In May Janine asked me if I would come and talk at her networking group. I jumped at the chance. The subject was one which was really close to my heart, change and evolution in business.
I love talking to women about business and could literally go on forever, so I decided to be prepared and make notes! Whilst doing this, I realised that I was actually talking about myself more than I was the business. I am a sole trader, so any evolution or changes in me are most likely going to affect my business.
Leaving the corporate world!
The first evolution for me was becoming self-employed.
Before meeting Suzi (the owner of The Smart Bear) I had no intention of ever setting up a business. I often joke with people that I’d never watched Dragon’s Den or The Apprentice. I had no idea about business, or any inclination to be a business owner! Initially my business was literally just set up to invoice my web design time for Suzi. I had the grand idea that I was going to spend part of my time contracting based on my previous life as a technical analyst for an IT company. I also wanted to do some garden design work on the side too. Very quickly both of these ideas were shelved. Although I could have earned a lot of cash, I had no intention of keeping one foot in a past that I had no desire to be in. I also quickly realised there are not enough hours in the day for all my ideas!
The next evolution was my education. I’ve spent the last couple of years basically immersing myself in education. I’ve got a teaching qualification and a digital marketing diploma under my belt. I also spend a large number of hours per week keeping up to date with the ever changing world of social media and technology. New algorithm anyone?
Speaking of social media, that was another thing on my list of things that have evolved over time. I decided that I wanted to be a social media manager. I liked the idea of being able to offer more to our clients. But, again this was something which I ended up changing.
At The Smart Bear, we believe in empowering people. For me, taking over someone’s social feed was not empowering. It was part of the reason for the teaching qualification. I shifted direction again towards a more mentoring route. This allows me to help people get over their blocks about using social media for business. It’s something a lot of small business owners struggle with. We are often told how we should do things by all manner of ‘experts’. However these experts have no idea what your business is like, or how you work. Training and mentoring allows me the chance to understand the client; and as such their business. They get a much better and happier experience!
Looking after me!
I make no attempt to hide the fact that I have had issues with my mental health for around 30 years. Perhaps the biggest change in my business has been around me finally getting some clarity on my mental health and how I can look after it. I suffer with stress and anxiety, not to mention depression. That was made worse in my previous role, to the point of burnout. Leaving the situation that caused the stress helped, but didn’t resolve the feelings. I have worked hard to get myself to a place where I am not overly anxious about things. Hypnotherapy was the key for me. This is perhaps the biggest change of all!
Adapting in business
The final evolution (for now) is that I re-branded my business from Hoff-IT to The Smart Bear Content. A lot of our customers were slightly confused at the relationship of my business to The Smart Bear. If I am honest, I was too! I had no idea who I was half of the time. It created complexity which did not need to be there. In April I decided that a re-brand was the way to go. It makes the connection seamless to the clients. Whilst nothing has changed for Suzi and I. It means that we align better with our customer needs too. We now offer content creation services, via ourselves and our fantastic associates. We’ve evolved the businesses together to become a digital agency, but without the hefty price tag. We can give our customers the services they need, with the care and attention of a small business.
One thing that I have learned, is that everyone who is in business has the same worries and same fears. We, as small business owners, often feel that we cannot cope with all the hats that we need to wear. I would encourage everyone to look at the change that they can have some influence over. So for example, I can make changes to myself and how I am. I cannot have any influence over the latest changes on Facebook! If you’re struggling with something, just reach out. Janine has a wonderful women in business community on Facebook where there is always someone who can help out.
If you need help with building your website, SEO and marketing, then you can contact Suzi or Sarah from The Smart Bear via one of the links below –
If you’re a Trafford based woman in business, you can join the Facebook group Sarah mentions in her blog here.