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How to Win the Right Work for Your Business - #WiredBrekkie

Recently, we ran a Breakfast Session on ‘How to Win the Right Work for Your Business’ which saw three fantastic talks from members on finding projects and clients that align with your own values and business goals. In this blog post, Ben, Alice and Stuart share their key advice from the session.

Picture of Ben PotterKicking off the event, we heard from Ben Potter, a Business Development Mentor. When it comes to business development, Ben’s witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly and now he’s on a mission to make the experience of buying and selling digital services better by helping agencies craft a winning approach to business development.

As well as his work with agencies, Ben writes for Econsultancy, delivers training at the world’s biggest digital conference, BrightonSEO, and has been acknowledged as one of the UK’s most influential business developers in the BD100!

Picture of Alice ReevesNext up, we heard from Alice Reeves, Director of The Joyful Web - a digital marketing agency that works primarily with mission-led businesses. She’s passionate about helping organisations use their influence for positive social change, and about promoting a culture of well-being and heart-led working in the digital sector.

A year and a half ago I started The Joyful Web with my business partner Sophie. Looking back now, it’s easy to see that most of the decisions we made at the beginning came from a place of fear, which led to stumbling block after stumbling block in the growth of our business.

A few months in, we weren’t happy. Work felt like a chore, some of our client relationships weren’t great, and we didn’t know how this had happened when we were SO excited by everything just a few months before.

That’s when it became clear that we weren’t the ones running our business: fear was.

When we started our business, we ticked all of the boxes:

- We knew what our mission was

- We knew what our values were

- We knew the type of businesses we wanted to work with

- We knew what our advice and expertise was worth

- We knew the kind of work that we enjoyed doing

- We had a really strong idea of the kind of business we wanted to be

So… what stopped us, when to the outside world we looked unstoppable? Well... that’s where the fear came in and took over. That’s what was stopping us from running a business that was aligned with our mission, values, and purpose.

Here’s what having fear as our boss looked like:

- Taking on clients that weren’t right for us because we feared getting clients would be really hard.

- Undercharging out of a fear we weren’t good enough.

- Competing with each other out of a fear that the other one was “better”, which meant we weren’t playing to our strengths and realising our full potential as a team.

- Not putting ourselves out there through a fear of being visible and attracting criticism.

- Not signing a lease on a “proper” office out of a fear the commitment was too big, therefore staying in an environment that wasn’t inspiring us because it was safe.

- Being afraid to go after what we wanted in case we failed, which meant setting our goals too small and not feeling that great when we achieved them.

We weren’t aligned with our values AT ALL. We weren’t being authentic, we weren’t being daring, we weren’t being creative.

So… what’s the antidote to fear? Courage.

The important thing to remember is that courage is a muscle. You have to work it and build it, as you don’t get brave overnight. You choose to be brave and start by making small, brave decisions. Like having a conversation with one client that really isn’t working, or turning down an opportunity that doesn’t feel right for you.

I went to a conference last year where Suzy Walker, the editor in chief of Psychologies magazine, was giving a talk on imposter syndrome and said: “The only difference between you and that successful person you compare yourself to is that they’re brave.”

Courage looks different for everyone of course because everyone has different fears and different confidence levels.

For me, courage looks like:

- Having confidence in my opinions and knowledge

- Placing my trust in other people

- Trusting in my own ability

- Putting myself in a position that could attract criticism

- Saying what I really think and feel

- Trusting my instincts

- Being able to say ‘no’ when I risk upsetting or disappointing someone else

- Being able to walk away from something when it’s not working, and not being afraid that I look like a failure when I do

Of course, there will be times when fear is necessary. That’s because it’s a vital evolutionary response.

There will be times when your gut tells you this just isn’t right, and we’ve had a few situations where we have walked away from contracts that seemed, on paper, to be perfect. Because something about them just didn’t feel right. That wasn’t fear though. It wasn’t our brains making up stories and doubting ourselves, it was an instinct which we followed and, it turns out we were right.

And you know what happened when we walked away from opportunities that weren’t right? New opportunities presented themselves that WERE right, and if we’d been caught up in ploughing on with stuff we didn’t want to do, we wouldn’t have been able to see those, let alone take them on.

Part of growing a successful business, for us, has been to learn how to differentiate between thoughts and instincts. To know when to feel the fear and do it anyway, and to know when it’s time to back off and let something go that isn’t right.

Picture of Stuart DaviesFinally, we heard from Stuart Davies, Head of Digital and Co-Founder of Creative Bloom - a digital marketing consultancy & training provider, which specialises in supporting Ethical & Green sectors - helping the good guys get found!

We work both commercially and non-commercially to promote the green & the good in this world and have had the privilege to do so, both large and small.

We are passionate about this, by putting those organisations and businesses who have a positive part to play, for the planet and for people, into the mix digitally when consumers are making purchase decisions, we are doing our bit too.

However, it’s not always been this way. In the past, we took on work & clients who didn’t necessarily line up with our values. Why?

Well, it was out of fear of the cash flow and the pressure to provide a steady income for our employees' rent & mortgages. We also spread ourselves too thinly, trying to fulfil too many services as they were on offer. The result was low team morale, and at times conflict, our people were often working in silos and the culture took a nosedive. In short - we broke. We knew that we need to turn things around, get back to our roots.

“I knew we needed to do something, the exercise we did was a lightbulb moment and changed everything” - Stu Davies, Creative Bloom

Picture of Stuart's Venn diagramSo what did we do to stop the rot?

It started with a Venn diagram & post-it notes (it always does).

Stu drew three adjoining circles and a box apart from it.

- Circle one: What we LIKE doing

- Circle two: What we DISLIKE doing

- Circle three: What we HAVE to do

- Box aside: In a perfect world I/we would

We got everyone to write down on a coloured post-it anything at all and stick it in the relevant circle or box. What struck us was how much there was in dislike & have to do vs like, and how much was in a perfect world.

An extra special thanks to Plus Accounting for sponsoring this session. They’re a firm of chartered accountants, registered auditors and business advisers in Brighton, helping digital businesses better understand and organise their finances.

For upcoming Wired Sussex Breakfast Sessions and other events happening the community, be sure to check out our Events Calendar and sign-up to our monthly newsletter.

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