Sunday, 7 August 2011

Three, two, one... Executive Audit

I promised to share in this blog the ups and downs of starting my business.  I hope this weeks Sunday Supplement will be helpful to people in the same early stages of running a start-up.  

I am not ashamed to share that it took me three weeks, two notebooks and one accountant to prepare my Executive Audit as the next part of the Perfect Pitch Business Awards 2011 competition hosted by Tower Hamlets College.  

Let me start at the beginning.

A few weeks ago I entered the competition to win £10,000 worth of investment into a business.  I sent off an overview of my business and was delighted to be invited to take part in the next stage of the competition; a day of workshops in July.  40 or so of us gathered to take part in the  Financial Mastery Workshop and the The Art of Pitching.  I will be honest.  I wasn't sure how much I was going to learn at these workshops as I got off the DLR at All Saints station.  My worst job ever was an Accommodation Manager running a government building and having to manage the budgets for it.  I learnt loads in that job and hated every minute of it.  Forecasting electricity spends was not my idea of fun!  As a press officer I pitch features and news stories to editors of newspapers and newsrooms everyday and I do it well.  But I am always open to learning new skills so I sat down in the conference room with an open mind but thinking the workshops would be would be useful but maybe nothing new.  How wrong was I?

Financial Mastery with Parag Prasad was excellent, we didn't talk about the basics of managing your budget, Parag encouraged the group to share solutions and critically feedback on a real businesses end of year accounts.  One of the best tips Parag gave us was to get someone else to chase your overdue invoices.  That way you as the business owner maintain your good relationships.  Even if your Dad has to make the calls as your 'Finance Manager' it is better than you getting sucked into other people's business problems.

Rob Hook then talked us through the DISC personality types to better understand the groups people naturally fall into.

  • Dominance – relating to control, power and assertiveness
  • Influence – relating to social situations and communication
  • Steadiness  – relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness
  • Compliance – relating to structure and organisation

I would say I am mix of D and I.  And then we moved onto the 3 C's of pitching.....

Client - the company knows precisely what the client wants.

Compelling content - the company delivers enough relevant content to win the sales pitch, an no more.

Confidence with clarity - the company delivers the sales pitch confidentiality and with a degree of clarity so that the client know precisely where the sales pitch is going.

We spent some time perfecting our own pitches too, I am taking part in the Meet the Designer day at Liberty next week so this opportunity was a gift.  And nothing like what I expected.  I was able to build on the skills I have and get direct feedback from an expert at the top of his game. You can see how the notebook was just getting fuller and fuller! When I got home and thought about the financial planning of my business I decided I needed an accountant.  I can do the basics but if I am serious about growing my business I need a professional on board.  I have since engaged with Starfish Accounting.  Georgina Rollings, who gave me a free hour to help me work out some projections, specialises in working with home based businesses - another gift.

The next part of the competition was to complete and send in an Executive Audit.  I expected it would take me about two weeks to answer the 12 questions, which each had sub questions.  It took me three weeks.  Three weeks and another notebook full of planning (mostly written on the tube going to and from the day job).  The first question was - 'send us an email to a potential investor that includes your pitch'.  The fifth question was ''talk' us through your 2011 /2012 profit and loss accounts'.  I feel for anyone who wasn't listening and writing down every word of advice that was shared in the workshops!

The Executive Audit was a time consuming but well worth while exercise - everything has moved on since I wrote the business plan - so this was a chance to really re-evaluate where I'm at and what I have learnt since starting the company in October 2010.  If you want to really face your business reality I have posted the document on the Strange Fruit Facebook page.

I will hear if I have made it through to the next stage of the competition during w/c 15 August.  Even if I don't get any further in the competition I will get feed back on my document, but more importantly I've had an invaluable experience which will impact on me and my ability to grow my business in most informed way.

Good luck to everyone that entered and I tip my virtual hat to everyone that finished their Executive Audit!!

Next week, going to Liberty London!

Denise xx

Thanks to Stargazers World for the picture.

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