16th May, 2023

How to Do Something Different in Your Career

With Jo Watkins

Photo of Jo Watkins

Listen to this episode

On this episode

This week, Jo Watkins, co-founder of The HOW People, joins us to explore entrepreneurial possibilities for doctors without leaving their day jobs. We talk about what holds us back from pursuing a business idea and how you can get started on this journey. We also discuss honing the transferable skills you already have to discover what you’d like to try.

If you want to start doing something different in your life and career, listen to our full conversation in this episode of You Are Not a Frog.

Show links

About the guests

Jo Watkins photo

Reasons to listen

  • Discover your ‘why’ in life and business.
  • Understand why you learn most by failing.
  • Recognise and hone your transferable skills as a professional and entrepreneur.

Episode highlights


The Beginning of Jo’s Entrepreneurial Career


Worrying about the Unknown in Business


Honing the Skills Within


What Hinders Our Transferable Skills


Think about Your Why


Learning by Failing


Jo’s ‘Why’


Putting Boundaries in Place for Your Business


How to Manage the Reality of Running a Business


Getting Advice from People Who Have Done It Before


Unrecognised Transferable Skills of People in High-Stress Jobs


Making Time for Exploration


Jo’s Top Three Tips

Episode transcript

Rachel Morris: Does the prospect of carrying on doing the same old thing day in day out until you retire fill you with dread? Are there creative or entrepreneurial bits of your brain you’d love to use a bit more? And have you ever wondered what it would be like to try a new business idea, either within your current role, or by perhaps starting something new?

One thing I know about listeners to this podcast is that you’re all a bunch of incredibly talented, creative and curious people. And many of you are desperate to do something different without necessarily leaving your day job. But it’s so easy for the everyday demands of our world to drag us down into thinking we’ve got nothing else to offer but the ability to deliver a service over and over and over again.

So perhaps you’ve had an idea about how your practice or your department could improve an idea for a new product which would improve people’s lives, or you just simply want to try something different to stop you feeling so bored and stressed. When I coached doctors and other busy professionals around careers, the one thing people seem to get stuck in time and time again is the belief that they have no transferable skills.

Now, I know how this feels to think like this. I felt completely stuck and like I couldn’t do anything else. I didn’t know what else I could do, how to do it, or even where I would find out about it or start but it doesn’t have to be this hard. So this week on the podcast, we’ve got GP coach and entrepreneur, Dr Joey Watkins, chatting to us about the journey that she’s been on whilst working as a GP and running her own business. So we talk about what really holds us back, the things that you don’t have to get right before you start and the things that will really help get you started.

So this episode is for you if you want to know about the transferable skills which you already have, and how to get skilled up super quick in the ones that you need, how to know what it is that you’d like to try and the various options you have, even within your current role. And listen if you want to find out the one thing which will keep you going, even when the going gets tough.

Welcome to You Are Not a Frog, the podcast for doctors and other busy professionals in high stress, high stakes jobs. I’m Dr Rachel Morris, a former GP now working as a coach, trainer and speaker. Like frogs in the pan of slowly boiling water. Many of us don’t notice how bad the stress and exhaustion have become until it’s too late.

But you are not a frog. Burning out or getting out and not to your only options. In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues and experts and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you live and work so that you can beat stress and work happier.

If you’re a training manager or clinical lead, and your teams are under pressure and maybe even feeling overwhelmed, we’d love to share our Shapes toolkit training with you. Our practical tools are designed by a team of doctors and practitioners who know what it’s like to work in a stretched and overwhelmed system. With topics like how to take control of your time and workload, deal with conflicts and managing stress. From team away days and half day sessions to shorter workshops and webinars online or face to face. We’d love to find out how we can help your team work calmer and happier.

We work with primary care training hubs, ICS wellbeing teams, new-to-practice GP fellowships, hospital trusts and lots of other health care providers with staff on the frontline. To find out more, drop us an email or request a brochure at the link below.

It’s wonderful to have with me on the podcast today Dr Jo Watkins. Now Jo’s a GP, she’s a life coach. She’s a mom of four. She’s also the co-founder of The HOW People which is a digital platform for teenage girls and young people who are transitioning to secondary school. So welcome Jo.

Dr Jo Watkins: Thank you very much for having me Rachel.

Rachel: It’s really good to have you with you. I mean you do an awful lot of stuff.

Jo: I know it sounds like it when you list it like that. But I’m a constant juggling balancing act, which sometimes goes really well other times frays at the edges. But I really, really enjoy a very busy and fulfilling professional and personal life.

Rachel: And I’ve got Jo on the podcast today to talk about how we can do things differently, particularly how doctors and other people who maybe feel that they’ve only got one set of skills working in one profession can actually access some of those other skills such as creativity or business skills and things like that to either you know, craft their jobs within the role that they’re already doing, or maybe even do something different because I think that’s something we struggle with a lot as doctors.

And Jo, I know that you have done a lot of different things actually and which included starting a small business with granola is that right?

Jo: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, I followed a very traditional path from medical school, although I’ve realised in retrospect that I’ve jumped through slightly different hoops and I think probably right from the beginning was fairly unemployable, I would now say in retrospect.

I qualified for Liverpool University, did my house jobs and then went out to Australia, as many of us did. When I met my partner, we were up in Nottingham, and we decided to move down to South Wales for a bit of a lifestyle change. I found myself in an amazing practice as a long term locum, and they very kindly offered me a part time partnership. And I think very early on in my partnership, I realised that I like to sort of mix things up a little bit.

