Shaper: Karen Mattison

Show aired on 28th March 2015

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was the sound of The Bottle from Gil Scott-Heron. Good morning, this is Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss here on Jazz FM. Jazz Shapers the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul alongside their equivalents in the world of business, a Business Shaper. My Business Shaper today I am very pleased to say is Karen Mattison; she is the co-founder of Timewise and that is a recruitment business which specialises in flexible working and they have been doing some extraordinary and innovative things over the last decade or so. You will be hearing lots from Karen very shortly. In addition to hearing from Karen you will also be hearing from our programme partners at Mischon De Reya some words of advice for your business and as well as all of that of course some brilliant music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul, including Gregory Porter, Joyce Marino, Tony Bennett and this from Duane Eubanks.

That was Dance with Aleta from Duane Eubanks and very nice too. Karen Mattison is my Business Shaper here on Jazz Shapers and she is as I said, the co-founder of the recruitment business called Timewise and they specialise in flexible working. Now before we get into your dim and distant past, just give me an overview of what the business does because I have thrown a few terms around but people may just be going but exactly what does that mean?

Karen Mattison
So at Timewise we are a recruitment business specialising in flexible working. So we have candidates, men and women who want some flexibility in their next career move. It might be they want to work a day from home, it might be four days a week and what we do is we match them to businesses of all shapes and sizes who want to tap into that kind of talent and also might have the flexibility to offer.

Elliott Moss
Now ten years ago this didn’t exit, this business. You’ve now got seventy thousand people or so registered who are interested in flexible working. You work with some of the biggest companies in the world, Deloitte, JP Morgan, Costa, KPMG, Linklaters, PWC… I could go on. Extraordinarily big companies, lots of people interested. When you set up this business ten years ago, what was behind the thinking. Did other businesses like this exist then?

Karen Mattison
No definitely not and actually I set up Timewise really because of my own very negative experience as a candidate in the recruitment market looking for flexible working because at that point in my life I had two young kids and I wanted my next career move, I wanted to work four days a week but in a senior role with management responsibility – all the things that I had always been doing and everywhere I went in terms of the recruitment businesses that I went to told me it wasn’t possible. You can’t do a senior job, you can’t manage a team, you can’t have any kind of PNL responsibility if you are not five days a week, Monday to Friday and that for me led to a really challenging choice which was do I stop work or do I work in a way that I just felt I just couldn’t manage to do at that point and really when I started to look around at first you think – which I think a lot of women and men do – the problem is me and then you look around and think actually there are so many other talented, experienced people who I would hire if I was recruiting in my business who just want that bit of flexibility and they want to talk honestly about it and literally nowhere for them to go to talk about it and that’s really where Timewise came from.

Elliot Moss
And that’s what you do when you haven’t got somewhere to go, you create the place to go. Find out much more from my Business Shaper, Karen Mattison; she is co-founder of Timewise and if you are listening and thinking ‘that’s me’ then we will give you lots of details later on on how you get in touch. Time for some music this is Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, you won’t hear that often in one sentence, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga with Anything Goes.

That was the fantastic sound of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga with a brilliant version of Anything Goes. Karen Mattison is my Business Shaper today, she is the co-founder of Timewise. They place people in proper jobs, big jobs, management jobs but on a flexible basis. Fantastic that it exists now, ten years ago it didn’t; you had to work hard to make this work. When you and your business partner, Emma – Emma Stewart I believe, now both MBE’s by the way, congratulations. Five years late but there you go, not bad. You have obviously, it’s been noted that you have done something special but when you did it then, as you said you had two young children – how did you go about it? You needed to find money? Where did you start with the funding? You needed to put a business plan together? Obviously you have been in a senior role in a business but you didn’t have experience of setting up your own one up? So how did it begin?

Karen Mattison
No. What happened was actually we just started doing it without being paid for it so what happened was originally we were doing consultancy in a number of different businesses because actually we’d both not been able to secure the kind of flexible role that we both dreamed of and so we were consulting in a range of businesses and people would say to us ‘do you know anyone who can help me, run this event for me, I need an FD but only need someone a couple of days a week, do you know anyone good?’ and we started informally placing people and it was from that we thought actually this could be more than that. So we actually looked at a start-up enterprise piece of funding from what was then the Department for Business and that took it from there.

