Interview: Yorkshire businesswoman talks leaving corporate career behind to launch coaching and mentoring venture
Today (Thursday, 8th March) is International Women’s Day. On this day, people around the globe are celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
And Bdaily is no different, which is why I recently spoke to Natasha McCreesh, the founder of coaching business PiP to Grow Strong. Based in Huddersfield, Natasha explained how she took the risk of leaving a successful corporate career in order to follow a passion and start her very own business.
Prior to establishing PiP To Grow Strong in 2014, Natasha was the Brand Manager for Jacuzzi. Firstly, I asked Natasha if she could explain where the idea of leaving this position to set up your own business venture first came from?
Natasha explained: “I led a varied career in commercial buying, product development and brand marketing before taking the step to launch my own coaching, mentoring and collaboration business, PIP to Grow Strong in 2014.
“It was during a period of corporate restructure where I felt completely out of control of my own future that planted the idea to have my own business. Although the restructure saw me go on to become the Brand Manager for Jacuzzi, a role I very much enjoyed and continued for the next two years, it was this role which reinforced my vision of starting my own business.
“While I wanted to start a business, I didn’t want to carry on down the same career path. Instead, I wanted to take my passions and create something, which not only sat comfortably with my ‘truth’ but challenged me too.”
As PiP To Grow Strong is a coaching, mentoring and collaboration business, I asked Natasha if any of her past career experiences lead you to set up a business such as this?
“I’d always seen the value in coaching and mentoring, and developing strong collaborative relationships.”
She said: “Throughout my career, I had always enjoyed developing teams and encouraging my direct reports to come up with their own solutions, of course with my support and through motivational questioning.
“I also had a great mentor early on in my career, Stuart Singleton. He taught me a lot about self-leadership, commercial values and managing tricky conversations. He also encouraged me to think bigger; he painted a vision of what he believed I was capable of achieving in my career, more strongly than I could have for myself at that time. This stuck with me.
“A group of festival organisers from Sheffield, Tribe of Xanadu, influenced my decision to leave my safe career without worrying about the financial uncertainty of leaving corporate life. I looked at how they lived fun, vibrant lives with limited resources and knew that everything would always be ok.
“My career journey also showed me that I loved being part of creating for the future, working in buying, product development and marketing is all about future potential, this excites me. Now, speaking my truth and my commitment to only work on projects which bring me (and others!) joy which makes me and my business stand out. What I love most about what I do is that I am able to focus each and every day in supporting others to Grow Strong.”
As for the steps Natasha took to establish PiP To Grow Strong, she explained: “Initially, it was as simple as having a name for the business which became a conversation starter, PiP stands for Passion into Perspective, and this underpins the work that I do, adding perspective to other peoples passion.
“Then, after reading The Go Giver, I made a decision to give unconditionally, no one knew me in my local area as I had never networked or connected in my home town of Huddersfield. So, I threw myself into connecting and giving. Establishing PiP to Grow Strong was all about allowing people to experience me.
“With the business now heading into its fourth year, were there any moments in the early stages where you thought this wasn’t going to work? If so, how did you overcome these hurdles?
“The biggest motivator for me has been an overwhelming desire not to go back to a 9-5 daily grind. Of course, there have been challenging moments; it took me five months to get my first paying client, who paid the grand total of £360, I couldn’t believe I’d left my £75,000 a year career for that!
“But I celebrated it, and that’s vital. I genuinely don’t see myself as facing or dealing with obstacles and, especially with the benefit of hindsight; I can look back on my snake and ladder moments and see that even the difficult experiences were never really obstacles, only lessons to learn. I’m an eternal optimist and have faith that progress is always being made.”
Natasha also shared with me the type of process Pip To Grow Strong employs when mentoring or coaching a business.
“I am collaborative in my approach, so initially, I take time to create a connection and understand what is going on in all aspects of my client’s world.”
She told me: “I use motivational interviewing, needs identification tools and strengths-based assessments to learn about who they are and what they want to achieve in work, and life.
“Something I am keen on is forming ‘ways of being’ agreements; I learnt following my first couple of years in business that my work only works when the client works, so we establish strong agreements that ensure integrity and commitment on both sides.
“Then my work is structured around the client needs, it can be one to one or group workshops, and sometimes, if my past experience is relevant, it might be a consultative project management approach.
When I queried about the different types of business that seek the help of PiP To Grow Strong, Natasha said: “My business is different because the focus is collaboration, partnering with my client, being with them beyond our sessions and connecting them with who they need to connect with to grow strong, as a result, I have attracted a variety of sectors and sizes of organisation.
“In one to one work, it is mainly business leaders, male and female, from a range of corporate backgrounds, all with one thing in common - passion for something important to them. Quite interestingly, over the last couple of years, I have worked predominantly, through referral, with men in the 50+ age bracket. They are making that shift into what is perhaps the third phase of their professional life, and that can take some navigating!
“Regarding organisational work, I thrive on kick-starting strategic growth projects and aiding personal and professional growth for teams who want to experience a more joyful connection to their work. I have worked particularly well with businesses that are 3-5 years old on this type of work, businesses that have grown quick and suddenly have a team of human beings to lead!”
And finally, as for Natasha’s goals for her business in 2018, she concluded: “Year on year since launching PiP to Grow Strong, turnover has doubled and the intention this coming year is no different. With the underpinning commitment to only do work that brings me joy, I’m upgrading my clients.
“It’s really important for me to continuously take stock of who I choose to collaborate with, coaching is a two-way commitment, so I’m thinking bigger and bolder about the people and organisations that I am prepared to support.
“I have recently launched monthly breakfast reflection sessions, which help attendees reflect on where they find joy in their work and to help them lead more fulfilling lives. Following on from the success of the first session, I am also opening up the opportunity to take this format into organisations and facilitate this once a month, in-house with businesses.”