This post has been inspired by the fact that the first 2 weeks in June 2013 is Make a Noise in Libraries (MANIL) Fortnight which is an annual campaign to bring public libraries and blind and partially sighted people together to improve access to books and information.
Eileen Finch is a grandmother who could not find any books on the market that were suitable for her to share with her grandchildren. She decided to create her own children’s books in a unique format – giant print with Braille and illustrations. If you want to see the range of books she has published then go to her website access2books where you can also buy the books yourself. You could also ask your local library if they have them in stock – and if they don’t suggest that they so. The list of libraries that currently stock the books can be found here.
So why have I put this into my management musings blog? It is because the journey that Elaine went through is one that anyone with a passion and an idea can follow to make a change they believe in, or to create a new business.
The key things that Elaine did were to:
Identify a gap/ need
Research the potential solutions and current provision.
Obtain an IP Publishing licence
Negotiate with publishers to use 30 popular UK books
Painstakingly redesign the books into a format which is more accessible and shareable for people with a visual impairment.
Work out a way of printing and binding the finished work into a book format. The type of paper and binding used were particular problems. In the end she had to design and make her own binding equipment.
Find funding to keep the project going
Find outlets to access the mainstream library market – Peter’s Children’s books of Birmingham helped by ordering a set based on the prototype.
Create a business format to procedure and market the books – in this case a Community Interest Project.
The books look brilliant and having Braille as well as large print and pictures widens the range of people who can use them- have a look for yourself.
This is an impressive story of determination and persistence that we can all learn from, in particular:
Focus on the final outcome when things get difficult
If you cannot find the solution you need then create them
The road to success is not easy, but if your dream is big enough, and your desire is strong enough you will succeed.
As I was developing new businesses from a standing start I knew that I would be very lucky to get good, or even any, financial returns from the start. It was important, therefore, for me to measure what I was doing for my businesses each day so that I knew that I was moving them forward while developing a regular income stream.
This is a very different way of planning to the planning that I used to do in a local authority. There I would have plans with clear outcomes and which were SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. I have planned my outcomes for my new businesses, but the timing of them is difficult when I am still establishing myself, and how do I know if they are realistic? I have managed this by giving myself activity goals for every day – as I can measure the achievement of these which will help me to get a momentum going.mIt will also help me to review my successes by tracking them back to these activities to help improve my planning in the future. For example how many contacts did I have to make before I got a meeting, how many meetings before I got business? It is helping me to cope with the process as I am developing an understanding of how many ‘no’s’ or none responses I need to go through to get a ‘yes’.
How do I know what outcomes I should set myself?
I have talked to others who have gone through the same process and they have given me an idea of which activities I need to do, and for how long, before I start to see the desired outcomes that I want from my businesses. I have talked to as many people as I can as each person will have had a different experience, and mine will be different again. I am getting ideas that I will adapt and develop to suit me, although the information about how long it can take for business to develop has helped me to manage my expectations. Their experience is only an indicator about what could happen not an exact road map for my businesses.
The processes I have heard about so far are:
I need to develop a presence in the areas where people looking for my kind of businesses congregate – either online or face to face,
the number of calls I need to make to prospects, or contacts with prospective commissioners before I am successful
the type of information I need to have prepared when a prospect does respond positively.
I have also found it useful to look at the websites of others who have gone before me, and at their linked-in pages or any other online sites they have to see who they are linking to and the groups they are active in and then I join the groups I feel will be relevant to me as well. I have also read as many of the books that have been recommended to me as I can.
Two months into this process I am feeling very positive about what the future holds for me even though my businesses are in the early stages of development because of the information I have gained.
What has your journey been when you have made a career change?
I would be interested to hear your advice to people setting up their new businesses as we can always learn from others.
In my previous post Feel the Fear and do it anyway I explained about the big step I had made in deciding to take redundancy and try out a completely new way of living. I have worked in local authorities for over 30 years – and without a break for just over 26 years so this is a really big life change for me.
I decided that I did not want to focus on a single career any more, but that I would like to develop a portfolio to make sure I did not have all of my eggs in one basket. This was even more important as I was not going to have a regular pay cheque to rely on and would have to rely in the vagaries of the market – and my ability to market my own businesses.
Why did I chose the 2 businesses that I am now developing?
I chose them because they both build on my core values of helping other people to improve themselves and my desire to get back to working directly with, and helping, people. I also wanted to continue to use and develop the skills I have developed throughout my professional life as I had worked hard to learn and apply them and still have a lot to give back to all of the professions I embrace.
When developing new businesses from a standing start it is important to realise that you will be very lucky if you get good, or even any, financial returns from the start. It is important, though, to measure what you are doing for your businesses each day so that you know you are moving them forward a little bit. This is a very different way of planning to that I used to do in a local authority. There I would have plans with clear outcomes and which were SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed. When starting a new business you also need clear outcomes, but the timing of them is difficult when you are still establishing yourself, and how do you know if they are realistic? Instead it is important to give yourself activity goals for every day – as you can measure your achievement if these and the more effective and positive activity you do the more likely it is your business venture will be successful.
How do you know what activity goals you need to set?
By talking to others who have gone through the same process and who can give you an idea of which activities you need to do, and for how long, before you start to see the desired outcomes that you want from your business. This can include developing a presence in the areas where people looking for your kind of business congregate – either online or face to face, the number of calls you need to make to prospects, the type of information you need to have prepared when a prospect does respond positively.
I cannot tell you yet if I have made the right choice – come back and see me again in December to see how I am doing with my 2 businesses Kate Millin Consulting and KMC Forever.
Thinking like an entrepreneur is a skill that is not obvious in those managers working in public services. In fact it is sometimes seen as the wrong thing to aspire to. I, however, disagree. I think there is a lot of the entrepreneur in those public service managers who manage to develop their services effectively especially in these time of tight or nearly non existent budgets.
I have been inspired to write this post having seen the list in this blog by Reference notes – just the list on the summary is enough to challenge me.
how many of you as managers have the confidence to let people have a go and fail?
when a member of your staff, or a customer comes to you with a suggestion is your first reaction ‘it won’t work?
can you really say that you are interested in trying something new or are you too tied up in coping with the now?
I have given myself the challenge to respond to future suggestions I have presented or sent to me with ‘that sounds like something I would like to develop/or would like you to develop. What do you need from me to help you’. I challenge you to do the same and see what happens.
My prediction is that you will end up with some interesting projects happening, staff and/or customers who feel listened to and appreciated. You will also feel more inspired. And maybe, just maybe, one of those seemingly off the wall ideas will become the thing that finally makes someone you have been trying to convince about the importance of what you are doing finally understand.