Decisions: Karen Mattison - Timewise

Karen Mattison, co-founder of part time jobsite Timewise, gives her best and worst decisions in business.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

MY BEST DECISION...

... was to quit my job in 2003, where I was a director in a mental health charity, even though I didn't have another lined up. After having two children, I had gone part-time and I was stagnating. Yet it was impossible to find a senior part-time job elsewhere. I worked freelance for two years and realised there were many other women in the same position, so that's why I started the business.

My co-founder and I set up Women Like Us as a social enterprise. As I'd worked in the charity sector, a social business appealed to me because it's a cross between the two. We can't sell the company, and all assets get reinvested in the business. We now turn over £1.2m and have 36 staff.

I've stayed true to the company's principles and average four days a week. People say business owners need to put in all hours, but that's very off-putting to people starting out. I'm contactable if things go wrong, but I won't schedule meetings on certain days. I can hardly encourage people to work part-time in senior jobs if I can't myself.

MY WORST DECISION ...

... was to open a second office in 2007. We thought it would be a sign of our success, but we should have built on the branch we had. A second office means double the costs and you have to choose where your core services should be. In late 2010 we closed one and merged the two.

I wish I'd changed our name sooner. After a few years, Women Like Us began to feel wrong. Recruitment should be about putting the right people in the right jobs; not emphasising women. Of the 30,000 candidates registered with us, 30% weren't even parents. In April we changed our name to Timewise to put the focus back on part-time work.

I also wish I'd had more confidence to challenge the stigma of being part-time. To start with, I'd ask to share the stories of people in senior part-time jobs, but they felt uncomfortable telling them. Someone was advised to leave her cardigan on her chair on her day off so it wouldn't be obvious that she wasn't there. Now I'm very assertive. I want to challenge why people are uneasy about admitting they work part-time.

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