Is there a typical small businessperson? What characteristics do typical small business owners have in common?
We asked a recent visitor to Islandworks, Darren Weale of In Tune PR, for some insights, including into the value of coworking spaces such as ours.
Darren was recently dubbed ‘The Coffee King’ by his Business Networking International (BNI) chapter, Lightning, based in Bromley, in London, owing to the numerous meetings he has with fellow business owners over coffee!
Onto the questions:
Do you like the Coffee King tag?
“Actually, yes. I prefer Dazzle – thank you to my friend and Digital Marketing expert Sarah Marsh-Collings of babel Monkey Digital Marketing Management for that one. However, I like coffee a lot, and meeting people. Meeting people and networking is at the heart of my business life. I even have a small set of preferred coffee locations. Presently, Islandworks (coffee very good, brie and cranberry sandwich even more ‘me’); Grace 40 in Bromley Town Centre; Corza in West Wickham; The Orpington Record Store and Café; The Exchange in Erith; Nightingale Café in Biggin Hill; and The Armoury Café at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, in Cambridgeshire! Costa Coffee is a no-no. One of the worst coffees I ever had was from a Costa automated motorway services garage dispenser. Seriously awful!”
What characteristics are typical of owners of small businesses?
“Coffee Kings and Queens exist, but love of meetings and people isn’t altogether common. Some businesspeople aren’t comfortable with it and prefer their own company. Let’s try for those common traits:
“Ambition. We want to prosper doing our own thing. That often doubles up with previous poor experiences in corporate life. Many small businesspeople don’t want to stay small. Some are the publicly known business leaders of tomorrow. For others, prospering means just getting by.
“Limitations. Being good at some, but not all, of what we do. Accounts are my nemesis, and I met two business owners recently, one of whom hated social media, and the other hated print media. As Penny Power OBE says (this is her book title), Business Is Personal – and we’re all different.
“Isolation. The buck stops with us. It is said that 80% of new businesses fail inside their first 12 months of trading. The mental strain and temptation to retreat within ourselves is strong. Business is personal: it can also be lonely.
“Overwhelm. We are in an age of excessive information. There are probably only a few things we really need to get right – perhaps strategy, planning, cashflow, service, values – but the plethora of information, services, and often self-appointed experts out there makes it hard to cut through to what works for each of us.
“Friction. Things around us that hold us back. Often ones that could be considered positives. Working from home is more or less at no cost and seems convenient. But it can be crowded, full of interruptions and disorganised.
“Love. Love of what we do. Yes, we might have that love drained away if success doesn’t call, but people in small businesses often either hang on to a business that isn’t working way beyond when it makes objective sense or keep reinventing themselves or what they do in search of their own Holy Grail of success.
“You know, I applaud the small businessperson. Frankly, I applaud all of us, in whatever capacity, who get out there and work for others or ourselves, or who try to. But starting a small business can be such a risk, such a challenge, such an opportunity to be knocked back. Sir Winston Churchill reputedly said, “Success is moving from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm”. On that basis, I know a lot of successful people in small businesses!”
Do coworking spaces make a difference for small business owners?
“Absolutely. In fact, the principles of co-working are at the heart of many businesses from the smallest side hustle to the largest international corporation. There is a recognition out there that, as a social species, humans simply work better together than we do apart. Yes, it is possible to succeed up to a point through remote working and a lot of ZOOM or TEAMS meetings, but the creative spark is best lit and fanned face to face. Cellular offices still exist, but there is a recognition that a blended offering is optimal. That blending might be spaces that have small, concentration-friendly bookable cellular offices, or bookable desk or lounge areas for working in one’s and two’s, or in larger groups. Or hireable meeting rooms that aren’t an ongoing expense, but which can be invoiced by the hour. From the small business point of view, access to well-run, clean, friendly, versatile spaces with (when needed) good company, like-minded individuals, and, you guessed it, good coffee, take us out of our bedrooms, our garden offices, and our steamy café’s. Into more idyllic settings which could enable us when we start out to be among the 20% of small businesses that do take off in their first year, then keep on growing. The importance of location to our business journeys is often overlooked.
“I am increasingly struck by the fantastic choice of hireable coworking spaces out there. Islandworks, where past and future meet, with its major plus of a cool hireable events space. Where I live in Bromley, examples include Newman Flexible Workspace – functional, very welcoming, with hireable offices; Contingent Works, contemporary and stimulating; and Clockwise, a period setting with a programme of wellbeing and other events for its users. There are more I will be exploring! Then in Swanley, there is the new Meeting Point, where (a first in my experience) the local Council has invested in facilities to encourage local businesses. There is something, somewhere, for everyone, and I can only see the combination of coworking spaces, coffee, and entrepreneurs keeping us connected and succeeding, in the right headspace, into the future.”
Darren will be blogging further on this and other topics on his own website. Visit www.intunepr.co.uk for more. If you haven’t been to Islandworks, don’t hesitate: book a tour! [link to tour offer – https://calendly.com/islandworks/coworking-tour]