The first thing I got ahold of was the practice website. I started sort of redoing- well, actually, I started a practice website with a web developer, because I didn’t know how easy it was to do your own at that point. And that led me on a slightly different path. I remember one of my partners at that point, saying to me, you know, you’re really entrepreneurial.

I didn’t really know what that meant, particularly at that point. But I carried on, I had two children very quickly after becoming a partner and then went back part time. We’ve always loved to travel. And at that point, we took a big trip over to Canada, and I was introduced to my cousin’s granola recipe. We’ve got family over there, we spend a lot of time over there. I remember thinking, Oh, this is lovely. I wish we could have something like this at home.

So I kind of brought back this idea and this recipe, and, again, had no idea what I was doing, because I’d never ever ever had a business I’d never played around with acupuncture I’d played around with with Botox a little bit, because I thought that was, that was a good thing from for me to do outside of medicine, but it didn’t really know what running a business was about.

So I started making this granola at home. I offered it to a few cafes. Before I knew it, after about a year, I was selling it all around the country and farm shops, and I was in markets and it became this huge thing from the kitchen table. I absolutely loved it.

So that was my first real sort of dipping the toe into business. It was called Bendy Legs Granola, which was a family brand name. I absolutely loved the whole process. But it came with a big new set of learning skills, I think.

Rachel: I think it’s interesting, isn’t it, when you first start to branch out and do something different? You think, ‘Oh, I can’t do it, because I haven’t got this skill.’ But actually, that’s a skill you can learn. What you do then is find that that’s that other skill that you don’t have. Right?

So when I first started doing coaching and podcasts and stuff, I worried that I wouldn’t be a good enough coach or worried that I wouldn’t be a good enough podcast host. Actually, the main issue is about marketing, and just getting the message out there and stuff like that. I didn’t even know. I didn’t know it’s those unknown unknowns. I think when you start out, you know what you don’t know, that’s fine. But it’s not what you know that you don’t know. It’s what you don’t know, you don’t know. Does that make any sense?

Jo: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree enough. And I look back now you know, the Bendy Legs was at its heyday. About 10 years ago, I was doing the BBC food festivals and winning major awards for it and it was flying. But I still at that point, had so much to learn, because yeah, had this great product or for a GP comparison would be you’ve done a great course, you’ve qualified as a coach, you’ve done the lifestyle medicine diploma, you’ve given yourself this new skill.

But actually, it’s about getting out there. And yeah, marketing telling people about it, there is so much noise out there and it’s really, really difficult to put yourself in a position where people actually know what you’re doing.

So yeah, in the last 10 years, I’ve realised how much of how much of anything within business is about getting out there feeling uncomfortable, taking steps that you really couldn’t imagine yourself taking even six months previously. The growth within you know, outside of medicine within a more creative or more entrepreneurial path is enormous and not always giving you what you are normally used to getting within the surgery.

Within a normal on-call day or normal clinic, you may have many, many moments where you feel quite obviously very, there’s a lot of stress and a lot of organisation of time and things pulling on your time. But there are moments within your day where you’re making a real difference. And ten-minute consultations were that, you know, that could be a huge turning point in that person’s life. But actually within business, you can have days on end where you feel like you’re not getting anywhere.

So yeah, hugely, hugely different arena, but so many transferable skills as well.

Rachel: Yeah, I think so. I just want to take a quick detour, because I think people will be really annoyed if I don’t ask you this. What is the secret to really good granola? Seriously, is there a secret ingredient you could tell us about or just a secret that makes it really good?

Jo: The secret ingredient to granola is your wet base. So you have your dry stuff, which can be anything you want, you know, seeds mixes, oats and stuff. But it’s the wet mix, which needs to be predominantly apple juice. I’m not going to give away the full recipe here, but predominantly apple juice with some maple syrup, rapeseed oil, and a little bit of vanilla extract. And that’s nearly the recipe.

Rachel: You heard it here first! Thank you. Okay, that’s really good. And you mix it up with what? Oats and stuff?

Jo: Yeah. So you mix your wet mix, you mix your dry mix, you add your wet mix to your dry mix, make sure it’s all coated and stick it in the oven. But people go too heavy on the honey and stuff like that in the wet mix. It’s a big chunk of apple juice, I’d say three quarters apple juice, and then maple syrup.

Rachel: Brilliant. Thank you, we’ll be going off and making some granola right now that we’ve got out of the way. Thank you.

I think it’s really interesting what you’re saying about these other business skills you need, the other creative skills you need. I guess my reflection is that we think we only need these skills, the entrepreneurial skills, the communication, the marketing skills in our non-medical roles, or our non-professional roles when we start off our own business or something like that.

But my reflection is that if people got both skills a bit more within their professional roles, like you said, if practices could get a really decent website, if practices could communicate better with their patients. Or if you have an idea about how to do things better within your hospital or in your practice or within your law firm or whatever, you then still need to sell that idea to your partners, your colleagues.

When we think about communicating, sending your ideas to a board who don’t really want to listen who are motivated by something completely different to you is exactly what marketing is, right? It’s exactly what communication is. So I think we ignore the skills within our current day jobs at our peril.

Jo: Absolutely. And we did a session with the NatWest bank recently, as part of The HOW People which I’ll talk about in a minute. We did a session with NatWest Bank, and we talked about entrapreneurial qualities. So encouraging your, your business, your surgery, whatever industry — it may be that you’re in — we’re encouraging the people within it to be more entrapreneurial in their actions. And it is exactly as you say: any idea, any change.

