We’re now into our 2nd month of trading with success being derived through the design field and delivering clear service products to these clients. As Lord Sugar said on the BBC Show, The Apprentice, “you’ve got to smell what’s selling”. So our design services offer around contracts, design services, risk review and mitigation are in demand. Selling ideas of increased operational efficiency, the opportunity of adopting a BIM approach and business change are presenting more of a challenge in a market where instant return on minimal investment is a pre-requisite. Its going to be a rollercoaster!
Reflecting the conditions and events of the last month – bizarre swings in weather, depressing economic data with increased fragility in the Eurozone combined with the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics and of course, HRH Elizabeth II Diamond Jubliee celebrations – the business environment for our grown-up, start-up is ever changing.
Keeping our business overhead to a minimum, to improve our cost competitiveness and agility presents a strong advantage in a price-sensitive market. There are a number of challenges too though which are starting to be realised over the last few weeks. Compounding the normal pressures, we are both also dealing with returning home to properties that have either been vacant or rented for the last few years, whilst being based in the UAE. So, in addition to the relocation, we have also had to deal with returning these properties back to homes and as noted previously, with a clear intent to improve and extend these.
Our isolation hospital project is starting to present challenges unique to its very location. We are 1.5 miles from the nearest telephone exchange so our internet connection is temperamental with a speed that verges on old style dial-up (0.5Mb/m at its best). BT are promising a partial fibre-optic connection improving speeds and robustness in the next few months so we wait with bated breath.
With other similar issues around normal utility infrastructure – water, telephone and only mains electricity – the advantages for the family of a remote location are certainly not designed for a start-up business operation. Our domestic infrastructure needs to be upgraded over the coming months to make Rainton a viable home-business – a major priority to relieve a major personal frustration.
Market and offer
We always recognised the UK economy being centred in London with an effective 2-speed economy in place – London v rest of the UK. Nick is based to the north of London with easy links to the Capital. Durham also provides easy rail, road and air links to London as well as the Midlands and central belt of Scotland.
With an offer focussed on designers and institutions / clients in the initial phase of business, the majority of those that are equipped (strategic intent and budget ready) to engage our services are predominantly based in London.
The last month has also tested the business model around our business performance offer. We suspected that this would be a slow-burn approach which is not conducive to a business start-up approach. Striking the balance between revenue-generating work and medium to long-term innovative thinking is key at the stage that we at, without compromising our business vision. The efficiency of our business model will therefore be key moving forward in order to engineer our offer to a targeted market in order to secure sales that are necessary to establish and grow the business.
Creating the environment for work
Our particular personal situation has introduced a further aspect of home-based working that presents another challenge – having separate space to form an effective working environment. Combined with the current constraints of our home, the plans for refurbishing, extending and building a new office space, the family have also been enjoying time off from school for Easter holidays and mid-term break. This presents a fresh pressure in respect of ensuring the discipline required to focus on work whilst maintaining an appropriate balance with the family.
The exposure that you feel when starting out a new business, especially coming from a large scale operation, is significant. Timing is also a key consideration particularly when forming and developing the offer. Listening to potential partners and customers is essential in order to revise and tailor the offer to match the needs of the market. It is certainly easier and more efficient to bring an offer to market that creates a marketing “pull” rather than conventional “pull”, particularly in the current trading and economic environment.
We have a clear business strategy and plan that is already showing positive signs built from existing relationships and core service offering into projects. Through this initial phase of forming and building the business, the ratio of business to project offering will be heavily biased to that of projects. It will be interesting to see the development of the management and strategic service offer developing over the coming months as customers develop trust in our approach and service offering.