Passport2018

The Ultimate Business Course

At the beginning of August, I was offered an exciting opportunity to enrol on the Ultimate Business Course, organised by Betaris Training, and run by Angela De Souza of the Women’s Business Club. The course took an in-depth look at planning, marketing and running a business and offered some great techniques and methods to help improve business growth.

We were a small group, starting with 9 students, and so we really got a good chance to share our thoughts and ideas and were able to help one another out as problems arose, over the the 3 week course.

On the first day, we were given the ‘Ultimate Business Plan’; a structured document that we were to work through throughout the duration of the course, that gave the basics of everything you need to think about when writing a business plan. For the first week, we focused on branding and vision. These are of course some of the most important aspects of a business as they give a clear image and offer a certain message. However it was really useful to look at these aspects in more depth, thinking about why branding is so important and why it’s done in a certain way. Writing both a vision statement and a mission statement helped to keep the core values of our businesses in the back of our minds and make sure these come across in everything we do. It also allowed for us to look towards a larger end goal and have a clear message to convey to our audiences.

I really enjoyed this section of the course as I love being creative, and while all the branding of Cheltenham Coworking has long been designed, it allowed me to think more carefully about how important it is to carry the complete brand across all visual aspects of the business.

We spent some time studying SWOT and PEST analyses as well as competitor analyses which helped us to understand our place in the market, and how changes in the world can affect us in the future.

The second week we strayed a little further away from the document, and instead studied broader strategies based around products and marketing. We were asked to compile our products into packages, which worked out great for me because our Coworking Passport is a package in itself! The idea of these was to make our businesses easier for both ourselves and our customers to understand, though I would argue that this method might not be necessary for all types of businesses.

We spent most of the week on marketing, learning how to get the most out of social media advertising both paid and unpaid, as well as customer profiling and targeting. This was the least useful part of the course for me only because I have experience in social media marketing anyway. However it was still useful in the respect that it made me really rethink our current social media usage. Since the course, I have now created a new social media marketing plan that will hopefully bring us greater results.

The main focus was all about identifying customer pains, and this was a great subject to touch on as it really brought the idea into the spotlight and allowed us to focus on our customer needs and pains when working on different elements of the plan. After this we learnt all about designing websites which again, I have experience in, and so was able to work well in this module. On the Thursday of the second week, we had Robin Waite, a business coach, come in to offer his experience and expertise in sales and business growth. I really enjoyed his session as he was genuinely really passionate about his line of work and focused a lot on mindset and attitude adjustment which really gave me a lot to think about – though he did tell us that SMART goals (something that Angela had been teaching that same morning) were a load of rubbish!

We started the final week off with an introduction to sales which touched on a whole host of different sales techniques both devised by Angela herself, and other proven methods from successful business people. We looked at AVID (audience, value, invitation, delivery) which focused on the who, what, where and why of our businesses, as well as the 3P Triad System which looked at products, price and position. Finally, we looked at the Lead MAGNET (mailers, advertising, games, networking, expertise, trials) Menu, which laid out a sales pitch similar to a menu in a restaurant, and used ‘starter’, ‘main’ and ‘dessert’ as different tiers of product selling.

At first, I was a little confused about the analogies. However after completing the session I felt a lot of these were really useful techniques to use when selling, and all offered various ways of thinking, which allowed for them to be stretched across any type of business. We spent most of the rest of the week focusing on customer experience as well as building a successful team. I enjoyed the customer experience session as it is so important to keep customer service to a high standard throughout their journey, and so thinking about this will lead me to ensure I’m offering the best I possibly can to our members throughout my work.

Overall, I enjoyed the course a lot; we learned so much more than I’ve outlined already and I think my brain is still trying to digest all the information. I met some great people who have some really amazing business ideas, and even got to sample some prototype tiramisu! Angela was a great mentor, she offered some valuable information and ideas but joined us as a peer rather than a leader, making us feel really welcomed and comfortable.

My only criticism would be that some of the sessions were taught using one model, and I didn’t feel the same model could be used for every business type. However I would highly recommend the course to anyone looking to start, or in their initial stages of their business, as it really offers great support and guidance not only from Angela but from the whole group. The course has helped me to be a lot more focused on everything I’m doing, especially in the marketing and sales side, and has given me the confidence and means to be able to start my own business in the near future.

Megan Prendergast is employed by George T&D as a Business Developer, with primary responsibility for the Cheltenham Coworking social enterprise.