It is amazing how sometimes a business takes a long time to get started. Even then, becoming established doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. Alongside our marketing work at BSA, we have additional offices at Glossop Gasworks that we have been renting (well, strictly we are licencing but that’s another story!) for 10 years. It is just something we do to make use of the space but not a key business focus. Then, back in 2012, we were approached by someone looking for office space. We didn’t have any offices available but did have space in BSA’s own, open-plan space. We offered our enquirer desk space which he accepted. 5 years later, he is still here! At the time we didn’t think much of it. We were pleased to be able to provide what he needed but didn’t really see wider business opportunity.
Nature abhors a vacuum
Over the past 5 years, there has been a significant growth in self-employment and freelancing. With this growth, there has been a shift in the needs of many of these businesses. While they may have been born in back bedrooms and lounges, as they became established there was a requirement for something more. Maybe not the responsibilities and cost of a full office but a professional workspace where there is the opportunity to work in a commercial environment and meet with like minded individuals. Sometimes, staring at the bedroom wall while you try to write a proposal can be challenging! Inevitably, this need started to be met with managed workspace. Here individuals could rent desk and meeting space, permanently, by the day, or even by the hour, within a fully managed and serviced facility which gave them a professional business address and presence for meetings with clients etc, as and when they need it. Initially in major international cities and increasingly more widely. In Manchester, there are now several managed workspace facilities meeting needs at all levels. Business Centres had been established for quite some years but managed workspace takes the flexibility to the next level,
The Glossop Opportunity
OK, Glossop is Glossop! Not quite a major international city or even a bustling metropolis yet it most certainly has its own charm and function. Many self-employed and freelancers live in and around our town and while most may want to escape staring at the bedroom wall sooner or later, will they all want the inconvenience and expense of a commute into Manchester or over to Sheffield to their workspace desk? We thought not! In early 2016 we saw the opportunity. There was a growing demand and we had space that we had ‘expanded into’ but weren’t really using very well. The seeds for the Glossop Gasworks Business Hub were sown.
Naturally, we knew we needed a plan. Our approach was simple: Research the offerings in Manchester and then combine this knowledge with our experience of living and working in Glossop.
- Play to our strengths,
- Be practical and pragmatic, making the most of what we have.
- Don’t try and copy the competition, take the good bits then add more.
- Keep it simple and assume things will take longer than we expect!
My mantra is that plans are essential, but pointless if you don’t do something with them; so…..
Most important, we were offering to provide a facility where people could be spending a great deal of their work time. They don’t want to see pictures in a brochure, they want to see the real thing!
Create the facility.
We are lucky that we already had space but we didn’t have anything else! We had to invest but did this to our plan. It was important we achieved a certain level of professional quality without going mad. We funded the investment sensibly in a way we could readily afford. We invested confidently, recognising the risk but keeping it manageable.
Make it visible
Inevitably, the internet is key to our promotional activity. We set up a straightforward but effective website (using WordPress, of course!) which is essentially based around images of our workspace facility. Having something ‘real’ to take pictures of is essential. Potential customers will see us on line and then when they visit, they see the same thing, the story continues. It amazes me that this isn’t the way it always happens….
I met a guy who was telling me about his new online business. It sounded interesting and he gave me his (high quality) business card. I was looking forward to learning more. The next day I visited his company website. What a disappointment. It was only half finished all the links seemed to go to nothing more than an enquiry page. Needless to say, my interest waned and I have not been in touch!
Get the message out there
We had our shop window (www.glossopgasworks.co.uk) now we needed people to start looking at it. It is marketing and promotion where it is so easy for budgets to get busted. We were not going to fall into that trap. Because we had managed our investment carefully we weren’t under pressure to grow revenue quickly. We could afford to take our time. It gave us teh opportunity to pick and choose our promotional opportunities to get the best value. We have combined Advertising, Social Media, Networking and Word of Mouth. A six-month campaign started in April 2017. I must say that, initially, things stayed quiet. We weren’t expecting a mad rush but more than 1 enquiry would’ve been nice! This is where our combination of carefully planned and costed investment plus belief in our proposition were so important. It wasn’t a problem to hang in there. Our advertising was running and we were posting on Social Media regularly. We were also spreading the word through local networking. All the feedback we were hearing was positive. We just needed things to move on to the next stage.
I regularly tell clients that things take longer than you expect or hope. Guess what, this is our experience. I also say that by planning and not over committing, you have a platform to allow some flexibility. Inevitably things took longer than we had hoped but they did start to happen. Expressions of interest started to become visits to look around. In turn, these visits are now converting to paying customers! At no point have we ‘sold’ anything to anyone. We set up our facility, promoted the proposition and gave people the freedom to see for themselves and make their own mind up. We don’t ‘sell‘, our customers and clients choose to ‘buy’. This is the modern way, and (in my humble opinion) creates a much more sustainable business. Twelve months ago, we had an idea for a business offer. It was nothing more. Today we have a business with real, paying customers that is delivering real value and generating real income. This is the beauty of running your own business. You can have an idea and make it happen. By using your expertise, experience and a dose of common sense you too can see a plan turn into a profit. Find out more about Glossop Gasworks Business Hub or contact me