Elliot Moss
And once you had gone to them and you had received that first loan and as you said, you had already kind of begun, what did you do with that first initial injection of funding? What did it enable you to do?

Karen Mattison
It enabled us to really release a bit of time from our week to start to grow the business and plan it and essentially to start building a candidate base which funnily enough we did by marketing at the school gates and putting letters in kids book bags and start to build a really fantastic candidate base and to pitch out our services to businesses and also Local Authorities around London.

Elliot Moss
Amazing really that the truth is you didn’t kind of know what you were doing in the broadest sense, you just went, there’s a gap, there are people that can fill it, mainly women I imagine at that point with the school gates and that side of it. But you just went ahead and did it.

Karen Mattison
Yeah I don’t think we were waiting for everything. I think that is often the challenge is if you wait for all circumstances to be perfect, tick every box, there is never a right time. I think we just went for it. We saw an opportunity. We felt it very much personally ourselves in terms of our experience and the driver for us was all around making a change in the world of work and giving something to the kind of candidates who have got that amazing experience but find themselves falling out of work for all the wrong reasons.

Elliot Moss
Find out more from my very purpose driven Karen Mattison, she is my Business Shaper today and the co-founder of Timewise. Lots more coming up from her shortly. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that some words of wisdom from our program partners at Mishcon De Reya for your burgeoning business idea.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday morning I get the privilege of talking to someone super duper, a shaper in the world of business and if you haven’t managed to join me over the last few years then you can go into iTunes, put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’ and you will find a whole host of fantastic guests there. You can also listen on CityAM.com if you fancy or even in the air with British Airways. Karen Mattison is my Business Shaper today and she is as I said earlier, the co-founder of Timewise, they are a very clever business, sort of more than a business actually, a purpose driven entrepreneurial social endeavour, whatever you want to call it and she helps people, thousands of people get into really interesting roles, really stimulating roles on a flexible basis. And Karen we were going, we went back ten years, that’s when you set the business up. As you said it wasn’t really a business to start with, it was a ‘well there are some gaps, I know some people, I’m going to get moving’ and as you said very importantly, ‘we didn’t wait for all the circumstances to be perfectly correct and aligned. As you look back now into five years even, you were five years into the business then, you were given your MBEs, I imagine because you were trail blazing women, people have said it, you have won numerous accolades from the business community around what you did. Does a trail blazer think him or herself as a trail blazer or were you just doing what you thought was right to do?

Karen Mattison
Great question. I don’t think you think of yourself like that but sometimes you just feel driven to make a difference and so you don’t analyse what this is going to look like in a few years’ time but you really think ‘here’s something that we can do, we can really make a difference’; there’s people out there who actually are not working who should be working and there are businesses who can benefit from them and those businesses may look very very different, the roles might be different.

Elliot Moss
But the basis for you sort of fixing something and it feels like that’s something you have gone and done. There’s a gap, I am going to do it. You happened to study psychology, is there something… was that about helping people at the same time. Do you think there’s a common thread which is inside you… I think altruistic is a big word but the sense of wouldn’t it be nice if what I did had a positive impact on another human being as well as it will pay the bills. Was it in that order and do you still think it is that order for you?

Karen Mattison
I think I had always been, I’d always been very driven towards roles which were socially orientated and would make a difference but I think in some ways I became a bit disillusioned with the traditional charity model where you raise a grant, you do some work and then the whole cycle starts again. So I was very interested in the social business model where you are trading but with a social purpose and I think for me that really is an example where you are making a difference and people are paying you to do that as well.

Elliot Moss
So what you’ve got now is you’ve got very practical offerings. There is Timewise.co.uk, Timewisejobs.co.uk and Timewise Foundation as well. Just give me a quick top line on what each of those different components do?

Karen Mattison
Okay well essentially Timewisejobs is a job site for anybody who wants to work flexibly, whatever their background and experience and it connects them to businesses who have got that flexibility to offer. Some of the jobs might be for smaller business, for example, a part-time finance director or whatever it might be but some of the businesses, for larger businesses who want to tap into that candidate market and our market is extremely experienced, there are seventy thousand of them, they are eighty percent women and they have got a huge amount to offer for the world of work and fundamentally those businesses want that talent. And then in Timewise Foundation I guess we are doing more of the market making and market shaping because we are trying to challenge the idea of what a part-time or flexible person looks like because when I went as a candidate I was told that if you are part-time, you are low skilled, you are not very ambitious, you are just really under, you’re under employed or waiting for a full-time job and that is not the case for most people who work flexibly in the UK. And so in a sense in the Timewise Foundation we create things like a part-time list, people at the top of their game, the chief economist to Lloyds to the CEO of Dixons Retail in the UK were working actually part-time in very senior roles to try and change what the idea of a flexible worker looks like.

