Graham's blog described our retirement in late 2017, and our plans to start a new career. He did a great job of capturing our sense of restlessness around that time and, while we were not burned out, we knew that we had to bring the pace down a bit! So, these past few months have turned out to be a great mix of learning new skills, having the opportunity to be creative, do a great deal of reading and research and drink lots of coffee!
When the sun shines, as it has been doing recently, I've been able to sit in the garden. With the brightness turned up, and a good WiFi connection, the laptop is never far from my side. Over recent weeks I think my Vitamin D must be at an all-time high!
In this blog I am going to tell you about some of the technical aspects of setting up the business, starting with our brand.
One of the most critical elements when starting a new business, centres on your branding decision. This means asking a series of questions. What does your business do? What do you stand for? How will your business be perceived and received? In essence, what sort of personality does it have?
When we came to register the company we discovered that our first choice - “The Leader” was already registered with Companies House, so were happy to include “Scotland” in the name. First learning point! Always be prepared to be flexible.
Compass and companion
During our discussions, research, reading and listening (podcasts, podcasts podcasts!) we kept returning to the idea of leadership being a journey, and one which needed a guide to help the leader find direction, keep them focused and get them back on track. This could equally apply to times of business growth and development, or times of crisis and challenge.
A compass was an obvious visualisation for setting and checking leadership direction, and we saw ourselves in the role of guide and companion. We didn’t want to act as consultants, rather we wanted to coach, mentor and support leaders, responding to their needs and wants, and accompany them for a short while on their leadership journey.
We debated long and hard around how to articulate our mission, but knew that we had to offer a concise description of what The Leader does. Simply put, The Leader helps others become better leaders.
We were conscious that “leader” and “leadership” are sometimes viewed more as academic terms, and we wanted to focus on offering help to small businesses. So, we thought that “boss” was actually a clearer and better description – and so our strapline emerged.
We help you become a better boss, and build a better business.
Our business model
Our business model is slightly unusual, firstly because it is an “encore career” for us both. This allows us to draw on decades of experience and start a new business which generates income, but crucially also gives us the means to work with young and inexperienced leaders or voluntary sector organisations where need is high, but cash is tight.
We explored a range of different delivery models, and because we knew we wanted to offer flexible and personalised services to meet the needs of individual clients and their businesses, we could not be prescriptive and “just” offer coaching, or training. We felt that we could be most effective if we offered a mix of approaches - blended support in other words. As coffee lovers, it felt natural to describe this as a really good cup of coffee – with the blend, mix and type chosen by the client.
As a male and a female, we are able to look at things from a different perspective, and we believe this has a multiplier effect on how we carry out our research, work with clients and share our actionable learning resources. We call this “Insight Added”. This is also the name we chose for our regular leadership guide which offers hints and tips on how to think, feel and act as a leader.
Bringing the brand to life
We had decided to undertake strategic business planning ourselves, although we bolted on a lot of training courses and webinars from organisations such as Business Gateway and Enterprise Nation to fill in some of the gaps in our technical knowledge.
Thankfully we knew our limitations, and recognised that we would have to engage a professional designer to create our brand.
Cue Sarah, of Sarah Archibald Design, Elderslie, Scotland. Sarah runs a freelance design agency, and we chose her, not just because of a personal connection, but because we knew she would do her utmost to interpret our brief and bring The Leader brand to life.
Sarah worked out how to convey wisdom and experience, balanced with our modern outlook and passion for lifelong learning and personal growth. She distilled our brief down to its essence, and described The Leader as an experienced, approachable, business friend you can trust. She also gave strong consideration to incorporating a powerful graphic image, demonstrating our role as compass and companion.
She integrated a compass needle to replace the letter A in the word Leader, with the needle pointing to True North, visually representing the desired end state for our clients.
Sarah gave us a choice of three designs, and once we settled on one, she worked through several iterations to get it just right.
She gave strong consideration to colours and fonts, and suggested purple to convey warmth, and dark grey to convey experience. We were very excited when we discovered that Pantone had chosen ultra-violet as the colour of the year for 2018. We hope this will augur well for us!
In our next blog, Graham will continue his reflections on our business start-up and share his thoughts on why we feel leadership is pivotal.
What do you think of our branding? We would love to hear from you.
Take care. Lead well.
“The way to get started is to stop talking and start doing.”