The idea to interview Michal was given to me by another interviewee. Michal’s journey is an interesting one; she started out as an industrial engineer and today she is a Home Perfector, a new concept you need to keep on reading to find out what is. Michal’s story is her story, but I believe that it is a story that many can identify with and draw inspiration from. Michal is full of vigor, strength and passion for what she is doing and I have no doubt that she has found the right path for her. Michal lives in Kibbutz Mishmarot with her husband and their four children.
Michal, I am really excited to hear your story and want to thank you for wanting to share it here with us. Where would you like to start?
I am Michal, 39 years old and was born here in Kibbutz Mishmarot. My father is a Mechanical engineer and my mother teaches crafts. I have two older siblings, one is a lawyer and works in a bank and the other in high-tech. All very solid career paths.
From a young age, actually already as a little girl, I was considered very scholastic and intelligent and because I was good in math, I was lead to study mainly science and math both in middle and high school. From the ninth grade, I was already attending the Open University, starting a degree in Life Sciences.
But apart from being good in math I was also very good in literature, but because that the main issue was being good in math, that wasn’t even considered. The path I was to take, was to study at the Technion (located in Haifa, considered the best technical University in Israel) and after that army, that was what I did. I have a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and Management. After I finished the degree, I had my first rebellion and moved away from Haifa (laughing) to Pardes Hanna.
I looked for a job for six months and got two job offers. One at a bank in Tel Aviv and another with the Israeli Electrical company in Haifa. I had to choose and I chose Tel Aviv. It was a very interesting project at the bank, primarily having to do with characterization – listen to what was needed and then translating it into a computer system. It was fine, especially lunch hour and the HR activities for the staff that I was in charge of. The rest less. Then we had our first child. During this time, we were living in Givatayim. Small apartment, a noisy neighborhood, my husband was working a lot. I decided that I don’t want us to live this way.
We both left our jobs and moved to a village close to Afula. We wanted a house, a green environment. I stayed home for a year with the baby and my husband became self-employed in his line of work as an organizational consultant. After about a year I returned to work, still as an engineer, in a local factory.
To cut the story short, my job situation repeated itself several times. I would start to work someplace, like it more or less (normally less), get pregnant, go on an extended maternity leave and then pass on to the next job. So I went from job to job; the job was always with the purpose of earning a living, because besides that my thoughts and my heart were at home with the children. With every job I felt that something was missing. There was I no passion and that is probably why I didn’t involve myself enough in the work. Because of the seniority and experience that I had, I was working in positions where it was expected of me to really invest in the job, to succeed and to advance. Because I did not have time to invest (I was always rushing home to be with the children), I felt like I constantly had to invest a lot of energy to get the job done as well as to meet the requirements. I don’t belive that it can be done if there is no passion for the job. It was very difficult for me.
I tried other solutions, such as part-time jobs or to work from home to somehow make things easier, but yet again every Saturday night I was annoyed once again of having to back to yet another work week. Somewhere inside of me, I knew it was not supposed to be like this. I tried to convince myself and to look for the positive things at work, but apart from the customer characterizations, it was basically just lunch or an upcoming vacation – everything not related to work itself.
I knew it was not good. I was sick a lot, but still did not understand that maybe there was a connection. Not to work was not an option, as my husband was self-employed and I was the one bringing home a stable income. What would we do without? With three children and a mortgage …. plus, we really believed that nothing could be worse than having no money.
Nearly two years ago, on a Thursday afternoon, the boss called me into a pre-firing hearing. He had discovered that for a long time I did not work the hours I was supposed to. It was a very unpleasant situation and I was sad that day and also had some worries about the future. But I knew, that except from work, everything in my life was wonderful.
Over the weekend I was stressed, but suddenly from the fear that he might not fire me! What if he didn’t? What if I needed to continue like this? But he did fire me that coming Sunday, and was even really surprised at how relaxed and even happy I seemed to be and we parted as friends. That was at noon.
That same evening my husband brought home a pregnancy test because I had been feeling nauseous for days and we found out that I was in fact pregnant. That was a crazy day. At noon I was fired and in the evening I discovered that I was pregnant, with our fourth child.
Which feelings were you experiencing?
First of all, I was very relieved. It was a wonderful feeling, really. As if I had won the lottery. As if he (my boss) had taken the decision for me and saved me. I realized that what the universe had already been whispering to me for the last ten years, it was now shouting. I had to make a new start and this time there were no excuses, because who would want to hire a pregnant woman for any job? And besides, I had my severance pay as well as unemployment and maternity benefits. This was the time to think about what I really wanted to do. In addition, this time, I really had the full support of my husband to make a change. But to do what? I did not know.
When we moved to this house almost four years ago, I really loved to design its interior. I discovered that I really like the world of design, not the architecture but the interior design. But what could I do with that? I had a lot of experience in pricing, which made me a bit quick to reject any idea that I had. My knowledge was working a bit against me.