Elliot Moss
And I think perception has changed dramatically over the last decade. More coming up from Karen but time for some music in the meantime, this is Gregory Porter with Be Good (the Lion’s Song).

That was Gregory Porter with Be Good (the Lion’s Song). Karen Mattison is my Business Shaper and we are talking about the way that perceptions changed and where you have driven the change in the perception of what the flexible worker looks like and I am going to use your words here and I think this is probably why this is starting to work because technology has underpinned so much of the change that we are all experiencing in the world of business and it says you said, Karen Mattison says “Few businesses operate now in the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday parameters and by sticking to that schedule companies ignore a huge pool of talented and skilled professionals” and you said that I think a couple of years ago. Absolutely right. As things move on and you have now got a more mature business and you are still working against that very strong notion that life will never be the same again, you don’t need to worry about whether someone is there or not there, wherever there might be. What are the things you are looking at in terms of continuing to innovate the offering that you have because you have now got trust, you’ve now got credibility with enormous companies. Are you going to plateau or is there another hill to climb?

Karen Mattison
I think we are still in many ways at the bottom of a huge mountain or hill in the sense of flexible working because while businesses are increasingly happy to give flexibility and trust to the people they know, they are still nervous about offering that flexibility to the people who don’t. So routinely they don’t even mention whether they are open to flexibility when they are hiring new people and what we’ve got is a huge amount of candidates so we’ve got a huge amount of oversupply of candidates and under supply of roles for them to apply for. And what that means is that we still have a big education role within businesses to show them the kind of talent they can tap into if they only open their mind to the possibility of flexibility.

Elliot Moss
As you were speaking it occurred to me it was just like that for Greenpeace many many years ago. They were saying there’s a problem with the environment. They became absolutely focused on that. You sound just as focused and as zealous about the fact that it is all about people realising that there is a space for doing fantastic work. Easy to say but very difficult to convert. How do you continue to lobby and I believe you still do actively lobby and this is another part of the interesting world that you live in. How are you actively lobbying Government and what’s been working for you?

Karen Mattison
Well its interesting because the flexible working legislation we’ve seen over the last ten years has been really quite transformative. In some ways we feel Government legislation has gone as far as it can and actually now it is about trying to change business culture and to understand that opening up to flexibility can give you a different level of talent. So what my day job involves often is going into a business where they are scratching their heads saying ‘we don’t know why all the women are leaving, you know we’ve got all these fantastic graduate intake, we’ve got fifty percent men and women, where are the women going, this is a real problem for us’ and what we are trying to encourage them to do is to see that offering flexibility at different points in people’s careers for men and women, for carers, for different reasons will keep those people and enable them to progress in your business and all the diversity challenges that you have will float away if you start understanding that flexibility is as important to many people as money and other things they are looking for in a career.

Elliot Moss
Anyone running a business take heed. Final chat coming up with Karen plus you will be hearing some music from Joyce Moreno, that’s after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

The joyful sound of Joyce Moreno with Mio Piau, I am sure I said that incorrectly, my Portuguese is limited. Just for a few more minutes Karen Mattison is my Business Shaper, she is the co-founder of Timewise, an incredible business that over ten years has helped place thousands of people into meaningful, stimulating and senior flexible positions. She is an advocate for the flexible work force, she has been lobbying, she’s been pushing, she’s been pulling and cajoling and doing all sorts of things and has received many accolades over the years. That is a lot to do and you are a mum. Your husband has been on this program as well, I am going to mention him, Jonny Geller, the managing director of Curtis Brown. You are two high flying people, you’ve got an active family, you are both very involved with them. Have you had time to kind of take stock of the achievements that you’ve got to, that you’ve already started to enjoy or are you just still going?

Karen Mattison
I think, I am very much still going but I feel that I work flexibly myself and that gives me that opportunity within the week to have a bit of down time and to think about it and actually for me that energises me and keeps me working in a senior role with a lot of responsibility. The fact that I can do it four days a week enables that time of reflection and actually I think that’s helping the business too.

