My business is a year old this week.  When I walked away from a well-paid and (reasonably) secure job last year to set up on my own, I could never have imagined what a first year I would have and just what I lot a would learn – and continue to learn.

I think that’s the part of running my own business which I’ve personally enjoyed the most. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve jumped around my little office with the joy that personally achieving something new can bring (no matter how small). From registering my own business email address and seeing my website for the first time, to sending out my first invoice and then, the horror, making a VAT return! Each one a joy of learning.

Of course, I’ve done none of it on my own. That’s my other pleasure – dealing with other businesses whose business it is to help me and my business. I’ve been fortunate to find an amazing accountant, designer, lawyer, insurance broker and business mentor. I’ve also begun to draw together a rich source of talent and expertise in a group of Associates who share my enthusiasm for innovation and economic growth. I can’t even begin to name everyone who has helped me this year. To them all I say thank you – and thank goodness I realised my limitations early on and found you.

And then there’s my clients. Whilst I gave every ounce of passion and energy in my professional life to the job I did in Cornwall, I’ve found such a rich stream of new and innovative economic growth across this country and beyond. Learning about the variety of practice and delivery in both the public sector and with private clients has been a real privilege. It also makes me realise how we can sometimes get subsumed into the ‘day job’ without looking out and learning from others. I wish I’d done more of it earlier in my career. My clients are amazing – and I thank them all for the opportunity to work and learn from them. It’s been brilliant to work together to make a difference to businesses and places.

As this is a business birthday celebration, I’m clearly focusing a lot on the positives here. There’s been a few  many (!) low points.

First of all, after being in the fortunate position of being on a salary, the sheer terror of not knowing if you’ve got a business, or clients, or income. Dealing with fundamental unknowns are a real test of character.

Then there’s the potential isolation. I don’t go to the wide variety of generic business breakfasts, lunches and dinners always on offer to feed myself – they’re just not my thing. So consequently, especially early on, it was a bit lonely. I soon realised that picking up the phone and making myself network for work in a targeted way is a lifeblood I need.  Again, people are amazingly supportive and helpful when you ask. To my wonderful network – thank you, and stand by the phone!

Running a business like mine means that time becomes more of a commodity than I ever realised. It’s not to say I didn’t work long hours in a salaried job, but somehow it was different. I think I put a different value on time. With hindsight, I recognise I could have been more productive in my previous job. When I started on my own, I envisaged tonnes of #tweets, LinkedIn expositions, blogs and a book. I’m writing the book (and about to have the first one published) but the blogs, tweets and LinkedIn have had to take second place to the core work (even if I was in a position to share – which often, I’m not).

I know I’ll continue to make lots of mistakes – but I learn from each one and try to build that learning back into my business to make it stronger. I’m looking forward to year 2 – whatever it may bring. To the new clients, Associates and supportive businesses I meet along the way – I’m looking forward to meeting you. To the ROTHWELL support network and my clients – thank you so much.

[*blows out birthday cake candle*]