This month our Businesswoman of the Month is Lucy Whittington – speaker, author of ‘Find Your Thing’, million-miles-an-hour marketer … and mum of two “small people”.
Would you mind giving us a brief explanation of what your business is and when you launched it?
I help people to ‘Find their Thing’ (what they do that’s brilliant) and to turn that into a business. Brilliant Business Things is a mash up of strategy, messaging, marketing and ‘encouragement’. I’m an author, speaker, host, mentor, backside kicker and everything else I need to be to help brilliant business owners do, share and sell their Thing.
What made you want to start this particular business?
Initially I started my business (as a consultant) so I could ‘be in charge’ – I like to work when I want to, with who I want to, where I want to AND also to stick to my strengths. It never made sense to me that the better I got at Marketing the more time I had to spend ‘managing’ (numbers, people, etc). By starting my own business as a consultant, I got to stick to Marketing. But I soon realised I had more to offer, because I could see people were stuck not seeing what it was they did so well, and so in 2010 I branched out into ‘Thing finding’ (which I’d actually been doing all along but now I was ‘owning it’!). And here we are!
The ability to sell…
Of course it’s important to be able to make a good product and provide a great service, it’s marvellous to be masterful at Marketing but when it comes down to it, if you can’t sell you’re stuck.
This may well involve you being brave, ballsy even (never be afraid to ask – no is still an answer!) so you need to be able to ‘get on with it’. If you’re looking for one word…I’d pick ‘bold’.
What is the most important lesson you have learnt so far?
I think this is my biggest life lesson too – ‘don’t ask don’t get’.
If you ask you might just get a yes – to a client, to an opportunity, to a deal, to that speaking gig, to who knows what. But if you don’t ask you don’t get…
What do you think it is about you that enabled you to turn an idea into a business?
I have a good ‘business education’ so it never occurred to me I couldn’t turn any idea into a business (which actually is what I now DO as a business!). I am a bit of a business geek – my favourite subject at school was Economics (also my first degree), I love to read business books and biographies, and I have an MBA too. I love the mechanics of how business works so this has definitely stood me in good stead. Also I can be quite ‘bold’… (see previous answer!).
If you were starting all over again tomorrow, what are the top 3 rules you would follow?
- Solve a problem you can easily solve (and love solving) i.e. do your Thing
- Tell the people who need it that you do it! Don’t be ashamed to ask for help with this too – get other people to promote for you, show up everywhere it makes sense to
- Ask people to pay for it! Invite people to pay for your answer to their problem. And don’t be shy or apologetic about it. It’s brilliant!
What difficulties did you experience setting up your business and what has got you through the tough times?
I’ve had both my children since starting my business which I won’t (of course!) refer to as ‘difficulties’ but they are perhaps a ‘disruption’!
It’s important to be OK to go with the flow, find different things to sell – for example the other ‘part’ of my business is website design delivered by my husband (the ‘colouring-in’ dept) so when I was busy with babies we sold more websites than Marketing consultancy as I was less available. But then we switched back to my more ‘leveraged’ model of working to free up time to spend with the children.
If things start to look a bit tough I remember I don’t have to go to ‘work’, and I do what I want, when I want, with who I want and how I want and frankly that’s ALWAYS something that cheers me up!
Looking back now, would you have done anything differently?
Worked out my Thing from the start perhaps… but then it’s all part of the story… I would have worried less, been bolder (always room for improvement!) and trusted myself (sometimes a formula that works great for others isn’t right for you)
Starting a business can be all-consuming. As a mum, what are your tips for dealing with the struggles of balancing work and family life?
I think the minute you consider it ‘balancing’, something wins and something loses. As far as I see it, it’s simply ‘my life’ and this is how I roll! Some days I work a LOT – maybe I’m even away running a Retreat or speaking. But other days I’m there before and after school, mucking about with the small people in between working with brilliant business owners from the comfort of my office at home who might be all over the world. I aim to work more in term time so I can take trips and time off when it’s school holidays.
What I will add as my ‘tip’ (although I hope it’s pretty obvious!) is GET HELP – help in the home (cleaning is not my Thing although weirdly I love ironing!), help at work – my project manager Maria runs my To Do list like a demon, help with fitness (I have great trainers at the gym, and in between my FitBit beeps at me!), help with anything you need really. After all you are brilliant at your Thing and there are people who are brilliant at their Thing – so hire them!
Also must add here on a practical note I have a fab husband who works at home too so we’re able to ‘tag team’ childcare along with my lovely Mum who is ‘on call’ for those days when you can’t be in 3 places at once! We used to have an ace childminder, and after school clubs that your kids LOVE too are brilliant.
Do you have (or did you have) a mentor and when you need advice, who do you talk to?
I’ve almost always had a coach or mentor (or both) since starting my business – the gaps are while I catch up implementing the advice from one, before starting with another! I am also very fortunate (by design I might add) that I have some fabulous ‘business friends’ (many of whom I met through mentoring and masterminds). I think it’s important to have people you can ask, share with, seek advice from, rant to (!) and confide in. I don’t believe anyone who has a great day every day, but I know I’m more likely to have more great days if I have someone to talk to!
I always choose a mentor, coach or advisor that I ‘need most’ at the time – I’ve had a mix of ‘mindset’ to ‘practical help’ and ‘skills’ mentors and coaches along with ‘been there ahead of you’ and ‘I’ll simply remind you you’re already brilliant’ guides along the way. And my business friends I tend to pay in kind (or wine!) but that’s typically a 2 way street so works itself out J
What are your plans for the future?
Still plenty more Thing-ing to be done.
I am never short of ideas (in fact it’s limiting them that’s more of the issue most of the time!). So watch this space…
Do you have any specific tips for anyone wanting to start a new business?
See the answer above to ‘if I had to start again’. For me it really is the simple plan of 1. Find your Thing. 2. Tell people about your Thing 3. Sell your Thing. Then repeat 2 and 3 over and over and over… developing, improving, refining, experimenting along the way.
And while your Thing is what you find easy, not every part of business is easy, or at least not effortless – you will have to DO some work. Don’t be fooled by the slick stories of ‘overnight success’. Sure you can take some smart shortcuts but you’ll have to do something. And if you’re going to do work, at least do work you like!