Susan Moore on Show #191 : Running a Successful Remote Business 

Susan Moore is the founder of Moore Business, a service offering back-office support to entrepreneurs and non-executive directors.

As one of the pioneers of remote working, Susan has been offering virtual assistant services for over 14 years and her company won the Outstanding VA of the Year Award in 2008.

Her highly experienced business support team works from home across the world with clients in various industries taking on tasks to give clients the time they need to do what they do best. 

In today’s episode, Susan and I discuss running a remote team and the challenges of coordinating remote workers.

She shares how she started her VA business and how her work has changed over the years. She explains how she helps her clients work effectively and promotes a network of support and connection with her team.

Susan shares the top apps that help her and her team with remote working and how outsourcing can be a big help for any business owner. She also shares her best timesaving advice for remote workers and how she stays up to date with the latest tools and remote working trends.

“It’s all about communication: communication with your clients and communication with your team.”

Susan Moore

This week on The Power to Live More Podcast:

  • What inspired Susan to start a remote business
  • How she handled the change from working in an office and travelling, to working from home 
  • How Moore Business developed over the years
  • How Susan works with her clients and how it has evolved over time
  • Working with a remote team effectively
  • Managing office time when you have a global team
  • Top apps for working remotely and managing remote teams
  • How to keep up to date with the latest tools and trends in remote working
  • Tips for outsourcing and delegating
  • Biggest timesavers when working remotely
  • How to promote a team environment for remote workers
  • Getting through days when things go wrong
  • What a day of living more looks like for Susan

Resources Mentioned:

Connect with Susan Moore:

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Transcribed by

Today I'm interviewing Susan Moore of more business. Welcome, Susan, great to have you on the show. Thank you for having me, Jay. So start by telling us a bit about who you are, what you do, and crucially, where you do it. And my name is Susan Moore, my business is more business. We provide back office support to entrepreneurs and non exec directors as generally people who have portfolio careers. We are actually pioneers of working from home having done it for 14 years. So we the whole team work from our own offices across the UK, Europe and North America.


Wow. So it's interesting when we were talking before we came on, in fact, we were talking so long, I thought we were going to run out of time to do podcast.


What I found interesting. So now you said 14 years that sort of makes a lot of sense in terms of we've got quite a lot of mutual connections, because we've both been in business pretty much the same amount of time. And now we were saying how funny it is that we don't think we've ever spoken. We think we might have known each other for a while. But we certainly have lots of mutual connections, and


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Transcribed by great to hear about the whole working from home for that length of time. And also,


as you say, sort of working go globally and working with a team. How did that all come about. And I was a traveling a because I worked for an airline, Ukrainian airline. And prior to that I'd worked in investment in the City of London, and in Sydney. But I'd always travelled with my work for conferences part, you know, part organization partly to be there as as another face, another ambassador for the business. And the airline that I was working for, was due the joint venture was due to come to an end. And I was I think I was in JFK, in an aircraft hangar in a blizzard. And I was there from 6am to 6pm, with about three slices of pizza, and anyone who knows me would know that would have killed me not to have eaten, I was cold. And I thought, do you know what I've left a three and a four year old at home, I've missed their Nativity, which by the way, 15 years on, they've never let me forget. And and I thought, you know, there's got to be another way. You know, I love traveling in terms of my personal life. But the glamour of doing it for business had worn off. Definitely. So I decided that with the advent of broadband out into the rural area that I'd moved to, and that I would set up for myself as at what was then more VA originally.


So that was fairly pioneering as we've sort of implied at the beginning. What made you think you could do it,


and it was an article in read magazine, and I'd seen somebody else he'd done it, it was it was literally a couple of months before and I think without the advent of a decent decent broadband, I think it would be really tricky. But I decided to try it out knowing that the the joint venture was coming to an end. So I then sort of told a few people about it. And my the airline actually became my first client. And during the transition period that they were going through, and then my my former boss who had set up his own hedge fund became my second client. You know, I think I was very, very fortunate in that, you know, within the first few weeks of setting up, I had two good sized business and I think psychologically, that really helped me to tell my story and make the transition psychologically from working in corporate to to being a business owner.

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Transcribed by 03:47

Well, I have a proposition for you, which we'll discuss later. But guess what, I started my business 15 years ago, because of an article I read in read magazine.


