Excellent news – our first exhibition was a great success and more importantly the photocopier works! I decided to get an engineer to come and look at the photocopier and thankfully it was a small problem which was easily rectified so I’m now copying for England! I’ve agreed a contract with the photocopying company, which means I pay a small amount for each copy we produce, but they guarantee to provide a same day repair service meaning we don’t have to worry if it should break down in the future.
Getting ready for the exhibition was both exciting and nerve racking… as you know we didn’t have our own stand so decided to make one cutting and sticking words and pictures onto boards. After our trip to A and E following a nasty cut to my son’s finger with a scalpel we decided it may be easier to order a pop up stand that would be easy to transport and that we could use again and again. My son and saviour worked well into the night preparing the artwork and we managed to get it produced and delivered in the nick of time.
Business at the stand was brisk with delegates clamoring to hold our pens – well maybe a slight exaggeration, but the idea of them changing colour with the heat of the hand was quite appealing to most people. As expected, we did get a few strange looks when we asked passing delegates how hot they were. Anyway, I had just popped to the bar to get us a couple of drinks (non-alcoholic honest) and Marie came to tell me that we had two very important visitors at the stand. It turns out that they are from one of the largest employers in our area and they are looking for training for their managers. Wow, if we could pull this one off then we are on our way. We have already secured a contract as a delivery partner for the local tourist board so if we could secure this work then it guarantees our income for at least the next twelve months.
Greg, the HR Manager, seems impressed (but who knows) and promises to be in touch within the week to discuss things further. I was delighted when the very next day I receive a call from Greg to arrange a meeting in our office. I suggested we meet at his office but he is adamant that he wants to come to us. OMG what will he think when he sees our office complete with far too many desks and chairs and our HUGE photocopier. There is hardly enough space for Marie and I never mind a visitor. I tell myself that it won’t matter but realise he’s coming to check us out and see if we’re up to the job, and as I’ve already raised his expectations with our ultra professional outfits I need to think quickly about how I can make a good impression with our premises.
As you may remember we are part of an incubation centre and there are quite a few unoccupied offices. We get on really well with Betty, the cleaner here, so I asked if it was possible for us to use one of these offices for a couple of hours on the day of Greg’s visit. Customers are not the only people who make your business successful – it’s the other people involved in your business such as suppliers and your wider support network which includes your family and your cleaner! Betty agreed to give us access and we wasted no time in getting things ready for the visit. We strategically placed a desk and two chairs (see, I knew the extra furniture would come in useful for something!) along with plants, photographs and a telephone, although I hoped he wouldn’t notice that there was actually no telephone point, and we were ready to go.
Marie was ultra nervous as she showed Greg into my new office, in fact when she brought through a tray of coffee it was more like watching Mrs Overall from Acorn Antiques – I loved Julie Walters in that programme, didn’t you?
I felt the meeting went well and sure enough we have been invited to a further meeting at their offices, thankfully, to agree the plan for moving forward. Phew… thanks Betty!
The next thing I need to think about is getting my pricing right as this is probably one of the areas I feel least comfortable with. It was fine when I was working for someone and it was their price list whereas I’m actually being asked to tell my potential customers how much I think I’m worth. I’ve done my research and now know what others offering the same type of service as we do charge and decide on a middle of the road price, which I feel is fair and gives value for money. The thing with training is that although customers usually pay a daily rate for the training delivery, there is a lot of preparation time involved as well as the cost of materials which all have to be built into to the daily rate. Then there is the time taken in meetings and telephone calls which can be costed separately, but my customers seem to expect this all to be included in the daily rate. I’ll just need to make sure that I build all of these costs in and I’m aiming to provide a very personal level of service, which is what seems to have secured business opportunities so far.
Do you notice I keep slipping between I and us and we when I talk about the business? I’m finding it easier to refer to us in plural as perception seems to be everything and as I’m no longer working entirely on my own its nice to think of the business as us rather than just me. It also allows me to refer to my ‘team’ (you realise now that I’m prone to exaggeration) and also gives me a get out of jail free card when someone asks for costs as I can always say that I need to go back and discuss it with the ‘team’.
I feel that we are now securely on our way and maybe need to think about taking a bigger office and taking on another member of staff if things keep moving as they have done over the last couple of months. Why am I always looking for bigger and better things? Why am I never satisfied with what I’ve got now? Is that a trait of a true entrepreneur or is it just me? Should probably speak to someone about it…