In a role-reversal, our own Kate Pollard opens up to Irit Harris of F-Empowered about the inspiration behind Circle In, money management, and why financial literacy is essential for every entrepreneur.
Tell us a little about yourself…
I grew up on a dairy farm in regional Victoria, Australia, then spent a gap year in France before studying commerce at university in Melbourne. My first ‘real’ job was at Accenture as a graduate where I stayed for five years before moving to Sydney and taking a senior marketing role at CBA. After six years in Sydney, it was time to move back home to Melbourne where I continued my career in banking at NAB. This is also where I met my business partner, Jodi, as we were in the same marketing team. I then left NAB to join the team at realestate.com.au, again in a senior marketing role. Compared to banking, I loved the dynamic nature of working at realestate.com.au and met some pretty amazing people — it really has an incredible culture.
I’ve always been extremely passionate about helping and connecting people throughout my life. When I was leading a team, the part I enjoyed the most was seeing people grow and achieve things that they never thought were possible. This is something I’ve carried through to Circle In, and I love helping parents and caregivers every day better navigate their career, parental leave experience, and juggling work and family life.
What inspired you to start Circle In?
During my five years at realestate.com.au, I had my two babies and went on parental leave twice. While work was really supportive, my experiences of going on parental leave and really struggling when I returned were very formative in our idea to start Circle In. While I was away on leave, so much had changed: I’d lost my networks and I didn’t feel as though I was as important or valued at work. The problem was that because I hadn’t really spent much time thinking about my career before going on leave, I hadn’t really managed it very well or stayed in touch. I also hadn’t been clear about my intentions before going on leave or communicated any of my career aspirations. As a result, my career felt like it had gone into ‘maintenance mode’, but without having made a conscious choice to do so.
Jodi and I coincidentally had both our two kids at the same time, so shared two lots of parental leave. Over many coffees and play dates with our kids, we hatched the idea of Circle In. Initially, we wanted to help other women who followed behind us better manage their careers through parental leave.
At Circle In, we teach people to have the right conversations upfront with their manager and take control of their own parental leave experience so that they return to work feeling much more confident.
After establishing our free consumer platform targeting women in October 2017, we then launched a stay in touch program for organizations to manage parental leave more effectively. Today, Circle In is a personalized employee benefits platform that helps organizations build supportive workplaces for all working parents and caregivers.
What were some of the money decisions you had to make when starting Circle In?
I’ve always been quite financially savvy. Growing up on a farm, I’ve always had some cattle which I’d breed up and then sell. By the time I went to uni I already had a large share portfolio and a good savings account.
Working in financial services, I not only realised the benefit of managing my money, but also protecting it with all of the right insurances such as income protection. By the time our kids came along, my husband and I had a beautifully renovated terrace house and several investment properties. A decision to take the leap and start my own business however doesn’t come without financial implications.
Very quickly my husband and I realised that giving up our corporate salaries to follow our passions meant that our current financial situation wasn’t sustainable.
A big mortgage and investment properties to offset our personal income tax wasn’t the best strategy when we weren’t going to be earning much of an income in the short term. So, we decided to sell our house and rent for a bit. We’ve also had to cut back on our spending and just be a bit more budget conscious.
How did you make these decisions?
It’s a team effort with my husband, so we’ve made all of these decisions together. To manage our money during some of the early days of setting up Circle In, we had a pretty tight budget and made sure we kept to that on a monthly basis. Jodi and I also invested in Circle In together in the early days, so we had quite a few discussions about money, and whether we wanted to finance it ourselves or seek funding from external sources.
What were some of the lessons you learnt on this journey?
- You need to budget and there is a real cost to starting up your own business. For us it was the opportunity cost of not having a regular corporate salary, and trading off some of our financial security in the short term to follow our dream.
- Make sure you are on the same page with your finances as your life partner and business partner. It’s so important to have regular conversations about your financial situation and have a budget.
- Start paying yourself a salary as soon as you can. If you have staff on board and you are paying them, then you should also pay yourself, including your superannuation. Your business isn’t a sustainable one if you can’t afford to pay yourself. And if you don’t, you’ll end up resenting it.
- You need to own your financial situation. As females we often shy away from getting involved in our finances and leave it to someone else. Just generally in life and especially when you are running your own business, it’s so important to understand your financial situation. It’s both empowering and critical to your success.
What does F-Empowered mean to you?
Taking control of your own financial situation and making informed decisions about your money. While you can get help from professionals, you ultimately need to take responsibility for your own financial well-being.
Interview by Irit Harris. Irit is the founder of F-Empowered, a platform to financially empower employees to achieve their money goals through proven financial fitness programs. Follow F-Empowered on Facebook and Instagram.
Originally published at F-Empowered.