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Changing Business Direction is Like Changing Jobs

What do you do if you discover that there is no market for the product that your start-up company has so painstakingly developed? Adapt. Meet new people. Uncover new opportunities.

Betamax - the format that didn't make it. (Creative Commons, some rights reserved by  Lawrence Leonard Gilbert)

Betamax – the format that didn’t make it. (Creative Commons, some rights reserved by Lawrence Leonard Gilbert)

Markets come and go, says serial entrepreneur Richard Patey. There is no longer a market for fax machines and the hoped-for market for Betamax videotapes never developed. But Sony, once a major name in Betamax and fax supply, is still very much alive. You can survive unfulfilled dreams as well.

“After 5 years working for charities and social enterprises, that left me disillusioned by the limits of grant-funding, my skills set seemed very narrow (bid writing and business support). I felt unable to change jobs into some more productive and enjoyable area. The only alternative, as I saw it, was to create my own employment. I wasn’t short on ideas. At the end of 2009, I set up my own company ‘Profit is Good Ltd’.

I started with what I already knew. I was hired to write a bid by a previous employer and I also gave business advice through Business Link to people who wanted to set up their own social enterprises. Though I was very familiar with these roles, I enjoyed it far more because now I was working for myself.

With the demise of regional business support, the work with Business Link came to a sudden end. I had to quickly adapt and start to build my T-shaped skills set.

I saw what I thought was an opportunity. I thought that I could help charities to win investment. I dived in, putting myself through expensive training with the New Economics Foundation. Then I set up a new website offering my service. Pretty quickly I learnt that there was no demand from customers who were willing to pay. It was time for a serious rethink.

Looking at the skills I had developed, rather than focusing on the product, proved to be the way forward. I had taught myself to build WordPress-based web sites and I had enhanced my graphic design skills. I started to develop my design skills further – this time without making the same expensive outlay on training! For instance, I made full use of the 30-day trial on Adobe’s Creative Suite software. I worked at developing brand visuals with Illustrator and creating publications with InDesign, combining those skills with my website creation knowledge.

All my learning eventually led to my latest venture, an ecommerce site that sells prints of panorama photos taken on the iPhone.  I’ve added knowledge and experience in Photoshop and I’ve made a deliberate study of search engine optimisation and pay-per-click advertising to direct traffic to the site. I’m now in a position to offer a digital marketing package to clients where I generate and track additional traffic through search engines and social media to meet their online goals.

If I’ve got any advice to give to other entrepreneurs from the last four years, it is to actively build your network (Linked In is an invaluable tool) and keep learning new skills that complement your existing skills set and services. Once you get your foot in the door with a new client, your aim should be to offer them more and more value.

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