Business Start-ups: Anita Roddick

Business Start-ups: Anita Roddick

To round off my short series on Business Start-ups I have gone into the history books. A particular soft spot for me, as I worked in her business for 3 years. Unfortunately I never got to meet her, as she passed away 3 years before I joined, but her memory lived on in all our internal training and I was given her biography during my probation period.

Anita Roddick is, in my view, the queen of start-ups. As many celebrated International Women’s Day yesterday, what better person to write about – she stood up for the rights of women all over the world! Here’s a few tips about starting a business that have come from her quotes:

“Nobody talks of entrepreneurship as survival, but that’s exactly what it is and what nurtures creative thinking”

  • Starting a business comes from a point of need: Necessity is the mother of invention. Where is the need in your world? Does it excite you to think about ways of solving it?

“I had a strong sense of moral outrage”

  • Anita was motivated by her values and drive to make change happen – what motivates you? What do you feel passionately about?

“I am aware that success is more than a good idea. It is timing too. The Body Shop arrived just as Europe was going ‘green’.”

  • Getting your timing right can be the difference between success and failure. What opportunities are out there for you at this time? Is anything new happening in your field that could lead to new prospects?

I hope you have found this topic helpful, I’d love to hear your comments if you are starting a business and always happy to help with your productivity needs at this crucial time, just get in touch.

Business Start-ups: The Partnership

Business Start-ups: The Partnership

The third in my business start-ups series is from Quirky Motion, a film production company based in South London. Here’s an interview about their experience of a partnership with the two lead directors Simeon & John:

What made you guys partner up to become Quirky Motion?

Simeon: If only it were that simple! This partnership has been 16 years in the making and come through many different guises along the way. For me it started after a long stint of freelance roles, a boring day job and several film festival submissions for my own short film projects. My first main independent project was for an IDEO documentary in 2006 but John and I joined forces with a third partner, Colin Munro later that year when we made a music video for the Flaming Monkeys. They needed us to have a registered company name so we went with Quirky Motion, a name John had been using since 2001.

 John: At university I worked with two other guys, we worked out we could do better work together because of our complementary skills and so started a team under the name of Quirky Motion, we did quite a few projects over the years like this. Even from the very beginning we built the company on a philosophy of working in whatever creative partnerships we wanted for each project, and just have the people that clicked. So in a way it’s never really been about ‘us’.

 Simeon: When we did finally become ‘Quirky Motion’ as it is today there were many reasons to partner-up. We were all living in the same house so the commute was short!

 John: We had a similar vision for what we wanted to achieve, we shared similar creative interests and influences. We didn’t have a great education but had quickly learnt that you just have to do things outside of the system because the system is never going to give you anything. We had an independent spirit; wanting to tell our own stories rather than being a cog in someone else’s machine. Some of the reasons were probably a bit foolhardy – wanting to cut corners and do interesting projects, which can prove difficult without a large network of contacts as we soon found out!

“Even from the very beginning we built the company on a philosophy of working in whatever creative partnerships we wanted for each project.” John Lumgair, Quirky Motion.

 What frightened you the most about doing this?

John: We didn’t start with fears, we only had fears later on.

Simeon: Yes, once reality slapped us in the face!

So, what was hard and what did you do about it?

John: We had energy at the beginning, jobs were coming in and we assumed that is how it would continue and then when it didn’t come in we were like Ahh! But when we hit that point we started asking people for advice. Everyone is the expert when it comes to growing a business and we really struggled for a long time listening to the wrong sorts of advice. You don’t grow a business by writing theories down like business plans, you grow by meeting people and doing good work.

 Simeon: Amongst that there was some really good advice, even though at the time is didn’t feel like it, negativity was actually very helpful, time after time hearing people say that starting your own business was nearly impossible, it made us want to prove them wrong. We had a couple of brilliant mentors, all from the industry, they saw our potential, they offered us opportunities, asked us insightful questions.

 John: We generally found the good guys were the ones working in the industry itself and we found that the people that were there with ‘business’ experience just didn’t understand our industry and how it operates.

Now you are doing this what do you enjoy most?

 Simeon: We both love working on our own projects when we get the time – these can also bring in work so it’s great to do them when we can. Mainly I enjoy working in collaboration with different types of creatives who all want to add to the project to make it better.

John: Yes, The network is beyond us, there is always collaboration: It is arrogant to think you can do anything on your own.

Simeon: The contacts we have we share very openly between us.

John: We generally are very open with all our contacts, even with our wider network. That’s one thing we noticed about being in LA, people are much more open with their contacts than in the UK.

Simeon: They are much more open generally!

Is there anything you miss about being employed?

John: Not having to do my tax return! And if we have no clients we don’t get paid.

Simeon: Back in the early days we didn’t have the structures in place, we should have sorted that a lot earlier, that was really hard, and months would go by without getting paid.

What advice would you give for people wanting to start up a partnership with a friend or family member?

John: Work leads to work, there’s a proverb that says ‘Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow’: you can’t cut corners. And have a laugh, it makes the whole thing a lot easier.

