An Interesting Journey – Where next?

Over the past ten years I have been providing IT Project Management services to corporations via IT Contracting roles, during which time I have been managing amongst other things several business interests.

In 2010 I married my childhood sweetheart, we had a baby and started in business together as well as working full time in London at that point. Not bad for a year in the life…

The business we started was Batting 4 6, a specialist cricket company based on the High Street in Retford. We became part of the Retford Business Forum and contributed significantly to the start-up of Totally Locally in the area, supported the Sheffield Retail forum and at one point found myself speaking and presenting to 200 plus people on business and marketing alongside the Bauer Media group and the Bank of England.  The business flourished and within 18 months we had tripled in size. Not only were we a high street store of some 3000 square feet in size, where you could play cricket inside, we provided birthday parties, coaching sessions in schools and specialist sessions on planned programmes.

During this period, we produced thousands of items of team wear, we took the decision to complete the embroidery of the team wear in house rather than outsourcing. So I took my wife on a romantic weekend to Tenby, South Wales where we spent the weekend in a factory learning how to use industrial embroidery machines. And to my wife’s ultimate delight, we brought one back in our van, it took four of us to lift the machine. (We now have six and produce 150 garments per day.)

The cricket business had issues with cash flow and we were always sat on tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of stock, so we decided to close the cricket business down and focus on the embroidery and print. This opened up new market opportunities with new sectors and developed different relationships. There was no need to be on the high street anymore and so we moved premises to a local business park opposite Retford Train Station on the East Coast Mainline with free parking and other companies to work closely with. B46 remained the branded name as people recognised us from the cricket days  and so the business had an immediate customer base.

As a small business, we were very personable and would regularly spend time talking to our customers about the challenges they faced and indeed their needs.  So B46 changed a little to start and provide further print solutions, business cards, leaflets, logo designs etc. We were becoming a one stop shop for small and medium sized businesses. As we understood the image they wanted, we could provide them with the branded logo, work wear and marketing materials. Further to that we began to build their websites too and then other websites as word spread.

B46 Solutions came officially into existence mid-2018, in early 2019 we took on our first full time graphic designer and partnered with Nettl to support our printing requirements, this opened up other opportunities and we now provide all manner of printed materials from Gazebo’s to Embrace back drops. The possibilities are endless. In addition to that we also partnered with Gradwell, a communications company so we were able to provide broadband, cloud based telephony solutions, an extension of what I had been providing in my contracting roles.

New signage outside the store.
The new signage outside the store

The team we have is a good mix of skills and characters to ensure we have the required abilities to support all of our in house services, plus the external support in terms of HR and Finance personnel. I have had to learn a lot in business; self-motivation, motivating others, discipline, dealing with people from all walks of life, finance, financing, modelling, business planning, marketing, the list goes on. Whilst it has been great and I have learned more doing this than I ever have in a corporate contract world, I wonder –  What will be next?

After a recent contract with Thomas Cook came to an abrupt end, I have found myself in a position where I have choices of which path to follow. The contract market feels quiet and changes to IR35 next April leave me wondering if contracting as we know it will be the same again or whether being a company providing multiple services to multiple customers puts me in a better position.

So my dilemma is – do I focus on the contracting and develop new skills to enhance my career progression, or do I learn to write bids for the tender application process and make my business flourish, utilising the 15+ years of experience in the corporate environment? If I work as hard in my business as I have for the corporate companies or as hard as I do for the cricket community, then I am sure I can do something special in this area too.  I have an ability to make it happen, no matter what the challenge – a serial deliverer – as I was known. I have no idea where it may lead or what may happen next, my journey so far has been varied, when I started out in business 10 years ago, I didn’t expect to be here now. Working for myself I am master of my own destiny

So in the words of Baz Luhrmann
“The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 46 year olds I know still don’t”
So I guess I am OK still to be pondering where to go next 🙂