Arguably, every consultation is a marketing and sales process. You know, you’re giving people choices, you’re making suggestions, you’re you’re wanting people to engage with the information you’re giving them whether that is trying to reduce their HbA1c, whether is that that’s stopping them smoking, that is an interaction, which involves selling a concept to a patient.

So yes, these skills are absolutely I mean, obviously, the listening skills, the organisational skills, the constant multitasking, but absolutely, that building relationships and connecting to people on a on a level that is significant and deep enough for them to take action as a result of what you’re saying to them. That is what we need to be doing. And we need to be learning about how to do that within medical school. And all the way through, certainly in general practice. It’s a sales process every ten minutes.

Rachel: Which is perhaps why it’s so exhausting. Listeners, by the time this comes out, we would have released the episode with Toby Moore about how to communicate your ideas. And he’s fantastic. He curates the TEDx Brighton talks. He really knows about how to communicate ideas.

Honestly, after we recorded the podcast with him, I went and I rewrote this keynote talk I give and just putting some of his ideas into practice about challenging the norm and you know, getting your idea across and using stories and all that sort of thing. So, so important. It’s interesting, I know that when I decided to do a bit of a career change, to find something else in addition to my clinical work, my big problem was that I didn’t think I had any transferable skills that I didn’t think I knew how to do anything else and was thinking, ‘Well, I’m gonna have to get a massive amount of training to even do anything.’

Is that a myth? Or are there elements of truth in that, that I didn’t have any transferable skills?

Jo: I think that that is a very normal way for us all to feel. And I think I had that mixed with this sort of blissful, blissful ignorance slash confidence in my own abilities. But the more and more I’m meeting doctors who have you know, huge amounts of training behind them as we all do when we do our basic training, but even on top of that, lots of courses, lots of extra diplomas and things but that fear of not being good enough, I think, is as a result of our professional life up to date.

There’s so much here around how we are educated within school, how we then move into medical school and certainly for us, you know, I’m late 40s. But I realised things are different potentially now at medical school. But that concept of competency and jumping through hoops and having things ticked off and being good enough and receiving the ability to move on to the next stage, I think that is the world that we have been educated in. I think that is what is often stopping us moving forward to take potentially a creative idea or a side hustle, you know, for me, it was something totally different.

But for a lot of people, it’s maybe something that can run alongside your medical career. So there are people training in hypnotherapy, or reflexology or acupuncture or many, many people training in life medicine, lifestyle medicine and coaching. Those skills are really really transferable within your workplace. But what is stopping you developing that as something more than just something you do in the consultation is genuinely that fear, fear of failure, that fear of not being good enough. I think that’s very, very normal. That’s what you are talking about.

I think that’s where you look at people. You know, successful entrepreneurs often started out on that journey at fifteen, sixteen. There’s often that story of not really fitting in at school, not doing particularly well in exams — we’ve heard it, obviously, you’ve got people like Alan Sugar, who has that sort of story, but I’m in business groups with many, many — one lady I follow calls, misfits. Many people who just haven’t quite found where they fit, and actually, they have been entrepreneurial, creative people within other jobs, whether it be law or medicine.

I think you have to have a little bit of brazen confidence in your own ability to make something work to get going. Because actually, once you get going, that breeds clarity and understanding, and that opening up to learning completely different things will get you going. But if you just hide, and you don’t open that box, then you’ll never know what you’re capable of. I did that quite deliberately at one point, because I felt like I needed to take action to develop a different business once I decided Bendy Legs wasn’t for me, and just, sort of coming back to that it basically just overtook my life.

We were running an industrial kitchen while I was pregnant with a third child and a dog and it just was not practical. So I had this sort of period of time where I was looking at outsourcing the production, I was going to have discussions with bakeries, I was looking at- people were saying you should go on Dragon’s Den, you should do this, you should do that.

I suddenly imagined myself as an owner of a business with a massive industrial unit in the middle of Swansea City Centre. And lots of people employed to make granola by me, and I thought, ‘Hang on, this isn’t quite what I want to do.’

I love running a business. I have loved creating a product and a brand. But I’ve got to think about my why. I think that’s really important for anybody doing anything outside of business, outside of medicine alongside their medical career. What is your why? Is this for you to fulfil an interest? Is it for you to live in a different way? Is it for you to move to a different place? What is your why? So that’s when I realised that granola was not my why, and then took me on a slightly different journey.

Rachel: Well, there’s just so much in that Jo, I just been making a few notes your point about the fact that we often find it quite difficult to start new things or often hesitate or have this fear, because of the way that we have been trained and the way we worked, you know that everything that competencies had to be ticked off. And literally you cannot practise medicine without a license to practice, which is absolutely right and the way it should be.

But that did then lead me to thinking when I first started coaching, sort of, ‘Should I be even doing this if I’m not yet competent?’ But like, we know that the only way to learn to consult properly is to practise it. That’s what you’re doing when you’re a trainee. The only way to learn as a coach well is to coach so you just have to get there and do it. But there’s this sort of thing of ‘Is someone looking over my shoulder to see if I’m good enough?’ I’m gonna be ticked off. Am I regulated enough?

We are so used to being highly regulated, that it turns into I’ve got to be good enough before I even start rather than I’m going to learn this on the job. Then having the courage to actually fail at something is really, really difficult because for us failing at something means you don’t progress in your training or you’re failing exams or you’re getting complaints or reported to the GMC.

