Thank you Celia for your time and for sharing your story with us here.
Celia is the owner and founder of Central Business Associates which provides a flexible working centre that offers meeting rooms, private offices, co-working space, virtual and executive assistant services.
Before we get into question time, tell us a bit about yourself, where you grew up, your aspirations, trials and tribulations….
Born just outside Glasgow in Scotland, my family and I moved to the rural Scottish Highlands when I was only 4, and I discovered a knack for languages and singing – performing in local and national Gaelic (Gaidhlig) singing competitions from the age of 5, and became particularly competitive when I found out that winners received cash prizes! Growing up in a small community, I watched my mum become really involved in trying to find ways to help out in the local community – mostly within local council and government – but much of it on a voluntary basis. Little did I know then how much she would influence me to become so passionate about community in my adulthood!
I loved going for walks alone for hours on end, and made some wonderful friends, (some of whom I am still in touch with now) but always felt like a bit of an ‘outsider’ as I wasn’t 10th generation Highlands & Islands! I went to the careers advisor when I was about 14, and was asked to write down 3 things I’d like to do when I ‘grew up’ – I wrote
“1. Singer, 2. Long-distance lorry driver, 3. Social worker”….
She was not impressed, thought I was mucking around and gave me details on what I needed to study to become a social worker. Always the rebel, I promptly applied for, and was accepted, to study Rock Music, as a singer! It was an eye-opener in many ways – I was one of the youngest performers (left home at 16 for college), had come from quite an isolated childhood, and always felt very different to most of the gregarious musicians around me – I would feel physically sick every time I had a big performance, and lacked confidence in my abilities.
After college, I began working in office junior jobs, and discovered an aptitude for re-organising things to make life easier for everyone, as well as being able to train new staff.
I spent the next 4 years plodding away in admin jobs, always improving systems, and being asked to come up with new ideas…
At the age of 21, I was persuaded to try out for a Telesales job, and within 6 months was doubling my salary with sales commissions. I soon moved into Management roles within Customer Service and Helpdesks for a number of very varied industries, including waste management, office interior design, facilities management and coffee!
During this time, I was still being sought out by senior management to look at ways to ‘work smarter not harder’. I was hugely innovative, and found change management relatively easy to implement. Fascinated by different personalities, I even studied psychology at one point, as I was always mediating between staff members, different departments, and senior management, and loved figuring out how to get the best out of everyone, creating win/win situations.
At the tender age of 41, after getting married and having two children, we moved from Scotland to Queensland. A random conversation with a friend on Facebook led me to a significant life event – the discovery that I was an introvert…… it literally changed my life, and suddenly many things made a bit more sense – the fact that I loved the solitude of the Highlands, but never quite felt like I belonged. The lack of confidence at music college, and the sheer exhaustion I’d felt since having a family!
I craved some regular downtime.
Unable to imagine returning to the corporate world, I wanted to find way to utilise all the skills I’d built up over the years, and stay within this amazing, supportive community that had welcomed me from the other side of the world.
So here I am – full of innovation, collaboration, and years and years of corporate and management experience; continuing to look for ways to help others to become the best they can be! I am immersed in this beautiful area and the community around me, and I am excited to get out of bed on a Monday morning – I am so lucky to have found this passion which enables me to help others, allows me to have a flexible schedule to be present for my family, and keeps me learning every single day.
Where did your career start and how did you arrive at where you are now?
I’ve been working in Customer Service positions for over 25 years, with some Sales and a whole lot of people management / collaboration and change management all thrown in. After having my family, I decided to try and find a way to work flexibly to allow me to have a better work/life balance.
Working from home was a nice idea, but the reality is far from easy – too many distractions. Creating the flexible workspaces has given me the perfect balance, and offers the same to other entrepreneurs.
So many women will relate to that. What’s a typical day look like and how do you manage your time?
I drop my kids off at school at 8.30 and head to the office. Depending on who’s in today, I might have to put the coffee machine on, organise some water and glasses, water the plants, and make sure the meeting room is set up correctly for however many people are booked to come in (if not, there is some reorganising of tables and chairs required!). Once that’s all finished, I go into my office (which I share with different people on different days of the week) and get down to my own consultancy work.
Managing my time is always a challenge – people know I work there most days, so often will pop in to ask a question, or just say ‘hi’ or to ask about a potential booking request – I’m of the opinion that all these conversations are of utmost importance to my collaborative work – you never know what connections will come up, or where a discussion will go – often some of my best work has come from those random chats, so I never keep my office door closed, unless of course I have a deadline for a client!
Sounds pretty organised to me… Where do you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from the interactions I have with the community – business and personal. I have a brain that loves to problem-solve, and loves to streamline processes – I’m always on the lookout for a way to make things easier, clearer, bigger – whatever is relevant….
