Allison O'Kelly was on the corporate fast track: She had an M.B.A. from Harvard, had worked as a CPA at KPMG, and was climbing the executive ladder at Toys "R" Us. But everything changed when she had kids. Now, O'Kelly's Atlanta-based staffing company, Mom Corps, is helping her--and other working moms--spend more time at home. Entrepreneur Allison O'Kelly told her story to Inc. contributing editor Darren Dahl.
I was always passionate about retail, which is why I pursued a job at Toys "R" Us. After several years, I was up for a big promotion to become the only female district manager in the Southeast. Then I had my first child.
My boss was amazing. He told me I could work three days a week until I was ready to get back on track. But I found I needed more flexibility. The idea that I had to be anywhere at a specific time was challenging for me.
When I resigned, my boss was like, "I don't get it. What more could we have done?" I felt bad because there was nothing.
Eventually, I realized that there were many talented people like me who wanted to work but on their terms. At the same time, I saw that companies were short on top talent. I figured there was a market if you could match those two things up. That's how Mom Corps was born.
Now, I have three boys, ages 2, 8, and 10. When I tell my story about how hard it is to be a working mom, everyone nods her head. We have all been there. It's a huge struggle to have both a career and a family. Our candidates trust that we will listen and place them according to their needs. Whatever their limitations are, we won't look at them like they're crazy.
People often think that flexible work means part time. That's only part of it. We talk about flexibility in terms of time, duration, or place. Time could be part time or flexible hours. Duration could be a fixed-month contract or seasonal work. And place could be closer to home or telecommuting.
We get told by employers that the moms we place are very productive. They say, "Gosh, your people get more done than some of my full-time people." That's because moms have other priorities and they are focused on what they need to get done.
Not all of my employees are moms, but most are. We all work from home and rely on conference calls, instant messaging, and email.
I work full time on a 24-hour clock. I might do something with the kids during the day, but I'll make it up at 5 a.m. or after they go to bed. I have complete flexibility. I can see my kids when they get home from school, I can run downstairs to steal a kiss from the baby during my lunch break, I can go to parties at school. It's a constant juggling act, but I feel I have the best of both worlds.
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