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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From Vile to Viral!

Yesterday an email enquiry from the Van Girls website popped in to the admin inbox. Even two years on I can’t help a little flutter of excitement with every new enquiry and I quickly opened it up, only to be greeted by a charming suggestion from a lovely chap called Jason. I have added some stars for your viewing pleasure.

I had to read it again. Had someone really taken the time to seek out our website and was so put out by our concept of an all female removals team that he felt the need to fill out our enquiry form like this!? Apparently so.

So, I thought about what I should do. Should I email him back? Well, that email address probably isn’t real and even if it was he doesn’t sound up for intelligent debate. Should I just feel a bit saddened and forget it? That didn’t quite cut it either. Then I remembered the twitter feed @EverydaySexism where people are encouraged to share stories of sexism encountered on a daily basis to build a picture of how rife it still is. So I tweeted Jason’s email and tagged @Everyday Sexism to see what other people would think of his advice.

The tweet

At the very least, I thought I would feel better sharing what felt like quite a personal attack and at best it might gain some traction and would gain our business some exposure and allow Jason to humiliate himself a little more publicly.

Never having had a tweet retweeted more than say 3 times before, you can imagine my surprise when the interactions started to build. More and more retweets and favourites, some thoughtful replies, some just as vicious as Jason had been leveled right back at him. I watched them grow through yesterday evening until I thought wow, I’ve turned a vile communication in to a viral one. Maybe I should email Jason back now to say thanks.

The twitter storm!

The whole experience was topped off as a positive one today when I received this lovely email from one of our new followers on twitter:

Love your site and company which I discovered after the email from that pathetic misogynist was sent to Everyday Sexism on Twitter. He’s not only made himself a laughing stock but raised awareness of your company – I’ll definitely be using you should I need your services and recommending you to all friends and family. It’s great to see women excelling and thriving in every field, especially ones still thought to be the preserves of men. All the best!”

This is an approach I would not have thought to take before my involvement in a great programme called Brand Amplifier which mentors female entrepreneurs in brand, PR and marketing. I might have just sighed and shrugged him off as an aggressive loser but this time I feel like we’ve owned the interaction.

So, just shows you can make a positive out of pretty much anything!

Since writing this blog this story has appeared as part of a Metro ‘In Focus’ piece on Everyday Sexism. You can read it here:

Metro article

She is anticipating our future vile to viral success

One of the Van Girls anticipating our future vile to viral success!