Helping people has always been a driver for me – when I’m talking to people, I’m listening for the opportunity for me to use my strengths to do something to assist them – whether it is business or personal – always listening, always making connections!
That is a skill in itself and being aware enough to recognise when opportunities present themselves is too!
What is the best business advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I ever had was to ‘stay authentic’ – be true to myself. In the past, I would try to be everything to everyone and adapt to the situation. I’m still capable of doing this when it is necessary, but I seek the projects that make me want to jump out of bed in the morning, not everything that comes my way. If you want people to trust you, you need to be true to yourself.
Great advice and it really does make a big difference to your success! What advice would you give someone looking to start a business?
Make sure you have a valid business before you start putting all your energy and money into it – just because it’s something you love, doesn’t make it a business.
Do your research, ask people for their feedback on the idea, talk about it until it starts to naturally take shape.
Do something that will make you look forward to Monday morning!
Excellent! How would your friends describe you in 25 words or less?
Ha ha, hmmmm… Quirky, fun, caring, collaborative, innovative, fiercely independent, quietly strong, colourful, and almost always (slightly) late! (always trying to tick one more thing off the To-Do list!)
You crack me up! What is your favourite motivational quote?
Ooh, I write new ones up on my planner board in the entry hall at work, but one of my all-time favourites is from the inspirational Maya Angelou – “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style.”
I love it! If you could have a super power, what would that be and why?
Ok, this might seem a strange one! To see into people’s brains, to understand their personality type – it’s a bit of a passion of mine – I studied psychology for a year, and although the formal studying stopped after that, my fascination and personal development around personalities never waned, and it’s how I make sure I connect like-minded people, to let the innovative sparks fly! Not sure I’d want it as a super power though – it would take the fun out of it if I didn’t figure it out myself, but it would certainly speed things up!
I totally get it – your super power that is. It’s not what I was expecting but it would definitely speed the connection thing up – or disconnection! What advice would you give your teenage self about life?
“Congratulations! You’re an Introvert – go and read lots about what that means, and preserve your energy whenever you can!” As I mentioned earlier, I used to try to be everything to everyone, because I thought that’s what everyone else did.
Discovering I was an introvert (not the shy, retiring kind of person that’s the old classic introvert stereotype, but literally to do with the way that people give and receive their energy) at the age of 41, I realised I’d made my life a lot harder for myself than it needed to be, by trying to have multiple personalities.
Realising that my own authentic, introverted personality was perfect as it was, took me into a whole new stage of life, and allowed me to interact more easily with everyone!
I guess that’s why they say, women get better with age, because we kinda settle into ourselves by then. Name something you want to achieve before you die.
I want to change the world!
No, seriously – I do – I want to be part of the change to the ‘normal’ working life around the world. We need to move away from the standard 9-5 office cubicle idea – we live in a totally different world now, where technology allows us to work pretty much where and when we want.
Many people have different times when they work best (I work best in the evening, others might rather get up at 5am to be their most creative/productive). So many studies have shown that bursts of work instead of a solid 7-8 hour day make for better productivity.
Flexible workspaces in suburbs are the perfect way to realise this new way of working – save the wasted time on commuting every day, allow people flexibility to have more family time/free time, encourage collaboration and sharing….
Absolutely agree! Great concept Celia and on that note, I dub thee – “Pioneer”! Working different blocks of time seems to work well in Europe.
Quick Fun Round…
Who is your favourite female actress and why?
Kate Winslett I think – she manages to play such different characters, and for me, that is the hardest thing (I know how hard it is from trying to have all my multiple personalities to suit everyone and every situation!).
Mac and Cheese – wins me over every time… (if it’s done well!)
By Mac I’m assuming you mean macaroni – yum! Favourite movie?
So I Married an Axe Murderer, with Mike Myers – could watch it over and over and still find it hilarious! I actually used the concept for my Blog “So I Married an Extrovert”!
Clever! What do you do to relax?
I love to learn, so I’m rarely without a pile of self-development or business books beside my bed. I love to sit on my back deck, watching my husband gardening while I read quietly with a cup of coffee. Relaxing for me has to be real time to reflect and think, as my mind is so super busy innovating all the time!
Coffee, tea, other?
Coffee all the way – I used to work for a coffee company, so I talk about coffee the way some people do about wine!
Dogs all the way!
Thank you for this opportunity to share with you Fiona – it’s been very liberating and lovely! What a wonderful concept you are creating here!
Don’t be silly, thank you more Celia for sharing with us all… It’s an absolute pleasure to have you here, helping inspire us all and changing the landscape of how we work into the future.
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