Many Claims professionals make the move from permanent employment to independent consulting in the later stages of their career. Nonetheless, it can be a daunting prospect. Laura Phillips, SX3’s Head of Operations, talks about how she made the transition and what it meant for her.
When did you start your consulting career?
I quit full-time work aged 48. As a lone parent with a single income, it felt like jumping off a cliff. I genuinely had no idea how I could cope without the security of a full-time job. My parents were horrified, my daughter was stunned, and my friends thought I’d gone insane. But someone once told me that to write a book, you have to write the first line. Stopping full-time work was my first line.
What prompted the change in direction?
Earning good, regular money was necessary when I was younger, but over time I realised it had become a ‘nice to have.’ At the same time my job was increasingly consuming my personal life.
The further my career progressed, the commutes became longer, whilst the work and the work environment became more demanding. Watching the sun come up, sitting in traffic at the Dartford Crossing or waiting for a train, it felt rare to have a day that wasn’t stressful. Weekends were spent preparing for the work week ahead.
What did you want from work life balance?
I was ready for more “me” time, to get more breadth from life. Also, I wanted to show my daughter that you don’t have to be a ‘wage slave’ to live a contented life. I wanted time to be part of a community, to make a difference to my local area and to the people in it.
How did you start independent consulting?
I met Adrian Gilbert (MD SX3 Claims Consultants), and he suggested consulting. At first, I wasn’t sure about it. My experience of consultants was they charged phenomenal fees and delivered very little. But Adrian isn’t like that, and I knew I wasn’t either. Consultancy gave me the opportunity to employ my expertise but keep control of my life.
Since you began independent consulting, how has your life changed?
I rarely set an alarm, waking up when I’ve finished sleeping. I learned that (despite having done it for years) 6 hours sleep isn’t enough. I naturally sleep for 8 hours now.
Not only do I sleep more, my health has improved. I have time to exercise more. And if I’m not well, I’m able to look after myself by taking the time to see a GP or even just getting to a chemist before it closes!
Even before the pandemic made working from home commonplace, my cost of living had dropped massively. Gone were the expensive Pret lunches, the need to maintain a business wardrobe and travel costs became next to nothing. I went through my monthly expenses and culled everything I didn’t need. I’m stunned now that I used to pay so much for so many things which were so meaningless. I no longer have extravagant holidays or buy a new car every 2 years, but I pay the bills and go out when I want.
What do you enjoy about consulting work?
The diversity of consulting work is interesting. No two projects are the same and each client has different needs. With some of the clients I work with, I hear the same stresses that I experienced when I was working full-time. It’s rewarding to be able to help a client find ways to reduce the effort it takes to run their operation while simultaneously improving how it performs. Giving an outside perspective to clients can help calm trouble hotspots and it’s great when a client tells me they implemented a recommendation and how it improved their business.
What is your proudest achievement outside consulting?
For the first time ever, I saw what it’s like to live in my street. My neighbours have a little community which I’d never been able to be a part of. I began helping elderly neighbours around me more, spent time in my garden and began painting. I started (although never finished!) several novels. Quite cliché things I suppose, but so rewarding.
One day, talking to a friend, I realised there was little opportunity in the local area for women to make friends and socialise. So I set up a group for women which now has nearly 4,000 members. Before Covid-19, we were organising regular meet-ups. That group spawned many others. A litter picking group, a singing group, walking groups, fitness groups, community gardening groups… And as my women’s group grew, I realised many of them were interested in helping improve the area we live in. It was then that I began working with others to found a Town Council, where local people make decisions about local topics. Both of those things are now very well established and so I’ve stepped back from them and am looking for the next thing. It will come.
What did you leave behind in choosing to leave full-time work?
I’d enjoyed developing my career in Claims, especially being able to help people after they’d had an accident. But with seniority you find yourself pulled further and further from that.
I miss the camaraderie of an office environment. I met hundreds upon hundreds of fascinating and funny people in my career and I used to love finding a half hour to have a coffee with call centre staff and just chat with them about how things were going.
In my 50’s, I’m living the life I didn’t think I’d be able to achieve for at least another 15 years and that’s down to jumping off that cliff and trying my hand at consulting. It was the best decision I ever made. The friends who thought I’d gone insane have changed their views, although I think it will take longer for my parents to acclimatise to their unconventional daughter!
If you are considering independent consulting and have claims expertise read the Join Us section of this site and have a look at Adrian’s blog on managing career change Adrian and Laura will be happy to talk and share their experience with you. Simply contact us on +44 (0)1702 567 501 or firstname.lastname@example.org.