Randi Bussin: How she does it

Randi Bussin: Business owner *Single mom* Grew up with two working parents* U-Mass undergrad* Full scholarship for graduate work at Tufts University in languages* Worked in high tech sales and marketing * Business School at INSEAD near Paris.* One of 11 women in a class of 300 men.* Worked in France for ten years* Started two consulting businesses* Worked in Boston Higher-Ed career services* At 44 she adopted her daughter Jacqui, from China.

Who did you admire growing up and why?
There were no role models. I had to make it up.  I had one mentor in college, a language professor. I got a strong message from my mom that “you need to have a career path. You have to earn income in case something happens to your husband.” My mother was an elementary school music teacher. She’s 82 and still works. Having two working parents was rare for the time, in the late 1950’s.  It was hard for her to handle being a mom and a working person as well. She tried.  In those days you didn’t get a cleaning lady to help you. I really admired my dad who worked in retail management.  At age nine I was working in his store. The one thing I noticed was how great he was with people. Everyone worshipped him. I shadowed him. By the time I was high school, I was running the cash office.

How do you think about building a life?

Now it is built around balance: time for Jacqui, self-care, work, and then everything else. But it was an evolution. I worked like a dog when I was in sales in France. When I was 35 I had an epiphany. I was trying to get pregnant with this man I was engaged to. And I thought how are we going to do this? The corporate thing wasn’t really for me. It didn’t fit with the house with the white picket fence.  When I brought Jacqui home, I thought wow, this isn’t going to work. I was travelling to Europe every month. I really thought I was just going to take a nanny with me.

How and why did you start your own business? How did you reinvent yourself?
The first time was to get out corporate rat race and I didn’t think much about it. The second time was more deliberate: to have time to be a mom.  I had two Masters degrees, working in higher education career services, making only in the mid $40K, with a baby. No husband. I’d pick up Jacqui at 5:30 p.m. from daycare, be home by 6 and she’d be asleep by 6:45.  The only way I was going to make it as a single parent was to go back out on my own.  I’m not really an entrepreneur, but I needed to get the balance right. I actually went to a career counselor in 2001, but felt she wasn’t listening to my needs for integrating work/life balance. I had worked in career services, but in higher education it is a volume business, when I really wanted the focus to be totally client-centered. When I left, they started sending students to me. I thought: “I really like this.” That’s how I started Aspire, a career/executive coaching and personal branding business.

Self-care is really important to you.  Talk a little about that.
I saw my mom’s struggles.  I started really young. I went to Kripalu in the Berkshires at 24 years old and then in Paris I went to Marianne Williamson kind of stuff.  I remember going to a yoga meditation retreat in the Alps.  I am so intense in my work. I need a lot of down time to recharge.

What are some of your special sauces to make it all fit?
I didn’t figure this out right away. I’ve given up trying to do it all.  It makes more sense for me to delegate what I don’t want to do, like cleaning. I have a household manager anywhere from 4 to 10 hours a week who is helping me plan Jacqui’s bat-mitzvah. I have a business manager. I don’t have a husband. I can’t take out an air-conditioner and I can’t ask my 22 year old babysitter either, so I have a handyman too.

What do you think about the women’s movement? How did it influence your life decisions?
I don’t have any big recollections at all. Even being 11 women out of 300 men in business school, I never felt like the lesser sex.  I remember getting a tremendous amount of respect from the men. I should have dated a lot more. Instead I was focused on my grades.  I have always regretted that they did a terrible job of preparing women MBAs for the reality. There should be a required class for both men and women on life balance. I only figured it out because I fell on my face so many times.  What do you do when are a successful woman and you hadn’t thought about it?

Is there a role for government in creating a balance?
Europeans give great maternity leave. Culturally they put more value on family.  Nobody would think twice about taking 6 months off for a baby. I spent ten years in France and saw the difference.

What policies should employers put into place to make work and having a life/family easier?
Flex schedule and the ability to cut to three to four days a week, or job share without penalty.

Describe your worst House of Cards day.

Jacqui was two. I went to pick her up at daycare. I left my purse under the seat in my car.  Someone must have seen it. When I got back to the car, the window was smashed and my wallet was gone. We were leaving in two days for vacation in Europe. I had no passport, no credit cards and all my identification was stolen.

Photo: Randi and Jacqui doing a hip-hop number at dance school.
credit: provided by Randi Bussin

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