Small business chat updates – Lucy Scott and Mike Orchard

22 Dec

Welcome to two more updates from my small business chats – today we are going to catch up with Lucy Scott and Mike Orchard ! Neither of these two have ended up quite where they expected, but it’s onwards and upwards, and they’re still going strong!

Lucy Scott

Lucy’s original interview was published on 12 November 2011. Where did she plan to be in a year’s time? She said, “I hope to have a larger base of regular clients and have Admin and Errands in a second (and maybe third!) geographical area“. Let’s see what happened – not quite as predicted, but still good.

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Things are not as predicted but are still good. I have taken on another project, the writing of a book, which is completely different to the business, and I continue to grow my client base. I’m not sure that other geographical areas is actually the way I want to go now. Like all businesses, things evolve and you learn such a lot in those first two years that plans get adjusted and different opportunities show themselves.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

I still have some of my original clients that I pretty much started with and most of my clients come from networking, although more and more come from referrals, which is great. I am more confident in what I have to offer people now, and have a much stronger presence in the business environment.

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

I’ve learnt a such a lot – one thing that stands out for me right now is that working from home full time just does not suit me. With that in mind, I have moved into an office in central Chepstow as of last week! What I wish I’d known? Everything and nothing. That the sun would have only shone for two weeks this summer so make the most of it. That you need to take regular down time, days away from email and thinking about the business. I learnt that I should have looked after myself better over the past two years instead of waiting for exhaustion to hit before stopping!

Any more hints and tips for people?

Go with what feels right at the time, as there are no right or wrong answers to self-employment. We all have different businesses and work in different ways. Enjoy what you do, and if you don’t enjoy it, either stop doing it or find a different approach. Remember there is life outside of your business, there is family and yourself, both of which need nurturing. Notice your accomplishments and celebrate them!

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

I would like to have my book finished and published and I would like to have a strong core client base that refers fresh clients to me. This past year, I have used an assistant when the workload has become too much for me, so would like to be able to give her more regular work. I would also like to create a product that I may earn some residual income from selling online.

I think learning about looking after yourself is one of those massive lessons of the first few years. I know I thought it would come automatically when I started working on Libro full time, and no it most certainly did not. Congratulations to Lucy for being flexible and honest enough to change her mind about what she wanted to achieve, and for writing her book. Let’s hope it’ll be out there in the world by the next time we talk! Note: the URL and email address for Adminanderrands are no longer operational and it looks as though the company might have closed. I’ll add more information if I find it.

Mike Orchard

Skills Hive logo Mike Orchard was originally featured on 26 November 2011. His goal for the year looked like this: “According to the forecasts we will be on track to reach our target turnover within 3 years and so next year will see us starting to court some serious investors to secure the investment needed to get us to our year 5 stretching target.” Again, things haven’t quite worked out as planned, but he’s regrouped and worked on some new goals, taking a sensible approach to the business and its future.

Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?

Not quite! But the important thing is that we have learned and adapted, refining our approach to reflect the value we can deliver based on the needs of prospects in our opportunity pipeline. They do say that most successful businesses look nothing like the original concept once they are fully established.

What has changed and what has stayed the same?

We have made the site free to use while we build critical mass and are focussing on bespoke build opportunities with commercial partners as our initial revenue stream. Various companies are in a position to broker project opportunities between hirers and workers, and there has been significant interest from training companies and consultancy networks. Consulting is now a much more important feature of our own service offering, as we look to show businesses how to develop their virtual team strategy rather than just providing the tools for them to use themselves.

Universities are still a major focus: we have integrated Skills Hive within Personal Professional Development programmes for students and are hosting events that bring together businesses, freelancers, graduates and students to explore potential collaboration opportunities, like this one.

Our research has uncovered some interesting insights, leading us to start developing a new tool called Wavelength that will help hirers to identify workers who are aligned to their vision and have a good fit with their way of working.

We are also just about to launch our Social Enterprise arm, “Schools Hive”. Its mission is to …

  • Help individuals within parent networks to communicate their skills and collaborate.
  • Make it easy to volunteer to support the school and each other
  • Generate opportunities to earn money whilst looking after children

We believe in …

  • Giving talent visibility
  • Preventing skills erosion
  • Self-supporting communities
  • Cross-generational working
  • Local networked economies

What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?

While I knew this already, I am much more aware now that money isn’t the only measure of success, in fact it doesn’t necessarily need to be the primary measure.

Any more hints and tips for people?

I have always said, “focus on the customer and the money takes care of itself”, but when you are working on a disruptive business, the start point is to focus on being true to yourself, your vision and your purpose.

And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?

We will have secured at least 3 bespoke build licence agreements with clients and be looking at re-introducing the subscription model for the main public site. Several hiring companies we will have consulted to will now be self-serving using the new Wavelength tools to select workers aligned to their vision. Schools Hive will have been rolled out across one South London borough, and we will be finalising the model for the national “franchise”.

So, another case of adjusting as you go and moving into new areas as opportunities and research suggest. Good luck to Mike and it’ll be interesting to see what has developed by next year!

NOTE: Although Skills Hive still seems to be going strong as of July 2014, Mike has decided not to continue to take part in this interview series. We wish him the best of luck for the future.

You can call Mike on 07894 561 726 and visit his website at or email him.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more freelancer chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured.

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Posted by on December 22, 2012 in Business, Small Business Chat


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