Sometimes dates just creep up on you. All of a sudden it’s 1st July 2018. The sun has been shining for what seems like months and for me it’s a milestone – a year since I left the civil service and joined Perago-Wales. Other than knowing I am hugely fortunate to be able to spend these sunny evenings at home in a beautiful part of South Wales, what else have I learnt? Here’s 5 things the last year has taught me.
1. You need a plan, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t quite turn out as you expect!
A year ago I would never have imagined I’d be sat in a building somewhere between Cardiff and Newport watching a team try and beat an Escape Room created to help embed the data protection messages of GDPR. Trust me – that wasn’t part of the plan. But you do need a plan. You need to apply your experience of building strategies and plans to your own business and make sure you have a clear, shared view of what you want to achieve. The route to getting there may not take you in a straight line, but that’s okay, you’ll learn loads, have fun and meet some great people along the way.
2. On the face of it running your own business is a whole new world.
I’ve had to learn about finance and accounting, business models, dealing with late payers, business development and dead ends! But ultimately the skills you already have are transferable and relevant – stakeholder management, political awareness, communications, strategy, commercial awareness. Yes the environment may be different, but chances are you have the skills you need, they just need honing and updating, like any skill you have learnt and need to continue to develop.
3. People are generally kind, generous and want you to succeed
I’ve always believed that, in general, people are good. This has been proved in spades over the last year. Whilst I won’t turn this into a list of thank yous to people who have helped us (hopefully you know who you are, thank you!), I have been quite overwhelmed by how many people have been prepared to give up their time to support us as a new business. Last summer I found myself sat in a stunning location overlooking a tranquil lake surrounded by greenery and a herd of alpacas. I was at the beautiful home of Sue Hetherington of Waterside Felindre and the home of the Welsh Valley Alpacas. I’d met Sue at a digital health event and she had offered her time to us to help us think through our business planning and offer. I hope that I will have the opportunity to give back that same support to others in due course.
4. Stay connected
I think I took for granted the ready made network 20+ years in the civil service and membership of the Government Communication Service gives you. Leaving that environment I needed to maintain and build my networks. Staying connected helps you continue to learn, both through formal learning and through sharing your time and thoughts with others and, more importantly, learning from them. I am lucky that for me the networks are out there and have been easy to access. Comms networks such as CIPR Cymru, the Institute of Internal Communications and the network built up via the team at comms2point0 have continued to provide me with excellent learning and sharing opportunities. I have also found myself camping in a field in Dorset with the CommsUnplugged team, talking digital in Wales at DigiTuesday, presenting to Community Housing Cymru’s annual conference on digital transformation and spending a Saturday surrounded by Internal Comms professionals at the Big Yak run by The IC Crowd. The networks are out there, make the effort to stay connected.
5. The hardest thing is making the decision to jump
Years ago when making a career choice someone said to me ‘Well done, you’ve done the hardest thing and made the decision to jump, now dive right in and enjoy the splash’. He was right and never has that been truer than over this last year. I really have enjoyed the splash. It’s been challenging, perplexing and slightly scary at times, but I have enjoyed every second of it. I’ve learnt loads of new things and had a great time being part of something with brilliant people who often drive me mad, but make me laugh every day.