whitefox: helping brands, thought leaders and writers create beautiful bespoke books
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you started career coaching?
I’ve mentored and coached as a side-hustle throughout my entire career – before my first paid job in strategy consulting I’d trained as a medical doctor and completed my PhD in a molecular biology lab so I worked in those early years with other medics who were thinking about alternative careers. As I built up my own experience and took on direct reports for the first time, it was very natural to have conversations with them about their career aspirations as well as the immediate needs of the job.
After I finished an intensive role as strategy and customer director for a major retailer I decided to start coaching professionally, still as a side-hustle but for the first time charging actual money for my time. It took me another 18 months before I decided I was confident enough in my ability to take the leap and go full-time. It was in the middle of the pandemic in 2020 and I was evaluating the difference between what I am skilled at doing and what I really love to do – that’s when I realised that I needed to jump into coaching with both feet.
What motivated you to write your book The IDEA Mindset and why now?
As a career strategist, my brain often works in very logical and structured ways. When I first started charging clients for coaching, I felt it would be helpful to have some structure behind the way I was working with them and I took my own career experience and shaped it into this concept of IDEA – Identity, Direction, Engagement and Authenticity – the four tenets of a fulfilling working life. I created self-reflective exercises for my coachees to work through as homework between coaching sessions. Once I saw the powerful impact that this way of thinking had on their clarity and confidence, I realised that I could take the IDEA concept to a much wider audience. I took those self-reflective exercises and crafted the book you see today.
Of course, I needed a huge amount of help and over the course of about nine months I worked with a brilliant editor, Rachel Kenny, who cut out about three-quarters of my first draft and helped me to create something that was much more accessible and enjoyable to experience as a reader. The final book is still around half the size of what I first plonked on her desk!
What is the IDEA Mindset and how does it relate to someone’s career goals?
The IDEA Mindset is an articulation of the four components of a fulfilling working life. Knowing your Identity and your Direction for a future with Engagement and Authenticity. What does that mean? Well knowing your Identity is about knowing yourself – your values and purpose, your natural talents and strengths, how others perceive you. Your Direction is your long-term goals and aspirations and also how you make decisions to turn left or right when faced with a fork in the road. Engagement is about whether you love the work you do. Do you get out of bed every morning excited about the day ahead? Do you go to sleep at night feeling fulfilled with what you’ve done with your time? And then Authenticity is about creating a life where your actions are aligned with your values and purpose. You’re doing work that’s deeply meaningful to you.
Discovering your IDEA Mindset is like baking a cake. You go through the recipe – that’s following the 6 Weeks in ‘The IDEA Mindset’ journey – and what you come out with feels like clarity, calmness, confidence. Clarity about what you think. Clarity about the decisions you make. Clarity about what you’re going to do next. The beauty of the process is that it’s unique to you. There are no career or life formulae in ‘The IDEA Mindset’ – the process you work through gives you the means by which you can figure out the future that’s right for you. Take ten different people through the journey and they’ll come to ten very different answers, according to what’s right for them. I see this with my coachees all the time.
For anyone stuck in a professional rut, what would you advise as the first step in the right direction to help them work out what their dream job is, and how to get it?
The first step is to acknowledge the need to change. ‘The IDEA Mindset’ is first and foremost about ownership. The book isn’t going to tell you the answer. I’m not going to make you change, neither is anyone else. The only person who can actually make it happen is you. So you have to find a place to start where you’re ready to face the difficult stuff. Why haven’t you made the change already? What’s been holding you back? What might trip you up in the future?
The second step is to talk to the people who know you best. What does you at your best look like? For some people, they might not have experienced that sense of ‘their best self’ for a long time. Think back to that time and try to think about what made that such a good time. And what’s missing today that means you can’t be at your best now? Your dream job might be something you haven’t even imagined yet, but what’s for certain is that it will play to your natural talents and strengths, you’ll be in an environment that both supports and challenges you and you’ll have a work-life balance that means you’re not constantly feeling conflicted between time at work and time at home.