I had to report regularly to the employment office and told them not to work too hard to help me find a new job in my former profession and that I was thinking do something entirely different. To my surprise, I was offered to meet with an occupational psychologist they were working with. I went to a meeting, very skeptical but still willing to give it a try. Although she was very different from me, the atmosphere was very relaxed and she helped me to understand that it’s OK that I had not been enjoying my jobs in the past and just because I was good at math, it didn’t mean, that I should spend my live buried in Excel sheets. Together we discovered that I was also very creative. After three sessions with her, I had the full insight to what I was going to do, at least the main area.
My next step was to meet with a business consultant to help me turn my idea into a business. At that time, I was already in the ninth month of pregnancy. Through a governmental subsidized service, I met with a consultant and already at the end of that first meeting I had the name of my business “Home Perfector!”
It was not an easy process of telling everyone about my new career, and I had to make a lot of choices to who’s feedback I actually want to hear, because everyone has something to say. It was hard, especially here on the kibbutz where everybody knows me and everyone had an opinion. Including my parents.
So “Home Perfector” is a new term. I’m not an interior designer but overall I do what I like to define as “considerate home styling.” I take into account the customer’s time, their budget and what they already have at home. The best situation is when I am approached by the costumer already in the planning stages of the house and then we find a final concept of how they want their home and work towards it. But even if everything is already there, you can call me and we will see what needs to be done. I make a list of tasks for the customer and recommend a timetable and there is no problem with waiting for a certain sale to take place in order to get the best price possible. Sometimes, there are things in the home that are best to get rid of and often these things make a bigger difference than what you can imagine.
I take a lot of advantage from the prior knowledge that I have in characterizing. Although I am relatively new in this specific field, I have more than a decade of experience characterizing people. Which is the largest part really, understanding what people need and translate it to the home. My home is very influenced by my style, the things I like and a lot of color which is also reflected in my business card. I believe that the home should be working for us, not we for it. Very important to me that the result will be accurate.
I now work in a field that can’t really be taught. You have to know it as a basis, listen to people and understand their needs. I am not an interior designer and do not know the things that they know. That is why I also cooperate with an interior designer.
I believe that every home has its own style as does also every person. What I do is kind of a couple’s therapy between the two. I know that most people do not have the time or the strength to deal with things like these and that is why I am here to give the solution. Both regarding how it will look but also how it will make you feel. I think everyone should have a Home Perfector. These things take a long time, a lot of looking and searching, inquiries and decisions and that’s something I really can do for others, some that I have the knowledge and skill to make the connection to the appropriate item.
The bottom line is that our home should be a pleasant one to be in. I want everyone to have a place like that. So I try to know and meet as many suppliers as possible so that I will have the proper knowledge of where to look and where to find the exact things for everyone.
What do you see as advantages and disadvantages of your new job and way?
It can be difficult especially regarding the money and that the business takes time to build. Another difficulty is the children, especially when they are sick or when I have to drive them to friends and afterschool activities. Apart from that, I still breast-feed and sometimes go through sleepless nights because of the youngest. That all takes away a lot of time from the business.
Nevertheless, I feel like I am flourishing. I love this work – working with customers and with suppliers and learning something new all the time. It gives a lot of energy and finally I feel that I found the passion I was looking for all this time! Now if only my family could get used to that I am a working woman (laughs).
These days, when I have a diffucult day, I remember my days as an employee, even if I compare my hardest days now to the best days then – now wins! It is important to remember that what I have now, is a good kind of difficulty, one by choice.
I think I got into this business very mature and ready. I learned a lot in every job I had and some tools, such as knowing how to price my work is very helpful. I do not regret anything that happened in the past because it helped me become the person I am today. Every experience was a necessary one.
I love to learn new things and to be inspired by others through articles, lectures and workshops. Ronit Kfir who is an interior designer and writes X-Net is one of those I learn a lot from. There is a lot of different content and information out there so you have to know where to get that information and who to listen to. In addition, I have one interior designer I very much like to work with and those collaborations contribute a lot.
I also feel that going out into the world is what brings the income. Even physically. When I attend a seminar, for example, physically I’m sitting there and at the same time I am receiving a message that someone wants the services of the business. It happens when I go out and I believe that it is impossible to establish relationships using only your laptop or through Facebook. Those things are good and important, but more as a backup to the things that are actually happening when I’m out. My first client, for example, I met on the playground …
So where would you be now, had your boss not fired you that day?
I actually think that I did have an active role in that. I think I acted in a certain way in order to get fired, that I was making someone else decide for me. I believe that subconsciously I made it happen. On the other hand, in the end, I did make an active decision of not to proceed on to yet another job. In the end, I realized that I was not satisfied and therefore children were also not satisfied. Today I can say that I feel good, I have passion for what I do, and it affects everything around me in the best way possible.
Michal, thank you so much. I am really looking forward to see what the future has in store for you and the business. I am sure it will be great!