The Female Entrepreneur: Multiple Roles and Dynamic Work Design in Service Start-up
Julianna scored her job 10/10 (ten being the most enjoyable job you can imagine).
by MK Ward
A spa is a space for clients to relax and de-stress. But what is it like to work in a spa?
Let’s find out with Julianna who is a beauty therapist and the owner of Limon Health & Beauty Spa. There’s relaxing Enya-like music playing and Julianna’s voice is calm and soothing. Everything in the room, from paint colour, music volume, scents, towel texture, and flooring were chosen with the intention to invoke a sense of calm. The ambiance put me so at ease that the interview was one of the more difficult ones because all the subtle details of the environment made it hard to concentrate and work rather than relax. Yet, we soon found out that cultivating such a calm experience is complex and challenging work.
It’s like having two jobs
Julianna has over a decade of experience in this industry and deeply understands the work. After she launched Limon Julianna found that although we was working in the same industry she knew well, the work design of an entrepreneur was different from her previous jobs.
“In the beginning I overdid it, which you have to do when you have your own business. It’s like having a baby I would think, because it’s constant and it consumes you.”
She described how she had little to no down time because it is as if she’s dealing with the work demands of two jobs. On the one hand, she’s a beauty therapist performing treatments for clients in the spa. This involves specialized tasks and activities, which is a knowledge characteristic of work.
On the other hand, Julianna would work wherever there was internet connection to reply to emails, work on the website, and manage her social media. In addition to virtual upkeep, Julianna positioned the spa in a way that makes it essential to source quality products (organic, plant-based, vegan, animal cruelty free, eco-friendly). Sourcing requires searching for suppliers, sampling products to see which toxin-free products are effective, and deciding to order a selection. The knowledge characteristics of her job includes lots of information processing and can be cognitively demanding. Although her work design has changed to include more interaction outside the organization.
Demands becoming resources
Julianna’s work design has changed as her work tasks shifted from when she started Limon.
“In the last 6 months I still do as many hours, but less treatments and more work on the business itself including workshops, event networking, and online presence. Networking at events is a challenge because I am introverted.”
The networking events and workshops can be draining. However, over time the contacts made, relationships developed (social support), and knowledge acquired (cognitive development) become resources.
While her work design has evolved alongside her business, some aspects remain constant. For example, Julianna relishes in the creativity of the business and the ability to create something that fits her priorities, one of which is environmental sustainability. “I like creating something that takes care of the environment because we live in a world where we are destroying it so that is very important to me.” Julianna has consistently put time and effort into sourcing and using toxin-free, organic where possible, vegan, plant-based products. She sees nature as a stakeholder, similar to how she sees her clients as beneficiaries of the spa. This ability to do what she loves in a business that follows what she considers best-practices meant that despite the complexity and many demands of the job, Julianna rates it 10 out of 10. “There’s only so much time and you spend so many hours at work so what’s the point if you don’t like it .”
A little more...
Same Industry, Very Different Work Design
Similar to Julianna, Nell founded her business in the health and beauty industry. Nell makes and sells skin products for people with extremely sensitive and extremely problematic skin. Unlike Julianna, the inspiration of sorts for Nell began with a thorn prick from a rose.
Years ago, Nell happily worked as a masseuse until one day a thorn from a rose bush pricked her and triggered a bodily reaction that gave her arthritis. Consequently, she had to quit giving massages and shakes prevented her from giving manicures and pedicures. She liked working in the industry and decided to make skin products. She taught herself everything she needed to know to create a skin product that would suit extremely sensitive and problematic skin. Her proactivity to start her business required problem solving, information processing, and a shift in her specialization.
Although she managed to work in the same industry, her work context has changed dramatically. She now works in a garage space all day filling orders. While it pays the bills, the work context is very isolating. For that reason, she rates the job itself a 6 out of 10 (ten being the most enjoyable job you can imagine). We see that transition is difficult and good work design can also be constrained by the type of work being done. However, there are adaptations that may be possible to improve Nell’s work design. For example, social characteristics can be increased by talking with other on the phone while doing some of the more routine order filling tasks, relocate to a shared workspace (if possible), or increase the number of product expos she attends to increase social support via networking. It will be important for Nell to change the work to fit her, rather than the other way around.
Cognitive work demands: Lingual challenges
At the beginning, a major challenge for Julianna was language. This lingual challenge added a layer of cognitive demands to Julianna’s work. Originally from Hungary, she had the added job demand of improving her English to be able to communicate with clients more effectively.
“I didn’t know that every country has a different accent. Irish, Scottish, Australian—at first I couldn’t follow any of it. Trying to sound professional and give advice during work was very stressful because you have knowledge that you want to give but can’t verbalize it.”
Training in the Australian beauty certification programs helped Julianna to learn the language and simultaneously get familiar with the beauty industry requirements here in Perth. Cognitive neuroscience research supports the notion that the additional job demand of processing a foreign language makes work more difficult and depleting (Volk, Kohler, & Pudelko, 2014 ). Fortunately, people like Julianna can learn over time and improve their ability to process what clients say.
Volk, S., Köhler, T., & Pudelko, M. (2014). Brain drain: The cognitive neuroscience of foreign language processing in multinational corporations. Journal of International Business Studies, 45, 862-885.