What I’ve learnt in five years as a female co-founder…

What has stood out for me? Does being female make a difference? Would I do it all again? What would I say if a friend asked my advice on stepping out on their own?

So many questions to think about when considering my reflections on our 5th birthday at Nutrition Talent, a consultancy and recruitment company specialising in the provision of nutrition expertise.

The five key themes that stand out in my hand scrawled reflective notes on this topic (I’m a true believer in pen + paper = clarity) are;

1. Define success (beyond the bottom line): Nutrition Talent is a business, it provides a source of income for my family and therefore financial success is clearly important. However, defining success beyond financial metrics is critical if our business is to meet its full potential. This is one of the biggest lessons I have learnt and acted upon as a co-founder. It was three years into running our business that we took the time to reflect and clearly define success from a business perspective as well from the perspective as individuals working for “the business”. “Feeling energised about our work and having energy left in the tank when we leave work”. This definition and establishing the detail behind what that meant to each of us as co-founders (recognising it isn’t the same for each of us) has helped us perform our best for Nutrition Talent, whilst also being who we want to in our worlds around work. Clarity on what success is to us has guided our purpose-led mission, “to energise and empower Nutrition Professionals, Businesses and Organisations so that everyone can thrive”. It has informed our decision making, resourcing structure and growth strategy and has undoubtedly elevated the service we provide to our clients and community of Nutrition Professionals.

2. Power of relationships: From friendships to family to colleagues. In the past five years, establishing a new business through times of unprecedented change, which disrupted so many factors that are critical to the development of strong relationships, alongside a geographical relocation and a third child being added to our family mix, well- it has been tough! Adapting, balancing, pivoting, being increasingly confined to a digital landscape and an exponential increase in the amount of time spent in same 4m2 space, did not align well with my natural love of people-centred places, full of conversation, shared perspectives, experiences, ideas and laughter. Anna and I as co-founders went without seeing each other in person for over 18 months. Recognising the true power that sits in our relationships, the energy they bring, and can also take, and how to actively manage them in times of change has been a source of real growth for me personally over these past 5 years. The energy that good relationships (professional and personal) supply has been paramount to the success and ongoing enthusiasm we have for Nutrition Talent. This can’t be underestimated, nor taken for granted. Taking time to consider actions that helped me consciously manage this energy supply, which shifted so dramatically in the last 5 years, really has been worth it.

3. Being human: We are all so much more than our job titles. Yet we often describe ourselves based only on this limited dimension of ourselves. As a nutrition consultancy and recruitment company, focused on helping companies access nutrition expertise, success demands functional expertise, and so much more of who we are. When seeking new recruits, our clients have required Nutritionists to fill roles or complete projects across product development, marketing, PR and communications, regulatory affairs, science & research, workplace wellbeing and customer service, to name a few! We have helped clients fill vacancies at all levels including General Manager, European Director, Heads of Department, Senior Scientists as well as many entry-level positions. People are so much more than a functional “resource”. To find and keep the best talent or to find the job that’s right for you, we must also recognise the importance of who we are, and what we need, beyond the expertise element of our roles. This human-centred approach to the provision of applied nutrition expertise really is the backbone of our company and time and time again is mentioned in our client feedback. I believe this is relevant to so many organisations and sectors so it made the list!

4. I add this value and I am valued by… In short, one of the most critical sentences you need to be able to clearly say, and believe, when representing yourself and your business. At times of stress and constant change within organisations many can feel like their voice is not heard, their value not recognised. I’m yet to meet anyone that doesn’t want to have an impact in their job. The impact we can each make every week by directly recognising the specific achievements, skills or behaviours of those around us is beyond measure. The negative consequences of this being absent are deeply painful at an individual and organisational performance level. Try to finish this sentence for yourself and a colleague today. Our monthly career conversations are a real job highlight for me. Often, they become story telling sessions, what story are you telling yourself, and how could you switch that up a bit if you put your most confident, kindest inner voice on loud?

5. Be brave – Put it out there: At some point you need to try it. Self-critique, perfectionism, fear of judgement, overthought, not being able to attach a “£” value to it can stop us all. Last year we launched our Humans of Nutrition Podcast. I am so proud that we did it. Not because of listener numbers, not because it has made us loads of money, but it moved us towards our mission. I felt fear, doubt, we made mistakes, but they weren’t the end of the world, and we did it! Doing brave things feels good (in the end!). I would like to encourage anyone reading this to just put it out there in some way. It can be the smallest step, take it. Go on.

As a female founder I have considered if any of these themes are linked to me being a female founder as there is a lot in my social feeds these days on female founders, but I don’t think they are. The scientist in me says- I can’t know as I haven’t experienced being a co-founder as a man so how could I confidently say they were. I would be interested in comments on this. Would I do it all again? What would I say if a friend asked my advice on stepping out on their own? I’d say to my friend, I believe in you and I’d say to myself, absolutely – as long as you have the fabulous Anna Wheeler as a co-founder, and friends and family around you.

Author: Dr. Danielle McCarthy (RNutr.)

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