Reflecting on the first year of Customer First Digital
Posted on 4th March 2021 at 18:43
When I decided to leave my role of almost sixteen years in December 2019, I was filled with an equal amount of excitement and nervousness, knowing that I was leaving the security of a long-term career and a strong network of colleagues, to attempt to deliver on a dream.
The well-known saying of timing is everything is often true, however this wasn’t what I first thought 12 months ago. I felt I may have got my timing totally wrong back in March, when I launched Customer First Digital at the start of the pandemic. If I had known that we would have gone into lockdown, ten days after launching, I may have delayed my decision.
As I now approach the end of the first year, I wanted to take the time to reflect on what I have learnt, which may help other start-ups on their journey, on what has been one of the best decisions of my life.
Have a clear plan … but don’t expect things to go to plan
In January and February last year, I worked on the mission, vision and values of the business along with the proposition and 12-month financial plan. I had no client pipeline at this time and I didn’t know when I would start working on my first client. However, I developed a clear plan and set of targets related to the type of client, size of project and my approach to acquiring new clients and the costs to run the business. The end result did look slightly different to what I had first planned, as I never had Covid factored into the plan, however having the plan allowed me to reflect on whether I was on track to deliver my goals, in addition to any changes I needed to make.
One bad day, doesn’t make a bad business
We all have good days and bad days, both professionally and personally. Having being used to having a team around me, I have reflected that gaining perspective was often easier from having this support network around me. When you first launch a business, whether you are a force of one or you have a full team around you, remember not to panic or get lost in the detail and look at the bigger picture. I have found regularly asked myself ...
Are your clients happy with the service you are delivering?
Is what you are providing making a difference to them?
Are you living by the values and achieving your targets and objectives?
Understanding the answers to these will give you the confidence needed, even on those days which don’t quite go to plan.
Ensure you develop a strong network of partners
When preparing to launch, I made a conscious decision to build up a strong partner network, letting my existing network know of my plans and discussing how we could work together. Such a network has been invaluable, helping to validate my thoughts, approaches and give me the encouragement I needed. Not only have I spent time developing my network with existing contacts, I have developed relationships with many new partners over the past year. Such partners are now working with me to solve client problems and develop solutions, which are naturally not part of my skillset. What I would call a win-win-win for everyone concerned
You will definitely learn at least one new thing every day
After sixteen years in digital and in a senior leadership role, I felt like I had seen it all and I had not much else to learn. How incorrect could I have been. How to successfully operate your business has been a massive eye opener for me. Although I previously had the exposure to financial planning, including managing my P&L’s and managing client invoicing, I have learnt so much on the financial considerations from running my own business. I have also been lucky to work with clients who have treated me as part of their team and who have been open in sharing plans and decisions they are making. Working with these clients more closely in areas that I had not been exposed to in my previous role, has helped to develop my business knowledge and decision making skills.
Treat your clients and partners as you would treat your family
When I launched the business, I created five values which I have always believed in, both in my professional and personal life.
Passion – we are as passionate about our client’s performance, as we are our own
Challenge – we test new approaches and challenge the status quo
Trust – you can trust us to deliver on everything we promise
Growth – we always think one step ahead, continuously looking to future proof your business
Respect – we treat our clients and partners with the same respect as we treat our family
Although all of them are important, the standout one for me over the first year has been ‘respect’. Even at the busiest of times, I have made sure that I have provided positive and constructive feedback to everyone I work with and to make the time to say thank you. This ethos has definitely helped me develop new relationships over the past year. On reflection, the respect word is clearly mutual, with most of my new business coming via people who I have worked with in the past and whom respect the way I work.
What would I recommend ...
My advice is simple. If you are considering taking your destiny into your own hands and start your own business, don’t deliberate and hesitate. As long as you have an idea which you believe in and you see a gap in the market for your idea, make it happen. I am not looking back, I am looking forward to year two and beyond now.
If anyone reading this is thinking about launching a business and would like to share your plans, you are more than welcome to get in touch. I would love to help and mentor someone looking to make the step.
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