Diary of a startup: Prune & Reflect … part 2

Well continuing the pruning theme, I’ve finally shifted and streamlined my paper mountain! – the skip has now been removed – and re-emerged blinking into a brave new and leaner world – slightly scary actually. Now it’s time to sit down and see with new clarity if my business is still on track after its first half year. Am I staying true to my core proposition and does anything need pruning here?

I have struggled, as so many new business start-ups do, with keeping the focus on my core business proposition. You do start with a clear business plan – or at least in your head – but, if you are not ruthless in terms of time management of differently prioritised activities – and as I have said before there are better experts on this site on time management so I won’t dwell unduly here – and your key areas of focus and target client market, and confident to stick to your guns, you can find it all slipping away… As famously coined, “if you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there…”

One key problem is planning for the appropriate mix of client work – and bringing this – and believing that it will come – on stream quickly enough to pay the bills and the mortgage etc and undertaking the right kind of networking and business development, coaching so that we build the future business I’m am actually striving for….

It’s also a good time to reflect on how long things actually take to do – something I’m hopeless at or unrealistically optimistic about, as I look misty eyed at my business rainbow and what I want to achieve – and the balance to be struck – what balance I hear you say!? – between your working life and home life and outside interests.

Indeed, at times this Summer, I have felt I was working in a sweat shop – where I was employer and slave alike – neither state brought any consolation. It was laughable actually – my corporate friends were emailing me bemoaning my ability to sunbathe on the odd hot day we did get (I think!) – that is, those that remembered me as I found my social networking had necessarily been curtailed and subjugated to a poor second in favour of business networking at both ends of the day. Even with these sacrifices, my corporate candle really was burning out! The reality was I was typing away furiously on multiple client assignments too busy to reply or read their stupid joke emails. It amazes me how much time some people have on their hands! I guess it’s the difference between when it’s someone else’s money you are spending or wasting, and when you are a small cog in a big impersonal corporate wheel to when you are striving to create your own livelihood which can sustain you and your family.

I guess I realised at this point too that it was very important to be sensitised to money – and certainly as a way of a reality check or wakeup call. I stuck up Show me the money signs NOW £££££!!!! If I had been misty eyed at the outset, this wasn’t a time to look back through rose tinted glasses. Straight, simple questions and a brutal assessment. Was I doing the right kind of activities – how-ever well-meaning, ethically based or interesting those might be, as well as the “right kind of activities” that would still pay a living!

At the beginning…part of the problem was the temptation to seize immediate opportunities which I thought complimented my business – pr – and which I thought would spur growth or rightly much needed local visibility. However, on reflection, some of these developmental (and yes typically unpaid) activities aside from the basic and expected marketing efforts, turned out to be quite costly in terms of time expended – which, let’s face it, for the majority of us is our primary and sole human resource and much corer to other business people’s their proposition than mine!

I guess it’s a sign of business maturity that I have now started to appraise propositions much more carefully and manage the expectation of others appropriately from the start, retain a clear, confident focus about the target market you are after and stick to client and marketing activities and that will reach this goal soonest whilst literally keeping the roof over your head. Your business colleagues and networking associates will respect you far more for it. The credit crunch has made us all tighten our belts and that necessarily means we must re-visit the basic business premise of our business and not stretch ourselves outside this remit.

On a more positive note though, if anyone has the business proposition, drive and verve to buck the credit crunch and wholesale doom and gloom of corporate Britain today – as on a near daily basis large safe as and untouchable “household” names fall by the wayside – we are in extraordinary times after all – note it’s female entrepreneurs that are bucking the trend as this week’s exciting inaugural event for Women Unlimited “Realising your potential as a woman entrepreneur” testified. Never before have the soft and all rounded skills of women, who have been straight jacketed and sometimes barred entry in the corporate world been more needed or already yielding a positive and much needed fill up to Recovery Britain as well as paving all our business paths in gold!

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