Springboard QMS – The Founders Reflections On The First Year In BusinessJanuary 20, 2020
I’m Mike Ward, Founder of Springboard QMS Ltd and have now been in business for nearly a year and I am a proud member of the Innovation Martlesham Incubator. I feel this is a good time to let others know what the first year has been like both the good and the not so good. It is just a story about my personal journey; and hopefully some of the events I have experienced may resonate with those people who are thinking of starting up in business and those who are further down the journey than me.
Firstly, let me say why I started up my own business – Springboard QMS.I have previously worked as an employee both for BT until 2001 and latterly until 2018 for an SME so I had no experience at all of life as a self-employed person. As part of my previous job I became qualified as an ISO 9001 auditor (the international standard for implementing a quality management system) and circumstances led me to thinking about branching out on my own as an independent consultant to guide businesses in implementing ISO 9001:2015. It is something that I really enjoy doing and I felt I could bring some unique value-add and benefits to customers. So, I took the plunge, with absolutely no idea about how things would work out, or indeed about how to run a business. The mantra running through my head was “if you are going to fail, fail fast” and I was prepared for things not to work out. I think it is important to hope for the best but to be prepared for the worst when embarking on a new venture and never mistake good fortune for talent.
As part of my previous work I had good relations with Innovation Martlesham, and I quickly made the decision that this would be a good environment in which to start my business. Of all the decisions I have made this year that was definitely the best. The support I have received from the IM team, from attending IM organised free events and other members of IM has been fantastic. This ranged from help in managing a business from the admin side and in networking. I have been overwhelmed by the help given by IM members, even those that could be viewed as competition. And I must give a special mention for the wonderful support given by Andy Mills of Applied Risk Management in this for his wisdom and guidance.
So, let me give you a brief overview of the key lessons I have learned in my first year. Firstly, it is all about people. As touched on earlier, building a support network proved to be extremely important. Being able to email or phone someone with experience who will give you the impartial benefit of that experience cannot be overestimated, and IM provides this opportunity in bucket loads.
Of course, one needs to develop contacts outside of IM to grow a business. One of the first lessons I learned was that there are several networking organisations that have regular meet ups with other local businesses. For me these didn’t prove overly useful because they seemed more geared to businesses like solicitors, estate agents, builders and so forth. My area of ISO 9001 consulting was a bit too niche. Hence after attending a number of these events, most of whom do charge, I decided not to progress with this approach. Also, it’s worth noting that at these events it is important to understand if you are selling or buying. People will obviously try to sell you their services at such events, so you need to be aware that not all pleasantries are altruistic. Basic stuff I know, but worth being aware of. Importantly, never underestimate the power of word of mouth. For me that has been the most successful way of generating contacts.
Second, it is important to have a view of what success for you looks like. This will differ across businesses, but you need to be aware if things are going to plan or not. For me it was to acquire a small number of customers from which I could generate close relationships leading to repeat business. Starting small and keeping things manageable and under control was important to me, this would enable me to treat my customers to an individual tailored service, which delivering 9001 Quality Management Systems is all about, as every implementation will be different.
Has my first year been a success? Did it work out for me? The short answer is yes. I’ve made a profit, didn’t get into debt, managed a good work/life balance and helped my customers. It has been a wonderful learning curve, especially regarding the mechanics of running a small business. I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy this aspect, but I absolutely love it. Keeping the accounts up to date might be boring to some but to me it’s really enjoyable. As mentioned previously I had some great help plus I was experienced in things like building web sites, marketing and so forth. This meant I had extremely low start-up costs which definitely helped.
Has it been an unadulterated success? No. In retrospect I could have put more effort into the marketing side to generate more business, but one needs to be careful. There are a shed load of dubious ‘marketing’ and ‘networking’ companies out there just wanting your cash. Obtaining a couple more customers would have been ideal. I had a few close calls but didn’t quite close the deals. Also getting my businesses name more widely known is probably the most challenging aspect for me. These are the areas I plan on addressing next year.
In the coming year I plan to build on the work done so far and to add to my customer base by upping my marketing efforts. If I can add another five customers and help them to acquire ISO 9001 over the next couple of years, I will judge that to be a major success while still enabling me to deliver the personal service to my customers that I deem to be the essence of what I do. I’m looking forward to an exciting 2020.
If you are thinking about implementing ISO 9001, or are unsure if it will be of benefit to your business, a good place to start would be to take a look at the FAQs on my website at http://www.springboardqms.co.uk/faq.html.
(Pictured: Mike Ward)