2012 – A Business Year in Review

Among all the Christmas cards falling through the letter box, came a letter from my accountant. Our third set of draft accounts have been prepared. They’ll be a matter of public record soon enough so I won’t bore you with all the details, and their arrival made me think it might be helpful to reflect on our third year in business, to see what we can learn to make year four our best yet.


What Goes Around is a limited company with two directors, Carole and me. As well as being an outstanding Mum and swimming teacher, somehow Carole finds some time to act as a sounding board for some of my daft ideas, and she adds valuable marketing focus, and drive (giving me an oft needed kick up the backside) to the business. Until the end of January 2011 we also benefited hugely from the support of an outstanding volunteer. Dad’s death left a big hole in our lives and in our work. In addition to unending encouragement, he also stood in frequently to look after Keira so that when Carole was working, I could continue to be out and about developing the business. This year more than ever, I understand the words ‘sorely missed’. For the coming year we need to continue to support each other, and build on that so that our focus is on who matters, and when.


Some wonderful customers have placed their trust and custom with us, including NEST, Yell, Sage, Careergro, BIG Lottery Fund, Xilinx, Ohio SHRM and Thomson Reuters. Our best work seems to happen when we are bringing different groups together, colleagues in different departments, customers and other important stakeholders alike. Unlocking and combining the knowledge of these different groups of people is a powerful way to help them make work better, and the feedback we have received from customers this year shows that we are helping to make real change happen in an engaging and fun way. All of these relationships matter and Steve Browne in Ohio, John Costello at Careergro, and Anthony Allinson and Diane Taylor Cummings at Thomson Reuters deserve special mentions for giving encouragement, trust and creative latitude in abundance. For the coming year we need to make it easier for more people to buy the services our existing customers say they love.


The business has benefited from a number of vital associations this year. A whole host of people, in the UK, the USA, Canada and other countries have provided advice and support, and it has been a pleasure to deliver useful work for customers with Gareth Jones and Steve Bridger. We have a useful relationship with the CIPD and continue to provide support and content for them, and in return we’ve had some useful exposure at their conferences. Thanks to everyone, you know who you are, for nudges in the right direction, constructive criticism, and all that jazz. For the coming year we need to help each other grow. Grow personally, grow as a network and of course, grow the market and create a bigger place to play. And I’d love to realise the dream of helping new grads into work via paid internships too.


The blog started as a teeny experiment towards the end of 2008. Since integrating the blog and website in 2010, the average daily numbers of views has grown, from 29 in 2010, to 67 in 2011 rising to 127 this year. I’ve published almost five hundred posts which have had 94,000 views, of which over 45,000 have come in 2012. The blog has received over 2,000 comments and whilst many of these are acknowledgements and responses from me, I appreciate the depth and diversity everyone contributes. Thanks to everyone for taking the time to be in touch. For the coming year I intend to mix in more video blogs to the mix and to think more carefully about what role the blog has to play in the business. I am in no doubt it is a big commitment, can we get more value from it?


I’ve participated in, facilitated, co-created and spoken at events all over the UK, in Ireland and in the USA. In previous years I have seen public speaking as a way to share my thoughts, and a useful way of marketing. This year I’ve started to get paid for giving talks too and this is a welcome addition to the mix. It’s been a nerve racking and exciting ride, packed full of practice and some highs and lows. The reception my talk and song to close Workplace Trends received bowled me over, it was lovely. And my talks at CIPD conferences seem to create a great buzz too. I had a tougher time at a recent talk in Dublin and trying to deliver two back to back hour long talks in Ohio after no sleep for 38 hours was tricky. I’ve learned loads from these tougher gigs and I am in the process of refreshing my approach to public speaking yet again, so that I can keep improving. I love to tell stories and I want to get better at it. For the coming year I will keep looking for diverse opportunities to speak, and for interesting events to help co-create and participate in.

Managing the Business

Turnover was down around 20% compared to the previous year, in part due to me taking time out to sort out Dad’s affairs. In addition a project was cut short due to changing customer requirements and in the spirit of What Goes Around we responded flexibly to that, which meant some contracted revenue didn’t materialise. Our travel and marketing costs increased significantly over the year, and if ever you were in doubt, putting on an unconference is something you do for the passion, not the profit! Costs overall increased by about one third, which meant our profit before tax represented 49% of turnover compared to 70% the previous year. We pay our bills quickly, and in the main our invoices are settled promptly too. We continue to retain healthy cash reserves and we currently owe the bank nothing. We intend to invest time and money into refining our service offering which we believe will translate into more sales. Can you believe I just wrote that? Boring huh?!

