One of the most engaging elements of the ConnectingDoorz meetings is the guest speakers we have who share their stories honestly and impart the lessons they have learned from starting and building their own businesses.
A brief bio
Covase Fleet Management provide a new way to manage and control your company car fleet and employee benefit schemes. They specialise in Corporate Vehicle Purchasing, Financial Funding, Vehicle Fleet Management and Professional Networking.
Andy has been a co-owner of Covase since its launch 12 years ago and by his own admission understands that things do not always go to plan. To make the point he started with a great analogy and likened business to the Oxfordshire roads…you may get notice of roads works and you may not. Sometimes they just appear and send you off in a whole new direction. That really resonated with us and shows that, as with lots of things, in business you need to be prepared to adapt to unforeseen changes and ‘bumps in the road’.
Away from work Andy can be found on a golf course or abroad topping up his tan. He is partial to a chilled glass of white (with just the one ice cube) and its rumoured feels right at home playing his grand piano.
Andy spoke candidly about the ups & downs of running Covase over the last 12 years. In his own words it’s been a rollercoaster and he’s made mistakes and learnt valuable lessons. Here we capture his top tips and nuggets of wisdom.
Your business plan is a work in progress
No-one writes a bad business plan and when you’re sitting imagining what your business is capable of achieving it’s not unusual to be optimistic. It is guaranteed that the unexpected will happen and it’s easy to become disheartened by the gap between your carefully crafted plan and reality. Instead of beating yourself up, acknowledge the gap and adapt your plan and actions accordingly. Andy and his business partners hadn’t, indeed couldn’t have, planned for the 2008 recession but it happened none the less and they had to dig deep, make some tough decisions and be adaptable to survive.
Be prepared to step out of your comfort zone
Andy admitted that at first business networking terrified him but he also knew it was of vital importance to the success of Covase. He made a conscious decision to do something that scared him and prepared himself in advance as much as he could. Before long he was making new contacts, getting new opportunities, finding business support and growing his connections in Oxfordshire.
It’s good to get outside help
Andy and his business partners recognised that they were a bit stuck and needed to inject some new ideas and motivation into Covase so they used a business coach who helped them look at new solutions and ways of running their business. This helped rejuvenate the team and brought about a whole raft of new opportunities. However, it doesn’t just have to be a business coach, it could be marketing, IT or HR solutions that will help you overcome obstacles that sometimes it’s hard to see a way around when you are so close to your business. The caveat here is to make sure you choose the right person. Someone who has real experience and understands you and your business are going through.
Be fit for business
Running your own business is hard work and stressful so look after yourself. Eat well, sleep well and exercise – make sure you feel good every day and are ready for all that it will bring.
It is important for potential clients and existing customers to trust you and feel that they know where they stand with you. It can be a tricky balance but try to be as transparent as possible in your dealings but without giving too much away to competitors!
What our members thought…
‘As a strategic HR consultant, I help leaders make the most of the talents and energies of the individuals in their organisation to deliver collectively. When I do my job well, people in an organisation are more engaged and working better as a team. That means helping leaders think strategically about their people, structures, processes and plans. Persuading a client that I am worth using means showing them how my expertise will add value. But exploring what the needs of the business are and pitching where I can help can means giving away some of that expertise before a potential client has agreed to pay for it. Andy Jackson crystallised this tension for me and challenged me to work out how I can be transparent about what I offer, whilst not giving too much away for free.’ – Helen Lamb – HR Consultant