I think they might be a story for them Do you know, I think it would be a really good story for them.


tell anyone. We'll come back to that later. Um, so I'm


great that you could turn you know, your existing contacts into clients and get started so soon and everything else. And how did you sort of take away that that wanderlust, that presumably you had you said you've worked abroad, you traveled


and now you're at home in a rural area, at the end of the internet when most people didn't do that? I mean, we've laughed in sort of lockdown how laughed, cried and everything else how people have had to sort of overnight get used to the whole concept of working differently and working remotely and everything else. And you know, you hadn't just moved from one office to another by the sound of it. You really quite dramatically change your life. How did that all go? And it's, I think it's kind of a it's a double edged sword, I think really, really missed the social side of being in


In an office with lots of very bright people who you would might, you might not ordinarily mix with socially, I think that was the hardest thing to deal with. And so in terms of the actual business itself, and the nuts and bolts of it, that was fine. And you've obviously got the expertise being an executive system. And regarding the travel, I'm lucky enough still to travel with some of my clients, because I arrange conferences for them, and I scout locations for them. So that's my favorite part of my job. And but I don't miss the commute

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Transcribed by and having to go into London five days a week, from a rural area with pretty rotten train and road connections.


Now I can see that we were talking about really about mutual connection, where you told me roughly where you live, though, I always think it's funny. Over the years, I've worked with national retailers, and I've traveled a lot around the country, I always say that


I think I've slept in most service station car parks.


And normally, when I meet people, I remember going to the Lake District once and we were having a drink in a pub after I walked in, there was a whole group of people who'd all like got together, they were University friends, or something. And they were all from different parts of the country. And every time someone said where they came from, I had some story or some connection or something that would connect to it. And so whenever people sort of give me a general bit of where they are, I always want to know the detail just in case I've got an A connection. And we've discovered a mutual friend who lives about five minutes from you.


And you, you know, usually I give people a very big overview where it is because they only know Stansted Airport, and not all of the little winding roads and villages. So it's amazing.


So tell us about how you sort of develop the business, you said, You've mentioned that you've got a team working, you know, around the world and in other places in the world, how did that all start from from you in your office in the middle of nowhere. And that started because I very quickly realized that I was going to have to delegate and seeing as you know, I am the poster girl for delegation and spend my life telling other people to do it, I thought I'd better walk the walk. And because with the two big clients I had right at the beginning, they were joined by a bloodstock agent up in new market. And it quickly

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Transcribed by became apparent that you know, you've got to separate working for your clients and working on the business if you want it to grow and not just stay as a one man band. And and I think I there was a VA conference and I was originally set up as more VA and we were purely secretarial pa admin back up there as our clients have grown, they asked us to take on more and more as the point person. And so I was at a VA conference and met a couple of people there. And then also recruited from among the ranks of pa and executive systems that I'd worked with in the city.


And through my other connections. So one of my my colleagues or rather associates very early on, was pa to my brother in Canada. And my poor brother had had his ears melted over the first year about what a virtual assistant does. And his pa came in one day and said I've decided to become a VA. Do you know what that is? And my brother said, Yeah, me too well, so he introduced us and she's still with me. She's sort of one of the Canadian team. And so it's I think it's just really all about communication. It's communication with your clients and communication with your team. Yeah, yeah. And let's talk a bit about how the sort of how you work with people. Well, firstly, how you work if people want to hear that might have changed over the time I I remember, you know, back in the days when we were sort of both starting our businesses, I was helping a local VA with her search engine optimization on her website. And I remember having a conversation with her saying, There is no point trying to rank for the term virtual assistant because nobody's searching for it. People are searching for Secretary and telephone list and type list and administration assistant. And yeah, loads of other words at the moment, but they're not typing it for VA at the moment, because it was such a new way of describing, you know, what you would what you were doing? I think most people know what VA is, are now. But still many people don't use them. And I think some times it's because they don't know what they can do with them and how it can possibly work. When it's somebody else. They're not based where you are, you need systems and processes for that sort of work. And people don't know how to do that. So tell us a bit about, you know, how that works, how you work with people, how you sort of transition people from not knowing, you know, knowing they need help, but not knowing how they can make that happen into what works for them. That's a great question. Actually. And


