What is Your Side Hustle?

Last week I had the privilege of being part of a team delivering a leadership development experience in Nairobi. As part of the program, we visited many local non profit organisations and met with Kenyan entrepreneurs. In one of the earlier conversations, a local leader mentioned her “side hustle.”

My last visit to Kenya was in 2010, and this term never came up during that trip. In fact, I had never heard the term at all before last week, but it quickly became familiar: As the week went on, I noticed that people brought up their side hustles in nearly every conversation I was part of. People were as likely to talk about their side hustle as they were their primary jobs, their families, or their education.

Kenya has quite an established gig economy and much of the population works in relatively short-term, simultaneous parallel contracts. Many others are looking for a second income stream to support a better lifestyle. According to a recent study, more than 40% of the Kenyan youth have a hustle, the second highest in Africa after Nigeria. However, what I learned from my conversations is that frequently side hustles are more than just a second source of income. I met people with side hustles as diverse as mobile phone repair, graphic design, hiring out tents for weddings and corporate events, selling crafts at a Maasai Market, and farming. Some people even mentioned their master’s degree or volunteering activity. Immediate income wasn’t necessarily a prerequisite – but passion seemed to be.

People’s eyes would light up when they talked about their side hustles. These were projects that people chose to spend time on. They were passion projects they made time for on the side, which often gave them energy as well as income. I heard about the number of acres a senior manager was farming and how she was distributing her produce. I learned about the techniques used to weave baskets being sold at the market. I heard about the number of hours a volunteer worked with the Kenyan Red Cross, and the number of phones repaired in a standard week. I heard all of these stories and left inspired.

I think we all need a side hustle.

What is yours?




(If you want to learn more about Kenyan side hustles, check out this list of side hustle ideas, or these inspiring women who have established successful hustles based on their hobbies and interests.)

Working Outside the Box

I recently moved to a new house and, as part of that, moved office premises. Be Leadership is in a better space now, with more room for growth. I have a better desk, more shelving for files, and nicer view. It’s not fully set up yet but I already love it and am sure it will be a productive and creative working space.

What matters though is less the specifics of the space but the change. Creating a change in environment is a wonderful way to jump start your creativity and effectiveness. Even if you work from the library, or a coffee shop, or your garden for a day, you’ll find that breaking your normal routine allows more focus and fresh insights. Not only are you likely to have fewer interruptions, you can set aside quality time to think, reflect, write, or just work. It’s amazing what’s possible.

I have been lucky to spend most of my working career with organizations who support flexible working. As long as I get high-quality work done, my clients don’t mind (or know) where I am. I can be travelling, sitting on my sofa or waiting for my daughter in the car as I check my email. This was true in my past corporate life as well. While this requires discipline to ensure I am not working and on-call 24/7, it also allows a wonderful level of autonomy over how I structure my work and life. I am not alone in having this level of flexibility: According to the Institute of Leadership and Management, 94% of UK organisations offer employees some form of flexible working, and 73% of managers say that their organizations are largely supportive of it. But even if we have it, we don’t always take advantage of this option.

One of my colleagues recently sent me a link to an organization that is connecting hosts and ‘office riders‘ who want to find room for co-working, a meeting or event space or even a creative venue for a photo shoot. Their proposal is that professionals can connect with hosts who have under-used space in private places, allowing you to work wherever and whenever you want. Their current options include Sophie’s living room, Sebastian’s rooftop and Yann’s connected caravan. Sadly OfficeRiders appears to be largely French based, so I can’t register my new walled garden or look for local homes to escape to for my next UK offsite just yet. But the concept is so good.

Whether you are stuck in an office cubicle or even lucky enough to have a cool modern workspace that you haven’t ventured outside of in a while, I encourage you to start the year right and break out of the box to try a new working space. You’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve.

Thanksgiving Think Week

Next month, my company Be Leadership celebrates its first birthday. In recognition of that, I’m stealing an idea from my former employer.

