you are feeling a bit nervous. Ideally you should move around when you can (the type of meeting may make this easier or more difficult) but at the very least involve other networkers in your conversation when you can. 

Tip 5 – Be Yourself

When uncertain of a situation it can be very tempting to pretend to be someone you’re not because you feel embarrassed and shy.  Good networking is all about making honest connections so you need to be yourself.  People still do business with people and they are much more likely to do business with you if you are genuine and honest. 

Tip 6 – Ask questions

Nerves can make you either not talk at all or only talk about yourself but to really figure out if someone is a potential customer or collaborator you need to ask lots of questions and be interested in them and their business.  Never assume that someone is or isn’t your customer until you have found out more about them.  

Tip 7 – Be Positive

If you go into a network meeting thinking that no-one will talk to you and that you won’t find any customers then that’s probably what you’ll end up with! Plan what you want to say about you or your business before hand (but don’t recite it verbatim as that sounds robotic) and set yourself small goals.  If you are nervous or new to networking then you could aim to speak to 3 new people or aim to swap four business cards.  When you are feeling a little more confident aim to get one follow up conversation or a follow up meeting.  

If you want to join other women in business for conversation, connections and some great speakers then check out our groups and upcoming dates.   We look forward to seeing you there. 


Welcome to The Connexion for Women in Business and to our Connexions Blog.

Watch this space for lots of lovely blogs from our leaders, speakers and guest bloggers. We are just getting started but we have lots of plans for blogs on everything from mindfulness to networking to marketing advice to practical business tips and, of course, more information on how to get the most from Connexions.

It really is lovely to have you with us for our Connexions journey. We are both passionate about helping other women in business to grow their connections, networks and business. No-one is too small, or too big, to join us and we welcome all women in business from any industry.

We very much look forward to meeting more and more of you at our groups.

Donna and Amy x