Well its been 6 months ish…the allotted time we allowed ourselves to build, promote and get going with our business….but what has the journey been like………?
…..all of the above, which wasn’t unexpected but what was surprising was the excessive peaks and troughs in these periods, I can only put this down to how much we care about making Black Penny a success and genuinely doing the best we can for our clients.
From the very first meeting we managed to land, to writing this blog, the journey has been paved with opportunities to learn. We have gained insights on our approach, the new markets we have worked in and even how we work together as a partnership. The one thing we agreed up front with regards to engagements was the learn from them. As expected, we have lost opportunities, won opportunities, told we were approaching things wrong etc… but every time, we have taken something positive and developed as a business. I suppose my wisdom nugget here is, always see the learning opportunity in everything you do, you will never be the finished article!
So what did we do right from the outset….?
Activity, activity, activity. If any profession sets you up for running your own business, it Sales! and the mantra that “You get out what you put in!”. This couldn’t be truer, every day is a new opportunity to broaden our network and credibility, after all, we are simply us and what we do! I approach each day with the professionalism and structure I would have when employed, if not more. This even comes down to washing and dressing on the days I am working from home!
Knowing what we are not was very important to us, we recognise that the portfolio we specialise in could be 3 times broader, but we need to be refined, we need to have good repeatable stories to tell and we need to be referenceable (not a real word but you know what I mean!). By concentrating on what we don’t do and avoiding the opportunities that would rabbit hole us, we have managed to define a really succinct portfolio where we can add value to the strategic CIO and his journey through transformation (we think so anyway!)
Build a network of credible partners that not only offer augmented services over and above your own, but also expand your sales footprint, their conversations need to happen with you top of mind, you never know who needs what and in what conversations this will come up!
The magic 6 months was an expression I have heard from many a trusted friend, ex-colleague, new client or even my dad! This was regarding how long it would take for the activity to start paying off, if you can survive this then you have a shot at making it. This astonished me as pretty much to the day the pipeline exploded, and we were able to forward forecast past 2 projects.
Investing in the brand was something we realised we needed to do, at the end of the day our outward persona is an extension of us and how we want to be received. But don’t be afraid to let fate play its part, after all we could have been named “SS Consulting” if it wasn’t for a chance session in a coffee shop named the “Black Penny”.
Where next? That’s a good question and it has many answers. The key for us is maintaining the high level of activity and keeping a healthy pipeline of opportunity. Expansion is a possibility and probably through an Associate Director model or Partners with disciplines we don’t possess, namely Sales Strategy or HR. But above all, we need to still love what were doing, we have a bi-annual business planning session (there has only been 1 so far!) and the first agenda item is answering the question if we still feel the same about our chosen career path.
The only regret I have is that I didn’t do this sooner, but this wasn’t possible. I personally wasn’t ready and hadn’t met the right partner, this was important to me, I didn’t need an equal, I needed someone who would challenge me and stop me giving away stuff for free😊. The benefit of 2 minds really helps for a truly balanced viewpoint, it also helps to drive you on personally and keep going during the lows!
Final thought from me is to anyone feeling they have something to offer the business community with an idea, a niche or simply using your experiences to help others….do it!
A thank you from the team at Black Penny to everybody that has helped us get to where we are, this includes, clients, ex-colleagues, associate partners, family and friends!