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I was excited to read ‘Ahead of Her Time; How a One-Woman Startup Become a Global Publishing Brand from Judy Paitkus, a famous female entrepreneur.
It charts her life and challenges both in publishing, and at home and is an education in how the publishing industry works. I love her early take on working in the 70 and 80’s, with its political incorrectness balanced by a time when colleagues still talked to one another and didn’t email the person sitting next to them. I think it showed that being a young woman in publishing, meant that you had to be better at your job to prove yourself against the men in their 50’s and 60’s who dominated the industry.
This was the case for so many industries and I didn’t find it surprising at all that she was asked by a Bank Manager for her husband’s signature for a loan even though he had nothing to do with the business. I suspect many young women today would be outraged and voice it if they were told that this happened to Judy. Instead, I would look upon it as an example of how far women have come in industry but, of course, still with much further to go.
Leaving school in the early 90’s I remember going to the local careers centre to be met by a young male careers advisor who didn’t even ask what I was interested in and told me where the books on hairdressing and beautician jobs were. I thought how strange that he should say that to me and then a dawning realisation of oh, that is how it works, is it? I thought how young he was to have such a view, although his view had probably been shaped by many other girls that had waled through his door that morning. I said in reply ‘Actually I would like to study IT at university.’ He back tracked quickly. I think Judy Piatkus demonstrates all too well the ‘I’ll prove it to them attitude’ which is constructive rather than an outraged response to the ignorance she met which solves nothing.
Balancing work and family life
Nothing in life is plain sailing and Judy managed to balance having 3 children with her ambition for her company. This is no easy achievement, there is no having it all, but you can end up doing it all! She knew to ask for help when she needed it and to make heart breaking choices at times, with her daughter and her first marriage but they turned out to the right decisions. Qualifying as a as a psychotherapist at the same time as running her business, meant she can continue to grow with her Conscious Café around the world, now she is no longer in publishing.
What comes across in this book is her extremely good judgement and taste in all things. Judgement to make the right business decisions, for example, buying office space in London when it was cheap enough to do so gave the business an asset, which meant that she could convince the Bank to increase the company’s overdraft when it was needed. It also gave her another asset to sell as well as her business when she wanted to move on.
Good judgement for Judy also includes good taste. Good taste in people, for example, she had an excellent way of choosing the best people to surround herself with and she was loyal to them and cared that they had a life outside work too. Working smart is so much more important than grinding out long hours, day after day. Time away from work and a happy home life makes people work harder when they are in the office. In the 1980’s, Judy initially setup her business in her own home, so she could save money on rent, and balance work and home life. She also let some of her staff work from home for much of the week. Through the pandemic this has become normal but, Judy also balanced this out with time in the office so people always feel part of something and not too remote. We are in danger of not doing this now.
Good taste in books and looking for areas that were new to the British market. Colour Analysis (I have a copy), self-help, and business books many of which were initially too American for the British market, she made work. In her memoir, Judy is honest about her mistakes and the hard work it takes to build a publishing business. There were lots of books that Paitkus Books published that made good returns however, it is clear, that they could not afford take their foot off the peddle for a moment. It felt that most books where a gamble and that even with experience, you never really know what is going to sell. With this uncertainty, Judy relied on her love of books to guide her and her business acumen to make good decisions which built a recognised and successful publishing brand, which she was able to sell on her own terms.
I recommend this book to aspiring female entrepreneurs. It also has lot of insight and background on the British Publishing sector, so anyone who wants to work in Publishing, or who wants to know more about how publishing houses work and what they are looking for would be advised to read this title for an insiders view.
The book is available from Amazon, in various formats including hardback, Kindle and Audio Book – click here, and other good book stores.