The Road to Damascus is a metaphor for those light bulb moments we all have at some point in our lives. Settle down for the story.
Saul, who persecuted Christians, was on the way to Damascus when a light from heaven flashed around him and a voice spoke to him asking why he was persecuting him. Saul sensibly asked, “Who are you?” The voice answered, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Get up and enter the city and you will be told what to do.” When Saul got up he was blind, entered the city and met Ananias, a disciple of Jesus. Ananias laid his hands on Saul, the scales fell from Saul’s eyes and his sight was restored. The rest, as they say, is history. Saul was baptised, became Paul and spread the gospel. And eventually became Saint Paul.
After 8 years running my company the scales have fallen from my eyes and I have reinvented my business. My decision was not a road to Damascus moment but a gradual process over a couple of years. But there were a few Road to Damascus moments along the way.
But back to the beginning.
When I set up in 2008 I made the (foolish!) assumption that 30 years in retail in Ireland, Europe and the UK and working at a senior level for major retailers would equip me to run a really successful retail consultancy business. The transition from being employed by big corporates to being self-employed was huge, exciting, lonely, scary and ultimately very satisfying. I set up during the recession, survived that, and put two children through college at the same time, with a third at second level. This was achieved through a mixture of very hard work and endless resourcefulness and resilience.
But there was always this voice in my head saying,” Have you got this right, why is this so hard!” As I worked with clients advising them on the basics of running their business, I asked questions like:
- Who are your customers?
- Where do they currently buy the product/service you are selling?
- Who are your competitors?
- What size is the market for your product/service?
- Have you clearly defined your product/service?
The light bulb eventually went off in my head that I needed to apply these same questions – and a lot more – to my own business. So the process began, in a very stop/start faltering way.
It started with trying to develop a business development programme for retailers. This idea came about as I realised that there were a lot of common issues in the work I was doing with clients. Retailers are time poor as they work long and unsocial hours, so this would be a way of reaching more potential clients. As this was happening I was also running my business and my life – yes I do have one!
The programme started as Retail Recovery during the tail end of the recession and morphed into Retail Renewal. As I worked on this I realised that the undertaking was far bigger than I ever imagined. I ricocheted from trying to make it all to happen yesterday to thinking that I would never get there and that it would take years.
Last June I joined a Mastermind group along with five other Enterprising Women from the network group of the same name. This group of like-minded and dynamic women has contributed significantly to my journey to Damascus. It provided a space where I was held accountable for where I was taking my business. Not only that but it gave me a forum to be able to voice my greatest fears in a safe and supportive environment. It took away a lot of the loneliness of the self-employed world. We realised that despite the fact that we all ran very different businesses, we all had similar difficulties and challenges. And we challenged each other, there was nowhere to hide in those monthly meetings!
So the last six months has been a rollercoaster of emotions about me and my business. But here I am on the verge of a relaunch. So what have I learned over the past 6 months? Here’s a list which is not necessarily comprehensive but I hope captures the essence of the journey.
- Start back at the beginning, look at the very fundamentals of the business.
I worked on a Vision, Mission and Values statement that got back to the fundamentals of what I want to do, why and how. This took a while and is now distilled into half a sheet of paper. This is for my benefit, although the Vision appears on the About page of my new website.
- This process helped me to change my perspective. Instead of the business being about me and how wonderful and expert I am, I realised it had to be about the clients and the solutions I was offering. This sounds obvious and what we all say we do, but is not often reflected in how we go about our businesses. If I go back to my beginning in the business it was about me and how my expertise had to be marketable. Wrong! The expertise has to be a given (but tangible and justified) and it’s about identifying the client problem and offering a solution.
- What’s in a name? What seemed the right name 8 years ago is not necessarily appropriate now. My fellow Masterminds encouraged me to go with Retail Renewal as a new business name. After some thought and some research I decided to go with that. I registered the business name and bought the .ie and .com domain names immediately, and got the twitter handle and facebook page set up as Retail Renewal.
- I researched my competitors in Ireland but looked at what retail consultants were offering internationally. This was really interesting and I realised how important this is in keeping your business relevant to your market. And I got some great ideas and inspiration.
- A good website that is mobile friendly is the core tool of your business. Social media, marketing and networking are all important but you need a good central information resource about your business.
- Content is king. Flashy all singing, all dancing websites look lovely but it must communicate the essentials well and establish your credentials in your field.
- You can’t do it on your own. You need good supportive people around you to bounce off ideas and test out the fruits of your labours. People who will challenge your assumptions and not always agree with what you’ve come up with. “Sure it’s grand!” is not helpful.
- It’s all really hard! And it takes time and much more time than you ever imagine.
So this is the first monthly blog to celebrate my relaunch. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it and hopefully learnt something from my journey. You can sign up to my newsletter on the footer of the website to get each monthly blog a few days before it goes live to the world. The newsletter will also include the latest snippets of retail news and anything else I find of interest.