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?!
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.