Thank you Simeon and John for your insights, As John mentioned, industry experience is key for helping out those getting started, with 10 years’ experience in the creative industry, there’s a chance I could help you with your start up and would be keen to hear about your plans, just get in touch.

And if you are interested in finding out more about Quirky Motion, here’s a trailer to their latest movie, out soon:

ÉLUDER Official Trailer [HD] from Simeon Lumgair on Vimeo.

Business Start-ups: The Freelancer

Business Start-ups: The Freelancer

Second in my theme of business start-ups is Developer Freelancer, Patrick, let’s see what he has to say about his work and what tips he can bring to those of us seeking to set-up shop:

  1. What made you decide to go freelance?

It chose me! I worked at a great agency and took a leap to progress my career – I joined a start-up. After 2 years of hard graft, the start-up ran out of cash and made me redundant. I had a lot of contacts so jumping into a freelance role was the easiest way to restore income while I figured out what to do in the long term. I had freelancer friends and former-colleagues who had made the jump who helped me out a lot with good advice. In the end, I found that the flexibility suited me so I carried on.

  1. What was the thing you were most frightened about when you considered the prospect?

Once I had the experience of switching contracts a couple of times I started to lose the fear and feel more confident in the stability of the freelance market and my ability to find interesting work.

Ultimately your network, reputation and motivation are the biggest factors that you can control that will determine how successful you are as a freelancer.

  1. Now you have worked as a freelancer what would you say is the most rewarding part?

Ironically – the most rewarding part for me is when I feel integrated with the wider team. I’ve always maintained that it’s better to put your effort into supporting the team you’re working with as opposed to a specific project or their client. The quality of the work, satisfaction of the end-client and success of your direct-client all flows from that.

Projects, clients and agencies will come and go but there’s a real satisfaction that comes with building a relationship that survives for years and in my experience, it consistently leads to future work.

  1. Is there anything you find difficult about working as a freelancer?

My biggest struggle is getting actionable feedback to help me improve. In the freelance world, if you have a bad project your contract may be terminated but you may never get a clear understanding of what went wrong.

Similarly, you may have a great project and not fully appreciate which part of your contribution really made the difference. I’ve sought feedback from my clients on a number of occasions and despite getting positive feedback, I struggle to get anything actionable. There’s nobody who has a vested interest in helping you grow, so it’s something I have to work quite hard at to make sure I am developing professionally.

  1. Is there anything you miss about being a full time employed member of a team?

I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked for some truly fantastic teams, and I truly do miss working with them. I always valued having a boss and peers who were in my corner, rooting for me, and willing to help me. My career progressed very quickly as a direct result of the support I gained from colleagues who inspired me and were generous with sharing their time and experience.

Also the sense of ownership of a piece of work is something that doesn’t come so easily for a piece of freelance work and I do miss that.

Thank you for your thoughts in this, Patrick. This week really highlights again the importance of a great network of contacts to keep you going. Following-up with clients and colleagues can feel like a real time-sink but it is really worth taking time out to build these precious relationships for the future. If you are worried about neglecting your contacts and need help prioritising then please take a look at my client referrals or get in contact for more information.

Business Start-ups: The ‘Mumpreneur’

Business Start-ups: The ‘Mumpreneur’

Starting your own business is new for me, let’s take a look at how others have fared and what tips they can offer as they tackle managing their time in my new theme: business start-ups

First up is Madia, an NHS physiotherapist turned pregnancy and post-pregnancy support therapist specialising in Pilates and massage. She started out working for herself full time last year and has spared a couple of moments in her busy schedule to chat to me about how she finds running her own business:

  1. What made you decide to start working for yourself?

It began back in 2011 when I fell pregnant with my daughter. I struggled to find any suitable pregnancy exercise classes and massage services in my area. Most people don’t want to treat pregnant ladies. So I decided to extend my training to fill the gap. It started with just one evening class a week in my local church. Just before I left for maternity leave with my son in 2014 I was contacted by a private clinic to set-up pregnancy support services with them. This was a brilliant confidence boost.

I started to struggle with the family work life balance when I returned to work in 2015 after my second pregnancy: 2 childcare fees and a long commute across London was just too much. In September 2016 I took the leap to start up fully self-employed!

  1. What was the thing you were most frightened about when you considered the prospect?

There were quite a few mental barriers for me at the beginning: no regular income, possibly losing my future employability and from a very personal perspective seemingly swapping my professional status to that of “mum”, “housewife” and “wannabe business woman”.

I was lucky that I managed to pilot my idea over the years and build a small client base. I managed to also get contacts with others who are helping me along the way.

  1. Now you are doing it, what do you love most about working for yourself?

I love that I can schedule my clients and meetings around my family commitments and give my clients as much time and personal input as they want, without worrying about clinic restrictions.

I also love networking with other ‘mumpreneurs’, seeing their success is so inspiring.

