As we wave goodbye to 2021, it’s a great time to stop and reflect on the last 12 months. (And yes, what a year it’s been!) Take stock and focus on your business’s strengths and areas for improvement. Doing so will make your plans for the new year much more effective.

So this week, I’ll be looking back on my business journey so far. In this article, I put pen to paper to answer questions I often get asked at networking events. So whether you’re a Directory member intrigued to know more about how the business began, or you’re considering starting your own business, I hope that some of my experiences will be of interest, and perhaps even offer a little bit of inspiration.

How did you become inspired to start The Cheshire Business Directory?

I was working with lots of clients, all of whom were yearning for a community of likeminded businesses to network with. So it was a no-brainer. I have years of marketing experience, so I knew that the Directory would be of great support to so many of my clients. They wanted to connect with fellow business owners, collaborate on projects, and find reputable suppliers in their local community. The Cheshire Business Directory gives businesses such a wealth of opportunity. For me, it really was about supporting local businesses to be the best they can be.

How did you prepare for starting your own business?

I knew starting my own business would be tough, so preparation was the key. I read some amazing books, spoke to friends and family, and really focused on planning, both short term and long term. Defining my core values and aims was essential early on. Doing so meant that I could create tangible goals that I really believed in.

I also started networking six months before I launched. That way, many local businesses knew about me and the Directory before I’d even welcomed my first client. Creating energy and chatter around the business was exciting, and it inspired me to keep going.

What are The Cheshire Business Directory’s USPs?

I’d been to a lot of networking events before I launched, so I’d already carved out a clear vision for what I believed successful networking to look like. I knew that I wanted to prioritise people, engagement and development. Learning from others and listening to inspirational talks ignites your passion, and provides you with vital time to stop and reflect.

The Cheshire Business Directory is multi-strategy. We work across all channels to give businesses the attention they’re after. Our services and product range can be tailored to each individual business, so that we fully align with their strategy and values. But at the heart of what we do are the businesses themselves, and the people behind them. We invest in them and genuinely care about their success within our community.

How did it feel to get your first client?

Incredible. It really was. When you’re thirsty for something, and you’ve worked so hard behind the scenes to make it work, it’s magical when it pays off. I still get the same buzz now when I welcome new clients to the Directory. Getting to know each new business and their mission for the year ahead is exciting and motivational.

I’d used a marketing campaign to attract attention and launched a special offer for those businesses who signed up to the Directory for six months, so I received a lot of interest early on. An effective social media strategy was crucial here, as was an impressive website. Many small businesses reached out straight away. Some because they needed support in getting seen and heard; others were looking for ways to engage and collaborate with reputable local businesses. It was a real mix.

The support I received so early on from businesses across the area was phenomenal. Within six months, The Directory had over 100 businesses and charities on the books. Word-of-mouth and a strong social media presence were definitely key drivers.

What are your top tips for promoting yourself?

Self-promotion is never easy, but people really do want to get to know the face behind a business. So you have to get out there. You have to have a voice – and be prepared to share it. A strong social media presence is a cheap and cost-effective marketing solution. I use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter to promote the Directory. Although it was daunting at first, I persevered and wasn’t afraid to share my story. Doing this consistently, whilst managing the day-to-day operations of your business can be challenging, so clear planning and strategy are key.

You can find out more about how to use social media for your business here.

What do you believe is the first rule of business?

For me, this is simple. People buy people. I believe that if you’re a great person, you’ll attract customers and clients – just by being you. So being the face of your business really does matter. Focusing on nothing but the big bucks is not good business practice: leading by example, being resilient, accepting feedback and working with others is.

I am truly not impressed by money, social status or job titles. I am impressed by kindness, innovation, and respect. Every day, I work harder to be the best version of myself. It takes perseverance, but it pays off, for your business, and your wellbeing.

‘I am truly not impressed by money, social status or job titles. I am impressed by creativity, kindness and respect.’

What motivates you in business?

I love people, and I love being part of their business journeys. There’s absolutely nothing better for me than to watch my clients achieve success, so they inspire and motivate me. I really do value them and their achievements.

My boys are also a huge source of motivation. I do what I do for them. Unlike roles I’ve had in the past, managing my own business has given me the freedom and flexibility I was searching for. I work on my terms, so my work-life balance is good. I value quality time with my family, away from the buzz of work, as I genuinely believe that a healthy work-life balance helps you to be successful in business.

In terms of your business, what are you most proud of?

For me, this is an easy one: surviving lockdown. I’ve met so many people recently who’ve lost their business as a direct impact of the pandemic. Some of their stories have really affected me: these are people who poured everything into their business, who gave it their all – and then they lost it all almost overnight.

So I know that I was lucky. It was hard. Naturally, I lost some clients during the first lockdown. People were scared and needed to reassess their spending. Like many others, I was homeschooling and managing the business at the same time. Everything moved online, so it was a period of real adaptation. Being here now is something that I’m so proud of, and grateful for. And I’m stronger and more determined as a result.

What would you say to someone with a strong business idea – who’s too nervous to take the leap?

Making the move into running your own business full time, especially when you’re coming from secure employment is tough. It really is, especially in these uncertain times. But one thing I would say is that if you want to transform, you need to start. You need to try it. Without that first step, that big risk, you’ll never find success.

Having that mantra inside that you hold on to is key. ‘This is my new direction and no one is going to stop me.’ Anything which helps to immediately challenge negative thinking is crucial.

I’d also advise people to plan well, and get out and about to discover the benefits of business networking. As The Cheshire Business Directory has proven, amazing things happen when you work together.

‘Without that first step, that big risk, you’ll never find success.’

Get your business seen and heard in 2022

Start off the new year with The Cheshire Business Directory. Join us at our next online Directory networking event and discover a community of likeminded business owners ready to champion your business.

As COVID continually forces us to reassess and rethink how we run our businesses, it’s vital that you can rely on the support and advice of a team of local business owners. Tap into their skills and bounce ideas off each other. Consider ways to collaborate and grow your respective businesses. And find those all-important connections with people in a similar situation to you. Sometimes it takes someone who has been there and done it to truly appreciate how you’re feeling.

As well as our popular networking events, The Cheshire Business Directory offer a range of marketing packages that’ll get your business in front of thousands of potential customers right across Cheshire and Greater Manchester. We offer bespoke, personalised and hassle-free marketing solutions, from social media promotion to door drop marketing.

So come and see what The Cheshire Business Directory can do for your business.

For a no-obligation chat about your business’s 2022 marketing strategy, call me, Kerry, on 07501 896 445.

Wishing you all a happy and successful year ahead.

The Cheshire Business Directory. Connect. Collaborate. Grow.

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