A few Saturdays ago, I cycled from Moira to the edge of Lough Neagh (largest freshwater lake in the UK) (approx. 8 miles* this is important as you read further) and ever the eternal wanderluster my first thought when I reached the shore was I wonder what lies across the Lough from where I was standing? Having been at a charity table quiz the night before for another local adventurer who is walking the entirety of the Lough to raise money for Moira Committee of Cancer Research UK, I got to looking at the map and dreaming and then before I knew it I had signed up to the cycling challenge the Lap of the Lough at end of August!

Starting any sporting challenge is a bit like starting out in business. You THINK you have what takes to do it:

You think you have the mental reserves

  • You think it won’t cost that much and you have the financial reserves
  • You think you have the support of family and friends
  • You think you have a strategy in place to get up and go for it

But you are not sure and its only when you actually start that you realise that you need all of the above elements x1000 and a more robust action plan than you thought!


Think Big

When starting out you can’t really imagine the amount of data you will quickly start to accumulate through email contacts, web contacts, invoicing, business cards etc. so at the very outset its invaluable to Think Big. To visualise down the line:

  • when you have built an email list and when you are sending out those monthly newsletters how now at the start to best capture people’s data
  • when you are sending out surveys how best to collate the information in a meaningful way
  • how to collect data that integrates easily, with your marketing system/your reporting system/your Invoicing system
  •  how other people can easily access information simultaneously. You may be a solo-preneur when you start out but 5 years down the line you may be a team of 5!


focus, focus, Focus

I have a 10-week training place to get ready for Lap of the Lough which is do-able. When you are starting out in business it is very hard to know what to focus on as you are juggling so many hats. Do you need to focus on marketing, on sales, on the processes, on the networking? To be truthful it’s a little bit of everything. When I started out I really struggled prioritising the marketing of my business as my client work came before all else but then learnt you always have to be marketing it at the same time otherwise you may have no clients! Since January of this year I’ve been doing Louise Brogan’s Social Bee Academy which has been invaluable. It has taught me the importance of valuable content and not to be afraid to experiment, to make videos, to do a Facebook live, to start an Instagram account. To build your audience and to automate your marketing as much as you can.


Pare it down to the essentials

I’ve been training of a few weeks now and at the start when I went out I had lots of STUFF with me-a jacket, a little backpack, food, another wheel (joking) and now I’ve streamlined it down to a little holder where I can store my keys and my phone, removable sleeves and some energising nibbles along the way. Talking to seasoned cyclists has helped me streamline and carry a lot less weight physically which also helps mentally! A very painful trip about 8 years to Accident and Emergency in Luxembourg city taught me never to carry anything in your pocket. As the weeks go on I’ve streamlined down and so running your business should be the same. In the beginning, you may have lots of excel sheets and data flowing everywhere but as you grow you will find that you develop systems to work more efficiently. As you grow, you get smarter and pare it down to the essentials!

Anyone who has ever been an Office Manager/an Executive Assistant/PA will tell you if the office falls apart the day you are not there then you have failed at your job because your job is to put processes in place to make sure even when absent the business can still run smoothly.


Long road home

I didn’t own a car until 3 years ago and used to cycle, walk and commute by public transport everywhere so deep inside I know I can cycle 97 miles in a day even if my brain and body make be screaming that I can’t! As it turns out Ardboe (48 miles anti clockwise) is pretty much opposite Gawley’s Gate . My brother in law is from close to there so worst-case scenario if I can cycle that far and then stop in Lavery’s pub for a pint all will not be lost!

My bike is actually called a Focus so if that isn’t a sign I don’t know what is!

So, if you are just starting out in business or you have been going for a little while and find you need help:

  • organising the data you do have in the most intelligent way
  • putting systems in place
  • streamlining your existing processes#
  • or simply just focusing!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me here on LinkedIn, via my website www.virtuali.uk or via my email alison@virtuali.uk. I will be in the office and if I’m not you know I’m out putting the practice in for the 90+miles I’ve yet to cycle! You can follow my progress and sponsor me here : https://give.everydayhero.com/ie/lap-of-the-lough