“I love that I can schedule my clients and meetings around my family commitments and give my clients as much time and personal input as they want” Madia

  1. Is there anything you miss about not working in a team or being an employee?

The serious bits like holiday pay, pension etc. are things I will need to incorporate into my business now. I do miss the health professional environment and working with other Physio’s but I’m now creating my own environment, perhaps even my own little team of multi skilled professionals and that prospect is much more exciting!

Madia, thank you for being our first start-up case study. As you can see from her interview she has taken the leap into self-employment despite some of the doubts that crept in but most of her success seems to have come from the ability to pilot and test her services before taking the leap and having a support network around her – great advice Madia!

There will be plenty to think about if you are planning to start a business, don’t let time management be one of them. The end of the 9-5 doesn’t have to mean the beginning of a 24/7 live and breathe your business or else it fails mindset…it might do, but wouldn’t it be worth getting a second opinion before you take that plunge? Take a look at my client referrals or get in contact for more information.

Stress, 2017 does not welcome you…

Stress, 2017 does not welcome you…

This is a call for anyone who has ever looked at their to-do list and decided it’s too long to even start… for anyone who has looked at their diary, crammed with meetings and wondered when they’ll actually get to start their to do list… for anyone who has not even got around to writing a to-do list for 2 months… for anyone who wishes someone would write them a to do list by systematically going through the 658 unread emails in their inbox and telling them which to prioritise.

This is a blog post for anyone who has ever wanted to run out of a meeting mid flow and hide in a cupboard… for anyone who has felt like screaming “you just don’t get it do you” during a client call… for anyone who longingly wishes for a holiday without worrying what Armageddon they will return to. This is for you. TimePenny is for you.

Stress comes in many forms, we’ve been exploring it a little bit during this season and we’ve come to the last post in the theme; there is still so much to say on this topic. Read some of the feedback from my clients and you’ll see that stress is not uncommon, but it can also be tackled, in small ways, very easily.

Let’s not try and pretend that every stressful situation can be fixed by following Brian Tracy’s ABCDE rule or going for a pedicure. It can feel like a mammoth task just unpicking the reasons you got in this stressful situation in the first place. That’s why my coaching sessions always start with questions and lots of talking from you. After the hour session is over I can summarise our learnings into 2 or 3 concrete actions and tools to move forward, plus a few tips to take you into a stress-free way of approaching work. If you are interested feel free to get in touch.

Define:ASAP

Define:ASAP

As soon as possible. What does this really mean?

Operations Director Amanda, whilst managing an advertising studio in Wandsworth Town decided to ban it entirely: here she is explaining why: “ASAP conveys no useful information about when a thing is actually needed for. It might mean that it’s urgently needed today or in the next hour, or it might mean that it’s needed at the earliest convenience but need not bump any other priority work. It takes very little more effort to say “the event is on Friday so they need to see this Wednesday at the latest for approval” or “it was actually due yesterday so could it be done first thing this morning?”

“ASAP conveys no useful information about when a thing is actually needed for” Amanda Leat, Operations Director

I’ve added this into my topic on stress management because stress is clearly heightened through unclear priorities; when you are not sure how to order your goals or tasks in priority order the haze can start to descend and even the rational thinking professional can start to lose it.

So, spare a thought for those receiving your message when you type out those 4 letters, especially at this time of the year: They are up for interpretation. They mean nothing.

Hero #5: Simon Sinek

Hero #5: Simon Sinek

In the next 400 or so words I cannot summarise all of the insights of todays hero, Simon Sinek, he has a lot to say. But in the theme of stress management one Sinek quote always crops up. He says “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.”

“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we love is called passion.” Simon Sinek

He goes on to explain this in his book ‘Start with Why’. When we think about what we fill our days with, what makes us money, do we think about it in terms of what we do, how we do it or why we do it? We get stressed out because we have either not figured out the ‘Why’ or we have and we don’t like it. Without realising we have not engaged our heart in our activities so when they become challenging it stresses us out.

Sounds like a simple solution in principle but how do you figure out the ‘Why’? For most of us this will be an exercise in post rationalising – we do not have the advantage of being on the edge of a precipice of opportunity looking out at the options available for us and asking what’s next? Most of us are in a job, have a chosen career, have trained in a specific area. So, in this situation we have to assess what we love about our current work, what inspires us, what do we believe in? It is possible that this won’t even be in your job description, for example, bringing a sense of harmony to working environments in the office, if you really love that then even when it is challenged, disheartening does not so easily lead to stress, instead it tends to just spur us on to work harder.

Every time I’m on the way to meet with a client I mutter under my breath “Lord, I pray that I don’t make efficiency the be-all-and-end-all for this person” I do this because I have two conflicting passions in my life: 1. Pure unadulterated efficiency at the expense of all else and 2. Helping people to see that they don’t have to change their personality in order to feel in control of their day-to-day life balance. Being aware that one passion can out-rule the other is an important task for me!

I’d love to hear about other peoples passions and if anyone else finds passions that conflict each other, please leave your comments below.