Lindsay’s In Business: PART 75: Plugging In

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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…

People say that when you’re pioneering a new business idea, the first years are dominated by trying to figure out how what you’ve got fits into the market.  Enquiring, adjusting, repositioning, reconfiguring, testing…

What I find most difficult about that process is that all you’ve got to go on is insights from people with different perspectives and your own experience.  Then having gathered several points of insight, a logic forms and you are convinced that finally, you’ve hit upon THE RIGHT way to plug-in to the market. Your gut tells you that the way you have shaped that logic around what people want MUST be right; that what you have WILL fit the customer need x for reason a, b, c…

After that, you get closer to execution and find MORE insights that contradict / refine / show how what you previous thought wasn’t quite right, after all. Although with these new insights, you are getting closer to the real plug in, circling around like this is confusing.  A question sits staring at me:  how can you trust your gut instinct when you keep being proven wrong?

The answer surely is that you need data.  But no-one’s done any research to answer my specific questions.  I’m not about to embark on a 4-year academic study either.

The little quiet voice in the back of my head that is wisdom tells me that impatience is ruling over my gut and my brain.  I’m so eager to get this out there (I thought it would take 6 months – we’re now 3 years into the process) that my motives – to get this done quickly – are influencing my interpretations and my judgement.

What would it look like if I approached this as if I were a clean sheet of paper?  No expectations, no pre-conceived notions about the process, no desires to have whatever emerges fit my personal timescales?

I would simply let it happen. God I’d like to learn how to do that. I have an inkling on how to go about that….

Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying this journey a lot, I feel safe – like I know if I stick to this path success will happen – in whatever form – but god-damnit I FEEL INESCAPABLY RUSHED!! Why?!

Anyway, here’s how the plugging in process has unfolded over the past months, step by step:

Mirror Mirror is a methodology that helps people in teams get more cognitive and behavioural alignment so they can deliver better together.

Which teams?In companies (in Europe) where there are market innovators with budgets.

In what kind of situations?In complex situations where there is more need for people in teams to align.  Specifically, emergency response teams / safety teams / IT Security teams / teams in post-merger and acquisition environments / teams in need of strategic clarity / teams in need of agile ways of working.

Several weeks of talking to people to test these hypotheses go by

What priorities are you working to – where will you target?Teams in need of agile ways of working.  There’s such a philosophical crossover and there are many agile consultants looking for new tools to support teams outside of IT.  There’s a huge opportunity there.  Feels right!

Many weeks of presenting at agile conferences and events to gauge reactions go by

What was the market reaction?  They’re all interested and say it’s great, but none seem to want to go further or ask about how they can get hold of this.  I don’t know why that is.

More weeks go by enquiring about what’s behind that response.

Did you find out more?  Apparently because Mirror Mirror asks questions about context and behaviour, agile consultants don’t have experience in that space and see it fitting more into HR.   They probably perceive it as being outside of their territory.

What now?I’ll move on to another market area.

Which one?   Teams in the post post-merger and acquisition (M&A) environments because the benefits would have such high value in this context.

Wait.   News in from helpful contact deep into the agile space.  Apparently Agile COACHES have a broader role than consultants and may well want this.  Don’t rule it out.  I chase up a contact from the conference who is running training courses to see what she thinks.  Meantime…

Where will you start with the M&A area?  I’ll contact anyone I know to get advice and do some research.

Several weeks go by as I get appointments and referrals and write to people speculatively.  One of my contacts goes sour as I explain why I think traditional communications promote disengagement, which was a driver to develop Mirror Mirror.  I realise afterwards I effectively told her that her work was meaningless.  Oopsie.

Apart from that, what happened?  Most people said it sounded great. I got a few hours of research done by a freelancer on Upwork who found white papers to say that 23% of M&A failures come down to poor team integration.  I then discovered that the word ‘integration’ isn’t just about people, it’s also about processes etc.  We need to use the phrase ‘cultural integration’.  And overall, talking to people in general, the general feedback is positive.  There’s a lot to gain, there are budgets.  We decide to proactively target this area. Feels right!

So how are you going forward now?  The work we’ve got coming up after the summer will give us a great case study in this area so we can use that to attract attention.

So that’s it? Well, 2 weeks ago I met with a new contact via LinkedIn who manages M&A transactions. He put me in touch with a guy he knows who is very experienced in the integration phase and I had a long call with him the next day (so nice to get accessible advice!).  The news is that while cultural integration is seen as important, it doesn’t tie into the bottom line and practically no meaningful team cultural integration activities take place.  There are no budgets allocated and plenty of HR people with their own tools, ready to swoop. It’s a no-go area.

What do you think about that?To me, it’s no go but it doesn’t mean there’s no opportunity. If deal makers can be convinced of the ROI (return on investment) and see how quick and effective Mirror Mirror is, there would be fertile ground because like I say, we deliver great results and are unique in that. This is about creating the market. I bounced that off against an ex-colleague of mine who I remembered also works in that space. He agreed but said the whole field is laden with political issues as people lose jobs and as others get pay-outs. It’s not top of mind for that reason.

What did you decide?Better to leave this whole area until we can evidence the business benefits with great case studies and come back with clients telling fantastic stories about us as a pull rather than a push.  Back to the drawing board on getting more evidence-based case studies : (

OK – what next?  I just trained up 15 potential delivery agents in 5 countries having developed a free 2.5 hour training.  WOW. Amazing insights. The small consultancies want to buy licenses and our reports service – and would need help with delivery for multiple teams; while there are TONS of experienced freelancers looking for work within our framework (because they’re sick of corporate life). They’re keen to get innovative, effective offerings and be subcontracted to existing projects.   They’ve got what we don’t have – credibility, existing networks and if they use Mirror Mirror, they’re not selling it as their own product. CERTIFICATION IS OUR THE ROUTE TO MARKET!!!!

Now I’m convinced – this feels spot on.  As I look at other HR licensed tools of course they’re doing the same thing.  I can’t be wrong –can I?

Mirror MirrorWe identify and close alignment gaps between people in organizations to improve engagement and performance.

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