Interview Spotlight With Jeanette Forder

 Jeanette Forder is a 58 year old post-menopausal woman and part of the Fifty-Something Fem-preneur movement. She’s been married to my hubby, Andrew, for 37 years and shares her home with her cat, Duchess and cocker spaniel, Louie and lives in Chatham, Kent where she loves to take walks in the local woods to keep fit.

Jeanette is the Founder and CEO of Phoenix Wellness Coaching, a company specialising in helping women to thrive through all the stages of menopause. She set up my company in October 2020 after experiencing a long and at times difficult perimenopause herself, which ultimately drove her to change careers leaving her safe corporate HR role in the middle of the pandemic to go it alone.

With 20 years’ experience as a Senior HR Business Partner and a Coach, working closely with, advising and challenging senior teams to build an engaged and inclusive culture where staff can thrive and perform to their highest level, Jeanette translates her own experience into useful advice for other senior managers to help them to build a sustainable, and resilient workforce that respects diversity and harnesses the power of difference at every employee’s life stage.

Her mission is simply to help thousands of women to change their lives for the better. Jeanette works to empower women through knowledge about menopause so they can ace this stage of their lives and embrace the many opportunities this transition can offer them. Jeanette believes that menopause doesn’t have to be a nightmare so long as you’re armed with the information and knowledge you need and the practical tools to help you to overcome the challenges that may arise.

Whilst her focus is primarily on helping women, Jeanette is passionate about supporting men and employers. She believes we need to get better at understanding and supporting women so they can continue to reach their full potential in all aspects of their lives.  Jeanette is a fully accredited wellness and life coach and Senior Member of the Association of Counsellors, Coaches, Psychotherapists and Hypnotherapists (ACCPH), a former Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD) and is also a licensed Henpicked Menopause Workplace Trainer.

Thank you for interviewing with us today, can you introduce yourself to us?

I am Jeanette Forder, a 58 year old fem-preneur who has been in business since October 2020. My husband is Andrew and we have been married for 37 years but have known one another for over 40 years having met at school. We live in Chatham, Kent with our cocker spaniel Louie, and tabby cat Duchess. I am passionate about self-care and living life to the full so love spending my time walking in my local woods, working out, practicing yoga, meditation and mindfulness and reading.

Can you take us through your journey to where you are now?

I’ve had a very varied career since leaving school with A levels and qualifications in shorthand and typing. I started working at 18 years of age in the typing pool in Barclays Bank – I don’t think anyone now would recognise what a typing pool was as we are now so used to doing our own work and typing! After working in a range of investment banks for some very senior people, I switched careers and studied for my FSA (as it was then) qualifications. On passing those I then moved to working in the settlements department of Swiss Bank Corporation before moving on to join the Japanese Equities desk of Salomon Brothers in the early 1990s. Whilst at Citigroup, as Salomon Brothers became, I set up the first women’s network and was seconded into HR to run their new Diversity team. It was here that my passion for women’s equality came to the fore, and I spent a further 20 years working in HR.

The latter part of my career was spent in HR in various government departments. It was during this time that I suddenly suffered a bout of anxiety and depression, and despite being 47 years of age, no-one thought about perimenopause. I know now that this was the start of perimenopause that would continue for over 8 years before my doctor finally agreed with me that this was what was happening to me and I was given HRT. I had suffered anxiety, sleeplessness, mood swings, anger, depression, brain fog, weight gain and night sweats which really took their toll on me.

When I hit my mid-fifties I started to fall out of love with my job and particularly with my employer. Menopause was never discussed and there was very little support for women at this stage of their lives. I found myself being overlooked for high profile projects that should have been easily part of my role. I felt discrimination and the second glass ceiling as younger women, with less experience than me were promoted over me. I felt invisible, overlooked and under valued.

When Covid-19 hit the country it was like my saviour! I no longer needed to commute and could work from home which I loved. This gave me back 4 hours in my day and I used that time to learn about me – I got myself a life coach, a fitness coach and completely changed my lifestyle. It was during this period that I decided it was time to follow my passion which was women’s equality and make my dream of being an entrepreneur a reality. In October 2020 I set up Phoenix Wellness Coaching with the express aim of improving the midlives of thousands of women. I left the civil service in December 2020 and have never looked back. On my last day my Chief People Officer told me that she admired me as she thought I was “brave going it alone at my age”!

