September 2018: Back to School, Lessons Learned at a Business Accelerator and a Short Trip to Ukraine
September this year has been pretty transitional for me, as I mentioned in my August journal, I had several sad goodbyes to say and many new beginnings to look forward to.
Back to School for an MBA
For starters, I hit the ground running with a week of full-time lectures on financial decision making which I attended as part of my recently undertaken MBA degree. If I am honest, I am finding it so much easier to run a company than to study about running one…
I always knew that ‘knowing my numbers’ is super useful but my financial accounting lectures have sent my mind to an absolute meltdown… For 5 days that I sat in the class, my mind went from ‘I am so excited’ through ‘oh shit, I don’t understand anything’, ‘this is not too bad actually’, ‘I feel sick even thinking about it’, I think I can do it’, to ‘OMG why did I sign-up for this, this is just not for me’… and the circle continues until today.
Financial decision making is all about analysing and assessing the best next steps for companies based on their cash flow, profit and loss accounts, balance sheets, signalling, gearing ratios, activity ratios, profitability ratios, liquidity ratios, investor ratios and so on… each of those ratios can be calculated using mathematical formulas and used to give accountants and investors alike a clue on whether a company is doing well or not and if it’s worth investing in. It is actually pretty amazing what you can find out just by looking at the numbers (if you know how to read them). I have a written report to prepare on this and a practical exam coming up in November so I am currently focusing all my energy on getting through this steep learning curve whilst refreshing my maths skills and also really looking forward to innovation, creativity, branding and marketing modules that are coming up later in the year 😉
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What I’ve learned at the Business Accelerator
As some of you know, I’ve just graduated from an 18 months long business accelerator programme run by NatWest where I’ve been developing myself and my company in order to take it to the next level. It has been a pretty transformational experience for me when it comes to my business and personal growth.
I decided to join the accelerator when I hit the growth ceiling as a freelancer, not knowing how to move past the technician role. I was fully-booked with projects, working extremely hard to deliver them and felt as if my business was owning me as opposed to the other way round.
Most of us start businesses because we’re skilled at something that we’re passionate about. I was no exception. I started Visuable driven by my creative passion for photography and design, lead by the purpose of helping entrepreneurs express themselves authentically online by telling their stories through photos. My aim was to visually showcase my client’s values, passions and personality on their websites and social media to their audiences so that their ideal clients can see how amazing they are and be naturally drawn to them (based on my belief that people buy from people they know, like and trust and people whose values and beliefs they share). As a result, those businesses would become successful faster which In turn would enable their founders to design and lead the life of their dreams — with freedom and flexibility to live and work anywhere, passion for what they do and an ongoing personal growth.
Because of my genuine love and passion for what I did and my strong belief that what I am doing is transformational for business success, I attracted a lot of clients who believed what I believe. I actually had a little more than I could handle, so I joined the programme to get help with my growing pains and take my business to the next level.
Ok, so I promised to share my lessons learned. Here they are, together with results I’ve achieved as I implemented them:
1. Master your mindset.
Mindset is everything. As entrepreneurs, we have to fail fast, pick ourselves up even faster and keep on going and believing in our cause. Not every decision we make is a good one. Not every service launch is a success. Not every vision works out. I have had many setbacks during my time on the programme. What I’ve learned from them is to treat every setback as a valuable lesson and a stepping stone to the next level of business success. The more I failed, the easier it became to pick myself up and start over. I now feel so much stronger emotionally and have learned to embrace every situation that life and business throws at me, extract the valuable lesson and keep on fighting for my dreams.
2. Stop working in the business, work on the business instead.
This was a massive shift. As I progressed through the programme, I had to learn to let go of the technical role, document my processes, build my systems, hire people and train them with how I do things. Once you let go of doing all the tasks possible in your business, stop being everything for everyone and record your methods so that your services can be carried out and delivered to the same standard by your team something amazing happens. You generate an IP, stop being the bottleneck and free your time so that you can focus on developing the business and working on it, not in it. It’s those shifts that essentially transition you from a service provider to a brand with a promise that can be scaled and delivered to a wider market. I was nowhere near ready for this when I first joined the programme 18 months ago as I only had my business for one year, and being a passion and purpose driven entrepreneur, I was enjoying the day-to-day delivery of my services too much. It was a slow burning process for me but I’ve finally took the leap in month 4 of the programme and got a part-time marketing person on board. I doubled my business as a result and reclaimed my time back. This year I brought on board an awesome graphic designer. This enabled me to expand my service range and transition from only offering consulting, photos and websites to a full-service brand agency that can turn any brand vision into reality (Your go-to place for all things brand as I like to call us now). Having reliable employees that take care of the day-to-day running of Visuable allowed me to finally get some time off and focus on strategy, vision, business growth and ongoing innovations that allow us to better serve our clients.
