Inside the Mind of our Co-Founder CarolineCaroline Laurenson
In the latest instalment of our blog series I share some insights to our business, my role and what motivates me. You’ll find out how a Chemical Engineer found herself as Managing Director of a tech company and an entrepreneur!
I’ll also share my thoughts on:
- Starting a business.
- Networking as an introvert.
- What it’s like working with your other half.
About Our Blog
We live in an ageing society. But what does that really mean?
In the next 20 years the balance of young and old will shift to the point where there will be one elderly person for every two people of working age. The challenge this presents is two-fold, a reduction in family members able to provide support and a smaller pool of professional carers.
TL Tech is a Smart Homes Solutions provider with a difference. We help people get the best out of smart home technologies and create unique home environments to meet their needs and budget. Our vision is to “create a home that cares for you as you age”.
Smart home technologies have the power to transform lives, especially for the vulnerable in our society. This blog series will be looking to showcase the opportunities, find out more about the people working in this field and how we can create a world “where smart meets kind”.
Starting a Business
What inspired me to become a co-founder at TL Tech?
The story of what led me to TL Tech is quite long, but what it fundamentally condenses down to is that I took a long hard look at where I was, who I was and what I wanted, and knew I needed to make a change. I had support from an amazing organisation called Equate Scotland through their Career Enhancement Programme, met an even more amazing group of women working in STEM and realised that I needed to push myself out of my comfort zone and see where my skills could take me.
Until very recently, I didn’t believe that I was entrepreneurial. But what I’ve learned is that entrepreneurs have two key traits, they are people who see things that others do not and they keep going where others might give up. I feel like I have been able to unlock a greater freedom in the way that I work, predominantly my attitude to risk and trying new things, realising that it’s okay to get things wrong as this is where you can learn the most.
What advice would I give to people wanting to start their own business?
The single biggest thing that has helped us is building a support network.
The support we have had from Elevator and ONE has been so beneficial to our business, helping us to crystallise the business model and how to articulate this to others. During the accelerator programme in 2019 we formed bonds with our fellow cohort over the 12 weeks. This group has provided us with a diverse perspective on our business and a support network with similar challenges to bounce ideas off of.
No matter what your business, the most important thing is to understand the people and it’s less about the actual product or service.
If you can, look for a business partner/co-founder to share the load. It is tough dealing with all the knock backs and negative comments!!!!!
And finally, if you can work on the business and still work part time to provide a stable income this greatly reduces the stress of generating a profit while you are still defining your value proposition and gaining visibility with your prospective customers. I know this has made a massive difference for us, knowing that we can still pay the bills and provide for our children.
What is the scariest thing I have ever done aside from starting my own business?
Six years ago I did a tandem skydive to raise money for Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland. It was an amazing experience, but went by in a blur. You’ve no time to think, it’s hard to breath and then before you know it you’re on the ground again.
I’ve grown to realise that it’s important to do things that scare you, because you can learn so much from them. I’d encourage everyone to take on a new challenge, not necessarily jumping out of a plane, or quitting your job like I did, but do something outside of your comfort zone. Our latest scary step is doing live videos!
Networking as an introvert
Networking isn’t just a buzzword
At its simplest form, it is the people you know and the people you meet in your life. I see networking as a way to extend your support network and find people in your life that help you achieve your personal and professional goals. People you can bounce ideas off of and get feedback from. The most important people in my life are my family, especially my husband Thomas.
If you are networking because your boss says you need to “sell more”, then you are setting yourself up for failure.
It’s not a competition to see who can collect the most business cards. There are rarely any immediate benefits. When networking there should be no agenda, contract or expectations. You are investing in the longer term and wider benefits of connecting with others.
So how does an introvert network?
Words that could be used to describe me, especially in a professional setting would include quiet, reserved and serious. I am most definitely an introvert and that makes networking hard.
I’ve learned that it is okay to put yourself out there, and just be myself. What I’ve found is that the positives outweigh the negatives and actually most of the negatives are purely in my head. It’s one of the best feelings when you meet someone that you can help, or connect them with someone else that you know. When you make time for others, it always comes back around eventually, sometimes in the most surprising and magical of ways.
Working with your Other Half
When Thomas and I got together I think all my uni friends thought I was a bit crazy. Thomas is from Shetland and knows how to party.
Do we always get on? Of course not, but he is my best friend, who when I’m writing “key takeaways” for a blog post, can list off more than a handful of his favourite meals to help inspire me! We’ve known each other for over 20 years and we share common values. The key one being kindness.
We are both engineers, but Thomas is much more practical in his approach to engineering, where I prefer the mathematics, and the bigger picture visualisation of the whole problem. Through my whole career, Thomas has been there supporting me to progress and reach my goals and now I feel like it is his time to shine and help him communicate what he has to offer the world. He vastly undersells his capabilities, because, literally anything electrical I challenge him to make, he can create out of repurposed, off-the-shelf stuff. For example, he made me the most amazing electronic automated hen house door opener so I don’t have to get up early to let the hens out every morning (and they put themselves to bed)!
In both business and in life, a core belief of mine, is always to think about what I can do to help and support others. There are two key things I try to keep in mind:
- Listen and nurture your relationships. Until you do this, you’ll never really know what is going on in the other person’s head. Perhaps they’re having a bad day. Perhaps they don’t want your help right now. Perhaps what would help them most is just for someone to listen.
- Take care of yourself. This is by far the most important one. Because it’s in my nature to be selfless and protective of others, I have a tendency to put my needs at the bottom of the list. I convince myself that if everyone else is alright then I will be alright because I am resourceful, but it sets a terrible example to others and is not sustainable in the long term.
As I write this, I am struck by how relevant these two points are right now. We are looking at ways that we can help people remotely during these hard times, using readily available technology like the Amazon Alexa Show devices, as these can be used to make really easy video calls and set reminders for things like medication or exercise. It can display photos, play music, provide news updates, the weather forecast and much more to entertain while stuck at home.
Keep a look out on our website and social media channels for more support and advice on this. If you need anything or have a question, get in touch as we’d be more than happy to help. We’d love to chat to you at one of our weekly live online tutorials, they’re every Tuesday at 11am on Facebook.
Kindest regards to you and your families.