JANE SLADE speaks to former retail fashion queen Judy Rich about her new business life as a retirement coach
It has been 10 years since Judy Rich was in the cut and thrust of the business world running Long Tall Sally, the clothing fashion chain for tall women she founded in 1976.
Now the American entrepreneur, who stands six feet in her stockinged feet, is walking tall once again running another business.
She is a retirement coach, helping people find fulfilling lives after they have stopped working.
“Actually I don’t like the word retirement,” says Judy, 71. “It sounds a bit negative. Many of my clients don’t see themselves as retired – they are more like ‘shifters’ – waiting for the next thing.”
There are many people who know exactly what they are going to do after their working life; they’ve been planning it and know they want to spend it on the golf course or travelling the world; but for others the future is a vacuum. That’s when Judy comes in.
“My clients are from all walks of life,” she says. “I’ve extroverts and introverts who have all come to a place where they feel stuck; left wondering what to do next.”
When Judy sold her company she suddenly found there was a huge gap in her life. (Judy is pictured far right at the opening of a branch of Long Tall Sally in Bath in 1979.) So in 2006 she did a coaching course with the Coaches Training Institute, a California-based organisation.
“It felt like putting on a new coat that fitted right away,” she said. “I realised it could be a great opportunity for me where I could use all my business and life experience and so after the introductory course I went on to do a certified training course to become a life coach.
“If it was up to me I would recommend that all retirees be given three months of retirement coaching as part of their retirement package,” she adds.
“So many people finish their working lives and think ‘what do I do now?’”
Retirees obviously have less time than younger people to ponder their future and less opportunity to fix mistakes; but as we can expect to live longer active lives it is more important than ever to pick up the threads after retirement and discover a ‘purposeful’ life after work.
One of Judy’s clients Nick West (pictured below with his wife Barbara pre-retirement) found himself in a bit of a vacuum after selling his media businesses four years ago.
After a two-year ‘honeymoon period’ of exotic holidays, playing tennis, catching up with friends and enjoying his new found freedom and wealth Nick came to a point when he asked himself: “What now? I was missing the buzz I had in my working life and a sense of purpose.
“I knew I didn’t want to set up another business but I was used to having a long-term objective which was no longer possible. A lot of friends were in the same position but I decided to do something about it and contacted Judy.”
Nick, 58, who lives in Gloucestershire, discovered that he couldn’t transpose the life he had in business to retirement. So Judy got him to look at his future as a portfolio of strands rather than having one single long-term goal.
“It was about rethinking and rebalancing my life so I had a rope made of several strands rather than one single aim,” Nick explained (pictured below post-retirement).
“So now I have an intellectual strand which is a plan to becoming more knowledgable about art history; a philosophical strand where I want to take a course to improve my understanding of philosophy and an artistic strand where I want to build a studio and create a portfolio of sculpture works to a saleable standard.
“I also have a fitness strand where I want to join a tennis club and take up long-distance walking. I now feel very excited about the future as I now have a structure that will take me forward.”
However, there is no one-size fits-all solution to the frustrated retiree.
“You need between 3-6 months to explore what fulfils you and celebrate the work you have done and what you want to build on,” advises Judy who operates her Rich Coaching business from her home in North London.
“Sometimes it is about remembering what you did as a child. If you have been involved in the same work for the same company for 30 years you have probably forgotten that there are other things you enjoyed doing. It’s is a process of peeling back the onion so you can start to discover other things.”
“Men tend to be defined by their goals and are target driven”
It is also about reprogramming your brain to think differently about life as she advises: “You have to silence the voice that stops you moving forward.” This is particularly the case with men who more than women, view themselves as: “I am what I do”.
“Men tend to be defined by their goals and are target driven,” she says. “It’s amazing when they discover they can exist in a different world and create a different kind of goal.
“Most are very confident and competent. They are not coming from a place of need. They know that they want to spend the next 20 or 30 years living fulfilling lives.
“A lot of my coaching is now focused on helping people create new businesses in retirement.”
“Just because your work has stopped it doesn’t mean your life ends”
Judy is also discovering that people are recognising that retirement coaching is something very positive. “There is less of a stigma about it as it’s not counselling or therapy. Retirement coaching is more acceptable. It is about finding your purpose and reason to be. Just because your work has stopped it doesn’t mean your life ends.
“I am also coaching empty nesters which is more about rebuilding self confidence.
All I ask is for clients to be committed – for three to six months ideally and willing to make changes.” She charges £100 an hour for two consultations a month which can be altered depending on the client’s needs.
“I am proof that you can keep going and I hope to demonstrate that life doesn’t stop when your job does.”
“Ten per cent of work happens in the sessions and 90 per cent outside,” she says. “The session is the motivation.
“If I had sold my business for millions of pounds I would have invested the money in other women’s businesses; I would be a business agent,” adds Judy (pictured left outside her first shop in London’s Chiltern Street in 1976).
“But I didn’t so what I am doing is empowering people through coaching and helping them create other businesses and discover they can do lots of things after retirement. I am proof that you can keep going and I hope to demonstrate that life doesn’t stop when your job does.”
For more information visit: www.richcoaching.co.uk