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Sport & Beyond The Story So Far

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Catherine Baker set up Sport and Beyond MMB 12( at the start of this year, and has also just been appointed as an Independent Director of Parkour UK.  From her first job as a tennis coach, via a long stint as a corporate lawyer, to a move into training and education and then to presenting and facilitation, Catherine has always been motivated by the desire to help people get better at what they do.  This is the mission at Sport and Beyond, a behavioural profiling, training and performance company. Catherine and her team focus on three main areas: sport (helping coaches and athletes to understand themselves and each other better and so maximise their potential); relaunch (helping ex-athletes and others such as mums returning to work to go in the right direction when starting a new career); and leadership/high performing teams (where they work with businesses both within and outside of sport). Catherine is also very active in the women in sport space.

What led to you starting up your business?

On the “quote wall” in our office, one of our favourites is this: “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” (Zig Ziglar).  This makes me smile as it is so relevant to my career, and especially to setting up Sport and Beyond.  I have been fortunate to have people who have believed in me, pushed me, and encouraged me to be bolder than perhaps I would have been otherwise.

On a more prosaic note, looking back at my career, my qualifications, experience and skillset all seemed to flow smoothly into what I do now, although at the time I wouldn’t have been able to pick this out.  I annoy my children in the mornings by listening to Chris Evans on Radio 2, and he once said something which resonated with me – you load your gun with bullets, ready to fire when the time is right.  Perhaps not the most PC of analogies, but nevertheless I think it rings true for many people’s careers.

Those familiar with the profiling world will also understand when I say that I am a fairly high ‘D’ (meaning that I have dominance as one of my working strengths in the DISC model).  Being high ‘D’ suggests that amongst other things I am driving, inquisitive, forceful and a self-starter, all of which goes well with starting up your own business.

So what has got you to where you are now?

My years as a corporate lawyer in the City gave me a fantastic
training and work ethic, and I was surrounded by bright and driven people.  After having children I was fortunate enough to step into more of a training and development role, which enabled me to appreciate how much I loved trying to work out how to explain fairly complex legal issues in easy to understand, and interesting (!), ways.  After a big move up north due to my husband’s job, once again I had to adapt, and my roles as tutor at the Law School of York University, facilitator with the Insights Shed (a fantastic innovation, strategy and marketing agency, where I learnt so much about how to get the best out of people), presenter with the Lawn Tennis Association, and enjoying keeping my hand in at what was my first ever job (a tennis coach), ensured that I continued to learn and develop, whilst slowly understanding where I could best add value and what my real strengths were.

How would you ‘sell’ setting up your own business to others thinking of doing so?

You are always learning.  For me that is a big thing, although I suspect my colleagues would rather that I had actually mastered rather more by now! When you set up, and run, a small business, you have to try and understand so many different areas – marketing, sales, finance, strategy…..much as this can be hard work at times, the real positive of course is that you are on top of everything, and get to drive the decision-making. Having said that, I know that I couldn’t make this business work without the huge value and expertise added by my two colleagues, Nicola and Kingsley.

And some of the pitfalls…

I’m sure I have many still to come across! At the beginning though, I asked three friends who had set up their own businesses to give me three pieces of advice each. All had set up very different businesses, but were all people whose advice I knew I would respect.  Answers included:

  • focus on the core business first, then get excited about add-ons;
  • work out how much time you have, and where it is best focused. Get help in for the rest but make sure that it is of excellent quality and that you maintain overall control and awareness;
  • be clear and consistent on your message, branding and purpose;
  • feedback is key;
  • keep costs down – justify everything; and
  • remember that you are best placed to market the business.

How would you inspire others?

We have recently worked with four working Mums (the Yorkshire iIarVtGt_400x400Rows) who are about to row the Atlantic as part of this year’s Talisker Whisky’s Atlantic Challenge.  Two years ago everyone thought they were mad (they had only recently taken up rowing); now, after a huge amount of hard graft and dedication, they are ready and raring to go (setting off at the beginning of December).  They are the embodiment of pushing yourself to achieve – believe you can do something, make sure you are prepared and well suited/qualified, and then work incredibly hard.  Making use of another quote on our ‘quote wall’, “keep your goal out of reach but not out of sight” in order to push yourself to achieve so much more than if you had stayed in your comfort zone.

Finally, what’s been your highlight at Sport and Beyond so far?

Rather than one, I will talk about a group. One of our areas of focus is ‘relaunch’, where we help those looking to change careers (including mums wanting to return to something different) understand their strengths, and what sort of roles and environments they would be most suited to.  This is an incredibly rewarding area and we have been fortunate enough to work with many talented and successful people. One of the first we have supported was Gail Emms MBE, Badminton World Champion and Olympic Silver Medallist.  Having had children soon after retiring from her sport, Gail has come back to the world of work with a great skillset, and huge enthusiasm and determination, and a clear idea of where her strengths and skills are best suited.


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