timeoutdoors' Founder Andrew explains why 2017 was a truly transformational year for himself and the business.
Now we're over the manic start to the New Year, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on last year and explain my radio silence on the blog. In a nutshell, 2017 was an awesome year for timeoutdoors and for me personally - it was the year I really got my mojo back and that was largely down to my involvement with the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business programme and a truly exceptional group of fellow entrepreneurs.
Running a business can be a very lonely job - OK, you're always surrounded by people so you're not physically isolated but it's very rare to be with people who understand you and the challenges you face. And with timeoutdoors, that's made worse because very few people really understand what we do and how we are commercially sustainable - even some of my family still don't get it!
Then in walks Goldman Sachs - the confidence building machine extra-ordinaire. After a pretty rigourous vetting process, 60 business owners from across the UK met for our first residential in Leeds in April. After just 2 days, the energy and confidence coming out of the room was unbelievable - this was going to be a journey none of us would forget. And it wasn't a room full of cocky business owners who thought they were the best thing since slided bread - most of us felt we shouldn't be there, we weren't worthy of the sort of attention and resources Goldman Sachs were putting our way. No expense was spared and everything was paid for - we were one seriously lucky group of people but one of the best things about the programme was that we all realised that.
Anyway, fast-forward to August - after what I would call an intense on-the-job 4-month MBA, I'd managed to put together a detailed 3-year growth plan and financial model for vetting. This was the core focus of the programme - not reams of theory that would sit in a ring-binder on the shelf collecting dust, but a very practical plan to move the business to the next level. Then the scary bit - having to start deliverying it!
I'd decided to focus the rest of 2017 on building stronger foundations: primarily around the team, office environment and funding - what we called our transition plan. This would put us in a great position to start our growth plan in January 2018.
So by the end of the year, we'd managed to recruit some great new talent, created a fantastic new working environment and raised the expansion funding we need to support the growth plan. Some of it was unbelievably simple, equipped with my new knowledge, but some remained stubbornly difficult!
The new office is transforming the way we work: the locally crafted break-out area and 'Nook' (out of shot) have created great areas for relaxing and collaboration - and we've got 1,000 acres for running!
So we start 2018 with a few things still to sort but with a huge air of excitement over what the next few years will bring. All I'll say for now is that the timeoutdoors you see today is not the timeoutdoors you'll hopefully know and love by 2020. We have some very exciting plans - together with the people and resources needed to make these happen.
Although 2017 was generally a very positive year, there were a few challenges. I personally spent most of the year very internally focussed and relied on the team to keep focussed on our audience and customers, which they did exceptionally well. Now we've got our plans in place, my focus has now shifted back to audience and customers and will stay firmly on them for the foreseeable future. The office move also meant we lost a few people, which caused some short-term disruption - but long term, the move was without doubt the right thing to do and is already making us a far more effective team. And finally, I had to defer taking part in the Tour de Mont Rosa ultra - I just didn't have time to train and pull-off the transition plan at the same time - and it's not the sort of run I'd like to turn up for ill-prepared. So I had to settle for another go at the Ripon Ultra to keep my hand in, not a bad consolation prize. No excuses this year though, I'll be in Italy at the start line in September!
Our for a run with three of my fellow Goldman Sachs Alumni at one of our quarterly get-togethers: Dennis van Enk, Geotron UK; me; Abi Weeds, Odylique; John Langley, JML Contracts.
And finally, I'd just like to thank the people who made 2017 a truly transformational year for myself and the business. First, I'd like to thank the team for hanging in there - when we all look back in 2020, I hope they'll understand that 2017 was key to getting there; second, I'd like to thank my fellow Goldman Sachs Alumni for making the programme such as exceptional experience - I'm looking forward to seeing how we all get on in 2018; and finally, I'd like to thank Goldman Sachs and the entire programme team at the business schools of Oxford University, Aston University and Leeds University. If you're an ambitious business owner, apply now - you won't regret it!