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Inspiring mum's in business

Interview with Sonia Burra-Robinson juggling a day job and a family business

I’m Sonia Burra-Robinson. Mum. Wife. Lawyer.

Mum to 2 boys 3 and 5. Wife to Lance – cricket, rugby and red wine loving South African. Senior Legal Counsel (Part-Time) at Barminco, one of Australia’s largest underground mining services provider.

Together, my husband and I have HBR Family Lawyers. Lance is the Director and principal lawyer. I assist with the non-legal side of the business including business development.

I work at Barminco 3 days per week, have one day in the office at HBR and one day at home with my 3 year old, largely to catch up on house work it seems!

1. What is your Why? What motivated you to get into business?

We wanted to be masters of our own universe. We had been talking about it for ages and the world decided it was a great time for us to start our own business while I was on maternity leave with our second baby.

2. What are some of the challenges/obstacles you have had to overcome?

A few! Finding that balance between work and family life is the biggest challenge. Often Lance will have to catch up on weekends but we always try and quarantine at least 1 day or a big chunk of the weekend to make sure we get solid family time. From a business perspective, we started with a desk, a computer, mobile phone and some legal aid files so there were plenty of challenges with cash flow and getting in work at the start. In the last 3 years since we’ve started we’ve struggled with staff issues, cash flow, IT issues, insurance, tax, the list is almost endless. In family law even personal security is a major concern, to ensure Lance, our staff and our family remain safe and free from conflict, so we’ve had to take measures to address this.

3. What did you worry about most when you started your business?

Cash flow was definitely a significant concern when we first started as I was still on maternity leave and wasn’t due to go back to work for another 2 months. Luckily my boss was snowed under and asked me to come back a bit earlier (which I gratefully accepted!). We also struggled with the IT side of things, getting a website, emails, social media, appropriate legal and accounting software etc so we had to find people to assist in these areas.

4. How do you find the juggle of kids and a business?

Difficult. Lance is tied up in Court most days so I am left to do the majority of drop offs and pick ups (and hangry tantrums), getting dinner ready and general domestic logistics. Trying to be in control of our social media on my phone/ipad is really hard with the kids around because they just want to watch ABC Kids or play music or otherwise have my attention when I have my face stuck at my device. #mumguilt. And their sad faces when we tell them we can’t do [insert event] because [insert mum/dad] has to do work…

5. How do you prioritise/ block out work time when working from home?

I try to do everything I can while at the office, but if I have to do something out of hours I firstly try and do it when Lance is home so he can play with the kids while I work, otherwise I will try and do it when they go to bed. Occasionally on my one day at home I let Mr 3 watch a movie while eating lunch and that buys me half an hour or so!

6. What has been a game changer for you in your business?

Delegation and outsourcing. Of anything I can delegate/outsource and can afford to delegate/outsource. Both at home and the office. I often say to myself ‘is my time worth doing [insert task]’. And worth is not just a dollar value, it is also mental value or emotional value. If I’d rather read a book to my child than do the ironing, the ironing is a very easy and relatively cheap task to outsource. Going to the shops with 2 kids is rarely appetising, so I do as much online shopping as I can for groceries, clothes, office supplies, presents etc

7. What do you think is the biggest barrier most ambitious mums face?

Themselves and their generosity for others. Most ambitious mums are likely to be overachievers like myself, who run around crazy busy and forget to put themselves first. Eventually we burn out. We shouldn’t do this. We should be better at prioritising ourselves and stop feeling guilty about it – even if it is small things like making sure we eat healthy foods, get a bit of exercise, read a book. When we have the energy to do what we need to do, look out world!

8. What tips do you have for other mums wanting to start a business?

Start small and get good at what you do. Then take another step forward, and another. With everything else in your life, if you bite off too big a chunk at the start it is easy to get overwhelmed, so slow and steady at the start is perfectly acceptable.

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Terri Watson