Password. “Ragnar? No, I haven’t watched that show in ages. Duvel? No that was the beer I had last night, smuggled back from Belgium… Come on Callum, you know this one!”. This is how my first day of work in 2017 started. It also marks my 7th month Anniversary of working at the Sussex Innovation Centre, woohoo! Luckily we agreed not to buy each other anything until at least 1 year, as the only thing I can think of getting SInC is better weather, but I have come to understand that all of England is quite grey for about 11 months of the year, and that if we were blessed with more sun, the Brits would lose their excuse to drink tea at any time of the day, which might actually cripple the tea industry. According to Google, PG Tips grows most of its tea in Kenya, and I am not willing to damage Kenya’s export industry just so I can justify enjoying a cold beer outdoors.
So it’s been 7 months, and wow does tempis fugit (I have a university degree, and yes I will occasionally try and justify it by attempting to sound more intelligent than I am). I initially applied for this job, thinking that after 3 months I would start working part-time in order to do a part-time masters at the University of Sussex. After getting stuck into my work however, I realised that I may have to lay off the masters plan for a while. I was learning about market research, insight interviews, sales techniques, brand platforms, public relations, value propositions… the list goes on, and this was within the first 2 months!
Needless to say, I have learnt more about the real world of business than intently browsing the economist’s global economic theories (mostly on the loo), or having long explanatory conversation with my University of Oxford Developments economics PhD student brother over pizza and beers could ever have taught me. It sounds like I am not being serious, but I sincerely thought of myself as being as knowledgeable as any working individual about the ways of business. I have since learnt that I knew nothing about the real day to day workings of businesses, and more specifically start-ups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises). I did not know what the word marketing meant, or what a sales pipeline was. I had no idea how scarily well Facebook ads can target specific audiences, or what a social media plan even is (it is not how often you are going to allow yourself to browse Facebook, in case you were wondering).
I have come a fair way from getting confused during a telephone interview as to why a high street multi branch estate agent would be using “paperclip” advertising (surely they are too small to fit anything in particular on there). However, as those I report to probably know more than I do (I am still a self-assured millennial after all), I still have a lot to learn. Website design, sales pipeline management, marketing strategy creation, and again, I could go on, but I would probably lose you.
With new businesses coming to the Innovation Centre every month, my job – being a business catalyst – is never the same. Despite having done cold calls, email campaigns, and even face to face product awareness raising for several companies, each one is different in the product or solution they sell, in the mixture of characters I work with, and even in their way of approaching problems.
Looking at the steady yet excitingly fast paced learning curve of 2016, I can rest assured that my first 6 months of 2017 will be as full of “Aaaaaah, so that’s what that means!” moments as my last 6 months of 2016 have been. Throw in some crowdfunding for a Gin distillery, and I may even have as merry a year as I had a Christmas Holiday! Though looking back at last week and a half with some slight Holiday Blues, I am glad to get off my cosy couch, dust off the celebration wrappers stuck to my t-shirt, clean up some empty Belgian beer bottles and get my ass into top gear (though maybe I will slide through the first few gears for the first day or two on the way up).
Oh and one last thing, I didn’t make any New Year resolutions, so I apologise for the false advertising to get you excited about reading my post. I don’t make them, because #resolutionfail usually starts trending on the 3rd of January. I think continuous self-improvement is something we should strive for, and not just once a year.
In the words of Aldous Huxley: “There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self”.