Elliot Moss
But you never get, or in the course of the last ten years, you haven’t been despondent and gone ‘well this sounded like a good idea back in 2005 but actually I am exhausted’, you’ve not hit that point yet?

Karen Mattison
I, you know, I think like many people who run their own business, you have those moments but I think the fundamental purpose and the things that keep me going are when I get an email from a candidate or I bump into someone and they say, ‘I got the job that I didn’t think it was possible to get, I had given up hope’ and that’s the kind of experience when people are in a brilliant job, they’ve found the flexibility that they need, they are still being ambitious, they are still being successful. That for me gives the energy to carry on.

Elliot Moss
How have you decided, it intrigues me when you are slightly more socially driven and you are, how have you decided how much to pay yourselves? I mean what do you do? I mean is it a market rate? Is it you and Emma sit there and go ‘well that’s sounds about fair’?

Karen Mattison
Well we pay ourselves what we think is quite a good market rate. We pay our people well and you know, our consultants and those people working on our job site are working in the same way as they would be in any other recruitment business but for them and for us, I think there is an extra layer of meaning that gives us that great feeling when we come to work.

Elliot Moss
And if I ask you that question about one thing you could shape about business culture in the next five years, what would it be?

Karen Mattison
I think the thing that I would shape about business culture would be to really get comfortable about judging people by what they deliver and not what their inputs are and not where they sit and whether they are there on a Friday and those sorts of things.

Elliot Moss
I really hope lots of senior people are listening. It’s good advice. Thank you. Thank you so much for being my business shaper, just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have chosen it?

Karen Mattison
I chose Etta James’ version of It’s A Man’s World, slightly tongue in cheek but for me I think in many ways that the world of work for a long long time has been very much a man’s world and more and more we are seeing that changing and women breaking through and for me that flexible working has got a massive part to play in that.

Elliot Moss
And so have you had a massive part to play in that Karen Mattison, thank you so much for being my Business Shaper. This is your choice, it’s Etta James and It’s A Man’s World.

That was It’s A Man’s World from Etta James, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Karen Mattison; real sense of clarity and purpose in what she has done over the last decade and in terms of what she wants to achieve and unbelievably innovative, innovative to her very core and boy is it reaping the rewards right now for everybody in the flexible working world. Fantastic stuff. Join me again, same time, same place, that’s 9.00am next Saturday here on Jazz FM for another edition of Jazz Shapers. In the meantime, stay with us because coming up next, it’s Nigel Williams.

Karen Mattison is the innovative co-founder and joint CEO of Timewise , the £1.6m organisation that helps organisations unlock the business potential of flexible working. Experts in flexibility, with more than 10 years of experience, Timewise runs several services designed to build the market for flexible work in the UK, including a jobsite, a recruitment agency, a content site showcasing flexible work in practice and consultancy and training services. 60,000 people who want flexible work are registered with Timewise, which has advertised roles for businesses ranging from EY, to LVMH, to Diageo. Karen and her co-founder Emma Stewart have both been made MBEs for their work, named as two of the UK’s most radical thinkers by the Observer; are Management Today magazine ‘small business heroes’ and have been listed by Real Business magazine as one of the ‘12 leading social entrepreneurs to watch’. In 2014 Director magazine named Karen and Emma as the UK’s most influential ‘Women Changing the Business World’ following a landslide public vote.

Follow Karen on Twitter @karenmattison.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“If you wait for all circumstances to be perfect, tick every box, there is never a right time”

“…the driver for us all was making a change in the world of work and giving something to the kind of candidates who have got that amazing experience but find themselves falling out of work for all the wrong reasons.”

“While businesses are increasingly happy to give flexibility and trust to the people they know, they are still nervous about offering that flexibility to the people they don’t.”

“…we still have a big education role within businesses to show them the kind of talent they can tap into if they only open their mind to the possibility of flexibility.”

“…all the diversity challenges that you have will float away if you start understanding that flexibility is as important to many people as money.”

“I think in many ways that the world of work for a long, long time has been very much a man’s world and more and more we are seeing that changing…”

“In some ways we feel Government legislation has gone as far as it can and actually now it is about trying to change business culture…”

“…my day job involves going into a business where they are scratching their heads saying ‘we don’t know why the women are leaving'”