“My biggest successes have probably been underpinned by women needing confidence,” – Rosie O’Hara, Developing Works
Meet Rosie O’Hara, who left the UK at 18 to get away from her father, who ruled her childhood home with an iron fist.
She found herself in the same situation when, married at 19, her husband, too, turned violent towards her.
Despite her turbulent home life, she set up her first business in 1989 as a mum-of-two.
She entered the 90s a successful businesswoman by her own means and without any financial support.
And, in 1991, found happiness with her second husband.
But her joy was to be short-lived. Just months into their marriage, the love of her life was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and, sadly, died in 1994.
Her financial security soon also took a downturn when, after moving back to Scotland, she loaned £20k to a business partner and lost the lot.
But the worst was yet to come. Her troubled teenage son disappeared in 2005 and, after years of heartache, Rosie was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009.
Against all the odds, however, Rosie, who is now 63, has lived to tell the tale and in many ways is stronger than ever.
One mastectomy later and, after beating breast cancer, she is happily remarried to her husband of five years.
She is now also the founder of Developing Works, which specialises in business communication and career management coaching, and an award-winning coach and author, having published four books on the subject.
Her string of accolades include three from Aberdeen Business Network and recognition from Moray Businesswomen as a Woman of Achievement in 2015. She was also voted an Association of Scottish Businesswomen Woman of Inspiration the same year.
Here, we find out what makes her tick and what gave her the motivation to keep fighting.
Q: What motivates you, Rosie?
Life goes on and it will always go on, but we can do it in more productive ways. And I like people and like people to lead fulfilled lives.
Q: What has been your most challenging day in business?
I don’t know – I have, to date, coped with everything that business has thrown at me. I breathe, brush things off, pick myself up, dust myself down, start all over again and move on. Business is easier than personal stuff because you can walk away from it and shut the door. You really can; never bring it into your sitting room, dining room, kitchen or bedroom and don’t surf the internet in the bathroom.
But, in 1989, there was absolutely no help for a single mum-of-two in setting up a business, no advice, no money, just laughter from anyone who might have given business advice.
Q: How have you found the strength to overcome all the odds?
My granny once told me ‘there’s no such thing as can’t’. I found out years later that she didn’t really believe that but, as a child, I did and I still do. I don’t climb mountains I go round them. There’s always another way.
Q: What has kept you fighting?
I’m working towards the day when I can crochet and my three grandchildren bring me cups of tea. I’m almost there.
Q: Did you blame yourself at any point?
No, I might in the past have asked ‘why me?’ but at an early age I realised if I didn’t help myself I’d be a long time waiting for others to help me. Although I also believe in ‘pay it forward’ inasmuch as we do things for others in the expectation of no ‘return’. Perhaps the return will come in other ways.
Q: What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs going through difficult personal situations?
Ask a friend and if you really don’t like the answer after you’ve thought about it, then ask another. And if you really are in the sh*t, ask a wise woman – and a busy one at that – because if she’s really wise she will stop and listen. In turn, you must stop and listen to her because she might say things you don’t like, but she’s holding a mirror up to you and her comments will be useful.
Q: What support did you receive to overcome the heartache?
That’s interesting because it varied depending on the situation. After I left my first husband, my father suddenly told me he had never liked him and supported me in many ways (both practically and by listening) for the first year or so without him. When the second one died, my parents were very supportive both before and after. Sadly, this support didn’t last when my son disappeared. The only support I had was my daughter on the other end of the phone. Instead, I resorted to chocolate and sleeping – not good.
Q: What is it about coaching that gets you excited?
Enabling people to get to think clearly and to achieve their successes.
Q: Do you often see yourself in some of the women you coach?
I can relate to them at times and I might share my experience, but I stress that my experience is not theirs. We do all have similar problems. Men too.
Q: Have you found it difficult at any time to trust people?
Frequently and at times even though I recognise at the outset of the relationship, whether personal, business or coaching, that something might go wrong or that this person in front of me is not trustworthy, I do trust them usually only to have my original inklings confirmed. Such is life.
Q: What do you make of the stats showing that women are vastly underpaid compared to men?
That’s a minefield. I think, at times, we women are our own worst enemies. I have actually looked into how we underestimate ourselves and don’t stand up and ask for what we are worth, as opposed to what think we are entitled to. We need to consider men, too, and the culture we grew up in. Scotland and its different regions Scotland are very different.
Q: How does your industry compare?
It’s difficult to say because coaches don’t necessarily share. I believe many coaches don’t ask for what they are worth and some ask for more than they are worth, so it’s probably the same for many industries.
Q: Tell me about your business, Developing Works
Coaching grew out of personal development training I’ve been doing for the past 14 years and referrals came either through previous clients or recommendations. I have equal numbers of male and female clients, aged between 30 and 60 plus.
Some come as a one-off, maybe because they been entered for an award. Some are with me long-term to grow their businesses and some come as they are starting out. Some come because they are changing career, or they need more clarity or better leadership skills.
My biggest successes have probably been underpinned by women needing confidence – although men need confidence too – to move away from a relationship that has held them back, have the confidence to pick up their studies again, or to believe in themselves and go for promotion, as well as the courage to come clean about their sexuality or to improve their leadership and management skills.