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Jul 01

Think Strategically

It’s six months since The Progress Lab opened its doors and I’m happy to say it’s been amazing so far!  I never imagined I would have learnt so much; got to work with some really inspiring people; pushed myself outside my comfort zone; unleashed my inner creativity and felt so accomplished in such a short space of time.

I look back and recall so many people telling me how brave I was to leave the big corporate job, but I can safely say it was the best career decision I have ever made.  In the months leading up to my business launching, I was offered plenty of advice from friends, other entrepreneurs and colleagues, here’s some of the best advice I received along with a couple of my own, for anyone thinking about or just setting up their own business:

1) Have a business strategy & plan, but be flexible with it, what you start off doing might not be what you end up doing 3 years down the line…

This is already proving to be the case for me and I’m embracing it! I had a very clear service offering when I launched my website, but after a month or so in business, I started to realise there’s some things I like doing more than others, so I decided to remove the services which I can do, but don’t really enjoy and added in others which I really like doing, for example Training & Development replaced Managing Organisational Change.  I’m keeping an open mind as to what I’ll be doing in 3 years time….

2) Use your network effectively and make a concerted effort to add to it whenever possible, as these contacts might just help you find new business.

Almost all of our work to date has come about through our contacts recommending us to people they know who need marketing support, which has been great.  But I think the strangest encounter I had which lead to us submitting a business proposal, was when I was talking to my daughter’s dance teacher about helping them promote an event, when one of the fellow parents overheard me and asked if we could meet up to discuss how I could help him out with a new product launch as he was the owner of a health food business.  So, it just shows the power of making new contacts.

3) Don’t be despondent when you don’t see immediate responses to your marketing efforts, think longer term pay off…

There’s definitely been times when I’ve questioned the efficacy of some of my posts on social media and asked what’s the point..? But then I’ve gone to industry events and met with old acquaintances who mention they’ve read my updates and seem to know what’s going on with my business.  So, this reinforces the point that keeping top of mind of potential clients is important, they might not need your services right now, but when the time comes that they do, hopefully they’ll think of you.

4) Do some gratis work if there’s obvious benefits in doing so

You need to get the balance between offering your services for free and trying to earn a living, so when it comes to considering gratis work, ask yourself “what am I getting out of it?” and “what am I turning down / not doing as a result of doing it?”  I made a conscious decision to offer some free lunch and learn training sessions on The Art of Prioritisation to a number of companies, the reason for doing so, was to give me to some first hand experience of training facilitation, as well as getting some great testimonials which I have been able to share on social media and on our website.  I have also done some gratis projects for fellow business owners where we have been able to “swap” services, so benefiting each other but without exchanging money, again this has proven to be beneficial for The Progress Lab.

5) Don’t beat yourself up by doing “fun stuff” on quiet days – there’ll be times that your up to midnight working, so it all balances out.

In my first two months of setting up, I worked relentlessly on creating protocols, developing ways of working, templates, marketing plans, business proposals – you name it I did it, I felt guilty finishing early or going to the gym during the day because I felt I needed to be doing everything I could for my new business.  Then when the work started coming in, I soon realised that there’ll be peaks and troughs with regard to workload, so I decided to cut some slack for myself – I now make a conscious effort to go out and enjoy time with my daughter when it’s a bit quiet, after all that’s one of the biggest benefits of being your own boss, you can be flexible!

6) Surround yourself with supporters 

When you set up your own business it’s helpful to have people around you to act as a sounding board and to give you a sense of encouragement.  I have been very fortunate not only do I have my fellow “Progressivists” who work with me; I also have a wonderful husband who has been hugely supportive to me, he proof reads almost everything I write, has been my guinea pig for business pitches and training programmes and even came home with a bottle of champagne when we won our first pitch, I am truly grateful for that.  I am also lucky to have very supportive family and friends, so at least I know that when I post anything on social media I am bound to get at least one “like” because my Mum seems to be my number one fan!

So, I think it is fair to say, the journey so far with The Progress Lab has been a very positive one;  I have certainly learnt a lot along the way and look forward to continuing this pathway of learning and developing, in my endeavours to help ambitious businesses unleash their potential through the power of marketing.