I’m Chantal Cornelius and I set up my company, Appletree, in 2000. What you might not know is that next year I’ll be running my second London Marathon.
And some more about Appletree?
Appletree is a marketing company that specialises in working with coaches, consultants, trainers and speakers. Most of our clients are one man (or woman) bands who are great at what they do, but don’t know how to promote themselves or don’t like blowing their own trumpets.
Right now I feel exhausted by running my own business. We’ve had some staff changes recently – we had a great team early in the summer and then one person left when she was head hunted by a bigger company. Another one is going at the end of November; he did an Apprenticeship with us and now wants to put his new skills to work with a larger company. I seem to be spending more of my time dealing with staff and management issues and less time doing what I love, which is helping clients to grow their businesses.
However, I have a beautiful office in my garden, where my staff work and where many of our clients love to come and work. I find it really inspiring and they do too.
What tips would you share to inspire new business owners and start-ups?
The thing that really got my business moving was networking – the face to face sort. I still do a lot and get about 40% of our new business from networking and another 40% comes from referrals. When you provide a service, face to face networking is one of the best ways to find clients; it’s also a great way to find the support team you need – suppliers, peers, friends in the same boat.
What did you struggle with most at the outset? And what solution did you find to solve that?
The thing I struggled with in the first 18 months was getting business – daft thing for a Marketing Consultant to say! However, I didn’t know about networking at the start, so did lots of direct mail and follow up phone calls to get work. I still don’t like making follow up phone calls. The thing that helped me was discovering networking. It gave me the chance to meet potential clients directly.
What’s the best thing you’ve learned about yourself while running your business over these last thirteen years?
That I can’t do everything. I’m not superhuman, even though I try to be. Right now I’m struggling a bit because I’ve been working really hard for the last few months and as a result I’m really run down. I made myself quite ill a few years ago by working so hard and trying to do everything. Now I’m remembering to take it easy and not try to be superhuman. When I get tired, I find ways to rest and look after myself, instead of struggling on.
Did you choose self-employment or did it choose you?
I chose self-employment because I was made redundant from my ideal job and the only job I could find wasn’t really what I wanted to do. I stuck it for 18 months and then decided it was time to do my own thing. Setting up my own business was the best decision I ever made and there’s no way I would go back to being employed. I don’t think anyone would have me and I’d hate to have a boss.
What one encouraging thought sums it all up?
It all works out the end. And when you’re your own boss, even when times are tough, you still get to choose – when to work, when to take time out to walk the dog or go on holiday.
Tell us about your new book, One in Ten
One in Ten is about how to survive the first 10 years in business. It’s for people who are looking for the inspiration to set up their own business and/or the motivation to keep going. It’s full of stories from my first 10 years, the highs and lows, advice on what to do and what to avoid. Lots of real life honesty. One in Ten is available from the Appletree website.
Do you find that working for yourself can be a lonely business and how do you alleviate that?
I only feel lonely and isolated when I need to speak to someone about the business, something that I don’t want to talk to my staff about. I have a number of friends I can turn to, who I know will give me honest advice and feedback. I meet up with them on a regular basis and we talk about where my business is going. I’m an extrovert so I get my energy from working with other people, going to networking meetings and spending time with my clients.
I also have some wonderful close friends with whom I spend time, to help with the social side of things, although my ideal weekend is spent at home with my husband, dog and horse, with a trip to the local pub on Saturday night. All business owners need a ‘Mastermind’ – a person, or a number of people, with whom they can spend time, talking about the big picture stuff.