After five years of working for myself in business, I’ve identified some key themes that as I reflect have given me valuable insights and lessons learned! The last 5 years have been a roller coaster and as a business owner I’ve navigated a messy divorce with Europe which I thought would be my biggest hurdle, but clear the path for a global pandemic, I honestly thought the world was out to get me!

I look back at the last 5 years and reflect in the following way:

2019 – The year of what the hell have I done: I started the journey in February 2019 and no one can prepare you for at all for what running your own business is like, we take for granted the luxuries of business plan, objectives, mission and purpose in the corporate world and suddenly your responsible for everything and you’ve never felt more alone! People say surely it’s freedom and great being your own boss? It’s far from it, it’s lonely, it’s scary and you have to work five times harder to keep the lights on because you are the one responsible for keeping them on!

My proposition when I first started was becoming a sales capability partner to contact centres amongst other people, I was being all things to all men and as a result I was all things to no one, I’d really forgotten in those early days who my community was and as a result my message was lost!

Cue a fortuitous meeting with the inimitable Lee Houghton who after a coffee and a chat in the Greater Manchester Chamber Business Lounge helped me seek some clarity and, as his podcast “Business problem solved”, suggests I had a clear vision for FAB!

2020 – The Year the world stopped: As if a divorce with Europe and panic about costs and inflation wasn’t enough, in March of 2020 something happened that no one could have anticipated!! Yes, I’m talking about Covid, when 8.6B people’s lives changed! Now as a business owner new to business furlough for FAB was not an option and bounce back loans seemed to elude me so what to do with myself? It’s safe to say the contact centre industry shook and a large scale move to the cloud ensured with 70% of contact centre hurtling themselves an estimated 5 years into the future then perhaps they expected! What we needed was a community to help share experience!

The Contact Centre Network was born! With its first guests in April 2020 Martin Teasdale, Mike Smith, and my guide and Sherpa Lee Houghton! It’s at this time I really realised how important the contact centre community was to me and how they really round in times of crisis!

2021 – The year of nervous opportunity: As the world slowly opened up again In 2021 so did everyone’s appetite to do something different, list of people were still in a state of flux, rituals, habits and ways of working were still thrown out of the window and lots of contact centres had all the gear and struggled to work out what to do with it!?

Not only that,  but for the first time in years nearly everyone was working from home when we’d said historically it’s not viable for the business, we had a significant chunk now working from the breakfast table. People needed help to navigate this new world and develop new ways of communicating and new ways of working!

There was also a need to get business back on track and to grow, 2021 was our most successful year, the proposition was strong and clear and the client list was growing, I’d realised the benefits of two years of networking and building relationships and I had designs to continue to grow and watching how the BPO market had responded so agile to the Covid pandemic I set my sites on building my own contact centre!

2022 – The year of learning: When is the right time to scale as a business, after the growth I’d seen in the preceding two years it felt like the right time to begin to scale the Proposition and On FAB solutions 3rd Birthday FAB outsourced Solutions was born!

It’s safe to say it was not easy to move from running one business onto bootstrapping a second and this taught me a lot, they say we learn more from our failures then we do our success’s and this one was an even taller and scarier roller coaster then the last one and reinforced the need to make good choices and take decisive action and knowing when to trust your gut!

Persistence however paid and at the sacrifice of my usual Christmas break we got the outsourced business landed and went into 2023 with business on the books!

2023 – The year of growth and collaboration: The last 12 months has seen growth that I couldn’t have imagined, it’s seen me become more confident as a business owner, it’s built up my personal resilience and ability to balance multiple plates, projects and challenges with a calm and collected approach, it’s helped me prioritise and understand what’s important and become bolder in my decision making and ambitions for the business.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not been without its challenges and sacrifices but one thing I’ve learned across the last 5 years is when you get over one hurdle, to grow, you need to be prepared to keep your hurdling shoes on and run straight into the next one with all the learns from the previous one!

I’ve met some fantastic people in the last 12 months forged, new business relationships and nurtured existing ones seeing them finally coming to fruition to create new and exciting propositions!  So, if there were five lessons for five years those lessons would be?

  1. Your Network is Everything: Being Business owner emphasises the importance of connections and relationships in business. Networking isn’t just about meeting new people; it’s about building relationships that can provide support, advice, opportunities, and referrals built on trust and reciprocal relationships, align yourself to people with the same shared values, but surround yourself with people that will elevate your thinking.
  2. Don’t Underestimate Building a Brand, I intentionally set FAB up with the view that it’s a brand, it’s not just me, and as a Micro business brand as business and brand as you personally is crucial, regardless of the size of the business! People buy from people and brand they trust! How your business and you as a business owner are perceived, and the values you represent matters. A strong brand can differentiate you and your business in a crowded market and helps build customer loyalty and credibility.
  3. You Learn More from Failure but Fail Fast: I have failed more than I’ve succeed, learn and appreciate the value in learning from mistakes and the importance of resilience, accept that some people will let you down and that things will inevitably go wrong, but the current state isn’t permanent and there are more people who have your back then want to stab it! I’ve always adopted the idea of “failing fast” and it’s allowed me to learn and adapt quickly, learning from each failure which has led to faster improvements and sweeter tasting success.
  4. Scale with caution but be bold: Do your due diligence and take caution, I spent more money than I should in the early days and people will help you spend your money so watch what you spend and who you spend it with, but don’t let that scare you from investing in what you think is right. Finding yourself a trusted soundboard and share ideas and thoughts with them and build your own barometer for what’s right and trust your gut more.  In business, it’s crucial to do your homework and understand the motivations of others and be aware that things might not always be straightforward and don’t be afraid to take the long way round, sometimes we need to go slow to go faster in the future.
  5. If You Believe in It Enough It Will Happen: They say persistency + Determination + Strategy = Success! I believe this is true and I believe sometime it’s why people don’t stay the course, because it’s hard, many a time I’ve thought of taking up a PAYE role again but I’ve always asked myself the question, why did I start down this path in the first place and it comes back to making a difference, I’ve worked with over 50+ business’ in the last last 5 years and that was having only worked with ¾ in the previous 20 years so my eyes have been opened to lots of different ways of working and different experiences and that’s what keeps me driving forward!

I have Strong belief in what I’m doing is genuinely helping others and it’s an amazing feeling better then anything I’ve experienced before, and this keeps me going!  Here’s to another five years and thanks to everyone who I’ve worked with and who has helped me I couldn’t have done it without you all!