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Five hard lessons I’ve learned from my first year in business. (The last one may shock you.)

Kick off your best house slippers and crack open the bubbly, because we’re celebrating one whole year of 1850. That’s three-hundred-and-sixty-six days (thank you, leap year) of providing HR support, business improvement and project management.

I think we can all agree that 2020 was the ideal year to grow a business… (yeah, right.) When I launched in September 2019, there was no way anyone could know what lay ahead. But here I am, alive and kicking, and grateful for all the clients and friends we’ve made in the last year.

Here are five hard lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Building relationships is key

‘Networking’ is awful. Building supportive, meaningful relationships is brilliant — both for your business, and for you as a business owner.

LinkedIn has been a surprising source of support and connection with lots of wonderful people, and many of them have become genuine friends. I’m also very grateful to the Business Network Chester for the business connections I’ve made that have helped to grow my business. 

You need to be comfortable with who you are

Leading a service business like 1850 means I need to be open to sharing about myself — through blogs, social and video. Contacts and clients want to know more about me, to build trust and assurance.

I was confident about the skills and experience I had to help businesses thrive. But I had to learn to be confident in sharing more of myself online. I overcame my initial reluctance, and I’m so glad I did! 

I’m super grateful to Chris Williams for helping me through this process, because it’s changed my business for the better.

Target mindset > target market

You all know the drill. Early on in business planning you need to establish your ‘target market’ — the people and industries that are going to benefit from your services. “We’re going to target SMEs in the Chester area…”

What I realised early on with 1850 is that our ideal customers don’t come from a single area, or from one particular sector. What I discovered was that I was aiming for a target mindset. The businesses we wanted to work with, and the ones we could help the most, were the ones who aligned with a way of thinking, of having strong company values and wanting to do right by their people.

Working that out has brought a real freedom in how we find and work with clients.

Patience, patience, patience (and cost planning)

Some recent business books would have you believe you can start out any business with £100 and a can-do attitude. The reality is that launching any business requires patience, patience and more patience — particularly when it comes to cashflow.

I began with a reasonable idea of costs and a forecast for income, but some things took longer than I thought. I realised early on that I’d need to boost our marketing spend and invest in a new website if we were going to see the growth we wanted.

That paid off, and the business grew from there. But if you’re launching a business, make sure you’re prepared to be patient, and able to spend some money upfront.

I don’t want to spend all day with my children

Alright, I said it may shock you. (Although after six months of lockdown, it may not!)

There’s a reason we don’t employ two-year-olds. Work and kids don’t really mix. 

I put my youngest into nursery in order to start 1850. It was the right decision. He has a whale of a time, socialising, eating breadsticks, making those handprint paintings (seriously, where are parents supposed to put all of those?!). And I get to follow my dream, and help other business owners to follow theirs.

While I’m making confessions, here’s another: I was never going to be happy and satisfied as a full-time stay-at-home mum. Some people are, and that’s brilliant! But for me I’m so happy I could get over any parental guilt or expectation, and make the decision to do what I love.

Thanks!

Thanks to everyone who’s worked with 1850, supported me, got in touch, read our blogs and followed our socials over the last year. Here’s to the next one!

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