As I celebrate one year in business, I have been reflecting on the journey this last year has taken me on. It’s fair to say I’ve spent most of the year completely out of my comfort zone and it’s been a massive learning curve, however, I’ve had some great support and advice and somehow I’m still here!
I’ve met some interesting people, discovered a whole new world I never knew about before and learned a lot along the way. I’m sure I have much more still to learn but, as I reflect, I thought I’d set down some of the key lessons I’ve learned, in the hope that it might encourage others starting this journey:
- The first thing I learned was about networking groups! There are loads of them. Just as you think you’ve exhausted all the possibilities, someone will mention another group, and you’re off again. They can be, pretty much, at any time of the day or evening and often the format will vary from formal meetings with speakers and an agenda etc to others where you are there to drink coffee (or wine, if you’re lucky) and mingle.
- And you do need to network all you can in the early days. It’s the easiest way to market your business, and you get to meet more seasoned business owners many of whom are often more than happy to share their experiences and business knowledge with you. I’ve found overall that these groups tend to be very friendly and supportive and, over the months, have identified the ones that work best for me.
- At networking groups, you may be asked to do an elevator pitch. This is usually for 30 to 60 seconds and is an opportunity for you to explain about your business. I wasn’t expecting that, and have to admit to being completely unprepared at my first networking meeting. I’m now much more prepared! As an aside, you don’t want the ‘elevator pitch’ to be too ‘salesy’ and it’s good if you can adapt it to be relevant to those at the meeting.
- Then there’s other stuff to think about. When I first started out I couldn’t believe how many apps there were, designed to make your life easier as a business owner; apps for managing projects; financial management apps; HR apps; CRM systems (many of which do slightly different things) etc. As someone who enjoys dabbling with technology, I am in heaven!
- You’ll end up working longer hours than you did in a paid job, but the flexibility it gives you is worth the times you have to work weekends or nights.
- Use your social media….a lot! As someone who didn’t make many updates, this has been a hard one to get used to and I’m sure I could still do with doing more.
- You’re never truly ‘off duty’ either. I discovered this when I was out with some friends recently, and someone at our table started asking about what I did. I found myself giving my elevator pitch and we exchanged business cards! Emails come in all the time and it’s always on your mind as to what more you can do to market your business or improve the suite of services you offer.
- It’s worth doing your research to find out what potential clients think about your service offering and adjust accordingly.
- On that note, throughout the year I’ve been asking different people for feedback on my business and one of the key things I learned was that my original business name, Virtual Office Services, wasn’t doing me any favours. It seems a number of people either assumed I managed a virtual office working space or that I offered telephone support.
Therefore, as it’s the new year, it seems a good time to rebrand under the new name ‘Simply Operations’.
Whilst I still offer admin assistance, I am also offering clients a ‘broad and high level’ review of all their back-office systems and processes, adding value by making them more efficient, and ensuring they are meeting their compliance requirements.
What this means is that I offer to assist clients to become GDPR compliant, advising on the best systems to manage their clients and staff personal data. I can review their Health & Safety processes and carry out desk assessments for staff if they need them.
With a background of working for professional practices, I can also recommend anti-money laundry processes as part of a review of their onboarding of clients.
I’m sure next year, I’ll have a whole load of other lessons to add to this, but for now, to anyone reading this, Happy 2018 and good luck for the year ahead.