Today my guest blogger is Lucy Whittington, unrepentantly rocking up (as per) without checking the rules or committing to a date but acing the task anyway. It also gave us the opportunity to catch up on Private Message, something we do surprisingly and delightfully often, brain-picking and swapping secret intel, ears to the ground, boots there too (don’t try and imagine that, although with Lucy’s fitness regime that’s probably a knot she could actually tie herself into, whereas me…non merci!).
Here’s Lucy’s latest news:
Just as Blur sang “There’s no other way”, Gareth and I are very clear that we run Connectably the way we want to, and do it our way. Running your business your way we think is vital. And yes, one of those ways does often feature 90s indie choons on our Spotify playlist while we work.
How we run Connectably is entirely based on what we both want the business to look like, and is based on how we both ran our business separately before we became co-founders. It’s probably why we ARE co-founders, actually.
Inspired by the very lovely Judith Morgan, author of Your Biz Your Way, I wanted to share how Connectably really works, and why it works so well for us to do it our way. Look out for Judith’s reply on her blog here.
What running your business your way means to us
Running your business your way means lots of different things to us, but here are the main ways why we run Connectably the way that we do:
Why we run our business
We solve the problems we know are important to the people we want to work with, so that’s the fundamental ‘why’ of Connectably. We work with small service-based businesses who are spending way more time on their admin than they are delivering what they do best. We wanted to help them do more of what they are brilliant at.
Where we run our business
We run our business from where we want to be and, much as we have an ongoing mutual ‘tease’ about who lives in the nicest place in the UK, we both admit that the other lives in a nice part of the country too (although, of course, remains second choice for both of us).
Side note for the nosey: Gareth lives in Harrogate, Yorkshire i.e. “God’s own country”. And Lucy lives at the seaside in Poole, Dorset right by Sandbanks.
When we run our business
We run our business when we want to: we’re both parents, so there’s a lot of working hard in term time and school day time, and plenty of flexible time in the late afternoons and time off in school holidays.
Who we work with
Who we work with is very important to us, and we don’t work with clients we don’t want to. Gareth has a not-very-polite version of describing this approach, but I’ll just say we’re very happy to say, “No, thank you–we’re not a good fit” if the wrong type of client comes along.
How we work
How we work is our way too: we like to work online, we’re totally ‘in the cloud’ as a business, we’re on iPhones and Macbooks, and being out and about makes no difference to the work we do.
What we do
What we do when we work is a bit different though: Gareth’s the ‘left brain’ of the business and his default is to always create a spreadsheet for ‘thinking’. Lucy is the ‘right brain’ of the business and prefers pencil and paper or a pile of Post-its and pens for scribbling to ‘think’ with. Each to their own, but a perfect balance when we come together.
Playing to our strengths
Having both run our own businesses for more than a decade each, we’ve both tried out lots of different ways of working and work itself. We’re both really clear on what our best work looks like and make sure that’s what we get to do.
Occasionally, I have to do a spreadsheet and sometimes I make Gareth write on paper, but we each have our parts of the business we take care of, and it works doing it our way. I know I’m better at ‘words and pictures’ and building relationships and so I’m focused on marketing and sales. Gareth manages the development, team and support as that’s his strength because he’s a good leader and technical planner.
We know when to hire
Gareth and I also both know that we’re not always the best people for a job either, and have no qualms about hiring who we need in the business to make it work better. Both of us brought team members into the new business that we already love working with, and we’ve hired new ones together too. Working ‘our’ way has been made so much easier as we have shared values on almost everything–and that almost makes it interesting, of course, as it would be boring if we agreed on everything.
Going against the grain…
The received wisdom in start-up software businesses is to go after investment and pitch, pitch, pitch from day one. And while we enjoy the occasional pitch–as they’re great for PR and building a network–we’re more interested in building brilliant software and an engaged community of users. We’d rather get ‘investment’ from our users and have them recommend us than go full time ‘after the money’ and get distracted.
It’s far more important to us to focus on building something great than looking good and chasing investment. That’s not to say we don’t want to grow, and might not seek investment in the future, as we probably will. But right now, we’re more interested in sales and supporting our users, and building a network of partners who recommend our software. We know that the more we focus on the results, we can help other business owners achieve the better our business will be. When you wake up knowing you can help someone that day–and for the better–you always want to get out of bed.
On keeping focused…
On a more practical note, we’re very good at keeping each other ‘up’ and focused. In fact, it’s very rare that both of us are having a bad day at the same time, so one will always make the other smile. And, actually, that’s the brilliant thing about having a business partner who ‘gets’ you. Much as we are very suited in skills and business, what’s more important is that we’re very suited as people.
We both know that the other brings out the best in us, and together we’re creating a bigger and better business than we could on our own. Of course, we’ll only now and then let on to the other one how great we think they are, in case it goes to their head. Although we do have a ‘gratitude’ channel in our team Slack, where we post nice things and thank yous to each other (I know, we’re big softies really).
Having worked on my own for years, where even when I had a team I was on my own in terms of ‘being in charge’, it’s a big change having a business partner. It was a bit of a shock to not be able to do exactly what I wanted all the time, but I quickly reframed that as being challenged, being pushed, and being better. And it IS better. Don’t tell Gareth that, though, I’ll never hear the end of it!
Connection is central
Our business is called Connectably and connection is at the heart of what we’re about. What we sell is one simple business software that connects all sales, marketing and accounting admin in one place. We’re on a mission to stop small service-based business owners spending time on ‘evening admin’ and, instead, get everything they need to get done to during the day. All while running your business your way, of course.
Building a community of Connectably users is also really important to us. As former ‘independent’ (in more ways than one!) business owners ourselves, we know that being supported by others can be one of the the best things you can do for yourself and your business. Sharing ideas, giving feedback, even simply offering encouragement can do wonders for your business results. And if just by making connections among our users that happens, what a great outcome for everyone.
Wow, wow, wow Lucy Whittington! You are one of those people for whom I have to use both names, why’s that?? This is quite the departure and yet it is not, both at the same time. I am sure you know what I mean? But you can Relax! You’ve got this. There’s nothing I can teach you about how to run a business, quite the reverse.
PS LOVE the sound of Gareth, though. I am an honorary Northerner myself in that I speak as I find and perhaps he could give my clients a guest seminar on that No Thank You/Wrong Fit gift of his? ROFL. No, seriously, love it. If we could all get that, we would save ourselves and our wrong-fit clients so much time and hassle and money. Genius. My fave bit of your entire post, except for the project itself, of course. Every business should have a Gareth (whether or not they actually exist, if you see what I mean?) and every Gareth needs a Lucy. A partnership can be testing, as you’ve said, especially for two boss types, but this yin-yang thing’s going to be great for Connectably. All the best with it. I’m watching!