The second session for the EMERGE cohort took place a few weeks ago - and here's some of the key points that came up with our speakers.
Having considered the need for a business vision and for a support structure to empower you to achieve that vision, week 2 saw an emphasis on planning.
There were two main areas of focus: planning your time day to day in order to be effective and balancing those day to day concerns with planning the activity that will bring you closer to your ultimate vision.
Both great fans of planning - they spoke of different approaches to building and starting their business. Nadia was made redundant from her role while on maternity leave. "I got the letter and I started my business that afternoon." Jon wanted to move away from his enjoyable role as a trainer in a large retail company. He liked his job but ultimately knew he wanted something else. "I decided that I would be in my new business by the time I was 40 -which was 6 1/2 years away!
The two approaches also meant that the businesses were grown in different ways: Nadia built her own website and invested the profits from her initial sales in further marketing initiatives. She had premises and ran workshops. Jon continued to earn a wage - decreasing his hours from 5 days a week, to 4 and then 3. But in this time he was able to fund the extensive training that he needed in upholstery skills, he paid a designer to build his branding and website, he had time to grow his client base before "taking the leap" to full time freelance work.
Then in the afternoon - we looked at approaches to planning: including the SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and PESTLE.
PESTLE is simply a mnemonic for areas of life that may have a bearing on your business, or the products or services you might offer and stands for the following words:
P = Political (the obvious things like general elections, but also laws, regulations and local government)
E = Economic (obvious things like how the cuts might affect arts organisations (and their supply chains) to what people spend disposable income on and exchange rates)
S = Social (the trends in behaviour, buying patterns and interests)
T = Technological (advances in technology – who knew, when we first got mobile phones, that we needed a camera in it, let alone that we now want one with at least 2 million pixels)
L = Legal (changes to the law or regulation that might open up new markets or close other ones)
E = Environmental (not just global warming – though that’s a part of it – but also the trading environment or competitive environment)
How might that work? For example – take the change in legislation that banned smoking in shops, restaurants in bars… what were the markets that were created by that change? Well, sign makers and writers had a big surge of income as part of the legislation was the mandatory display of “No Smoking” signs in a specific format. The makers of cigarette machines had to think about alternative income generation opportunities as pubs moved them out of their premises. Makers of bus shelters spotted a new opportunity to create “smoking shelters” for a variety of buildings.
When you take each letter and speculate as to how the area it represents may create an opportunity for your business, or provide a threat or challenge that you need to anticipate, you have a powerful framework for planning.