21 May, 15

Never underestimate the value in taking time away for active reflection. Gaining new ideas for business growth doesn’t need to be hard work.

A phrase I often bandy about is ‘what does good look like?’ when discussing business growth. I use it often when trying to establish what it is exactly that motivates a client, instead focusing solely on the task in hand. Although, as we all know, it’s much easier to give advice than it is to sit down and use it on yourself.

A good friend of mine, and more recently a business coach to me, dropped in the idea of taking a few days away for some fresh thinking time. A chance for some active reflection without the chaos of clients chasing or the familiarity of your comfy sofa.

I arrived in Manchester earlier this week – a city I’d visited briefly before, but one that was fairly unfamiliar (you might like the idea of unspoiled countryside, I, on the other hand, am a city dweller). My first task was to write down my bugbears on post it notes – a list of all the specific things that I’d like to fix, asked myself the questions I’d like to answer and put down some wild ambitions I wanted to explore. Quite quickly I realised this wasn’t just a process about business, it was as much about me and where I am heading in life.

I swear by post it notes. With handwriting like mine I can only write a few words to keep them comprehensible, perfect for breaking things into little pieces. Having three days to think took away the pressure to do everything at once. By taking a collection of post it notes out with me each day, I slowly mulled over each one in turn.

Manchester has a variety to offer. Some of my time was spent wandering the industrial networks of canals, discovering pockets of new regeneration and artist led spaces running side by side. I visited The Lowry, Media City, strolled passed the rich red brick buildings of the a Northern Quarter, the rainbow laden cobbles of Canal Street and happened across a world premiere at Manchester’s latest cultural offering, Home. This type of thinking is not meant for the board room, it’s not a linear process, it needs freedom to undulate and feeding through unfamiliar experiences.

In thinking about the future, most of my insight came from reflecting on the past. When I laid down all my achievements, which contracts I had lost and which I’d grown, I was able to gain more clarity about what exactly it is that I offer in a way that makes us a perfect choice.  Able to see clearly where I’ve come and daydream a little about where I want to go, it was amazing how quickly clarity came.

On my post it notes I had ‘money’ and ‘making more of it’, I had ‘clarity’, ‘clearer messages’, ‘finding more customers’ – all familiar concerns for any business. None of the outcomes are revolutionary, I didn’t uncover a plan to make a million pounds. But I was able to see where I’ve been duplicating work, over stretching my time in areas others do better, I was able to clarify my offer into three constituent parts – sounds simple now, but I’d been struggling for sometime.

More importantly than anything, I also have five things for me. I’ve set myself some new challenges, given myself time to daydream and know where my next treat is heading. One thing is for certain running a business will never be 9-5, so if you’re not excited about why you’re doing it, how will you ever take it to the next step.

A few hours left and I’m off to the Museum of Science & Industry. If you take on this advice, remember one bite at a time and you’ll be fine.


James West
West Creative Ltd