Rule 1 in business: nothing stays the same. As soon as you think you’ve got everything under control, something unexpected comes along and – boom – it’s all change. Of course this isn’t bad, far from it, for if your business is going to grow, things will need change and without doubt won’t stay the same but at the time it can certainly feel as though you’re in a boxing ring with a prize fighter. Continuous jabs, a few body blows, and the view of the floor coming ever closer before you manage to get in a punch or two of your own to regain your position.
So how can you roll with the punches , or at least anticipate them, as your business grows?
In 2012, I started working with young women who wanted to start their own businesses, through my company The Juno Project. It came purely by chance, it wasn’t something I set out to do – I loved working with anyone who had a passion for entrepreneurship – but the more young people I worked with, the more I realised that I could make the biggest difference supporting women; particularly those who were vulnerable and/or hard to reach. It’s when you’ve been there, that you really understand the challenges.
Last week I was honoured to be one of the speakers at the Telegraph Festival of Education. This is a key event in the education world, where thought leaders and academics come together to present seminars and sessions around learning.
When they asked me to speak this time last year, I was beyond excited (and a bit flattered, I'll be honest), and I kept the date in the back of my mind for the next 12 months as I carried on with the other things I needed to do.
It’s just one of those new year resolutions isn’t it? Take more exercise, read more books, eat less chocolate, investigate working for myself. But what does it take, and where should you start before taking the plunge?
1. Write a business plan
Writing a business plan isn’t much fun, granted but it’s a necessary. Think of it this way – you wouldn’t go on a long journey without a map, so why would you start your own business (akin to orbiting earth a gazillion times I reckon) without writing a plan of how you will do it.
As 2016 draws to a close, this is the time to review the last 12 months and learn from the mistakes - and embrace the successes! - of our business.
But it's easily overlooked, particularly during what is often the busiest time of year for a lot of companies, so how can you ensure that you are planned up for a new year, and ready to move up a gear on January 1st?
It's sitting in front of you. The fabulous new product or service that you've been developing over the last months, or years perhaps, and you're ready to get selling.
You've written the features down - in fact, they are imprinted on your brain almost as much as your name - and you have a slew of sales opportunities waiting for you to start working on.
When you've been working in business development for as long as I have, you develop a knack for spotting opportunities. Opportunities for partnerships, up-selling and cross-selling products/services, exploiting marketing messages, tightening up on systems and processes that save money; you name it, there are boundless ways of making more money if you look for them.
88 in fact.
For someone who works, pretty much exclusively, on her own, and quite happily - I love building partnerships.
It's the coming together of like-minded people, and businesses with similar aims, who can go on as a joint force to improve the lives of even more clients than we might have done alone, that gets me feeling both proud and invigorated.
And lord knows, when you work alone, you need all the invigoration you can get some weeks... ;)
'Heart-centred business' is a term that I'm coming across more and more. They are loosely defined as businesses that have a central mission of doing good: offering a product or service that improves the customers life, that 'improves the world' in one form or another.
One heart-centred business coach, whilst describing the sector, went further and said she believed that most female entrepreneurs were in the business of doing something they loved and that they felt added something to the world and were, therefore, heart-centred.
Running a business is HARD WORK. There's little easy or straightforward about it, and certainly not in the early stages whilst you're learning, what feels like, a million new things a day. Most founders experience the all-too-familiar 3am realisation of 'What the hell am I doing, I could be working for someone else and earning lots more money without these stress levels' at some point in their first year, and it will often inform their decision as to whether they stay trading or stop.