Social Media management for business owners

Published in Blog

Just recently I was reviewing the systems in place for managing our social media accounts, and looking at new technologies that had emerged since we decided to use Hootsuite - quite some time ago!  I came across something which has really changed the way I've been using social media over the past few weeks - so much so I thought I'd write a blog about it!

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Starting a business

Published in General

Having been made redundant and having quite significant health problems from my Hypermobility/Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (more to come about that!), the only sensible options seemed to be working for myself.  I couldn't imagine myself working for someone else with flexible enough arrangements to work around my fluctuating energy levels and regular hospital visits.  After a pre-planned holiday with my partner - the last we'd be having for a long time! - I launched into full-time self employment on 14th September 2010.

Rebranding to Virya Technologies

Suffolk Computer Services had done me well - it had kept me slightly in the black rather than massively in the red from all the debt I had accumulated while at University, but I really felt strongly that I wanted to re-brand the company for several reasons:

  • To reflect that I did more than computer services (as web design was my main 'bread and butter')
  • To reflect the ethical, honest way that I conducted business
  • To reflect the Buddhist element of the company

The logo was designed by a local graphics designer, who had a somewhat unenviable brief - a new, fresh looking logo incorporating ancient Buddhist symbology but without being obviously 'religious', showing how we help guide people through the maze of baffling technology.  I also had to choose a name, which took a LONG time!  Virya I came across because the original portal for the Young Buddhists movement was virya.co.uk - it means a driving force or positive energy to do good for the benefit of others - and the strapline 'ethical technology solutions' popped up in meditation after having spent HOURS AND HOURS trying to 'think' of something it just emerged!

Interestingly, I had always leaned towards Open Source, and had only used Joomla! when I was doing websites previously.  When I formed the company I took the decision to specialise in the niche of Open Source technologies - and the sub-niche of that being Joomla! website design, and Linux server support (the sub-sub niche being emergency support).  I think this was a very good business decision to make at that time, although I had real doubts that it was a sensible thing to do at the time due to the narrow target market.

The company launched with little pomp and ceremony, as I suddenly had to bring in enough to support myself, my office (I needed a separation between home and work to abate my workaholic tendencies), and hopefully be able to eat!  It was a very difficult time as anyone who has launched into self employment without any capital will tell you.  I went on courses.  I networked my socks off.  But most importantly, I listened.  I felt like a sponge, soaking up all these little nuggets of wisdom from lots of different sources, not really sure yet how they would help me, but parking them somewhere in my mind!

Employing staff

By June 2011 I was flat out with work, having more coming in than I could cope with and not having much success with outsourcing to contractors - I had found a couple of good eggs, but on the whole I had a pretty negative experience.  Around this time I started to consider growing the company, but was very conscious about my lack of business knowledge and experience in management or business development - and remembered someone talking about getting a mentor to help them.  At the same time I had attended the Ipswich & Suffolk Small Business Association AGM and heard Ian Perry from Remedy for Business talking about his business, which helps guide businesses who are struggling.  We had a chat and arranged a 1-2-1 (I'm a big fan of 1-2-1 meetings) later that week, where he talked about his experiences as a mentor, and that the Chamber of Commerce were re-launching their mentoring programme.

After contacting the Chamber of Commerce I was disappointed to hear that they were not yet active, but within a month or so I had an email asking if I was willing to be a 'guinea pig', paired up with Ian as my mentor.  I jumped at the chance, and Ian became my mentor.  Here began the challenge!

My first challenge was getting my head around the books - I'd been doing them, and doing VAT returns, for years, but never really understood how it could inform my business decisions - I started doing weekly accounting and getting my head around things, and quickly started to get a better idea of the health of the business.  We also discussed the trigger points necessary for taking on new staff and quickly realised I was already past that point and needed to do something to keep the business going at the rate it was at - so I started to consider my options.

I spoke with a local learning provider about apprenticeships as I was keen to give something back to the community, and decided that this was the way forward for my business.  I appointed a temporary PA to help me get our employers policies and procedures drawn up, and advertised in the summer of 2010.  Our first employee and apprentice started in October 2010.

Our next team member joined as IT Manager & Linux Specialist in February 2012 having worked freelance for several years before managing our IT Support contracts, and this was followed by a Business Development Manager, Graphics Designer, and several developers working regularly on project work.

Growing the business

Our turnover increased seven fold in the first year of trading full time, although profit was still negligible.  Moving forward, we worked hard to grow the business further, branching out into extension development but still sticking to our open source routes.  In 2014 I took the important step of joining forces with a Dutch company to form a new joint venture - Virya Group - which has been growing from strength to strength ever since.

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