I think with with the virtual assistant term, I spent probably the first eight years explaining it to people, I don't have to do that anymore. And so that's really, you know, puts great relief. In terms of how we work with people, when they first come to us, it's generally as

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Transcribed by you say, they know that they need help, quite often, they're so overwhelmed, that they don't, they can't quite work out what it is. So what we do is talk to them about what's most important, and because most of our clients I would say, are in a professional service role, and they will have several strings to their bow. So typically, they have left corporate, and set up their own consultancy or coaching business. And, and they, as well as doing what they do, and their own expertise, they might be writing a book writing articles, and speaking as in terms of public speaking. And and it's then that we asked them, you know, what, eight, what are your priorities, so it's helpful for us to know what their strategy is, or certainly what their priorities are for the next coming year. Because if we can understand that, then we can help them to work towards what they really need to achieve. So there's kind of two parts to it, there's a being able to take on all the admin for our clients. But there's also having a mind set that is, is this, what you really need to be doing is this, what you need to be focused on. So if somebody is working on I don't know, a new email marketing campaign that's around about a new coaching course, for example, and we will work with them on that. And then we'll take off their hands what we can so that they can focus on whether it's the content, and we do the social media schedules, the email marketing campaign, or simply acts as a point person, for other stakeholders, for clients, that kind of thing. And what we also ask them for is an idea of who their most important connections are, so who their stakeholders are, so that we can speak to them, we can be in touch with them by email, and, and hopefully free up a lot of time for our clients, we basically say that we give them eight days a week. Well,


that sounds good. I think that sounds like a good song. But that was, I think someone might have done that already.


So how do you work with your team? What did what do your days look like? And with my team, and we what we do is, we try to match our team rbas to clients. And so if they've got expertise in a particular market sector, and or they've got skills around about, I don't know, writing, social media, that kind of thing. We match them to the client. And then there will be two, two of us who work with clients at the lead VA and a backup. And then what my days look like are, I've got just a couple of clients I work with, and the rest of it is spent in managing the business. So it's communicating, having a weekly meeting with the team, so that we can be clear, who's doing what, and we can share best practice, because obviously, I think with software, I don't have the COVID thing, but everything seems to have changed in the last few months. So it's making sure that we are up to date with with

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Transcribed by software and sharing connections sometimes mean we also open our black book for our clients. So if one client is looking for someone to take on something that's outside of our expertise, we will say, you know, we can introduce them. And and then in terms of the team, it's just about managing the projects and tasks. And and making sure that we are meeting targets, meeting deadlines.


And how do you manage your sort of office time on the basis that you've got a global company supporting global people and therefore, presumably, people in most time zones at some stage around? Yeah, we said


you have to be really, really firm with yourself because I think it's very much a support thing and that you can you can wear yourself to a frazzle. So what I tend to do is work early in the morning, and with those people who are based in mainland Europe, and the UK, I tend to have a bit of a low around about the middle of the day so I can then I then do my own sales, marketing, social media scheduling that kind of thing, too.


To my VA s. And then again, because the West Coast of the US is stuck there, there are a couple of clients I work with. They're from about 3pm, they tend to be back online. And I will watch emails until about seven. Or if there's something, you know, if there's something pressing going on, and sort of that that I need to be keeping an eye out as yet, I will stay on till 8pm 9pm. But that tends to be, I tend to know about it. And it's probably for about four weeks a year. And when clients are doing things like investor roadshows. And so that's sort of moving pieces all the time, and I just keep an eye on things to make sure that they are where they're supposed to be. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So very much about being sort of flexible. But taking the time back at different times is definitely Yeah, that's definitely how I describe it. And we are also on the lookout for Australia and New Zealand based


team members as well, because

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Transcribed by 16:00

they've gone off basically they went off traveling and, and I think we need to get some more people in to cover those time zones. Yeah, yeah. I've been working through


the sort of COVID time with the students in Australia and colleagues in Australia as well. And I just keep, luckily keep sort of being pleased with the fact that I am such a nightbird. Because we have meetings at like 11 o'clock at night, which seems fine, but when the Sydney average.


But that sort of timezone is just, we were trying to work out a call today that would suit England, America and Australia. And we have about nine o'clock in the UK, I think just about all because somebody else is in China as well, just to confuse matters, but we don't care about him. He's just got to get up really early.