Looking Ahead

Writing this has been very helpful for me, I hope in some way it helps you too. In summary, for 2013 to be useful, productive and fun we need to continue to look after each other, our customers and our network, and I believe that will be reciprocated. In addition we need to be clearer about the good work we do in order to attract more enquiries and referrals and make our services easier to buy. I believe in what we do, it makes a difference and it’s hugely enjoyable. Here’s to more of that in the coming years. What do you think we should do differently, or do more of, or less of? If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

7 thoughts on “2012 – A Business Year in Review”

  1. Hi Doug
    I plan to do more of what I like and stop trying to talk to people who obviously don’t want to talk to me. This should make me happier and considerably less frustrated!

    I echo your focus on “who matters”. I wish you all the very best in 2013 and hope to catch up at some stage

  2. Hi Doug,

    A fascinating insight into the workings of a small limited company – I have the same setup really. My year has seen a similar decline in income with more ‘hard bargains’ being driven than any time I can remember in 18 years history. I took a stand at saying no to free work as it was driving me out of business and by and large that decision has been a wise one. Constant changes to contracts and so on have made it hard to continue, but to quote Elton John “I’m still standing”.

    Looking forward to 2013 and I’m on the case for a meet in January.

    No Christmas cards this year – my time has instead gone to a Leukaemia and Lymphoma charity, for a friend whose child died of the disease and a project to stop fake malaria drugs killing children in Africa.

    Just heard that my mother in law has had another stroke, so it looks like our plans for the season will change rapidly. That’s life.

    My best to you and yours

    Peter and Alison

  3. Hi

    Thanks for the mention and thanks to you too. We are doing something remarkable and hugely enjoyable. It rumbles on as you know.

    The best bit among many, was my watching the April HR Unconference via Twitter from Mumbai airport. That’s when I knew our PM events would work because Diane and Louise saw it first hand. It struck me that my not being there was a damn good thing!

    There were loads of other good moments but that was when hope became expectation and an idea became intent.

    We did some difficult and risky things on purpose. We took a hard nosed approach to the soft stuff.

    Thank you and happy Christmas,


  4. Congrats on what sounds to be both a good year in its own right and one that will position you for an even better upcoming year.

    It feels like the world is caught up in dealing with the costs of short-sighted business decisions (live only for the next quarter) by making even more myopic choices.We make up for shrinking profits by making decisions that hurt customers and employees, thereby causing profits to shrink faster, followed by panic fueled and shorter sighted decisions, which hurts profits more, etc. Repeat until bankruptcy sets in.

    All this to say, I like to believe that more and more will start to realize how stupid the Wall Street race to the bottom game is and seek out better ways. Where there is darkness, there will be people searching for light. Enter Doug.


  5. You see… You guys really do need to know something … Your words and attitudes are getting airtime.

    As you may know, I am a reluctant corporate slave. However, to my VP and Directors, I am an engagement PITA. They promote engagement and with the help of your words and advice and general goodness, plus a healthy dose of my favourite TEDs, namely Shaun Achor and Nigel Marsh I generally slaughter them because, as you say Broc, myopic short term-ism in the name of the game.

    I have become a culture and climate ambassador (which generally involves arguing that putting healthy food options in the restaurant and dragging in a yoga teacher isn’t an engagement priority). My presentations, wherever possible, involve poetry and stories rather than numbers and boring 10-font slides. I have been told that people wait for me to say things (on their behalf) …… Proceed until apprehended!

    Unfortunately, my cut through is poor in terms of results. People dont listen if they dont have to listen but hey, that’s life and life is good.

    So don’t stop, keep going and keep doing. Your reach is wider than your audiences and for the likes of me you are a guiding light in this area plus, you make it fun!

    I wish you all a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas …. Talk to you next year.



    1. Well said, Megan.

      Doug, thanks for all the inspiration this year.
      You’ve planted a huge amount of seeds in many places. The fruit may take time to ripen and when it does it’ll be sweet.


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