What happens when you realise your path is entrepreneurship rather than employment? Lindsay takes up the challenge and shares an account of her journey as it unfolds…
I consider that work to set up the Mirror Mirror business began properly in September 2016.
And now here we are. Eight months later. All set up … and a first client.
You might read that and think – ok great, you’re on your way.
But I have more of a need to move the business forwards, than I have patience. After the high of knowing we had lift off with that first sale, I’m back to an uneasy discomfort. Although I have worked out how to sustain myself and my family financially for another 12 months (by spending as little as possible, using money that should be used to reduce borrowings, and emptying the savings pot), I want faster progress. I need this business to generate a good and growing income BEFORE 12 months is up.
Taking stock, I looked at what had happened since September:
- Recruited 5 contributors as a core team
- Actualised the concept into a workable process
- Completed the Alpha feedback phase (getting expert feedback on the process)
- Managed the development of software to produce data visualisations
- Developed a brand and marketing collateral, and created a digital footprint
- Started sales and business development efforts
- Started discussing possible validation / improvement activities with Universities
- Got a sale with our first client.
The most time-consuming activity is business development: finding clients, or people who could themselves find clients (agents) – and it is way tougher than I thought it would be. I don’t have my own strong, active, and relevant network – and it’s a very competitive market, especially in London where most of my leads seem to be located.
I’m told this phase of getting a business off the ground is the most difficult part. We can’t show an array of case studies to prove the concept works, and we’re asking people to take valuable business time to test it for us. But it’s a GOOD, SOLID IDEA!
The idea of involving teamwork and leadership development company, the 3 Minute Mile, at the outset was to be able to access a ready and relevant client list. And in return, they’d be my preferred supplier – i.e. any work that I brought in would be passed across to them as default providers. But why hadn’t that worked out yet? The one client we now had was generated by me.
If I reflect on what the 3 Minute Mile has been saying to me, I have to admit that I haven’t really been listening. They have sent repeated signals that they don’t have the capacity to get closely involved, and that they didn’t realise I was looking for a collaboration as intense as this.
But in being simply ‘on side’, they’ve added credibility to my story: I’ve been able to say that I’ve got a team of experienced delivery partners on hand. They’ve contributed sales approach ideas and contacts to the business breakfast that we held, which generated useful feedback and a base level of awareness. And for just these benefits alone, I’m lucky to have had them in the loop. But indeed, they don’t have the time or perhaps as much opportunity as I need, to go get sales.
Meantime, I have been finding it difficult to get other ‘agents’ on board because at the moment, I am simply asking them to sell and deliver Mirror Mirror. I’m not able to say that I’ll bring new clients to the table, because I already have a ‘preferred supplier’.
In the back of my mind I was wondering how ‘agents’ were going to play out on this front. I’ll have literally anyone delivering Mirror Mirror if they can sell it – is that right?
That wasn’t the idea AT ALL. I need the BEST people to deliver Mirror Mirror. And how was I going to give scattered individual agents the support they’d need from me in order to sell and deliver brilliantly? Difficult.
As part of my business development work, I’d stumbled across a few small consultancies and had already made some in-roads to catch their interest. A reputation management consultancy, a change management consultancy and a couple of recruitment consultancies.
Mirror Mirror is good for 4 things:
- Teams in change – helping to move them from A to B
- Stakeholder engagement / communications within and between teams
- New leader / virtual teaming for speedy onboarding and familiarisation
- And teamwork or leadership development
What if I had 4 preferred suppliers – one in each of these areas? They wouldn’t be competing with each other and the client’s need would dictate which ‘preferred supplier’ got the business I’d generate.
I’d call them ‘partners’. That would certainly cast the net wider and make the delivery quality easier to manage. And I already have the 3 Minute Mile as the teamwork and leadership development consultancy. But what would their reaction be to all this? Moving from the exclusive preferred supplier to one of four…
Of course, at this stage, the notion of ‘preferred suppliers’ is rather academic because, as yet, I’ve only generated one sale. But it’s the intention. I fully intended to source more sales over the coming 12 – 36 months with more marketing and business development activities. I’d have to secure the interest of partners to this idea by appealing to their ambition, their imagination, their sense of adventure…
And as if the universe agreed, that same day I got emails back from two consultancies I had just started talking with, one in change management and one in communications, both agreeing to next meetings. Then, I arranged an appointment with the 3 Minute Mile around the same time to explain this plan to them.
It’s all happening at the end of next week. I feel quite optimistic that the 3 Minute Mile might be relieved to have the pressure off, actually. Will let you know how it goes.
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