That is the hardest I find with Australia, US and UK. I have to do that regularly. It's the hardest combination. Yeah, but actually, I'm really lucky because I'm like you I'm a nightbird. So I'm very happy midnight. One o'clock. Yeah, one of my team members gets up at 5am, which I will never do in my life. So she she used to she does it and goes to the gym for sex. And but she I know that she's got eyes on on what's going on very early in the morning as well, which gives me also the security of knowing that you know, we're keeping an eye on what's going on. Yeah, yeah, it's good. I was one of my best friends. Lives are opposites in that she's the opposite to me. So I'm up late at night and lying in the morning. She's always sending me texts at like, 730 going if you're up, do you fancy a coffee? Like Yeah, right, you know, I'm not going to be


all want to see her for a glass of wine in the evening. And it's like nine o'clock, and she's already asleep.

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Transcribed by 17:43

Usually not very compatible. Now it's gonna have to be lunch. Exactly. When it works. It works. But there you go. So let's talk tools and apps as


the organization that you are, I guess, that they really keep you particularly because of what you do, but also the sort of global aspect as well, what what sort of bertels naps do you recommend, and they're kind of all the all the favorites, really, I'm Dropbox for document sharing. And we do use Google Docs if our clients prefer it. And but generally, that's, that's our favorite. And for to do list, for bar there for list making, and tasks and projects we use to do list. And, and I think I have tried just about everything over the years. And I'm not saying much visual, so I do love the list. But I think to do list as there's a lot more to it now, I think they've done a lot more on it. So it appeals to people who are both list makers, like me and and, and a bit more visual


view and to do so, I've tried it for one of my projects, just so that I know that it works and what it looks like but like you I I like this too. I do think we might be twins actually.


Really quite nice. Because I'm sort of a lot of my team is very visual and make make fun of me because I'm not so nice is quite nice. And so yeah, that's that's kind of what we use for the project based on. We use toggle, because I find it much easier to collect information rather than wait for timesheets from my team. Yeah. And it's all there right in front of me, um, in terms of you know, who's been working on what project which client and that means that it there's less of a, you know, they're not so much of a lead time in getting invoices out to our clients. Yeah, because I was getting held up I'd kind of you know, with a team of a I'd get seven lots of work in but sometimes they work across clients, so you wouldn't give to invoice a client to you had everybody's timesheet, yeah. And so to save me from a chasing me moaning, I decided to set up toggle.


And then we use to kind of use slack for sort of non client related communication but

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Transcribed by 20:00

Actually, I really like teams. And I find that there's a lot more to teams in terms of collaboration now. And then then sort of having Skype because we're sort of Microsoft Office is Gemini. And I'm, I'm really enjoying exploring teams. I think they've got a really great tool there. Yeah, I read an article the other day, I think it might have been the Zapier article about what you can do on teams that you can't do on, I think the zoom they were talking about, but they were saying how much development there has been on that recently. And how would you say there's there's a few more bells and whistles that


that weren't there before that I'm making things much better. So it's great for collaboration and for sort of sharing things like videos, and also working in channels as well. Hmm. Yeah, I'm enjoying it. Yeah. Excellent. So tell us a bit about sort of learning and improving yourself. He talked about your team's getting together to talk about sort of technology changes and so on. And I agree with you, I think people have had more time to change all their interfaces in the last few months. Facebook, particularly, I was just doing some work with one of my students about Facebook advertising and, and I'd already lamented the fact that you can get into Facebook ads by about 25 million different routes.


None of which seem to make any sense whatsoever. But so.