Actually business entrepreneurs, all the time fail at stuff and they even have a name for the process, don’t they? It’s called ‘minimum viable product’. You actually put a product out there to see if it will fail or not. Or you actually build a crap version of the product to see if anyone even wants it or some people- I was at a conference once and people were talking about the fact they’ve designed a product, hadn’t actually made it, and then they advertise it on Amazon to see if anyone buys it. They haven’t even got it!

And then they say, ‘Oh, sorry, we haven’t- we ran out of stock.’ And all they are is even testing the concept of this minimum viable product. But I think as medics and professionals, we were very uncomfortable with that. We have to have the fully finished, polished article before we’re even happy to put it out there. So there is this thing about not being able to fail and to cope with that better. Maybe some of these, like you said, misfits and the entrepreneurial people are the people that are happy to fail and used to failing and just get stuff out there.

Do you think that’s the case? Or do you think you can learn to fail just by practising?

Jo: I certainly think that there are people that are happy to fail and don’t see it as failure. And that’s what I would say certainly about any business journey, and I don’t want to focus just on business outside of medicine, because I think I’ve obviously, I realised that’s not for everybody. But that is obviously where my experience has been.

You know, they say there’s no such thing as an overnight success in business. And that’s true, because actually the 20 years prior to that have been the trying and the doing and the experimenting and the failing. And when I decided to — I call it mothballed, because apparently that’s the business term, I didn’t sell the brand — I stopped producing Bendy Legs, and I made an active decision to close my online shops and all of my social media for Bendy Legs, because I just needed to stop it was getting out of control. I couldn’t do it anymore.

The vast majority of people said to me, oh, no, that’s a real shame because people liked the product. But that’s a shame. It didn’t work. What a shame, you’ll be going back to- actually most of the time, I was working two days a week during it anyway. But the feeling was it’s failed, or it hasn’t worked. And I’ll go back to the day job. And actually, I look back now on my entrepreneurial journey, as it was, probably started when I was training as a GP and I did my first acupuncture course.

That process is just learning, it’s just, you can’t learn about business unless you try something and it doesn’t work. And actually, every single process, every bit of marketing, every time you’ve posted something, every time you’ve written a blog, every time you’ve had a conversation with somebody about collaboration, that is all learning, and you’re literally learning on the job.

So I think you can learn to fail, if you put yourself in situations and you see it as a learning- you see everything is a learning exercise. I tend to do that now in life. When a couple of things have gone awry with the kids at school or with friendships, these are all building us. These are all little bricks in that pathway. Because you know, it’s not about getting somewhere anymore when you’re an adult and you’ve ticked all your competencies, and you’re practising as a, as a GP and doing other things or being a parent.

It’s about learning from our mistakes and from things that have gone well. And practising to fail. Maybe that’s something we should be doing.

Rachel: Yeah, I think if we just view things as testing, rather than failing. So you know, I mean, that’s what you do with, I’m told, when you start doing paid social media ads, you do AB testing. You put A ad out, you put B ad out, and you see which one does better. That is all you’re doing.

So when you’re starting doing things in a new business, or you’re starting things within your practice, or whatever, you you test, what is going to work out. You could call it PDSA. It’s PDSA cycling. It’s testing these concepts, but you can do that just as much with the communication and the website development as you can with your sort of clinical processes, can’ you?

You’re absolutely right. Think of things as testing, not failing. And I do know that I, I would say tested several different things with my, with my work business before we settled on the one thing, which is you know, resilience for professionals in positions of responsibility in high stakes jobs. That is where we set, but I did all sorts of other stuff in terms of particular types of training, etc., before we’ve actually found that this is the thing that people really want and really need.

So yeah, it’s interesting. The other thing I really like is this and this mothballing thing, it’s the courage to stop. It’s courage to stop something that’s really successful. I do notice it Warren Buffett says, who — I think he owns Walmart doesn’t he, he’s one of these sort of big business guru, gets quoted all the time. But he said, ‘A business’s success is defined by what they say no to, by what they stopped doing rather than what they start doing.’ And I think you can apply that to your professional life, not just a business life, but your professional life in a partnership and a healthcare provider, etc.

What are you going to stop doing? Because you can’t do everything and what you’re going to really, really focus your time on? And then that comes back to your point about what is your why. Why are you choosing to do this? So for you, what has your why been for doing different things?

Jo: Well, after we stopped Bendy Legs, we actually took a bit of time out to travel with the children. So travel’s always been a huge part of mine and my husband’s life before we had children. During that time of travelling, I actually made a point. And I now realised I was self-coaching, really, I was reading up a lot about coaching, I was listening to YouTube, listening to podcasts, looking at YouTube, and finding out what my why was.

What I’ve realised was, my why is around being around for my family before and after school. I want to be able to be here. I’ve had four children, and I want those children to have the best opportunities and the best, be in the best position to do whatever they want to do. But I’d like to be around. And I know that might seem like a selfish why, but I want to be here for them before and after school if I can.

I also want to be able to work from the top of a mountain and deep in the rainforest and anywhere possible. So I want to have flexibility. I want to be able to curate and run my own life without the constraints of others, without booking holidays, and without fighting over annual leave and that sort of thing.

So again, arguably a fairly selfish why. But I’m being really honest here, because I did, I thought I got to a point where I, during that time, I remember thinking I need to be able to be paid for being me, but not be in a surgery. So how can I do that? I wrote down three or four business ideas at the time that I’d had bubbling around, you know, along for a little time, particularly when we were travelling.

One was about helping doctors and coaching doctors and becoming a qualified coach. One was around helping young girls in that transition from primary to secondary school who need role models, they need help with social media, they need self confidence and self esteem help because their confidence and self esteem is dropping off at that age, and how can I help with that. And that came from an idea that we were involved in a project in Canada. So I thought that was something I could do. And then the third one was around mentoring and mentor matching teenage girls slightly older 14 to 16.

