Sandy Hutchison, Founder and Director Career Money Life took an idea hatched over her dinner table and turned it into an offering that disrupts the traditional career transition industry. Sandy is an Advisory Board Member of Women and Leadership Australia, a Board Member of the Australian Gender Equality Council, and was previously a Board Member of Fitted for Work.
Sandy’s background as an HR Director in large corporate environments gave her a unique insight into the career transition offerings in the market. She felt that the one size fits all approach on offer met neither employee or company needs, and had a vision to transform and customise the service. Career Money Life takes an innovative, bespoke approach that recognises the ‘job for life’ concept is dead, providing only services people need, based on their future aspirations.
How has your business disrupted the career transition industry? What are the unique benefits Career Money Life offers over others?
The career transition model people are familiar with is a very paternal approach. Where commonly “we will help you, but we will decide who it is and what you will get”. This model worked when employees used to stay in a career for a long time.
Now it’s all changed. People go from being in an organisation, to being a freelancer or building their own startup, or having a portfolio career. The myriad of choices and options available to people, and the way the workforce is changing means that people want to do many different things. When people are made redundant it is a point of reflection for them to think about what they really want to do, and to pursue that path.
The old career transition model is very much stuck in the old frame, where people just switch from one marketing job to the next, instead of empowering people to have the resources and ability to make their own choices. This is where Career Money Life comes in. We allow employees to have more freedom to decide on the suppliers and services that best suit their situation.
How has your experience as a former HR director influenced your approach?
I saw that when people leave, they have different responses and needs. So they need a set of individualised services to help them through. Career Money Life recognises there are many paths to choose. New role, new department, new career, new business, time out, caring for family, travel, boards, volunteering, and education. Not everyone wants the same thing and certainly not at the same time. So with Career Money Life, employees decide what they would like.
For organisations, using the traditional model wastes a lot of money. Organisations pay for programs like Career Transition where employees may only use a very small part of the service, but the organisation has spent thousands of dollars. With our model, organisations put the funds in the platform. Employees have a set amount of time to use it. If they don’t use it, then these funds go back to the company, and can be reused on future services so they don’t waste any of their budget.
Companies are able to say “we are giving you these funds, we are letting you have your own choices, we are supporting you through it.” The whole platform is built around walking people through a guided set of activities, discussions and content to really help them make the right decisions for them.
The best thing is when someone leaves an organisation and finds what their true calling is. Or finds a great job, or sets themselves up in a business. And they are actually feeling gratitude about the redundancy process, because it enabled them to transition on their terms and met their unique needs.
Tell us the story of landing your first client and the education process for a new business idea.
Landing our first client was one of the hardest parts of starting a new business. I had a false start where a client had agreed to try Career Money Life, only to be made redundant themselves before we could implement the program. This was somewhat ironic, but also very disappointing. It taught me to be persistent and keep trying.
I always had maintained a strong network and it was the network that delivered my first client. An HR colleague was doing some consulting and identified an opportunity for me, but needed it set up that day. So the troops were rallied and we delivered and won our first client. We’ve now built an impressive client list, but each new client is as exciting as that first one.
What are your tips for entrepreneurs who want to work with large corporates?
You need to have a lot of patience, persistence, and something unique to offer. Big corporates are notoriously slow in making decisions. Especially if you are trying to break in with a new service or product. When I was a Partner in a big consulting firm it still took time to get through the sales process, but being a startup without a big brand name is even harder.
It is all about understanding their needs, building strong and authentic relationship with the key people, finding sponsors to help you navigate the organisation and getting warm leads and introductions. In the end it is persistence. These things take time, so don’t give up.
As a Board Member for Women in Leadership Australia and the Australia Gender Equality Council, what was the catalyst for you to take an active role in the community advancing gender equality?
In my role as an HR Director, I saw and heard a lot of the issues women were facing in managing their careers and family. I was also a woman with two children in a role that required lots of travel and long hours. So I had personal experience as well. I have always been focussed on the people side of business and have been driven by the big picture and making a difference, not just making a profit. Getting involved with gender diversity was a way to contribute.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Having always worked in large organisations I found the transition to a start up a big change. I enjoy the social side of work and get my energy from being around other people. I didn’t appreciate how much these things mattered to me until they were gone. While founding and running a startup is exciting and challenging in so many ways, it can also be very isolating and lonely.
I found myself feeling very demotivated at times and didn’t understand what I needed. While we had a team of tech people, I was eventually able to realise I needed to bring others into the business. People who I could brainstorm with, who could challenge me and work with me on the client side. Adding some resources here has made a huge difference to me. It was a learning for me that you need to meet your own needs, and not try to do everything yourself.
What are you most proud of?
My two children, Alex 13 and Aidan 11 who are wonderful kids. Also taking the risk of turning an idea that came up over dinner and building it into a thriving business in 3 years. 3 years of very hard work! Career Money Life isn’t just about being a business to make money for me though. It is about helping people make good decisions about their careers, their money and their life, and finding what makes them happy. Hearing all the wonderful feedback from our customers is the thing that makes me most proud, as I know I have had a positive impact on someone’s life.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Play the long game. Life is a marathon. You can do it all, but maybe just not all at the same time. When I was younger, I tried to do everything at once and sometimes found myself too stressed to enjoy any of it. I realise now there is more time than you think. So try to live more in the moment and enjoy where you are right now, without always worrying about what comes next.