Chris and Alex playing tug of war with an oversized key

Lessons from redundancy & reflections on my first year as a founder

I’ve just switched on an out of office informing people that my business – LockSmith – has declared August a holiday for it’s employees and that I am taking my family to France for the summer. 

And I’ve had to pinch myself as I still can’t quite believe it’s true. But it is and I cannot express how blessed I feel. My business partner and I have not only created a successful business that works around us (i.e. we can choose where and when we work) we have also made sure that when we are working, we only do the things we love with people we enjoy working with.  

But it’s a far cry from where I was 18 months ago. After a successful corporate career in marketing spanning 23 years I had been made unexpectedly redundant and left feeling rejected, confused and angry. My confidence had taken a massive knock and I didn’t know what I wanted to do next.

So I allowed myself a few weeks of moping but then invested time in thinking properly about what I really wanted – from work and from life. I spoke to lots of people about lots of different options, I did some painful soul searching and I did a marketing exercise on myself; what do I love doing? What am I great at? What’s my personal USP? And an idea started to form….. perhaps there’s something in my combination of corporate, SME and start up experience that could be of value to others? What if I overlay my passion for personal development and coaching too? And what if I actually build my own business to deliver all that…?

A chat with one of my oldest friends and colleagues – Chris Lock – who it transpired harboured similar thoughts, and LockSmith was born. Fast forward 18 months and we run a thriving business that helps grow brands and the people behind them. We consult on marketing & innovation, we write and deliver training courses and we coach and mentor aspiring marketers. And we do it in a way that suits our lifestyles and flexes seamlessly around family, travel & personal passions.

So my advice to anyone else finding themselves in a similar position and wondering whether to start their own thing is this:

1.     Don’t’ panic and take the first thing that comes your way. Take time to think about what you really want. What are you great at? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What’s important to you personally as well as professionally? Use the answers as your starting point.

2.     Then just get started! You might not know what the solution is or what you want yet but start talking to people. If you can answer the questions above you’ll have enough to start a conversation. Then ideas will form, evolve and finally you’ll land something,

3.     Ask for help. Use your network and ask people to put you in touch with others. Don’t feel you can’t look someone up because you’ve not spoken for years. The bottom line is that people like helping people – It makes them feel good so don’t deny them that opportunity!

4.     Be prepared to work hard. It sounds obvious but it’s worth saying. Suddenly you have to do everything – the sales, the marketing, the accounting, the admin. Oh and the work itself! Plus there’s no such thing as a balanced workload – no one to delegate to or a boss to take work off your plate. And early doors you can’t say no if several projects come along at once. It’s full on. But the good news is that it feels good working hard when it’s your own business that’s benefitting.

5.     Be flexible. We started out thinking we’d consult mainly for start ups. It turned out to be mostly SMEs. And after 12 months we decided to pivot and switch focus from consulting to training. I suspect this time next year it will look different again. But I love that we try things, learn and evolve accordingly. 

6.     Have fun. Chris and I get up every morning and look forward to work because we enjoy what we do.  Plus we’re both a bit silly, enjoy light hearted banter and make each other laugh. It’s such a tonic. 

7.     Celebrate success – big or small. It’s easy to rush on without properly recognising achievements. Chris and I each have a bell that we ring whenever something good happens. From winning a new client to having a good idea, those bells are rung loud and proud frequently and it feels great! It also makes our families smile and after Chris’s wife suggested we might need bigger bells following one particularly good new client win, my husband bought us both an upgrade for LockSmitith’s first anniversary. We’re aiming for Big Ben in 5 years time….

I hope this helps. I know what a big decision it is to set up your own business but it’s one I’ve never regretted and I’m sure you won’t either. Take a deep breath, get started and buy yourself a bell….

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