When I was at Microsoft, Bill Gates used to take time out each year for what he called Think Week, to get away from the day-to-day and think strategically about new concepts. For Bill and Microsoft, this week was about reading, learning about new technology and innovation, and getting caught up on recent research. What came out of these weeks were new ideas for the direction of the company.

As part of Be Leadership, I do lots of reading. I read more in this role than I have in any other; I feel I’m constantly learning about incredible innovations in leadership and business. But what I don’t do enough is step out of the day-to-day to focus on my longer term strategy and reflect on how I want my business to develop.

So next week – when many of my American clients and friends are on holiday celebrating Thanksgiving – I am having my own Think Week, where I will spend three and a half days reflecting on the past 12 months and then looking forward to 2016.


Day 1: Business Strategy

My Think Week will start with a look backward and then project forward to next year. I use a fantastic cloud-based accounting tool called Kashflow, so I have a good handle on my finances and P&L. But there are other questions I want to spend some time considering.

Looking back:

  • What are my overall financial results? How does this compare with my projections?
  • Who are my company’s clients? Where does my business come from?
  • How happy are my customers? How much impact am I having with the work I do? How can I tell?
  • How diverse are my company’s clients?
  • How diverse is the work I have done? Are these the areas I want to be focusing?
  • How do I spend my time? Is this in line with my desires and expectations?
  • What are my company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?

Looking forward:

  • How complete is my (primitive) business plan? Should I make it more robust?
  • What is my company’s unique value proposition? How clearly can I articulate that? Can I make this clearer?
  • What is my company’s mission? Purpose? Values?
  • Who would I include on my company’s Advisory Board? My personal Advisory Board? Are these the same? How should I be working with these people?
  • How can I get customer input on my work and my plans?
  • What are my business objectives for next year?


Day 2: Business Growth

Given the maturity of my business, I am spending a whole day this year focused on growth. If Be were at a different stage, I might choose to look strictly at customer satisfaction or zero in on marketing. If my organization were larger, I might focus on people management. As Be Leadership heads into its second year, I have a number of questions to consider around growth, relating to customers, marketing and business development.

At the end of Day 2, I have a call scheduled with my mentor of nearly 20 years, Holly. I work quite a bit on my own, so it’s important to me to have people I trust who ask good questions and challenge me. My friend and ex-colleague from Microsoft, Matthew, has offered to review some outputs from this week. And my fellow executive coach Sarah is meeting with me on Friday to check on what I’ve achieved. All of these check ins will keep me focused and accountable and help make the week a success.

Here are some questions I will answer on Day 2:

  • How do I define successful growth for 2016 and beyond?
  • What do my clients need from Be Leadership? Will this change in the future?
  • What are my customer channels? Are there new channels to consider?
  • How effectively does my website represent my company?
  • Are there resources I can develop that would help me more successfully market my business?
  • How effective is my customer tracking? How can I better support and communicate with my clients?
  • What partners do I need in 2016 to grow my business?
  • What other changes will I make in 2016 to support growth?


Day 3: Personal Growth

Day 3 is my last full day of Think Week, and I want to use this time to make some decisions about my personal involvement in Be Leadership and my own development next year. In 2015, I did work on my executive coaching practice and completed a certification with the NeuroLeadership Group. As I continue to invest in my skills next year, I need to consider where to focus. I also need to think about my overall career.

Here are some questions for Day 3:

  • What do I want to achieve with my learning and development in 2016?
  • Given this, where should I invest my development time and money?
  • What financial investments should I be making for my future (eg pension)?


Day 4: Reflection

On the final day of my Think Week, I will spend time reflecting on what I covered during the week and will have a coaching call with my colleague Sarah.

I’m energized by the thought of this work and spending my Thanksgiving week exploring these questions. And since it’s Thanksgiving, I want to say thank you to all of you who have supported Be Leadership and me personally this year. I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, the people I have met and how much I have learned.

Would you or your organization benefit from a Think Week? What questions would you like to reflect on and answer?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.