Laila Datoo

Laila Datoo

Founder of a.life.more.mindful

The key to achieving true commercial success is through looking after your people.

Tell us about the venture/ business/ initiative you have started...

I support businesses to motivate & engage their people to create happy, mindful workforces and a healthy bottom line. I do this through delivering mindfulness, stress management and well-being programmes and working with businesses to improve their well-being initiatives.

What is your definition of success? What advice would you give to your younger self about "success"?

To me, Success is knowing what makes you happy and what motivates you and going after it. I think it's easy to fall into the mould of doing a certain degree or job and I am pleased I followed my heart and learnt French, lived in Paris and worked in event management as it informed my career and life choices and was definitely more 'me' that a city job!

What challenges have you encountered on your journey and how have you overcome them? Is this a common challenge in your industry? How can we tackle it?

In event management I encountered the challenge of being taken seriously in a mainly male environment where event logistics is seen as an admin role. It's the heart of an event and it took me 15+ years to establish a serious career and reputation as an operational expert.

Now working in well-being my biggest challenge is helping companies to see that if they don't look after their people, their business will directly suffer. As it's not an easily measurable ROI, well-being is not well understood or misunderstood and seen as fluffy.

The more people who talk about their well-being challenges and the more employees who demand better well-being cultural practices from their employers, the more we will see a change from within.

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? If so, are there any examples you can give and tips you can share with other women on how to overcome it?

All the time! I think with social media it's very easy to look at others and doubt yourself and your own journey. I often think "what gives me the right to talk about well-being / mindfulness" when I've not been doing it 10 years like others.

It's vital to focus on your experience, your expertise and your journey. What you can offer is unique and we need to focus on that. I think it's also powerful to link up with others in your field and combine experience rather than be threatened by it - some of my most beneficial collaborations have come from working with women who are in my field.

Are there women you look up to? Who are they and why are they inspirational to you?

I admire many women! Working mums who juggle successful businesses (and love their work) with their families. Women who have created and grown a business from nothing - I think sustainable growth is tough and I admire women who are able to do it.

I most admire women who can sell their services in an authentic, passionate way as I think there are so many people out there now saying "I can show you how to make xxx million" or "I can tell you how to do x" Someone who really truly gets it and does it and helps you without you feeling sold to is a great quality to have.

What are your thoughts on work-life balance? Do you apply any techniques to achieve work-life balance?

I think work-life balance is a bit of a myth. One area of your life will always be a priority at any given point and that's natural. I think balance comes from the awareness of where you want to and need to focus your energies (it might be family for a few years or business at the start of growing a business) and knowing what self care techniques you need in place to help get you there in a healthy way.

I have some techniques I try and maintain no matter what is happening in my life. Meditation, pausing and taking breaks (big and small), exercise and being aware of where my stress levels are.

How did you know it was the right time to start your own venture/ initiative? How would you advise someone who is just starting out with a project outside of their regular 9-5 job?

I got to a place of pain and discomfort in my corporate role and that was the push I needed to start my own business. Not ideal and I wouldn't advise that to everyone but often we don't feel the need to change the status quo unless we feel that pain. I had also had my own experiences with burn out/ stress and knew I wanted to help other businesses . It felt like the right time although it is always a big leap.

My main advice would be to build up your side income as much as possible before quitting your day job - but also know what your tipping point is as sometimes we choose comfortable for too long. I had a strong vision of how I wanted my life to be and so I knew I needed to take steps to make it happen rather than wait for opportunities to come up.

What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?

To me, entrepreneurship is not what we all do - it's about coming up with something new / different. I don't see myself as an entrepreneur - I see myself as a business owner! I admire people who create a new product or service as it's harder.

Leading others is also a privilege, a gift and a learnt skill. Leaders have a big responsibility to take their teams on a journey and look after them / support them on it. It's not enough to lead a business - you lead people.

Mentoring is an interesting one. I wouldn't be where I am without the wisdom, advice and support of people ahead of me. and yet so many people contact me wanting free advice / well-being advice. I have paid for many business coaches and mentors as I try to respect people's time and experience - there's a limit to what you can ask for free. The biggest thing I have learnt is that most of the journey is slow, takes time and there are no shortcuts to be picked up from people- you just have to do the work!

What mistakes do you see people make when they first start their own venture/ intiative/ business and what advice would you give to women so that they can avoid making these mistakes?

The biggest mistake is doubting yourself as that can really hold you back. Doing the work early on, on self-belief, USP, money can help you a lot as we hold ourselves back. I would highly recommend women starting out to get a coach / mentor early on to help them iron out any fears/ limiting beliefs. I also think having structures in place - budgets, cash flows, marketing plans can be really useful as often we start with clients and then realise we don't have the systems in place to help us grow!

Are there any resources/ books you would like to recommend for the women who read your #AspiringWomen article?

Books - I loved the "4 Day Week" and "Think and Grow Rich" - its much more about self-belief and having a vision than money!

Resource wise I think joining a networking group or a members club where you can meet like minded people can help to feel less alone. There are some great online groups too and I have found a lot of support in the online community through instagram / linkedin.

Is there anything else you would like to share with other women on their journey to success?

If you have an idea and you want to change your life, make a plan and take the steps and just do it. Life is too short not to and actually the fear of starting your own venture is far greater than the regret of not doing it.

I worked for an employer in a corporate environment for 20 years and was very risk averse (I liked having a regular salary, pension, money in the bank, security, colleagues, a routine...) and walking away from that was my choice but still very hard. And yet I couldn't be happier. I love the flexibility, the freedom to build my life as I choose and work with who I want. So dream big and go after it!

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