So how do you stay sort of abreast of what you need to know? And how do you make sure your team do as well, I think we were really, really keen on making time for learning. And so what we ask is that our team members take eight hours of learning a month, which sounds like a big chunk. But actually, when you break it down, it's not much at all, and that we use LinkedIn learning a lot, because they've got a whole range of online courses. And we also encourage people to use webinars. So that can be anything from I don't know, PowerPoint updates to teaching yourself Canva and Eventbrite changed a whole lot of stuff at the beginning of COVID. And so we've kind of updated ourselves there, and constant contact and MailChimp, they made some changes as well, in fact, I mean, it is much more intuitive. So I think all of those that I've mentioned, we've really enjoyed. Um, but there's also things around about engagement, working with teams. So you know, it's

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Transcribed by an endless list on LinkedIn. So we choose ourselves. And the great thing as well is that you know, you can add to your CV. So if you have taken some LinkedIn learning or you've done a course, then you can add it and then means that, you know, it's not just one client, he benefits, although we might have done it with one client in mind, all our clients can benefit from from us learning. Hmm, that's good to hear. So we talked a bit about the sort of


concept of outsourcing delegating, and how people don't always do it, even though they


often want to because they don't really know what to do. And I've talked often on the podcast that even myself, I've outsourced stuff for years, I still procrastinate on doing it at times, because it involves me having to work out my process and record a video and send it and all that sort of stuff. And so I find myself procrastinating and then, you know, months down the line, finally get around to it, and then wonder why I didn't do it months ago, sort of scenario. And what tips have you got for people who want to bring in a VA or outsource some of what they're doing and how to sort of get that happening sort of quickly and most effectively, the tip I would give is that if you can kind of keep an eye on what you're doing. So look at what you're working on, and measure it. So either either put it in an Excel spreadsheet, or use some kind of tracking tool and work out what what you're working on at the moment. So that gives you an idea of what you're spending your time on. And then a better idea of what you can delegate. So it might be a whole task. It might be just traditional pa backup, for example. Or it might be very something very specific. So for example, you've got a book coming out, but you need artwork, you need


somebody to edit it, you want to be in touch with publishers or literary agents, these are all the things that somebody could take off you. And if you've got then an idea of what top three things you would find most useful, you can start with all those things or you can start with one very discrete project. And that also enables you to a budget for having a BA but also to get sort of worked out the return on your investment. So this is you know, this is how much you'd pay your VA but this is what you're going to get back from it your your book is actually going to be a real thing that comes out in

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Transcribed by 25:00

In six months time rather than two years down the line, for example, yeah, and, and once you've got an idea and have a conversation with a virtual assistant work out exactly what sort of what what you will do and what they can do. And then it's a question really of giving information. So


you can't, you can't give too much information, it really helps from a from a V A's perspective, to have all of the info, but also to get a bit of an idea of your culture and to, to see how you connect with other people. You know, what your business does, and, and how you talk to your clients. And, and then you can sort of start off with something like 1015 hours a month, as small as that and then sort of build build on it, and flex it with a VA, as you kind of get underway. And what you described, Joe is is absolutely typical, in terms of and I'm the same being a business owner as well is is you you know that, you know that you've got to do it. But the idea of spending all of that time writing notes, being on calls and bringing somebody on board, if you feel that you don't have the time to do it. As you say, once you've done it, you can't believe you've not done it years ago.


And that is funny as well. It always almost feels as well. But even when you do do that, that doesn't make any easier the next time. Now I know it's I don't know, if it's something that you do, isn't it? It's procrastination, or you put obstacles in your way. But actually, when you sit down and do it, you know what, you know, the trouble is, it's all in your head. Yeah. So I mean, what's also very helpful is to have a sort of how we do what we do document young kind of manual. And so even if you're not ready to have a VA now, if you start with that, then it's amazing what you that's when you see how much work you do. Yeah. Because and how much experience and knowledge you have. Yeah, I think as well, when that comes in useful is I've I've mentioned I've had a couple of days I've worked with for years, and just occasionally, one of them's ill or I don't know, they both have babies, how dare they


have a life, they've got one time or whatever. And I suddenly end up with a task that I have no idea how they do it anymore, because I delegated it so long ago, I don't know what the process is. But fortunately, I do because I don't do visual, I do written processes

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Transcribed by as well as recorded video. And so luckily, I've been able to go back to my written process, follow myself. That's brilliant. But it also means that if you've got that document and you're sharing it that they as as things change, they can update it so that everybody is in the loop. And that's why we have a backup VA because rather than we don't take on a client and say, if your VA is sick, or has a baby or goes on holiday,


you know, it could be any one of eight people is going to be the same second person. And it's the first phase.


