“I don’t know how my siblings and I are all still alive!.”
Cheryl Martin is well known in my community for being co-owner of the delicious and creative bakery & cafe, ‘The Good Loaf’. In February, she is transitioning to dedicate her time to her next entrepreneurial endeavor, ‘Communicate Well Work Well’.
‘Communicate Well Work Well’ teaches and supports business owners, managers and employees on all levels—effective workplace communication techniques for success.
Her surprise at still being alive, came from her reflection on where her natural state of creativity to grow her businesses comes from. “We had a lot of freedom living in a small country town.” Cheryl’s Mum and Dad ran a small engineering and second hand metal business, working from day light to dark. She describes her childhood as running free, but also as a time of emerging self-belief, resourcefulness and growing resilience.
“When we were hungry and looking for tea, we would often go down to the shed to find Mum and she would say, ‘There is a bit of mince in the fridge if you want to get it started’.”
“Although my Dad would not have admitted it at the time—Mum was a ‘’working wife’’ and in many ways the backbone of the small business—and was a strong role model for me about resilience. I absorbed a strong work ethic and a “can do attitude” alongside a knowing that happiness didn’t come from material possessions.”
Cheryl believes parenting now is caught up in a lot of anxiety with so many other contextual complexities. “When I ask Mum about parenting times for them, she says, ‘We always thought it would just work out’. As children, we weren’t mollycoddled, but we felt secure and loved and we were well cared for and had fun. We also had a strong moral and social compass within our family. And believe it or not we grew up without a TV!”
There weren’t a lot of luxuries to be found in their pink weatherboard home, “…we had good food and all the basics without the frills.” Her family home was alive with conversation, disagreement and discussions. “It was ok to talk about anything at our house and ask the hard questions.”
“My Dad had no formal qualifications but has a great problem solving mind— it was his belief that if you wanted to make something, you could work it out. My parents weren’t sophisticated business managers—in many ways they muddled their way through and they always embraced opportunities. In different ways both my parents were extremely creative and resourceful. They are both nearly 90 and still keen to discuss my business ventures.”
As a separated parent of a young man who is now 29, Cheryl shares with me stories that show her nature to be resilient and to naturally find creative solutions. “I remember when I took my son overseas, he was quite young—and some people were kind of shocked; they would ask me, ‘So, how will you know where to go and what to do when you get there?’ ”
“I’m an asker of questions. I’m not afraid to not have all the answers. I am a collaborator, I make and learn from mistakes, I’m open to possibilities and new ways of doing things.” I smile, and love it when Cheryl declares to me, “I have been called a ferocious fox terrier! I have lots of tenacity for my journey—I always work out new ways to get to my destination. My family sometimes sigh at my options; will we go with possibility A…B…C and so on!”
“The older I get the more I realise that life is a gift and we are blessed to have our health; and to stay that way we have to prepare and sustain oneself for that journey.”
“Life is a journey, and in life—you have to be nourished to respond to opportunities, meet new people, take yourself to new places and re-invest into yourself. Spirituality and creativity are both important to me in life and in doing business—otherwise I would be under-nourished and me and my business would under-perform. I don’t always get the balance right but as least I have an intrinsic compass that guides me back to true North.”
“My personal and business life journey hasn’t always been easy and smooth sailing – amidst joy and satisfaction there’s also been pain, disappointment and personal growth. I’ve had to work hard, save for special things and travel experiences, go without and embrace being resourceful. Luckily I prefer to go to the Op Shop and Recovery Yard than any Shopping Centre! I think the resourcefulness has become intergenerational as I was very proud of my son when he and his now wife travelled and budgeted their money in a series of socks! One for food, one for petrol, one for treats and so on.
Picking flowers to enjoy in her home, listening to music, bike riding and yoga, connecting with family and friends, pausing to notice things, and time without distractions such as devices, are essential to Cheryl to absorb and acknowledge life, and be creative in life and business.
“When we set up ‘The Good Loaf’ 8 years ago, we saw that our staff often had obstacles to being the best they could be—even when someone is a great baker or a great barista, they also need great communication skills. When you have effective communication skills it gives you so much more to draw on; you can deal with difficult customers and know when and how to be assertive with your co-workers how to negotiate and deal with issues that concern you.”
“Alongside the satisfaction and achievements, running a business is hard work….and it’s really hard to run a business if your team doesn’t have great communication skills. When I looked for communication training for our team, I was unable to find it locally. So, being the resourceful person that I am, I drew on my previous qualifications and experience in the Health and Community Service sector to put together training for our business. To my delight, I was able to see distinct changes and benefits for the team and overtime, striving for effective communication has become an important pillar of our workplace culture”
“Staff is usually the biggest asset and the biggest liability for any small business. Staff is often the biggest on-cost. It makes sense to support your team to be the best they can be, so your business can be the best it can be.”
“My creative response to grow our business and give to our team, has turned out to be an opportunity to start a new business—Communicate Well Work Well.”