3. Leadership and management skills don’t come naturally, but practice makes perfect.
First of all, you have to recognise the difference between leadership and management, learn when each of them is required and develop your unique style. We had many workshops on leadership and management whilst at the accelerator and I practiced daily by managing and mentoring students that I took on for short term internships. My extended team size fluctuated between 2 and 10 whilst on the programme and my business benefited greatly from having all those extra pairs of hands to help with digital tasks such as social media management, SEO implementation, setting-up digital tools, systems and developing all sorts of company assets. I’ve also experienced many challenges and valuable lessons as a result of taking the interns on. I had to embrace the world of HR and learn how to define roles, develop recruitment process, create contracts, hire, build team collaboration systems and tools and assign tasks correctly to achieve maximum productivity and drive within my team. What this experience thought me is that hiring the right people is critical to your business success. Hire slow, fire fast as they say. Great cultural fit, awesome technical skills, can-do attitude, fun personality, self-confidence, passion, drive, dedication, ambition and potential is what I look for now when bringing new people on board. I also realised that although it was fun to have a big team around, I would rather lead a small but powerful team of committed A-players that I can rely on.
4. Always be opportunity hungry.
This is something that I’ve always done but being on the programme thought me to think bigger when it comes to opportunities. This year so far I’ve been nominated for an Entrepreneurial Award, got my story featured in a national magazine, attracted several public speaking opportunities, expanded my services to Europe, worked with some pretty big personality brands and mentored 6 students. I also started an MBA to consolidate all the learnings and experiences that I’ve been gathering during my entrepreneurial journey.
5. Random acts of kindness.
This one is about being part of and helping the community around you. Building a business is a lonely journey and you cannot succeed going it alone. When you help the community around you, you develop goodwill which means that commercial karma will eventually come back to you. Entrepreneurial community is the most open, generous and passionate community I’ve ever been part of. Whilst on the programme, taking an active part in the HUB community life was mandatory. We had Huddle nights where people shared their entrepreneurial stories and lessons, we were put into mastermind groups to help each other grow and been encouraged to collaborate on projects. I was always keen to take part in community initiatives as people and friendships is something that I value highly in my life. Today, even though I’ve graduated from the programme, the relationships that I’ve built along the way make me feel that I still belong and I am part of something bigger than myself. I’ve made many friends who now became my entrepreneurial family that I know I can call upon when I need support.
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IT Weekend Ukraine.
Earlier this month, I got to join my boyfriend Orestis on a business trip to Kiev, Ukraine to attend an IT Weekend Conference: Artificial Human, listen to talks and learn all about the latest advances in emerging technologies.
Orestis works for a really cool company called Ultrahaptics which does some pretty insane innovations in the field of VR. They developed a device that allows you to touch and feel invisible objects in mid – air. He gets paid to learn, travel and change the world — how cool is that?
This time, he got invited to inspire 500 aspiring high-tech researchers with his talk on ‘Touching the Invisible’. In a true Star Wars style, he also got teleported to the stage…
We didn’t get to see that much of Ukraine as we only stayed for 1,5 days which we’ve mostly spent at the conference centre. One night, we managed to go for a dinner at the most famous restaurant in Kiev called ‘Last Barricade’. Partially museum memorial, partially a gastro restaurant and a fancy bar, Last Barricade did not disappoint. The place is hidden in the Globus shopping mall and you can get there by a tiny elevator. You’ll need to know the password to get in — luckily, we were with the locals! At the entrance, the staff greets you with a guided tour through three recent revolutions that took place in Ukraine, and you get to experience a magic ‘drive-through’ bar to get to your table. The menu is delicious. A selection of freshly made salads and cheese boards to start with, a juicy steak and local red wine to follow and excellent local sweets to finish off with. There was a local band playing live music and the atmosphere was just brilliant.
We stayed on a 22nd floor of a very cool hotel called Aloft where we got to experience a pretty breathtaking sunrise over a panoramic view of the city.
ahhh I loved Ukraine, it reminded me of home so much ❤️
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Lidia is a passionate, inspirational and transformational Creative Director. Her clients rave about her ability to extract a clear vision, turn that vision into a reality and create an online identity that they are proud to show off.
From an extensive career in marketing, photography and web design to a successful business owner, Lidia is synonymous with innovative, insightful, high-quality work.
Lidia created Visuable in early 2015 and has worked with 100+ brands, transforming their visual identities in a way that has not only lead to business growth but also inspired personal and business confidence.