It's for her to delegate to the second and update them. Yes, yeah. So I asked you to let me know any questions that you particularly wanted me to ask before we started and one of them was about what are the biggest time savers that sounds like some top tips, the biggest time savers, um, I would say our holding a weekly meeting, it doesn't kind of doesn't sound like it. But and if we can talk to our clients and between our team on a weekly basis, sometimes it's only five or 10 minutes, but it just means that everybody is up today, and that they've got the tools and information they need. And they can share best practice. And, and what we also do is then make sure that we update each other with what's going on. So we might do that with a dropbox folder and say, this is I have done this, or we might use the to do list. And so that so that people are clear on who's doing what, who's responsible. And and and to know that things are done. So you've got it in writing, and we confirm everything. Because as you say, you might want to go through something six months, or even in my case, sometimes six years down the line and think, what did we do or why did we do it? And so it I think it's really communicating on a regular basis. And there's although we work virtually there is really no substitute for talking to each other. Yeah, um, and I think I'm just making sure that everybody is working as a team.


And I think in terms of sort of top two


It is, is also making people feel that they are very much part of a team. I think when you

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Transcribed by work remotely it can, you can feel isolated. So we do do socials as well. And we, you know, we've got all sorts of stuff going on online at the moment in terms of arts and crafts, and various other fun drinks, cocktails and whatever else, which have been all the way through because, you know, some some of our team work on their own, so they don't see anyone all day. And I think it's really important to have your network to support you as well. Yeah, yeah, definitely. So last couple of questions. Firstly, what about those days? Where all goes horribly wrong? How do you deal with those? When it all goes horribly wrong? And I sit down, I'm, um, I think, for me, I'm such a list maker. It's, it's really about what's gone wrong and why. But more importantly, what are we going to do about it, and we're going to do it quick. And so if something has gone wrong, first thing is, and I think it's even written into our contracts that you you've got to tell somebody immediately that it's happened, and provide them with a solution. And so you know, this has gone wrong. And it's not, it's not finger pointing, it's not blaming, so I think you've got to allow people to feel that, that they can make mistakes, of course, we don't want to, but things do occasionally happen. And it's life. And it's, it's, you know, the more people involved in something, the more likely it is to happen. Yeah. And so it's really about being clear. And then learning lessons from it. And, and being honest, as well, I'm not trying to fudge it, but to say, you know, hold your hands up, and say it was my mistake, or it wasn't, I mean, sometimes we occasionally you get people who tried to say, you know, that it was it was the it was you know, the for our and our clients. And so you also got to give people the opportunity to speak up. And, and, and it's not always easy in a support role is sort of sometimes people come from very hierarchical backgrounds. And so when it does all go wrong, it in an in a nutshell, it's about rectifying it as quickly as possible, and and learning from it so that it doesn't happen again. And we've also we work on a lot of check sheets, checklists, and work our way through those, particularly when we've got events. Or we're traveling, and so that we can see, again, that everything's been done and nothing left off. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Lovely, thank you. And then the last one is that bit about living more. And that's where I talk about getting to do more of the things that you want to do and less of the stuff that you don't want to do. Or do those days where you've lived more looks like for you. And they will generally look like me being out in nature. And I noticed that had the wearing who runs 1 million women walking and being a podcast guest in the past. So I through Heather, I've kind of upped my walking a lot. And particularly during COVID I'm planning to do a camino when we can probably next year, um, and making sure again, that the team take time out to do what they want to do. So it does give people flexibility. If somebody wants to go and do a class in the middle of the day, we talk to each other, we know that they're out for an hour and a half, and we'll we'll be sure to, to cover. And, and, and to make sure really that you've got the life you want. For me my big thing has been travel. And so I really if you know, I make sure at the beginning of the year that I put in the travel that I want to do. I can work from anywhere but if it's holiday then it's in there and it's it's sacred because if you I find if you don't do it, then it in your diary for the year pretty much fills up

#191 Susan Moore Interview

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Transcribed by and then you're trying to squeeze bits and pieces in. Yeah, yes. Yeah. Well, that sort of intentionality. Yes.


Lovely. Thank you so much. It's been really interesting talking to you. So tell people how they can find out more about you and get in touch. And they can look at the website which is more hyphen m wr a my surname and or on Twitter at more VA. Brilliant. Thank you so much. Thank you very much, Joe. It's been a pleasure.

#191 Susan Moore Interview

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Transcribed by

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