A flexible team

Lisa Simm talks to Workingmums.co.uk about switching from a high-flying management role to running her own direct selling business.

Lisa Simm was the main wage earner in her family and was working as a manager for a clinical research company before she had her son. She had a high-flying career travelling and living abroad. But when Joshua was born in March 2011, everything changed and she is now leading her own direct selling team which she manages around her family life.

The change in her life occurred during her maternity leave. When her son was born Lisa felt she wanted to spend more time with him. She went to a craft fair when he was two months old and bought a few cards from the Phoenix Trading stall. Phoenix is a direct company selling greeting cards, giftwrap, notecards, Christmas cards and stationery. The woman on the stall said she should think about becoming a direct seller. She took information about the business home and put it in a drawer. A few months later she dug it out and started researching the business.

She decided that since the opportunity had presented itself and she loved the Phoenix Trading products – she says they sell themselves – she should give it a try even though switching from a well paid job to something which would take time to build was a huge decision.

Lisa, from Derbyshire, started delivering leaflets and products locally with her son sleeping in his buggy. She had only moved recently and the work helped her to meet lots of new people.

She built up a regular customer base. Soon after she met some executive traders who offered her both support and inspiration. “It made me realise that what they did was achievable if I wanted to be a direct seller for the long term,” she says.

From then she shifted the focus of her business and started to look for people to build her team and increase her earning potential. The team aspect also fit with her previous skills as a manager. “My role was to identify my team members’ goals and help them to achieve them,” she says. She also enjoyed the social role of having a team around her.

Phoenix Trading gave her training and tips on how to manage her team and a mentor. She had set herself the goal of achieving executive trader status within a year and three days before her one year anniversary she had made the grade. She feels it is important to set yourself goals when you are self employed.

The flexibility of the role has been vital for her. “You can go at your own pace, although the more you put in the more you get out,” she says. “It fits perfectly around family life.” She offers the opportunity to be a trader to everyone she meets, including those who buy Phoenix Trading products, and says it is important not to prejudge anyone. She gives people support when they decide to join and there are templates available from Phoenix Trading which help them to sell.

Team work

Lisa now has a team of 45 traders all over the country. They include full-time or part-time workers who need extra income and retired people. She has a monthly team meeting in the evening at her house to share experiences and knowledge. She has been able to share this with another executive trader who lives nearby.

She sends them a weekly email with a top of the week and links up on Facebook. She says she is always available on the phone or for a coffee if they live nearby. “They get the same support regardless of where they live,” she says.

Because of the flexibility of Phoenix, Lisa was able to work all through her second pregnancy and right from the birth of her second child just over two months ago. “I don’t really consider it work,” she says. “A lot of people in my team have young children and if we meet to talk about Phoenix it’s almost like a playdate as people bring their children. We have become friends.” There are some activities she has put on hold for the moment, like attending craft fairs, but she is still around to support her team and is retailing to her regular customers.

Having another child has not been an issue because she was used from the very start to working her eldest’s nap times. Joshua, now three, goes to preschool one morning a week, but for the rest of the time he is with Lisa as she has no family nearby. “It’s a challenge, but it works,” she says. “It’s something for me in amongst all the nappy changing and so on.”

Lisa says she does not miss anything of her life before. The one thing she would have missed if she hadn’t built her team was the social side. She describes herself as “a people person”. “I like networking. We have company meetings which I love going to and roadshows are held twice a year where you can meet up with other traders,” she says. She is taking her baby to the next one in July.

Lisa says the qualities needed to be a good direct seller include being able to motivate yourself. “The majority of Phoenix traders are busy people with other things in their lives, but they motivate themselves,” she says. “Children can be a good motivating factor, though.”

*If you would like to find out more about direct selling and how to get involved, visit the Direct Selling Association website

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