Next year is going to be THE YEAR!

Well, at least, I’ve decided that is the mentality with which I am going to approach the start of our fourth financial year, which starts in February 2015. Our fourth financial year!? I couldn’t have even imagined saying that when I started out with my second hand Transit van, during my days off from work, moving one rooms worth of boxes at a time and roping in friends whenever I needed a hand. OK, so I still rope in friends every now and then but 99% of the time it’s real employees going out in the vans, who admittedly, quickly become friends.

So why is next year going to be THE YEAR?

When I first started the business I immersed myself in research. I scoured HMRCs website for information on tax, employment and the like. I went to the Business and IP Centre at the British Library almost weekly, attending free or very cheap courses on everything from digital marketing, to finance for business, to trademarks and IP. I went to the business show and attended every free seminar going. I loved working on the website and social media and building the perfect brand identity. I did financial planning 5 years ahead that made me super rich by then. It was great. Only thing is I had loads of time to do it all because I had no work.

We've built up a bank of happy customers in our first three years!

We’ve built up a bank of happy customers in our first three years!

The two years since that time have been filled with crazy hours, the ebb and flow of manageable and totally unmanageable stress levels, and a slow realization that it takes a lot of hard work to build a sustainable lifestyle for yourself from your own business, not just a great brand and some research. I haven’t had time for financial projections, targets and checking our progress against them. It’s all been about building the brand, getting jobs under our belts and building a huge bank of previous customers willing to rave about us to anyone who asks. As long as we survived financially as a company that was enough.

Next year, this has to change.

I need to start focusing on profit. Sounds obvious to anyone in business but I have thus far been building a very robust springboard whilst keeping us afloat. I’ve amassed supporters of the business by doing a great job and making our customers happy, I’ve built a very recognizable brand and I’ve built a network of people around me, the sum of whose advice could rocket anyone to success. Most importantly I’ve got a staff of incredible people who are committed to the core values of the business and love the work and each other. It sounds cheesy but it’s true.

The girls and friends at the London Pride Parade promoting the brand!

The girls and friends at the London Pride Parade promoting the brand!

So, that’s the springboard, but now it’s time to jump.

We have three vans now, which are regularly busy doing our own work. We are in the process of white-labeling our concept, so that other removals companies can sell female crews, provided by us, to their customers to widen their offering. We are going to be able to offer full time work to more of our staff next year, and I will be planning projections and targets for us to strive for over the next year, as I should have been doing all along. I’m going to combine the enthusiasm over numbers and planning from the first few months with the hard work involved in delivering our service and hope that this ensures that next year is THE YEAR!!!

Wish me luck!

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Two flights up and two to go

There I am, standing at the front of an excited crowd, amongst the women I’ve spent the last six weeks with refining our brand vision as part of a programme called Brand Amplifier. I’ve just delivered the pitch of my life, during which my hands shook and I suffered involuntary breath gulps. I have heartily clapped and whooped my fellow Brand Amplifiees for third and second place and have accepted that, with that, my chances are done. I wait with baited breath to see who has nabbed top spot. And then, they call my name! In shock I bound on to the stage and deliver the most unprepared acceptance speech including the phrases “I’m a really creative person” and “I’m so proud of myself!”.

It’s at this moment that the question “How did I end up here?” floated in to my head. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not always like this. There are also moments when I’m pausing for breath two flights up, with two to go, for the fortieth time that day with a giant box in my arms, or delivering hugely expensive artworks to eccentrically extravagant mansions in the country, which encourage the same question.

I did my fair share of marching up and down stairs carrying heavy weights in the Fire Brigade and it is here that the idea for my company, Van Girls, was born. I reached a point in my fire brigade career when I didn’t want to progress any further up the ranks and I was happy and comfortable at my station and on my watch, so my mind started to search for the next challenge. What could I do with my days off during the week that would earn me a bit of extra pocket money and occupy my mind. Not having a trade to speak of and full of the warmth I received from the general public when they realised a female firefighter had turned up, I slowly came to the realization that a woman and van service could be really popular. I was strong, I liked pushing myself to my limits physically and firefighting had given me great practical problem solving skills – it was perfect.

So, here I am, two years later, an ex-firefighter, CEO and Founding Director of the now ‘award-winning’ Van Girls, employer of two full time staff and fifteen casual staff and with a ‘fleet’ of two beautiful vans, soon to be three. I’m going to use this blog to tell you the story of how I got here, where I‘m heading and some of the moments I feel are worth sharing along the way. I’m only two flights up, with at least two to go until I will really feel like I’ve made it somewhere, but I have a feeling when I get up the next two, I’ll turn the corner and two more will appear.

Brand Amplifier Platinum Award Winner 2014

Brand Amplifier Platinum Award Winner 2014