Seven lessons after seven years in business
The past year has been incredibly challenging. But in a strange way I’ve come out of it with a clearer, more focused, and more efficient business.
The end of April marks the completion of my seventh year running my own business. In this blog I’ve captured and shared some of the lessons I’ve learned during the year to help people who may be in similar situations.
Obviously this year has been a bit different to previous years. Prior to March 2020 almost all my business was face to face. That disappeared overnight.
I had to step back, think, and plan how to move forwards.
Here are some of the actions I took and the lessons I learned during the periods of lockdown. I hope some of them may help you as you think about your business.
1. I reviewed what I wanted to do and what I offered
The first thing was to make sure I was working on things I enjoyed. There’s absolutely no point running your own business at any time, but especially in challenging times, if you don’t enjoy it.
I considered my fundamental purpose about why I started up in the first place and whether that was still my driver. I decided it was.
I then looked at my range of offerings within the areas I wanted to focus on. I took some out, I redesigned some, and I created some new ones.
2. I reviewed how I delivered my services and offerings to my clients
I switched my delivery completely from face to face to virtual. Even though business was tough, I invested in some new technology to allow me to deliver online more effectively and professionally.
3. I learned some new skills
To support my move to virtual delivery I had to learn some new skills.
I had to learn to use the technology (both hardware and software). I learned how to design my content in a different way to be effective in a new format. And I had to learn to deliver in a different way, without the direct face to face interaction.
4. I reviewed where I spent my time and money
I decided that I had to make some tough decisions to help my cashflow and also my ‘timeflow’ going forwards. I reviewed where I’d been spending my time and my money – particularly on memberships, subscriptions and networking.
I listed all the subscriptions and memberships I paid for, and the regular and ad hoc networking events I attended. The social aspect of many of these was great, but I had to recognise that I was also running a business. I needed a return on my investment of time and money as well as the social side.
I looked at alternatives and made the decision not to renew some current memberships but to use that money to try other options.
5. I said no to things that didn’t feel right
Early in the first lockdown I got the opportunity to do some training design work and received great client feedback from the content I produced.
However, I was then asked to work on some topics that weren’t aligned to what I wanted to do, or I enjoyed. I could have done the work, but took the decision to politely decline.
This was the toughest decision of all. Even though I haven’t received any government support it felt the right thing to do for the long term – for the client, my business and myself.
6. I joined support groups
I’d decided to join a mastermind group for 2020 to help me develop myself and my business. The group would meet once a month, with online sessions in between the physical meetings. We met physically twice. However we continued to meet twice a month online and it was an incredibly helpful and supportive experience.
This year a small group of us have continued to meet virtually once a month. I have a more in depth call with a ‘support buddy’ once a month. Finally, every week, on a Monday and Friday I have a short call with a ‘sprint’ partner to discuss our plans for the week and review our achievements.
7. I kept volunteering
One thing I’ve continued to do is volunteer. This helps to stretch my thinking and broaden my perspectives.
In the past year I’ve become the Regional President for the Professional Speaking Association’s Staffordshire group. I’ve agreed to be an Enterprise Adviser to work with the Career Lead in an allocated school. I’ve continued to be involved with Inspiring the Future and Our Future Derby initiatives. I’ve appeared as a guest on six podcasts. I’ve continued as a trustee of the DHA charity in Derby.
What can you volunteer to do to share your experience and expertise?
But, alongside the challenges, I did have some good news to celebrate during the past year.
In June I was selected as one of Theo Paphitis’s weekly Small Business Sunday winners.
In August I found out I’d been chosen as one of the 2020 national #SmallBiz100 as part of the Small Business Saturday activity. This was from thousands of entries.
I’d been trying for both of those for five years.
I compiled a book of Start up tips, with contributions from local small business owners, and am donating 50% of the profits from sales to a local charity.
As part of my #SmallBiz100 activity I shared a development tip a day for the 100 days up to the main event. I brought all those tips together into a ‘Little Book of Development Tips’.
Whilst it’s been a very challenging and different year to that I expected, business is starting to pick up and it feels that the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel is starting to get brighter.
I’m going to continue to do the activities I’ve discussed in this blog as I go forwards and carry out the reviews at least every six months.
If I can help and support you to develop yourself, your people, your teams or your organisation, please get in touch.
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