International Women’s Day: Five minutes with… director Tracy Vardy
To mark International Women’s Day, we dropped in for a five minute chat with director, Tracy Vardy, to discuss her experience as a woman in business and to see what pearls of wisdom she can pass onto other women considering a career in business.
As a woman who has carved out a successful career in business, have there been any major female influences throughout your life that have spurred you on to set up your own company with your husband, Simon?
When I was still working in social housing and deciding whether or not to get involved with Sim Trava full-time, I came across business coach Dale Stafford who went onto inspire me to take the plunge. Over the years, Dale has challenged me to always push to reach my full potential and I’m fortunate that she’s been a coach, mentor, role model and ultimately a friend throughout my business career.
As a woman in business, have there been any specific obstacles you had to overcome before reaching the success you have?
For me, it was a matter of confidence and self-belief as I struggled to settle into a more corporate environment. That said, I have relaxed a lot more and now only own one suit now that I don’t even wear anymore, even when I’m meeting up with the bank! I’ve learned not to worry as much what other people think – the only opinions that matters are my own and those closest to me.
You and Simon launched Sim Trava in 2004, over the years have you noticed much change in the workplace for women?
Within the Sim Trava family, there is a good balance of men and women and this has shaped our culture and developed how we do business. In our senior management team, there are actually more women than men which I feel is a strength for Sim Trava as it helps keep the family feel while managing a profitable business.
You’ve worked previously in other businesses but now that you’re the director of your own, is there anything Sim Trava does that is designed to specifically help women thrive and progress in a commercial environment?
As a business that operates seven days a week, we offer colleagues part-time hours during school time, childcare vouchers and have a system in place where working parents can have the same day off each week to help reduce childcare costs.
When you did return to work following the birth of your daughter, what was the biggest challenge you faced?
Initially, the biggest challenge was the sleep deprivation when my daughter was a baby and toddler. Then it became about finding a healthy balance as a working parent – this is still a challenge for me, as it is for most working parents.
For any other women in Sim Trava and beyond, who are returning to work after giving birth, what advice would you give? How do you manage to balance your home life and familial responsibilities against running a successful, and growing, business?
Ditch the guilt! And make it your mission to sort out great childcare – knowing your child is happy means you can focus in work and enjoy it. I’ve also found ‘me’ time to be really important – I go boxing each week to get rid of any frustrations that have festered throughout the week and I feel fantastic afterwards.
I’m fortunate to be in the position that my business partner is also my husband. So, between us, since we started this journey 11 years ago, we’ve worked hard to juggle business and family life and ensure we have a great balance. What’s worked for us as a family is taking time off together which takes planning and good organisation but it’s worth it and helps create great memories.
For me, job satisfaction means finding the right balance between working on the business and looking after my family. It’s a constant juggling act, and one I continuously have to work on. For five years, we ran the business working long days – usually seven days a week. The Sim Trava family was my priority and I didn’t have to divide my time. Luckily, our daughter arrived in 2011 and finding a balance became a ‘need’ so I became a working mum. After working so hard for so long, and loving what I did I found it became challenging to find the right balance. I had to work at this, and invested in my own personal development by using a business coach / mentor to help me to create the lifestyle I wanted as a working mum. I now feel very lucky as I’m involved in the business, and love being a mum to my daughter. I’ve worked hard to make sure I can have most school holidays off to spend time with my daughter; I do this by keeping on top of emails, working early mornings and having a fantastic team behind me within the business.
Looking to the future, are there any specific aspirations you have for your daughter and her generation of women?
My advice is always to work hard and to ensure you are doing things well – skills are transferable so put your mind to the task in hand and the rest should follow. In fact, much of what I learnt in the workplace came from my social housing experience which I’ve gone on to use in running Sim Trava – particularly around understanding the value of the people within your business and importance of teamwork.
I tell my daughter she can reach for the stars in whatever she does on a frequent basis and at the moment she aspires to be a tooth fairy! I constantly tell her she can do whatever she wants as long as she works hard and to the best of her abilities. Ultimately, I want her to be happy, resilient and ready for the modern world as she enters adulthood.
We have worked very hard to build Sim Trava and are now in a position to grow and support the next generation of school leavers. My real passion is young people and encouraging them to believe in themselves. I meet too many people who left school unprepared for modern working life, and if we can fill this gap through our training arm, the Sim Trava Academy, then I’ve done my bit for the next generation.