Diversify – a personal account of shaking free from your business strategy – Birds on the Blog
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Diversify – a personal account of shaking free from your business strategy

A singular focus is a business imperative—supposedly. Read any entrepreneurial guide or attend a workshop for start-ups and you’ll be warned that, without a clear goal, without a precise focus on your potential customer, you’re doomed. Start-ups are resource-strapped so it makes sense to put your time and money into one thing. You want to make a name for yourself as a master, not a jack of all trades. You must know your customer so well that you can anticipate their desires, understand what keeps them up at night and focus, focus, focus on getting them to buy.

However, the very act of running a business requires many skills: strategy, sales, project management, people management, financial management—that’s before you even get to the service you’re delivering or the product you’re selling. Focus is always going to be a challenge.

By month three that strategy was completely out of date

I started Wordville as a PR agency in 2007 and, given that most of my PR experience up to that point had been in technology PR, it made sense to specialise. My plan to have a tech-only client base lasted about a month and a half. I couldn’t say no to working with travel brands, then clients in the culture sector, then on some worthwhile causes in the charity sector. I’d spent the first few weeks as an entrepreneur writing the most beautiful strategy, pinpointing my ideal client. By month three that strategy was completely out of date. But my bank manager was happy, and I was inspired by what I was learning and making use of best practice in one sector to innovate in another.

Yes, my focus was still PR but even that moved from media relations to events, from training to mentoring, from speech writing to ghost writing. Words were still at the heart of everything we did – written words, spoken words, words online—but we were a long way from being a tech-PR specialist.

Working with authors, liaising with printers, negotiating with bookshops

In January 2021, I launched a publishing company. By year end, Wordville Press will have brought out two books of poetry, an anthology of poetry and short stories and a book about building the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. It’s hugely exciting to be working with authors, liaising with printers, negotiating with bookshops.

So many skills are transferrable, so don’t be shy about diversifying if you feel there’s an opportunity for you. Nothing good happens overnight but, in my view, the real beauty of running your own business is the freedom to explore and innovate.

Almost all businesses that fail do so because they run out of money. Diversifying can be an expensive dead end so take care not to take on anything you can’t afford or distract yourself from what’s bringing in the dough. My advice? Be relentless with your cash flow and careful to the point of obsession with getting a return on any investment.

Most businesses diversify for growth. But growth doesn’t only have to relate to revenue. You could be interested in working in a particular area (hence our move to support charities and social enterprises). You could want to widen your horizons (hence Wordville’s collaboration with our Barcelona team, Life in the Woods). You could want to spread the risk, put your business eggs in more than one basket and protect the bottom line from any downturn in one particular industry (hence our multi-sector PR track record).

What do you do?

People like an easy answer to the question, ‘what do you do?’ But anyone who runs their own business knows it’s difficult to respond in a way that really covers what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Wordville helps people and brands become famous, we also help writers get their work to readers. It’s true that words are behind everything—but we really are a diversified business. Our strategy is to take on clients and projects where we know we can make a real difference and that can bring in money. It’s a lot more exciting than our original business plan and, although I probably got something out of that first strategic planning session, today I’m running an international, diversified enterprise—and the company’s name is the only thing that’s stayed the same.

About the Author Lucy George

Lucy Tertia George is an entrepreneur, novelist and publisher based in central London. Lucy manages a team of highly experienced PR consultants, communications specialists and event strategists. Lucy has 20+ years’ experience in PR and marketing communications and five years’ experience in the media. Lucy has managed communication projects for global brands and worked in the UK and the US for BBC Television, Paramount Communications and MTV Networks.

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