Again, these come from personal needs, I think, you know, I wish I’d had that when I was 16. I wish I’d had somebody that wasn’t my parents or, you know, a teacher to help guide me. So I decided to run with the girls program first, which is something that I’ve developed with a friend. But every time we reach another stage in our business, I have to come back to the why. So we’re having a lot of pressure on us now about going into schools in person travelling around Wales, particularly, but even around the UK, delivering sessions live into schools. And it’s great, and I’d really love to do that.

But does that fit with my why? Is that what I should be doing? It doesn’t mean we can’t do it as a business. But we need to think about bringing people into the team so that they can deliver all over the country. And I can remain somebody that is curating that so that I’m here before and after school. And I can do it when we go off travelling in February, March. So my whys could be argued as being selfish, there are other whys, like the general self esteem and self confidence of young people in this country, and the effect that social media is having on it, and the fact that the education system is linear and stuck, and the frustrations of the fact that we’re only treating people when they reach crisis points in the NHS.

There are huge numbers of sub-whys. And those are massively important day to day, but in terms of my business, my whys are around my family and what we want to do as a family.

Rachel: I guess that’s going to change in different stages of life as well, isn’t it? I think people get very caught up in the, oh gosh, if I do that, then I’m going to be doing bla bla bla bla and that’s not going to be fitting with where my kids are, and I just want to be like you said being that you kids really, really important. But that is a season isn’t it? In five, ten years time, I’m not gonna have my kids at home anymore, and therefore, I can design my life very, very differently.

But I think designing things for how they are now with one eye to actually what we could do differently in the future is totally fine as well. And I think sometimes we are, I don’t know, there’s some maybe some unhelpful business advice.

If you listen to certain podcasts, maybe run by certain entrepreneurs who are often male of a certain age who have wives and a team of women looking after them at home, they can do these amazing things. And it’s about being focused and hustling and your business and blah, blah, blah, and you thinking, I can’t, well, I can’t do that. And I don’t actually want to do that. And then you think you can’t do it? Because you’re not like them. But that is a total lie, right?

Jo: Oh, absolutely. But I would point out at this point, and I’m sure Rachel, you will be able to empathise with this not empathise, that’s the wrong word. But understand this, but I am a probably at the moment in that point in our business where I need to put those boundaries in place, because actually running your own business, there is no off switch, there is no coming in from work, chucking your bag on the side and sitting down and forgetting about everything that’s gone on that day. It’s a constant management of stuff that needs to be done.

It doesn’t all need to be done immediately. It’s not life or death. You know, it’s all there. It’s okay. It’s not going anywhere. But that concept of leaving things until the next day, and trying not to let every minute of the day be overrun by your business.

And again, being really frank. But I think my family would sometimes argue that I’m a much more engaged and better parent, when I’ve been to work as a GP for the day. Because I actively come in, I try not to do any business work on that day. I come in quite often, I’ve gone past the shops and bought them something on the way home, and then we come back and we have dinner. And that’s my kind of off day in the evening. So putting your boundaries up and being able to compartmentalise your work, when you run your own business as a woman and a mum is definitely something that needs work on. And I think a lot of people would agree with that. I don’t know about you,

Rachel: I totally agree with it. I also think that the more engaging and enjoying your work you are, the more likely it is to spill over into everything. Yeah, I got this idea I could do this, I could do this. And it’s interesting what you said about running your own business sort of taking up a lot of mental time and headspace, etc. I think that 100% applies, of course, if you’re a partner, a GP partner, or a law firm partner, you are running a business. And these are really, really, really complicated businesses. I don’t think we realise enough of what a toll it takes on partners who own and run the business.

What I’m hoping for my listeners is that they will, I guess, start to be enthusiastic about running their own business, whether it’s their own medical business, or whether it’s doing something on the side, or even getting involved in projects at work, where they can take a lead, where they can be creative, because actually, there’s so much stuff if you’ve if you’ve got that freedom.

Even in the GP practice, it feels like you’re, you’re told to do stuff from above, and you are told to do a lot, a lot of stuff from above, but you have quite a lot of freedom to be able to run the business in the way that you want to in terms of how do you manage your staff, how can you communicate the patients? What image can you project to the patients? How can you communicate to them and manage their demands, etc.

There’s loads of different stuff you can do there, and it is quite fun thinking about this. And I think this is where it becomes quite strategic. And what I missed when I was just delivering stuff and working clinically is the strategy is this problem solving, is the thinking into the future and being creative about a bit of stuff. And for me, doing other stuff just helps me use those other bits of my brain that really need to be engaged rather than the sort of sitting in an office on my own all day, solving other people’s sort of small problems.

Jo: I think that’s the frustration now, isn’t it? The day job has just become firefighting, and there aren’t the minutes in the day to sit down and think, right, okay, how could we do this differently? How could we manage our staff better? How could – you know, it’s just constant.

I really feel for people that, you know, partners that are in charge of the business, I think, aren’t able to do that at the moment. But maybe now is a time that we have to force that time into our days and into our weeks. Because, you know, there, there can be creative projects that can give you that enjoyment that you’re potentially lacking by just managing the day to day.

So I think that, you know, a really easy starting point — you mentioned staff. I think it’s remembering those human connections are really, really important. And again, another term that I had no idea what it was, and I hated it when I first went into business because I realised I do it all the time. And I don’t like the fact that it’s called networking, but I am constantly nosy. Pretty much every patient that leaves the room I’ve got some idea of what they do. And, you know, if I have time, but making those — I call them micro connections.

