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Tara is the founder and CEO of Whitney Consulting, WA’s largest and most successful, specialist grant writing company – having secured over $100 million in funding for clients in 6 years. With a background in Federal and State Government as a grants assessor (and a spy but that is another story!), Tara has built a 100% remote, flexible team of writers who do work and life together. Most of the Whitney Consulting staff (including Tara) are working mothers and we have a motto – “Grant deadlines are not negotiable but neither are children’s assemblies.” This ethos has created an exceptionally successful team that has no issues recruiting or retaining staff who are committed to the growth and success of the business.
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2021 and 2022 has been a tough year for business around the globe. In your experience can you share how businesses prosper in 2023?
Many businesses struggled with staffing issues over this time and to prosper in 2023 I believe businesses need to enable staff to not just work – but to WANT to work. Whitney Consulting have developed a model that enables us to attract and retain staff and to tap into an underutilised workforce – regionally based parents, and to ensure all staff are committed and motivated to ensure our business succeeds. We do work and life together. We don’t separate the two into neat little sections of the day and pretend they don’t have a massive impact on each other. I do not want to employ a staff member and not also take on their family/personal life and all that comes with them – because you can’t separate them. Our personal life impacts our work life and vice versa – sometimes for the good (you cannot tell me motherhood doesn’t upskill us!) and sometimes bad – it all comes out in the wash. With many businesses, like mine, it does not matter when the work happens or how the work happens – as long as it is done by the deadline and is to standard. This led to our team motto being developed “A grant deadline is not negotiable, but neither is a child’s assembly”.
Being a 100% remotely run business, we operate in a virtual workplace where staff work from home and have the flexibility to live their lives, love their job and determine when and how they work. Whitney Consulting places a huge importance on allowing skilled persons with young children and/or other conflicting life factors to continue to utilise their skills and knowledge. This is especially ideal for regional employees who have under-utilised skills due to living in a remote area (e.g. they married a farmer and there is no work nearby for their skillset) or due to their being a lack of childcare options in regional areas.
My wish is for flexible businesses like ours to be the norm – to enable parents to participate in the workforce, enjoy work, not see it as a burden and not feel the parental/work guilt.
The economy has been turned on it’s head in the wake of the pandemic. What should businesses focus on in 2023?
The same things they should always have been focussing on:
1. Staff – their wellbeing, engagement, contentment leading to their motivation and performance (all my staff voluntarily offered to reduce hours when the pandemic hit because they wanted Whitney Consulting to continue and succeed more than they wanted immediate comfort)
2. How their offerings solve a problem – the need for their offerings
3. Trends and changes (for me one of these is the evolving AI world – how will grant writing change and how can I ensure my business is adapting ahead of that?)
What are the pro’s & con’s of working from home and have you any first hand experience?
We were working at home long before the pandemic! It actually helped us because we no longer needed to teach our clients how to use Zoom! I have written a number of blogs on remote working available on my website. But essentially, remote, flexible working has so many plusses and its cons simply need to be managed. Because if you want parents and the next generations to work for you, then you need to allow them to do work and life together and that can only happen with remote working. Attitudes need to change.
Early on after I transitioned from government employee to working from home, I recognised the huge impact on the quality and efficiency of my work that stepping away from it brings. When I finish one project and want to move on to another or when my brain is full and I need a break – I will go for a run or hang out the washing/potter around doing housework. And then when I come back to work, I am far more efficient than I would have been if I had tried to push my way through. AND I managed to get some exercise/housework done. Doing work and life together makes sense – it is more efficient and the parent/work guilt lessens because you are able to do both. If we want staff to work for us in the future, we need to allow them to do work and life together.
How can business owners combat the rise of inflation and what have you done that you can share?
Due to our business model, the impact on us has been minimal. Being a service-based business and 100% remote and cloud-based means no travel costs, no commute, minimal overheads.
In the last 5 years we have seen the rise to Cryptocurrency, Blockchain, NFT’s, Digital Marketing and many more! What do you think will impact the world most in regards to online selling?
Definitely AI (ChatGPT etc). It will likely have a big impact on content creation and marketing. Making it easier for those with less marketing budgets to produce similar quality content/adverts/posts etc. Meaning businesses will need to find another way to stand out, rather than just throwing money at a marketing company to produce the best ads.
On a more subtle note. If you could have dinner with three people, dead or alive who would it be and why?
Richard Branson, My pioneer, businesswoman Nanna and Maya Angelou.
All three are quite different and would therefore bring different perspectives on life, happiness and business. They are also very different to me so would offer some incredibly different points of view to those that I have. But all three are/were strong people, unafraid to speak up and clearly ambitious to make change. They would be fascinating to learn from!
Reading is still one of the most popular ways to learn anything. What is your most recommended book(s) by who and what did you learn from them?
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I preference learning by stories rather than a non fiction book that lays out the learnings. I believe learning is imbedded more if you come to it than have it handed on a platter. Which is why I chose a fiction book that is laden with lessons on being a human. On judging people, how to treat others, how to be kind and curious. I could go on – its exceptional!
What is your purpose for getting out of bed each day and what do you aim to achieve in the future?
To have fun. My purpose is to have fun and to help others that I care for to have fun as well. To me that means spending time with my family/friends, traveling to new places and always having a challenge – a goal to achieve in my business. My aim is to build my business to the stage that, when my children hit university-age, my husband will quit his job and he and I will live in a different place for 6 months of every year. Starting with Belgium! I will still run my business but at a strategic level.
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