2020 has been a year where I have relied on strength and the power of kindness. I am certainly pleased 2020 is soon ending, however, there have been many things I have discovered about myself this year.
The year started so well. I had a very exciting diary with interesting work; challenging consultancy work; seminars; workshops. I had work confirmed overseas which was one of my aims. Then at the beginning of March everything started to disappear; or clients I was going to deliver work in April were silent. I attended an event at the House of Lords on 4th March (more about that later) I spoke to Lord Young who was hosting the event. He said to me: “Be very careful. This virus is very serious. Take care with your health and keep your head down with your business. We are in for a rocky road in the next few months”. This was before the Government was taking the virus seriously. I am thankful I was warned in this way.
But as all of my work disappeared, I discussed with my clients about re-booking within 6 months; delaying until the pandemic was over. How naive we were! I contacted one client who is based in USA, and she aggressively responded cancelling the work: she had been in lockdown for 4 weeks, but it is no way to treat a supplier….
One masterclass that still remained was located locally, and the client had already paid for the venue and he didn’t want to lose the money! However, as the date approached, individuals were being told they couldn’t attend in person. I suggested a hybrid event (thinking, gulp, I will work this one out!) then 2 days before the event, my client said “I think we’ll have to cancel the event”! I suggested we delivered virtually: something this organisation had not considered before. And so the following journey started for 2020.
In two days I totally changed the content/delivery so it would work for virtual engagement. I tutored my client into using Zoom; checked the compliance and security because the organisation was within the financial services sector and practiced using the online platform. And this was key to my actions all year. At all times I was helpful to support others. I had no expectation of being paid, but we were all in this together. Throughout the year I supported organisations and businesses who wanted to receive high quality virtual training, with tuition for organisers, advice and even providing the marketing content to promote within an organisation. We have all been in this crisis together, and I believe in being helpful. It is one of my values.
Once I delivered the virtual workshop; I received incredible feedback. As an organisation, they were now confident that professional development could be delivered virtually. This particular organisation had over 60 branches in UK and overseas. I decided to create 3 topics for virtual workshops that were of value for NOW. They were making an impact with communication VIRTUALLY; facilitating and participating in virtual meetings and Resilience (using my neuroscience training). I worked tirelessly to create content for 60 and 90 minute virtual workshops, that were full of content, takeaways and pro-active. From the word go I was using polls and the chat facility. I made it fun and used a lot of energy delivering the workshops, so they would be of value. I then contacted every single branch of the organisation (including the international branches) with personalised emails. I also contacted my existing clients again in case they were interested. Many clients didn’t respond but I did get some response and bookings.
At all times I focused on adding value. I have already mentioned that I provided support and made it as easy as possible to book, market and share the booking. In addition, I added additional blended learning material (articles, videos, podcast interviews) that could easily be accessed with nothing in return on my APP. This was a great way to support the attendees and a number of them got in contact with other suggestions to include. I knew that during the first lockdown, everything was new and very scary. I wasn’t judgemental when an organisation forgot to share the password with attendees so I was the only person on the call! But I knew that back in those early days anything could go wrong, and I was pushed out of my own session more than once! It wasn’t too much trouble when individuals contacted me with other questions. I added value. I considered the bigger picture and to be known as someone who provided excellent value with the work I did.
I have been very lucky to have two incredible interns this year. Ella Proudlock is a Cambridge University undergraduate, who was an intern with me in the summer. We worked out how to work in a virtual environment. Although her family home is 10 miles away, we have never met. And 2020 has been a year of strength and kindness and we learnt together, how best to work. Since September I have collaborated with Brunel University, and since November have had Mia Yu contributing as an Intern. Their youthfulness is wonderful: they have an invaluable perspective which is great. I have also received support from other entrepreneurs, the DIT and connections who have continued to support me.
I maintained a positive message; being helpful, constructive and supportive. This was in my newsletters, social media – including blogs and podcasts. Any comments on posts were always kind and supportive: it wasn’t exclusively about me. Throughout this crazy time contacts – some of whom I haven’t spoken to for a number of years, got in touch with me because they saw my posts. And in certain cases this resulted in work.
This year has generated some incredible results.
- I have delivered over 100 virtual workshops to attendees from over 80 countries – and counting
- My connections on Linkedin has increased by over 50% since March 2020 with increased engagement with my target market
- My podcast has surpassed 50000 downloads. Yes: I am putting more weight and focus on this invaluable resource for 2021
- My client base has increased with incredible customers and contacts who are interested and value my work
- My turnover has surpassed 2019/20 with 4 months to go, this is despite my music business generating no income
- The credibility of my brand has increased with engagement from leading experts in my area
This year I have been honoured to be nominated for and won two awards. The first was the F:Entrepreneur #ialso 100 inspirational female entrepreneurs. This year has been incredible. We had a reception at the House of Lords in early March and I have received support from other entrepreneurs with lasting friendships.
The second award was from The Business Community One of my clients nominated for me; focusing particularly on the digital and tech I have embraced to move the business forward. But this nomination also highlights that I haven’t focused exclusively on the UK market. My plan from 2019 onwards was to have some international focus. My redeveloped website (in 2019) was created to reflect this. And in 2020 I really started to build these international connections and business. In fact the pandemic forced me to do this. And I achieved this target: there were virtual workshops and speeches I delivered to global companies and audiences. I am currently in negotiations for a partnership with an overseas organisation and have invested in a start up company in the Far East: I have already received my return in investment financially and am learning a lot about this market.
2020 is a year of strength AND kindness, and my charity work is a very strong driver for me. 2020 has not stopped me from doing my charity work. I had planned to raise money by doing the Serpentine Swim. But it was cancelled. Ditto my 1 mile swim for the Azheimers Society. However there were other activities.
- As soon as the first lockdown was announced in March, I set up a support system with neighbours and co-ordinated shopping for those who were self isolating
- I was one of 100 seamstresses in Hertfordshire who formed the “Scrubhub”. We sewed scrubs and laundry bags for NHS staff. I also donated fabric from my stash for scrubs. It was an instant, amazing community and I am so pleased to have got to know fellow seamstresses in the area.
- Set up a weekly virtual sing along with family, friends, volunteers and refugees from the charity we support. This was a weekly get together every Saturday.
- Weekly virtual ‘coffees’ with other female entrepreneurs that provided companionship
- Delivering complimentary virtual training workshops for schools to support their virtual learning.
- Superstar Communicator has supported the St Albans Postboxes. This incredible community initiative supports and raises money for local charities. I am proud to support this initiative.
So 2020 really was a year of strength and kindness
There were times that I had to dig very deep. I was as frightened as anyone else with my life. I remember going for a long walk when I was particularly stressed. I have learnt so much and achieved so much about myself, my business and my clients. 2021 is going to be another challenging year, but I look forward to 2021 more than you can imagine. I would like to thank all of those people who have supported me this year; believed in me and inspired me. Thank you!