My working title for this piece was “Third year lucky”. But that would suggest I had failed in my first two years, so it was ditched. Luck does not come into it. To suggest that someone has got lucky in business undermines what is often just very hard background slog for a seeming eternity before the visible lucky break happens.
Responding well to (the right) opportunities that present themselves can often look like luck to outsiders. To do that you need the right mindset and some courage. If I reflect on this year, the success of my business is largely down to healthy doses of the above. But before we get into that, what did I say last year?
As I reviewed what I had written this time last year yet again to me my voice has changed. Make up your own mind here. My look has changed too in more ways than one. A professional branding makeover - but I have also grown out my hair dye to reveal the wisdom strands.
I talked about rejection and saying no, but the positives that come from each. I also touched on boundaries but perhaps still need to work on those some more. Joy resurfaces again this year. Year 3 was as the same as it was different to last year. It is still, after all, early days.
Last year I worked with 7 clients. This year it was 5. On the face of it that may seem like a step backwards. Four of last year’s clients were small engagements needing one-off support. Of the five this year: 2 were repeats, another I worked with twice during the year and I’ve also got bookings for 2022 from that base.
With the new clients I can foster similar relationships with them, and I am now understanding better how the rhythm of this works for my business. When I need to be more visible, and say yes to the steady stream of requests for a chat that I now receive. Knowing when to decline is probably my biggest lesson of the year.
After much angst I played a card that can only be used occasionally and served notice on a client mid-contract. I should have trusted my gut and not accepted the engagement, but I had worked with them before, and it was fine. My mistake was to trust an assurance that the gig was “the same” without asking probing questions.
My fears that it would tarnish my reputation were unfounded which I think is because I handled things professionally - and openly. I did not leave it long before I put word out that I was unexpectedly free and since then I have not stopped until very recently and I have had to turn down many opportunities along the way.
I would do it again if I had to, but more importantly I have put a process in place that should reduce the risk of me getting into that unpalatable pickle again.
I like learning new things and one of the criteria I use to select engagements is whether I will get the opportunity to do that. I tackled 3 sectors that I’ve not worked in before. Including start ups which was super cool for someone of my vintage.
It is no secret that I am happiest hands-on. I sharpened my data handling knives by taking on a processing gig, another job that required a big spreadsheet build and specification an API query and yet another with a research element.
I recently said in a LinkedIn post that “done with you” modelling is more valuable than “done for you” so I was delighted when one of my clients’ analytics team wanted in on the fun. We have begun a journey to them in-housing MMM.
I was also hired in a consulting capacity for my knowledge and expertise. I am not sure that I want this to become a large part of my business, but it does mean that I can pair it with a simultaneous hands-on gig without spreading myself too thinly.
Mixed bag. I pick up new glasses next week after three years without a sight test. This is poor: I work with a screen all day, my father has glaucoma and I qualify for free enhanced checks because of my age. I now must tackle varifocals probably earlier than I would have needed to if I went annually.
I also can go for days without leaving the house, which is not good, but it is a common challenge when running a business from home. With most voluntary commitments still all taking place online my previous opportunities to walk regularly have evaporated and I have failed to replace them. That needs to change.
On the flipside I drink more water during the day and I am flexitarian. One of the reasons that I cut that contract short was a warning that I was very stressed – a flare up of a skin condition. It took months afterwards to heal. I am better at taking notice and acting on physical signals that indicate something is not right.
Last year I mentioned my revenue. That is not my focus, although of course I need it to sustain a living. This year I have been more honest and written about the stability of my business and how well it affords a more fulfilling and healthier life. I predict that keeping it small and uncomplicated will be my next challenge.
2020 was a decade, but 2021 raced by at speed. My year 4 pipeline is already filling up and so I am the most relaxed that I have ever been about my business. Which is fortunate because things are starting to sizzle again on the voluntary front. The sweet but sometimes elusive balance of business around life is recalibrating.
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© Jo Gordon Consulting Ltd 2021