Confession time

Hi, my name is Colman and I have a confession to make. It’s not an easy thing to say, and I hope you can understand the reasons why this has happened. I wish things had been different, but it just kind of happened, and then it was too easy to let it be. But I assure you it is something that I will be making a huge effort to put right over the coming weeks and months.

Yes, I know I haven’t told you what it is yet. I’m sorry, I guess I feel a bit of a fraud and its always hard to admit your own shortcomings. But that’s how we learn and grow, right? Making mistakes is natural, and as long as we examine the reasons why they happened and apply the learning to future decisions then we can get something positive from it, right?

So, bearing that in mind, here’s the big admission….

I get very little work through my website!

I know….a web design company that doesn’t utilise the very resource that should be its main source of leads. Shameful, eh! In my defence, I’ve had lots of repeat work from existing customers, and they have referred new customers to me on a regular basis, so there never seemed a need to go looking for new customers any other way. The website was just a way for those leads to find out a bit more about Four Lakes, rather than attract them in the first place.

But now that needs to change. Four Lakes has some ambitious plans for the next couple of years, and in order to achieve those lofty goals the website will have to start attracting new customers.

A bit of background

Four Lakes has been in existence about 10 years following my redundancy from an IT management position within a government-funded business support organisation. It was initially started as a means of providing some income whilst also being a stay-at-home dad, allowing more flexibility and the opportunity to choose my own hours.

But as my daughters have grown, and one is now at university, the need to be constantly available for school runs and so on has diminished. Indeed, there is now more pressure to a be a source of cash for school trips, visits with friends, etc, etc. I’m sure others parents of teens are very familiar with those requests!

But the desire to grow the business is not just about wanting a bit more ready cash. On a deeper level it is more about creating something positive, a thriving business that fulfils the need most people have to provide for themselves and their family in a way that is intellectually and emotionally stimulating. In essence, I was running a hobby business and now want to turn it into a lifestyle business.

Ideas

With that goal decided in my mind, I figured it was time to take it to a wider audience. So I took up an invitation to attend a local business mastermind meeting, PureB2B, over a lovely lunch in a local hotel. With a bunch of other business people attending, many of whom had already created successful businesses, I was able to gather some useful suggestions and some welcome encouragement to push forward and transform Four Lakes. There was a definite sense that the basics are in place and are solid, so it is really a case of getting started on making the changes necessary to attract more leads, convert them into more customers, and nurture those customers more effectively than before.

One of the specific suggestions from the lunch was that it might be an interesting exercise to document the transformation of Four Lakes from its current state into a lifestyle business. Initially I though it was a good idea, as it would be a ready source of blogs and social media posts. These offer the opportunity to form a great case study of the sort of process any company can go through to carry out the same transformation, and allow me to develop some processes that can be repeated for any future customer projects.

Having had the chance to consider it further, though, I think there will be an added benefit to documenting the process in this way. One of the problems with carrying out work on your own business, I have found, is that it is far too easy to prioritise client work when it comes in. Being able to charge for work is difficult to argue against, even to oneself. However, the discipline of setting targets that are communicated to blog subscribers, twitter followers, etc. means that working on the business will carry a greater priority and will be less likely to be sidelined.

It’s not just about me

My contemplations about documenting the process of taking Four Lakes from a hobby business to a lifestyle business threw up another intriguing possibility. What if this was a more involved process for all those interested in it. After all, when I presented my situation to the business mastermind group, everyone around the table had opinions, experiences and knowledge that were freely offered as suggestions to help me find a good path forward. Could this small business group be replicated on a looser, wider scale for this exercise?

Again, there are multiple benefits to taking this approach, in my view. Firstly, having access to the opinions of as many people as possible is usually a good thing. Of course, choosing the right opinion to listen to within a multitude of conflicting ones is a possibility too. However, generating a bit of an online buzz should also be a good way to increase traffic and engagement on social media accounts, and ultimately drive visitors to the Four Lakes website. As this is a long term goal, then the lessons learned from running a social media campaign now should be invaluable for the future.

I’m still researching approaches to this that will be relevant to the type of exercise, and likely timescale. However, some initial searches show that the hashtag #hobby2lifestyle is yet to be used on Twitter and Facebook, so at least for now I’m going with that.

Let’s go

I’ll be posting over the coming weeks about various aspects of the work to transform Four Lakes. I will also start pushing stuff out to social media too, from snippets that I come across in my research through to questions about which particular direction to take. So keep an eye out for blog updates on the RSS feed, posts on the Four Lakes Facebook page, tweets on the Twitter feed, news on our Google+ feed, and updates on the brand new Four Lakes LinkedIn page¬†(something else I need to learn about). All tagged with #hobby2lifestyle ready for you to engage with. It’ll be fun, informative and hopefully profitable for everyone involved.

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