How it all began….

So this is it. The story of how my business started 12 years ago…

In 2006 i sat down with a months salary, a business name and a very empty diary!

“I’ll take away all the safety nets I thought” – pushing away the safe and gradual route to self employment that was on offer – “if I go all out, I’ll have to make it work!”

I didn’t have a business plan or a sharp suit, an elevator pitch or a mission statement, but what I did have was an idea. I wanted to help people (and businesses) have more of those days where they feel confident, capable and energised. I wanted to help people understand what creates those days; and how they can create more of them.

Over the last 12 years I’ve worked with businesses, leaders and teams across so many professions and businesses, from Nursing to Marketing, from Factory Leadership Teams to Occupational Therapists, from Software Engineers to Entrepreneurs, from HR to Librarians – and so many more in between.

I’ve still got the determination, energy and enthusiasm I felt at the beginning, and I still get a huge sense of satisfaction from seeing people progress, develop and feel more confident in what they do.

I wonder what the next 12 years will bring?

#business #businessowner #selfemployment #coaching #facilitation #leadership

When thoughts and values converge


Steps towards something

It’s fascinating how chance meetings and conversations can develop into creative partnerships. Some potentially promising opportunities don’t blossom, while others germinate through conversations to the point of saying “Why not? Let’s give it a go.” That’s what we, Kirsten and Anne Marie, have decided to do.

Although we are united in what we believe in and what drives us (in essence, that everyone deserves to work in organisations and environments where they can thrive and contribute), we think and see things differently. It is what is emerging from this difference that is exciting us.

A moment of optimum hum

Right from our initial Skype conversations we found ourselves talking about and coming back to our experiences of great leaders and companies we had worked with.

  • What was so inspiring about them?
  • What was it about the structures, the people, the values, the atmosphere and how things had got done that had been so invigorating?
  • What was it that had instilled a feeling of belief, confidence and inclusiveness?

These weren’t companies that had massive budgets, smart offices, all the latest kit or free gym membership. In fact they didn’t have any of these. What they did have were managers and leaders who expected you to do well, and who invited and enabled you to contribute wholeheartedly.

“You’ve got a good idea for how something might be improved or done differently? Do it!”

There was never any sense of hierarchy – even when some of these workplaces were, in fact, traditional and hierarchical. These remarkable colleagues and organisations supported you when you failed,  and provided a safety net that encouraged you to go further than you thought was possible.

When you’re in a team or organisation that’s working like the one above you can almost feel it humming. There’s an energy, a buzz, an excitement, a purposefulness – to us it became ‘optimum hum’.

Leaders matter. The expectations that they set matters. The performance cultures that they influence matter. The way they create, shape and mould their organisation matters. All this creates possibilities and permission for people to be bold, to be courageous.

Where we’re heading next

We’re fascinated by what creates and sustains optimum hum – what defines it, what it feels like, how we know we’ve got it?

We want to help leaders shine a light on the inner workings of their organisation – help them understand what optimum hum looks like, for them. What encourages and enables it? What causes imbalance in their organisation and what impact does this have? How can balance be restored and optimum hum returned?

We’re excited to be starting this journey together  – to begin sharing our thoughts with you over the coming months, so look out for our twitter chats and blogs.

We’d also love to hear about your own experiences of optimum hum, and what has made some organisations exceptional places to work for you.

Anne Marie and Kirsten

Anne Marie Rattray is the founder of The Smart Work Company Ltd which helps people – independently or on behalf of an organisation – to assess and develop future-focused work skills. For more information go to

Kirsten Holder is the founder of Kickstart Development which helps leaders, teams and organisations to feel clear, purposeful and energised so that they can deliver results more swiftly, more easily and more sustainably. For more information go to

Photograph by JJ Harrison ( (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons