On a cold Monday morning in January 2008 business woman Melanie Simpson was on her way to a meeting when she suddenly collapsed in the street.
After coming around and somehow getting herself to hospital she was told she had a swelling in her brain. Tests also revealed blood in her spinal fluid. Doctors advised rest and absolutely no stress for at least a month.
It was a tall order. Melanie is one of those people who lives life at full speed. A high flying corporate career with MD level responsibility for ten European countries meant she was constantly flying around the continent. When she was home in London she somehow managed to find the time to serve four years as an elected Councillor in Haringey. So was she capable of slowing down?
“It wasn’t easy,” she explains. “My life was so full. I was always running here, there and everywhere, going into meetings, getting things done and delivering results for clients and my team. I loved it.
“Suddenly I had to stop and do absolutely nothing for a month. But it was a definite wake up call. For a few terrible moments my life flashed in front of me. If something like that happens you’d be a fool not to do exactly as the doctors say.”
The medical investigations revealed that Melanie had been suffering with a virus and because she’d refused to take time off work the bug had got worse and caused the swelling in her brain lining. Her parents flew over from their home in Northern Ireland to be at her hospital bedside and a sabbatical was quickly arranged with her employers.
After a few weeks of rest she began to feel better although she was still troubled with painful headaches. Something else had changed too – a shift in her attitude.
“It made me realise how short life is. Something like that can happen without warning. I thought about all the family and friends who I’d lost touch with. People I hadn’t seen for months and even years because I’d been so busy with my career.”
Melanie’s employers at the time were very understanding and offered Melanie a lot of support.
“They were great but I decided it was best for me to leave. I had the kind of job where sometimes I’d leave home at 4.30 on a Monday morning and not get back until the Friday night having flown to half a dozen countries in the meantime.
“There was no way I could perform at that level and avoid stress! Something had to give and I decided it had to be the job.”
She took eight months off, catching up with friends and family and visiting countries such as Mongolia and China.
“You could say I re-prioritised my life and realised it isn’t just about work. After eight months the headaches had stopped and I was ready to start thinking about work again and was keen to find something challenging which would allow me to have a work /life balance.
Through a friend she was introduced to Teddy George, owner of outsourcer George Jacobsen LLP, a company which offers small and medium sized businesses the chance to build an operational structure without the headache of a high salary bill, by outsourcing functions such as human resources and finance.
Teddy was looking for a business partner as her co-founder in the business had decided to move on. The opportunity interested Melanie and she became a partner in January of this year.
She says, “We provide support services to SMEs and professional partnerships. We make it easier for our clients to do what they do best and operate more efficiently with cost certainty.
“It’s a thrill to be building something that Teddy and I own together and I am really enjoying bringing all my corporate experience to bear in delivering something of real value for our clients.
“And it’s so far away from the corporate life I used to lead. I have so much more of a balance in my life, and I am able to make the time to spend with friends and family.
“My career is still really important to me and now I spend time helping clients get rid of their organisational headaches!”
More information about Teddy and Melanie’s company can be found at www.GeorgeJacobsen.com
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