Launching an independent consultancy and coaching business after years in the NHS can be daunting. One year on and this ancient Buddhist wisdom sums it up:
"If we are facing in the right direction all we have to do is keep on walking".
Perhaps in my case it should be 'keep on rowing'!
My first year was one of discovery and delight. Discovery in terms of exploring how to transfer what I learnt in the public sector to this new business context and delight in learning what my clients value most.
It was also about gradually letting go of the shore and exploring new horizons beyond NHS perimeters. Joining the Melting Pot proved to be a significant step in this regard. Situated in the centre of Edinburgh, the Melting Pot is convenient for meetings and coaching sessions. It's also a source of support through co-working and a lively peer-learning network to build resilience as an emerging business.
Marketing isn't something you think much about working in public services. I tended to associate it with media advertising but marketing has had a deeper role in helping me discover what I was all about as my public service skin slipped away.
Sonja Mitchell of Yellowbrick Marketing has worked with me over the past few months to advise on expanding the scope of my business. Central to this process was articulating my values and skills in a way that is meaningful to prospective clients. I had to let go of my own view of what was most important in talking about my work.
Sonja interviewed current and former clients to learn what they valued most in working with me. They all identified clarity, calmness and warmth as key strengths. I found their response very reassuring given that the business is all about helping people and organisations to navigate complex change.
The NHS prepares you well to work with complexity. It sits within the context of an ever changing political landscape with responsibility spread across many professional groups and agencies. I’ve weathered turbulent times there to achieve improvements in services to the vulnerable. Now it's so rewarding to be a trusted advisor and coach to other change leaders as they navigate through similar complexity.
I've learnt a lot during this transitional year. Robert Kemp, a former Finance Director colleague has recently joined me to manage the business side. This is like having a Rolls Royce engine in a Suzuki Swift but the coming year is about diversifying and the stability enables me to be more adventurous.
I've also changed the business name to TurningTides to more accurately reflect what we are about. TurningTides captures something of my island origins, tapping into my deep sense of resilience and respect for relationship and interdependence. Most of the time we can go with the tides but occasionally we have to swim against them and that's when it's good to have a trusted adviser to guide you through.