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Home » Run Your Business

Tell Us Your Story: Building a RARE Business Community

This is a guest post by Adrian Swinscoe for our Tell Us Your Story feature.

My thanks go to Matthew for asking me to write a guest post for him whilst he is away on holiday with his wife and new baby. He didn’t give me many guidelines other than to tell my story of how I got and am getting my current business started.

Before I get into that, I thought I’d tell you a little more about me.

I’ve been very fortunate over the course of my career to have done many things:

•   I’ve taught Economics and Business in school

•   I’ve worked as an economist in both the not for profit and commercial sector

•   My family run their own business for a number of years

•   I’ve worked for big businesses helping them start, improve and grow businesses;

•   I’ve succeeded and failed to buy a number of companies with other people, on my own and for other people; and

•   I’ve consulted for large and small businesses on how to improve and grow their businesses.

This has given me a lot of broad experience and I’ve had a lot fun in the meantime. The downside of this is that I have never really developed a specialism other than I’m good at analysing situations, coming up with new and creative solutions and that I’m pretty good at getting things started on my own (and with a team) to make things happen.

For the last few years I’ve been consulting to large and small firms on how they can grow their businesses. This was great but, just over a year and a half ago, in the face of increasing competition, a turbulent economy and pressure on fees, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to be a generalist anymore and that wasn’t really sustainable.

After spending quite a lot of time thinking about what I realised is that I need to carve out a niche for myself, something that Matthew has spent a lot of time writing about here.

To do that, I thought that I’d write a book. A book about what? Well it started out as a a book about business growth and growing businesses.

Initially, it was going to be a set of ideas about growing companies that I had either used, seen or dreamt up and was going to be entitled ’52 Ways to grow your business and a few more for good measure’. Great title, eh?

However, after getting started writing the book and sharing the idea with a few people, a couple of people came back to me and challenged me on the topic of the book and suggested that it was too general and that I should think about focusing it on a niche or developing an identity for it for it to stand out.

Well, that made me think and forced me to look at what I really like and, almost more importantly, what I don’t like.

What I found was that I get really frustrated when companies both forget or mistreat their existing customers and don’t look after or get the most out of their staff. And, to do so doesn’t take a lot of money or investment in new technology or equipment but can deliver great benefits in terms of growth, productivity, morale, customer relations and service.

This got me to thinking:

“What if we lived in a world where all companies took care of their existing customers as well as new customers, where companies were trusted and liked, where doing business with a company was a good experience, where companies and their employees cared about their customers and each other?”

What kind of world would that be?

And so it was that the idea behind RARE Business, my recent book, was born. The book is meant to encourage businesses, in the light of changing market dynamics, traditional marketing methods returning less than satisfactory results and a challenging economic environment, to think differently about how they grow their businesses, how they take care of their people and their customers in order to build a better platform for sustainable growth.

But, why RARE, I hear you ask?

Well, if you look up the word RARE in the dictionary the most common definition of the word is something that is ‘seldom seen’. However, there is another meaning that refers to something of ‘uncommon quality’ or something that is ‘unusually great’. It is this second definition of the word that I refer to in the title.

The book was launched in October of this year but in writing it and talking to different people about it and the philosophy behind it, it has spawned a number of new opportunities.

What has it grown into?

We are now developing plans to take RARE Business and turn it into a community of business leaders, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers, particularly from SME arena, that learn, share and network via a series of conferences, training and networking events facilitated by a series of unique and insightful books.

In 2011, we would like to launch this community by preparing and publishing 5 new books in the RARE series of books, including interviews with 16 CEOs/MDs of leading SMEs in each book, and use these to launch a conference and awards event celebrating and nurturing sustainable SME growth.

What I have learned along the way?

Things over the last few months have, and continue to move fast, so I am learning new things every single day. But, I would say one of the biggest things that I have learnt is that by by talking to people that I know, and have met along the way, openly about the ideas that I have has produced some amazing opportunities to push the project forward.

What mistakes have I made?

Right now I wouldn’t say that I have made many mistakes. Well, not yet anyway. But, we are still early in the process and I am sure that we will make mistakes along the way.

What are the risks?

I guess that the risks are the same with any new business….that it doesn’t work or that it stumbles at a particular hurdle. Personally, however, the risk for me is quite large as I am putting a lot of my time and effort into this project, which means that I am not concentrating  as much as would normally on generating new clients for my (core) consulting business. This business will get folded into the overall new business, in time.

I do, however, have time and space to take on new clients and if anyone wants to talk to me about how help others grow their businesses and how I could help them grow their business then do get in touch (shameless plug!).

Back to the risks. The personal risk that I talked about is a trade off that I and my partner, Hana, understand and we also understand the potential costs and consequences. What’s fantastic is to be with someone that encourages me to follow my dream and my heart. She sees the passion and enthusiasm that I have for the project and believes in it too.

What am I excited about?

I’m really excited about the opportunity to build this community, publish a series of books with some great new authors and see where the road takes us. I have a clear idea of what the community will look like when it is finished and what it will take to get there

What would I say to anyone starting their own business?

I would start with the definition of entrepreneur from the dictionary:

en·tre·pre·neur / ˌäntrəprəˈnoŏr; -ˈnər/

• n. a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.

Having read that, what I would say is be clear on what the risks are, think deeply about what it is you are trying to do, ask yourself if you believe you can do it and are willing to take the risks.

If you are willing to play, can face the idea that you might not succeed and believe that it would be better to have tried and failed rather than having not tried at all…..then I would say ‘Go for it!’.

And, remember, there are always people out there that can help. All you need to do is talk to them and ask.

Thanks to MrTopf for the image.

Adrian Swinscoe is an author, speaker and consultant from the UK who writes about customer-focused business growth at Ideas for Business Growth. He has a strong belief that any established business could dispense with its traditional marketing activities and still grow itself by focusing on developing and nurturing its existing customer base and retaining its current clients. Why not connect with him on Twitter @adrianswinscoe, LinkedIn or if you liked this article then why not subscribe to his RSS Feed?