So taking those moments with people, whether it’s reception staff, whether it’s patients, whether it’s nurses that come in ad hoc, or the locums that work with you just trying to connect beyond the clinical stuff that needs to be done and the organisational stuff, and it doesn’t need to be a long conversation, but it’s just a little conversation.

The difference that will make to their day, and the difference that makes your day will just add a different energy to the whole team. It’s just so special. And I you know, I work in a really busy practice on a Wednesday, I do one on-call day a week, and I worked with the most amazing nurse who just brightens my life every time she pops into the room. And I think sometimes we forget to have those connections. So that would be a good place to start.

Rachel: I love the fact that you brought networking in there as well, because like I do quite a lot of career coaching with doctors. Often when they want to do something different, they’re not sure how to find anything different. They’ve got a vague idea that this an area that they might like to explore, but they’ll say, Well, I don’t know where to look for the jobs that are advertised.

And my answer is, I don’t think I have replied to a job adverts probably in 20 years, because every single job role I found was through talking to people just chatting and through networking, and networking is nothing more than finding someone that is working in that area, or you’ve heard of. Oh, it’s how we met, wasn’t it? Someone said, ‘Oh, you should talk to Jo, I think you’ve got a lot in common.’ So we just jumped on a call. And here we are now doing a podcast and just finding something. Can I take you for coffee and pick your brains? Or could we have a quick zoom chat? Because I’m quite interested in this area? What do you think? You pick their brains and nine times out of ten, at the end of the conversation, they’ll go ‘Oh, you should talk to so and so. And you know, someone’s looking for that person.’

And it just snowballs, and it is so so important. The other thing we get wrong about networking as doctors, is we — well, this is linked to networking — we try and do everything ourselves. So I was doing a career coaching session with a doctor that was wanting to set a particular thing up. And she was saying also, she looked at all the stuff around how to do it and how to run a particular clinic in this, but she had some big questions, and she wasn’t quite sure. When she’d been on the like the CQC website and I said, ‘Well, have you talked to anyone who’s already done it?’ ‘Oh no, no, I haven’t.’ ‘Well, why not?’

And, she said, ‘They wouldn’t want to talk to me. Could I do that?’ I said, ’The easiest thing in the world would be to jump into some sort of Facebook group that’s got people that do that same thing as you’re doing. Just direct message them on and go, “Can I pick your brains about how you did it?”’

Because I think we feel that we’ve got to learn everything ourselves rather than just copying someone else’s done it. In my career, it’s been so helpful to have someone going, ‘Look, this is how you do this. Let’s set it up together.’ Bingo, you’ve done it, it probably would have taken me three days of work to do that.

So getting the right help and asking the advice of people that have done it before. In general, I think people worry about doing that. Because they think, oh, they won’t want to because there’ll be competition or whatever. But actually, most people are only too happy to support someone coming through doing something different, wanting to start something different. Have you found that as well?

Jo: I can’t I mean, I could be here for hours telling you about the different stories of people that we’ve reached out to but totally and, you know, I think this concept of competition does hold people back. It’s like, oh, somebody might steal my ideas. Or they might think that I’m copying their ideas. Just get out there. Direct message people, pick up the phone, be brave, because everybody wants to help everybody else.

We have a big saying in our business, which is about collaboration over competition. At the end of the day, we are coaching, helping, mentoring teenage girls, we’re going into schools, we’re running confidence workshops in schools, there are lots of people doing that. We’re not the only people doing that. And do you know what most of them we know on first name terms, and we email, you know, we work together and we help each other.

It’s only by connecting with people that are really doing exactly the same as you are in that area that you will learn. And interestingly enough, I think if every medics out there, they would recognise that they do do this when somebody rings them and says ‘Oh, my daughter, Sarah wants to go to medical school. Will you have a chat with her?’ Or ‘Do you know anybody that so and so can go to for work experience?’ Everybody comfortably helps out in that situation. You’d never put the phone down and say actually, you know what, I’m not going to talk to Sarah at all. She can go and work it out herself. You know, we’ve all had those conversations a million times. It’s exactly the same.

So if you’ve got an idea, however harebrained and crazy it is, I did it for granola. We do it for HOW the entire time. Rachel said we met through this and some of the most incredible people in our business. We have met through networking, the girl that does all of our delivery for schools, she came to us, she was recommended to us by one of the parents of one of the girls and a head teacher who contacted us. And she’s absolutely amazing. We’ve only met once in real life, and we work together every single week.

So get out there and be brave, and ask questions. Be curious. That is what I would say and find out how people have done what they what they have done, because they love helping.

Rachel: People really do. I think the thing that stops people is, oh, I don’t like selling myself, I don’t like selling myself. It’s really awkward. And you’re like, you’re not selling yourself, you’re asking them about them. Get it out of your head that you’re trying to get yourself a job or sell yourself. The more curious you are, the more questions you ask, the more the more sort of attractive you’ll be anyway, because somebody’s like, oh, this person really wants to understand and know.

Like you said, I think it’s having this attitude of abundance, not lack. I mean, I know there’s there’s lots of people looking at setting up lifestyle medicine businesses, doing some coaching, doing stuff around, I don’t know, acupuncture or, or loads of other things. The world needs much more of those people, right? The world doesn’t need less of those people, and people love to help people out. And that’s where you find your tribe, your community. And it’s really, it’s really, really important.