Since starting, have you made any changes to your business model?

Oh yes I have for sure. When I started out I was only focusing on supporting women through one to one and group coaching. I had no interest or intention to support men or employers. However, three years down the line and I now offer an exclusive men-only programme and have branched out to help employers to better support their menopausal staff. For me the conversation has to be broader. Yes menopause directly impacts women but it doesn’t stop there because we don’t live in isolation. We live and work with other men and women who will undoubtedly be impacted by our symptoms. For me menopause is a societal and economic issue that we need to tackle.

Have you ever had a mentor? If so how has this benefitted you either personally or professionally?

I have always believed in the value of surrounding myself with people who inspire me and from whom I can learn. In recent years my mentor has been a lovely lady who is a brand and strategy coach but who has become a close friend. I started following her back in 2018/19 and properly connected with her through the pandemic when I joined a mastermind she was running. Through this programme she helped me to see the connection with myself that I had been missing for years and which was at the cause of many of my feelings about my work. Since working with Nicola we have stayed in touch and talk regularly. She has changed her own business over the years which has been fascinating. I continue to learn and grow through our association.

What outlets do use for marketing?

Generally I rely on two main formats – online through social media and face to face networking through membership of BNI. For me the majority of my customers come to me either through LinkedIn or through my BNI contacts which has been extremely successful in growing my business.

What or Who has inspired you most recently?

Interestingly it has been a man whom I met on LinkedIn. Sat “the Menopause Man” Sagoo is amazing. He is one of the few, if not the only man, working in the menopause arena. He uses his own experience of his marriage breakdown that happened during his partner’s menopause to help other couples to understand what is going on and how to improve and grow together. I look forward to reading his posts and have learnt lots since knowing him.

What is the best piece of business advice you have received to date?

Now that’s an interesting question. I’d have to stay it came from my brother who encouraged me to join BNI. He told me that membership would “make my business fly” and I have to say he has been correct. Not only have I made lots of contacts through my networking who have helped me to grow my business so that I am now working with corporate clients, but I now surround myself with super positive business people who can help me with any obstacle that might arise. Add to that I’ve made some great friends too. When I was starting out alone in 2020, my BNI colleagues made that transition so much easier.

How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?

This was the main reason that I decided to leave corporate life – the lack of control of my own time. I now hold very strict boundaries and explain these to my clients. When you are a coach it can be hard to manage a work life balance as clients often need to work with you in their downtime. I recognise this but try to ensure that I am not booking out all my evenings with clients. I also ensure that I prioritise my own needs in my diary – I ensure that I have time to work out, mediate and walk all of which help me to manage my stress levels and keep me fired up and creative. I am lucky that my husband took early retirement in 2021 and is totally supportive of me and my business.

Name a seminal point in your career so far?

For me it has to be going through menopause. It totally changed my outlook on life and gave me the opportunity to explore myself and change up my life completely for the better both professionally and personally.

What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?

It’s about feeling what I am doing is making a difference. As a civil servant I lost that connection with my work and actually felt that what I was being asked to deliver was detrimentally affecting our staff. It made me feel physically ill! Life is all about making a difference, helping people to achieve their goals and have the life they desire.

Are there any leading entrepreneurs or SME leaders that you admire and if so, why?

Difficult question but there are probably two – Baroness Karen Brady and Deborah Garlick. Baroness Brady has always inspired me from the way she conducts herself and the fact that she has always taken on difficult roles, often very much in a man’s world, and been successful. Deborah Garlick has set up Henpicked Workplace Menopause network and I am super proud to be working with her and the team to change the perception of menopause in the workplace.

How do you define your own success?

I set myself the goal to positively change the lives of thousands of women and still stand by that. If I can help just one woman to change her experience of menopause then I will have made a difference.

Finally, what can we expect from you next?

Another interesting question. I am currently working on a book all about how my own values have shaped my professional life and decisions. This is something that I’ve only recently realised. I am also looking forward to spreading my message far and wide by accepting speaker opportunities and other media appearances. We can only change the way menopause is viewed by speaking out and sharing a positive message.

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