Nineteen years ago this business took shape in my scrambled brain. At the time I just returned from a 3 year travel-work experience from the USA which left me hanging between two worlds. My one foot was still in Los Angeles, California, where I worked for a year, and my other foot back in Cape Town, on home-based South African soil. I was torn between these 2 worlds and it took me quite some time to settle back into my own body and space. Although I settled back into clinical practice as an occupational therapist working with children with learning problems, I still had itchy feet. It did not help that my first son was born: I was entering the world of parenting for the first time as a new mom (no one tells you how bloody hard it is… ), experiencing postnatal depression and re-integrating into my old South African life. In the States I had the best and the worst time of my life. While working in Los Angeles with a fiery, red-hair Spanish born occupational therapy guru, I was constantly pushed out of my comfort zone. I learned a hell of a lot, laughed, cried, had to learn to email reports for the first time (yes I am Gen X) and looking back… was preparing myself for the crazy journey of being an entrepreneur!
I learned 3 key things in difficult and changing work environments:
- Never ever be scared to try something new
- Hard work gets your everywhere
- If all else fails – run… (I started trail running at this stage and have loved it ever since)
So Sensory Intelligence® was born in my head in 2000. In 2002 we printed our first business cards (haven’t they become redundant… I haven’t even bothered to reprint mine lately), established our brand name and presented my first workshop for a group of parents. I discovered my passion for training and empowering others and it just made sense to start with the target group I’ve been working with for 15 years. Helping parents understand and manage their children better is ultimately the best gift you can give a child. I shifted my skills, knowledge and expertise from working with a single child in clinical practice to training groups of people around sensory integration (a specific term/field of expertise in occupational therapy work).
I learned 3 key things from parents:
- Mothers know their children best – listen to them and trust them but also help them to trust themselves. Mothers (and parents in general) run to Google and try to become better parents this way. Although Google is my best friend too..… trust your gut – it will be more powerful and mostly correct.
- Human behavior is so fascinating and interesting. The brain science that applies to children applies to adults too… their bodies are just bigger and there is more nonsense…
- Common sense for us as occupational therapists is not common practice.
As Sensory Intelligence® unfolded as a business… my quest for learning and breaking new territories increased. As I was seeing how my paediatric-practice knowledge was as powerful when adapted to the adult world of work, I had to learn more. In 2005 I decided that further research is a must and I embarked on registering for a master’s degree through the University of Cape Town in South Africa. I was like a child with a new toy… if I knew what was ahead of me, I would have run away… far away. During 2005-2006 I did research methodology and wrote my master’s degree proposal, had a second child, wrote a book “Sensory intelligence, why it matters more than IQ and EQ”, and my husband developed Stage 4 cancer. I know it is a mouthful but it was even worse than what it sounds. Luckily, my second son was a breeze as a baby, the book took me into an escape world to cope with my husband’s illness and the studying was ticking along…
I survived to tell the tale: my husband made a full recovery and is in remission, my second happy- and well adapted son is now 14 years old and my book is still on the shelves. My studies took a turn for the worse in the short run – but ultimately a turn for the best in the long run. I was upgraded to a PhD as a result of my study being innovative and the amount of data I had to work with. I had to collect even more data (2008-2009) and was struggling to put my bum down on a chair to write the dissertation of my PhD research. Throughout all of this I sensory assessd hundreds of people in order for them to share their “sensory stories” with me, started to do team- and corporate training and also put my foot in the call centre industry which is where my doctoral research was positioned. I talked to everyone and anyone about sensory intelligence – most of the time for free – and was absolutely adamant to do “market research”. The going got really tough when I had to sit my family down at the beginning of 2011 and negotiated time in order to write my doctoral thesis. It took 9 months of getting up at 4am every day (except for Sundays) and write every day. It was absolute agony… I never cry but during this time I was in tears on a daily basis, checking in with my supervisor… God bless this woman. She picked me up from the floor every day, motivated me, encouraged me and was my biggest supporter. Ruth Watson, I still honor you and am so sad you passed away a few years ago. I graduated in 2012, got my PhD degree and had brain fog for 6 months (a well-known phenomenon following the submission of a dissertation). I was not in academics full time, so doing this on a part time basis was no joke. But I survived and another one dusted.
I learned 3 key things from juggling personal life, research and business:
- None of us are super human beings: it is OK to drop the ball – however drop the work-ball and not the family-ball
- Getting up at 4am will make you more productive while your brain is still fresh
- Surround yourself with people who believe in-, encourage- and support you
Business continued to grow and expand:
In 2008 I started to automate our online assesss and put it on the web.
Senses on Call™ was the emergent product from my research helping call centres make better staff-, recruitment- and talent decisions. It was recently updated.
The Sensory Matrix™, which was developed in 2005 and published in my book in 2007, was the result of needing a tool with more detailed information to help people understand and manage their 7 senses and not just a big overview as Winnie Dunn’s adult assess provided. I absolutely love Winnie Dunn’s work and also used her assess for my research but the Sensory Matrix was a further development on being more specific and practical. Our focus on growing the online products have been an uphill battle but also rewarding process. We extracted loads of data and is currently doing analysis for further post-PhD work and publications.
Our 3-day practitioners course was also initiated as early as 2012 to empower other professionals to use our tools. I just could not cope with the demand for individual work and this became a great option to be able to refer to a selected group of associates. They are run in South Africa and London once a year. We are expanding this course to Australia and the USA. Europe, Asia, South America are you interested? I haven’t shed my travel bug so always keen to explore and present to new territories.
We grew our team of licensed users / associates, got new clients, projects and speaker events; got new team members; lost team members; got new IT service providers for our online platform; lost IT service providers for our online platform… The ebb and flow of business is remarkable, tough, interesting, stimulating and definitely not for sissies…
I learned 3 key things from business expansion:
- It is a jungle out there and your business goal and strategy should be clear
- Good service providers are very, very hard to find because a lot of people talk a lot of rubbish
- You will always need a good, reliable, excellent team of people (not robots) behind you. And if you think service providers are hard to find, think again when it comes to teams..
As we enter the next phase of our business, year 19 since its inception, year 17 part time and year 15 full time… I am just extremely humbled and blessed by my experiences and learning. We have launched our new website.. 2 years in the making. It should have taken 25% of that time and cost 25% of that too… but I will write it off against achieving grit, experience and wisdom. There are no mistakes in life, only lessons to learn. We launched the new site on .com and our website themes contain human hands and nature images. Our core objective is to “help” people, therefore the hands in all top images. Hands are also a symbol portraying the touch/tactile sense which is in the skin. It is our core sense for bonding and connection. Mother nature helps us to be less sensory overloaded, pause, be still and connect. Our bottom banners on the website are my favorite images to bring the senses alive and opportunity to share our simple, easy sensory methodology.
Please connect with us if you want to know more about how Sensory Intelligence® can help you.