I’m just thinking if you’re an intrapreneur, and I love that word as well, because I think it’s really important that we help people to be intrapreneurs to make things better in their own workplaces and where they’re working, and go off with initiatives and things like that. You know, contact other places that have done it. I’m constantly very surprised that GP practices are struggling with particular issues. Like workflow is a really obvious one, and the practice two miles down the road has totally nailed it but they haven’t spoken to them about it.

Like go and nick what they’ve done, literally go and visit them and go ‘What have you done? We’re drowning here. Tell us what worked. Tell us what didn’t.’ There is so much so much knowledge out there, triage systems, people know what works, what doesn’t work. All those sorts of things. People know, it’s just a question of going and talking and talking to people.

Jo, I’m conscious of the time. But what I did want to ask you is I think this thing about transferable skills is a biggie for professionals. And for doctors, we don’t think if we’ve not been trained to a very high level in it, we don’t have that skill. What do you think the main transferable skills that doctors and other professionals in high stress jobs have that they don’t recognise, that are really, really helpful for doing something different, either as an entrepreneur or an intrapreneur, or even just in a different role?

Jo: I think, for doctors, it’s about communication. You must be able to communicate well with people in your role. And we have all learned to communicate better and better as we’ve gone through our training. Communication is at the heart of everything, whether it’s within your GP business or outside in any kind of business that you may be doing and connecting with people and we’ve forgotten how to connect with people.

It’s a little bit like teenagers, we have to remember that even the smallest, the smallest pleasantry the the smile, the recognising somebody calling them by their name, these really basic things that make us good communicators, recognising that a patient when they last came in mentioned something, bringing it up again, in the conversation, you know, those sorts of skills can make or break a workplace.

I think when people stop forgetting to be human, and to treat each other, and champion each other and help each other, then I think that’s when the cracks start to form. So I think bringing that human connection back into our practices in these in these micro connections and celebrating as well, every day those things that have gone well, and they don’t need to be big, but I certainly think in a day that’s been chaotic, you know, on your journey home, just take a couple of minutes to think right? Okay. Three things that made a difference today. And I guarantee there will be dozens of them.

But it’s easy to focus on the fact that you didn’t get out the door at seven and that this disaster happened and that disaster happened and not focus on the little wins that have happened throughout the day.

Rachel: I think that’s really, really important. When I started to look at my transferable skills, I thought, ‘Oh, I don’t know anything about websites. I don’t know anything about marketing. I don’t know anything about business, finance, about running a business, all those sorts of things.’ But actually those are things that you can learn really quick or you can get somebody else to do. You know, there are so many brilliant virtual assistants out there for fifteen, twenty pounds an hour. They will do social media for you. They’ll create websites for you, they’ll do all these things.

But what you have is like you said: Communication skills. The ability to connect with people who understand how people work, if you’ve got the compassion, you can solve problems, and you can be quite strategic. I think doctors and other professionals pick stuff up really quickly. I’s not difficult. And actually, we’ve been very used to see one do one teach one.

I heard a really interesting podcast the other day with Pat Flynn, who’s a very sort of charismatic American guy who someone had asked him, ‘Hey, Pat, why is it that whatever you do always turns to gold.’ And he had thought about this. And then he came back, and he said, ‘Well, you know what I thought, because everything I do, does turn to gold. Everything does work.’ And he said, ‘But you know what? That’s because I only do it if someone else has done it first, and it works.’ That’s such good advice.

He said, ‘I’ve made sure that someone else has done it. And it’s worked and it’s been successful, then I know that if I do it, it’s going to work.’ So he says,’I don’t often try something completely different.’ So I think we are very good at looking at what’s working out there. What do people need? What are the people doing? And how can we then do that? Maybe that serves for our practice? Or how can we make that work in our trust? Or do that locally?

Jo: So that’s brilliant.

Rachel: Yeah, it’s good, isn’t it? It’s a good concept.

Jo: Yeah, absolutely. I think whatever is working for somebody else, learn about it, find out about it, tweak it and make it work for you. I love that.

Rachel: You could say it, but I think it just come with a health warning. Like you said, with doctors, we are very, you know, one track, we’re like, I’ve got to make it work, I’ve got to be successful, I’ve got to be right, I’ve got to be perfect. And that then, that’s when the boundaries start to go, where you start to be doing at all times of the day, where you can’t let go.

I guess I would also say, you know, if you are thinking of doing something different, both within or outside of work, then make time for it. Make time for it. I don’t think anyone listening to this podcast, is sitting there going, ‘Yeah, well, actually, I do have an extra 10 hours a week that I need to fill.’

So my first piece of advice would be what are you going to drop in order to do this? Or even exploring these new things and doing a bit of an exploration of your career and career development, that takes time as well. So even if you haven’t got anything, you need to drop something to make the time for the exploration. And that is probably the biggest barrier to people doing things different.

Jo: I would agree. I think that was a point that I got to and something I’ve heard about with authors is that if you’re trying to write a book, you need to get up 20 minutes earlier than you normally do and write for 20 minutes. TAnd there was a podcast that I was listening to during my period of trying to work out what I was going to do. And it talks about getting up in the morning. And I’d never got up in the morning early. I was woken up by an alarm or a child. And I started getting up.

I’m not preaching, getting up at five o’clock and doing a marathon before breakfast. But I basically now get up every morning, and I do an hour and a half work on the business before the children get up. And I and I said to myself, during this period of working out what I wanted to do, what would I get out of bed every day for an hour and a half early that would completely fill my cup that I would love doing like what would that be without being paid.