[Photo credit: OWLSTUDIO London].
You’ve created a special hardback edition of The IDEA Mindset. What was your reason behind doing so and how do you believe it will benefit your business?
The idea of the hardback edition actually originally stemmed from the fact that our second-choice cover was a design we really loved and we didn’t want to consign it to the annals of history. But then I’d also seen examples of business books that had sold a huge proportion of their total sales directly to corporate clients rather than through traditional retail channels – sometimes tens of thousands of copies. For me also, the business case for a book is about more than just the book sales. I generate revenue through private and corporate coaching work, through speaking engagements and other activities. So a luxury gift to a key client might unlock significant new business opportunities that are not purely about book sales.
When we developed the concept for the Special Edition, the only criterion was that it was the best of the best in terms of finish. So a unique cover design, a gold foil finish on the dust jacket and underlying board and a thicker parchment paper. Elements of the retail cover design that are necessary to sell on Amazon, such as the tagline ‘Figure Out What You Want From Work, And How To Get It, In Six Weeks,’ were not needed for a book that was a gift or bulk corporate edition, which meant we could free up the cover design with more space for the title and author name.
The cost of the Special Edition makes it totally impractical to sell on Amazon, but everyone who has held one of the first 100 copies we printed has a real ‘wow’ moment – that’s what I wanted! We also created the concept of a completely bespoke edition, where a client can have their own personal print run of copies with a foreword written by their CEO. It is a corporate gift that money can’t buy and I have already had significant interest from a number of large global firms about this version.
Why did you decide to self-publish with whitefox instead of going down a more traditional publishing route?
I have always believed in the power of teams like whitefox and the other members of ‘The IDEA Mindset’ team, all of whom bring experience from the leading publishing houses but are now applying that experience in a much more agile and flexible way. Creating the Special Edition, developing different edits and unique cover designs for the physical book, ebook and audiobook, delivering the whole project in about half the time of a traditional publishing house, these are things that I wanted to achieve and whitefox has helped make it happen. I couldn’t be more pleased. And by publishing in this way I have retained control of the book, so for example it is my decision to market the book, both for launch and in the post-launch period. I’m not at the behest of my publisher’s finance team reallocating my marketing budget to another book with stronger prospects. Obviously I’ve had to put in the up-front funding to make this happen but I am very confident that I will achieve a stronger return on investment over time.
What was your experience like recording the audiobook of The IDEA Mindset?
I recorded the audiobook at a professional recording studio in North London with a fantastic team who helped calm my nerves and catch all my dropped ‘t’s! It took about a day and a half in total, a lot of fun but also very tiring! You have to sound just as enthusiastic in the last sentence as the first! They edited as we went along, which made the post-recording edit much faster and I was able to do a final approval before it was submitted to the audiobook platforms. Supported by whitefox, I was able to do something quite unusual with the audiobook, where I used one of my coaching clients who is a Hollywood actor to narrate elements of the script. She recorded her part in a studio in LA and then the audiobook team spliced the soundtracks together to produce a seamless experience. It’s made the audiobook sound much richer and more interesting with the two voices, and it will also help the content to resonate more significantly with a US audience.
How do you hope your book influences the lives of those who have read it?
When you unlock your IDEA Mindset, it really feels very significant. Your mind starts to clear, like the clouds have parted. You start to let go of a lot of things, things that have been holding you back, worrying about what others think of you and your choices. It feels different to be you. For people navigating changes in their career, maybe stretching for a promotion, changing their work patterns, going freelance or pursuing a full career transition, the empowerment of knowing who you are, where you’re going and why – well that’s powerful. I hope that over time many thousands, hopefully tens or hundreds of thousands of people will experience the IDEA Mindset journey and find for themselves that deeply fulfilling working life. If just one person feels that the book has helped them to make a change and make it stick – well then I’ll be very happy indeed!