This video and transcript are from an interview that Ian Payton of Telsec Business Centres conducted with Judi Hughes, co-founder and President of Your Planning Partners Ltd. It’s the first in a series of interviews with members of our community with the goal of raising client visibility within the Telsec business community and elsewhere.
Judi Hughes, Co-Founder and President of Your Planning Partners
Ian: Hi, can you introduce yourself?
Judi: Absolutely! I’m Judi Hughes and my company is Your Planning Partners. I’m the President and Managing Partner.
Ian: Would you like to give us an idea about what your business does?
Judi: Your Planning Partners is a boutique management consulting firm. We work with established business owners who’ve been in business 3 to 5 years. Some up to 15 and 20 years have already seen some success with their business, but they hit a ceiling. So what we do is help them focus their energies and their skills on putting strategies in place to grow their business – but most importantly on implementing those strategies. So my tagline is: “We help you get clarity and we help you get focused on where you’re going. Most importantly, together, we help you take action.
Ian: How long has your business been around? How did you start it?
Judi: We’ve been in business since 1978. We’ve been in business longer than many of our clients have been alive! So we always joke about that – but it’s true. We’ve had four businesses and this is our fourth. Each of them has been successful. We’ve built them and sold them – so we’ve bought businesses and we’ve built businesses. But in each case, we’ve sold the business in the end. We started Your Planning Partners 10 years ago, so this is our 10th anniversary. Umm, and the rest of the question was how did we start?
Ian: Yes. What inspired you to start this particular business?
Judi: We’ve never worked for anyone else. I’m in business with my husband. The “we” is my husband and we have a team as well. But we’re the two key partners. The reality was that we always joked around and said we were too young to retire. But nobody else would hire us. When we sold our last company, we went to another consulting firm and we said, “this is what we love doing” and we told them our story and so on. That form helped us put it together the program we still deliver today, which is helping other business owners do exactly what we did is – build a business so you have equity in it. The first question I ask people when they want to consider working with us or starting a business is “do you want to build a business? Or do you want to create a good job for yourself?” Neither of those are right or wrong. But building a business is very different from working for yourself. They’re two very different things. So, what we do is help people build businesses.
Ian: What challenges did you face when trying to get started?
Judi: Our challenges today are the same as they were in our very first business in 1978. And they’re exactly the same challenges all of our clients have. The biggest challenge is not trying to do everything yourself. Create a team around you – not necessarily employing a team but creating a team that could do things better than you can because you can’t be all things to all people. If you’re doing everything, I guarantee that you’re not doing the things necessary to grow your business. One criteria for all our clients is that they already either have an administrative assistant or prepare to invest in an administrative assistant – because one of the biggest hurdles is that we spend ages and ages of time doing things that aren’t about growing our company, they’re about administering our business. And if you’ve got a good, strong supporter that can shine in that position, I can guarantee you will shine at doing the things you need to do for growth. So it’s all about hiring the right team, keeping them on board, helping them shine, and recognizing that you can’t do everything.
Ian: Did you encounter any unique challenges because you’re a woman?
Judi: The fact that I started my company with my husband and that we’re still in business together is somewhat unique. We have always had two incomes from one business, no matter what. We’ve had to put our children through university, buy ourselves houses, and so on. So I don’t feel any particular challenges as a woman. However, I belong to Canadian Association of Women Executives and Entrepreneurs. I spend a lot of time with other young women who are just starting in business. And the challenges are exactly the same now as they were 20 or 30 years ago. Getting the financial industry and institutions to take you seriously is very important. Women, to be clear, are very good salespeople so that isn’t necessarily a challenge. But for women to get financial institutions to take them seriously is really an interesting exercise. Women have an inclination to feel that they have to be caregivers of everything – and so that balancing act of family, home, business, marriage, relationships and friendships really is a learning curve. I have a couple of young women that I mentor and they’re faced with the same thing – learning how do they balance all of that. Today that’s probably the biggest challenge for women.
Ian: How has it been, having your office in a business office centre like Telsec?
Judi: We’ve been here for 9 of the 10 years that we stated the business. I say to our clients all the time to get your office out of the house or you cannot feel like a real business. It’s a much different feeling when you walk out of your home and you go to work. For a woman being at home, you’re constantly torn between being a business person and care giving. But if you’re going off to the office, everybody takes you seriously. So Telsec specifically? Well, the location for us has been incredible. Our clients have come in from Ajax, Durham, Halton and from all those side ramps off the DVP and the Gardiner Expressway, and they can park their cars nearby. Our clients who are in GTA and take the TTC love the fact that we’re totally accessible – and so location is huge for us. We’ve also been able to grow within Telsec – which is the other reason why I recommend people use business centres as their place of doing business. As we’ve grown, we’ve taken more office space. It’s also great to have a reception area, and have someone with a smiling face to greet people when they come in. I do recommend Telsec a lot. One of the jokes I always say is “besides, they always have free coffee on.” That’s absolutely critical because when someone’s just arrived and you’ve got a million things going on, it’s nice to offer that to them. The boardrooms…yeah the board rooms are great! Actually that’s another thing we do say to business owners in particular. Why would anyone go out and buy fax machines, copiers and all the things you need to be in business when you can be a part of a community like this where those things are already accessible to you. They’re top quality; you’re never going to be able to afford them yourself. You’ve got boardrooms for meetings, you’ve got an elegant presence for prospects – it’s just doesn’t make any sense to not do it. Besides, you don’t have to clean it! It’s cleaned for you at the end of the week. It’s done!
Ian: You mentioned growth. Did you go from a smaller office to a larger office without having to change your address?
Judi: First, we started with a mailing address that was probably 10 or 11 years ago. We had the mailing address, then a phone, then receptionists to answer the phone. Then we moved into the shared-office concept where we also had use of the boardrooms. Next stage of growth, we took on one office and a small office. Then the next stage of growth we took on a bigger office and subsequently another office. So, with each stage of the growth of our company, we’ve been able to move in to the next best space. And one of the nice things about moving into that space is that we never had internet problems – and that’s a really good thing, especially in today’s world.
Ian: Thank you so much.