Because at the end of the day, when you do something completely different and you start running a business, you’re not going to be paid anywhere near what you’re paid as a GP or as a doctor on an hourly rate. So you have to be prepared to do the hard grit. And it’s not you know, I’m not pretending it’s easy. It’s not easy. It’s a hard slog.

But there is nothing more satisfying and amazing than creating something yourself and loving your work. I just hope more doctors can find that balance to be able to keep doing amazing work for the NHS, but be able to balance it with a different project within their practices are outside of their practices that can light them up and fill that creative flame.

Rachel: Totally. Totally. 100%. Bag that. think I just want to come to that point as well. I think you have to invest in it, invest in yourself. There’s hardly anything that you could do that’s different, that won’t need a little bit of investment in a bit of training for yourself. Maybe some online courses, maybe investing in yourself is dropping some of your other work. So you’re not going to get paid for that. But that then gives you the time to look into things.

You may need to invest in a VA, someone to help you organise things, someone to do some marketing, social media. So I wouldn’t, you know, work out how much it’s going to cost. You know, courses are expensive, but they are so worth it. I can’t imagine having done what I’ve done without having done some courses and investing quite a lot of money and getting myself trained and getting the help that I need, et cetera, et cetera.

So it won’t be completely time neutral or finance neutral. But I think in terms of the happiness it brings in the long run, it’s really important.

Jo: Yeah, absolutely.

Rachel: So, Jo, what would your three top tips be for people that want to use their transferable skills to do something a bit different both in or out of their current work.

Jo: So I think my first one would be the micro connections, being human, increasing your communication skills and using those within your business, whether that be practice, or within hospital medicine. I think that community feel has been stripped with COVID. Let’s build that back up again, let’s connect with the people that we work with. That’s really important, looking up from our phones being the first to make conversation.

Secondly, I think part of what we do with our coaching business with the girls is about celebrating the small stuff, thinking about each day, who you’ve helped and how you’ve helped them, and what you’re grateful for, you know, simple, simple things that make you reflect on your day and feel better. We maybe have never done those as practitioners. It’s never really been something that’s been suggested. But it’s something that I’ve done with business coaches that we’ve had, and that I do with people that I’m coaching, I think it’s really important to recognize what’s gone well each day and at the end of the week.

I think it’s not so much transferable skills, but I think it’s really important for us as busy, often midlife with children, and often this sandwich generation of older, older parents. Certainly I know, personally, a lot of my friends, who have maybe not struggled up to this point of finding life pretty tough at the moment. I think having dreams and plans and ideas about how life might evolve, like you say, children aren’t going to be at home forever. So what are the next ten, twenty years going to look like?

I think I famously said in the year 2000, where before I really had a particularly busy time, I remember saying, ‘Gosh, this is going to be a busy decade.’ And I’m sort of known in my friendship group of having a filofax and planning five years in advance.

But do you know what? It keeps me going. Having those dreams and plans and things that I want to achieve and do and all. I’ve got a whole book of ideas that when I’ve got time that I’d love to make into reality. Having things to look forward to, and it could be as simple as a weekend away with a family or, or a weekend with a load of friends and three months time, whatever it is, have some plans and put those into place.

We all need that connection with people that we love, and we all need to have things to look forward to. So that’s whether you’re in business, whether you’re in hospital, or whether you’re in general practice, bringing in those little adventures and plans, little ones, big ones, whatever they are, will keep you going in these busy times that we’re in.

Rachel: I love that. I guess my three tips would be first of all, make time for it. Make time for what you want to do differently by dropping something else by making time to explore and network. And what we will do is put a link to our Thrive week planner tool in the show notes. So that is a very simple tool that helps you look at what your current week looks like., and then look at what your ideal working life would look like in terms of how many sessions a week, etc, etc. So you can start to plan what you will do differently, things that you need to drop off, or amend, or change.

I would also say invest in it. Invest in it, whether it be time or financial will probably need to be both actually. I love the idea we talked about earlier that instead of seeing things as failures, see things as you’re testing stuff, you’re testing a load of stuff to see not just what works, but what you enjoy. Because you’re granola business totally worked, right? You just knew that you weren’t going to enjoy it in the long term. So it’s not a failure. It’s just testing

Have at the back of your mind. We’re not just testing whether this business concept works, because lots of them will work. It’s like, is this right for me to do long term? Is this the sort of life that I actually want?

So Jo, it’s been brilliant to chat. It’s been really helpful. If people want to find out more about you and what you do, how can they get a hold of you?

Jo: The easiest place to get a hold of me at the moment is via thehowpeople.com website or hello@howpeople.com. I’m also setting up a mentoring and coaching program for GPs and medical doctors going into their own businesses. So you can always contact me on jo@bendylegs.com which is my email for that — I had to keep the Bendy Legs in there because it’s such a good name. I’ve got a program coming out for doctors with established businesses to support them for three months. So yeah, just reach out direct message me on Twitter, LinkedIn, Jo Watkins or The HOW People.

Rachel: Brilliant. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I will have to get you back at another time to talk about all things sort of business for doctors and it’d be really helpful. So thank you.

Jo: Thank you very much for having me.

Rachel: Thanks for listening. Don’t forget, we provide a self coaching CPD workbook for every episode. You can sign up for it via the link in the show notes. And if this episode was helpful, then please share it with a friend. Get in touch with any comments or suggestions at hello@youarenotafrog.com. I love to hear from you. And finally, if you’re enjoying the podcast, please rate it and leave a review wherever you’re listening. It really helps. Bye for now.