June this year marks five years in business for the Beyond Profit team.
Yes, we are FIVE years old. I wanted to take this milestone as an opportunity to reflect on a few things.
A bit about my journey
I started off working in the charity sector in 2003 and what I loved about working in the sector was the people and their passion. But I quickly realised that what I could bring to where I worked, a lot of small charities weren’t getting. So, back in 2009, I had a little seed of an idea in the back of my mind: set up my own business to support smaller charities with their finance. I’d already named the business at this point, and I’d written down Beyond Profit because I knew that’s what I wanted to be called.
But I had to put that little seed away because it just wasn’t quite the right time. At that point, we had three children and my husband was a stay-at-home dad. We were reliant on my income, and we just couldn’t take the risk.
Fast forward to 2017, when an opportunity came up for me to take voluntary redundancy from my role within the charity, and it was one of those moments of “if I don’t do it, now, it’s never going to happen.” So, I took that leap of faith and in June 2017, I set up Beyond Profit. Initially, I thought it was just going to be me; I didn’t want a team again, I’d managed people before. I just wanted it to be me and just wanted to crack on and do what I wanted to do. But my business grew a lot quicker than I thought it would. I soon realised that, actually, it couldn’t just be me. So, in 2019, I took on my first employee, Kevin, who’s still with me now.
We’ve grown steadily ever since; on average, taking on a new employee each year, even during lockdown, which was a little bit challenging. We’ve grown quite quickly in the five years, and it’s been an amazing journey.
Things that I’ve learned
Stick to your guns. I knew where I wanted to work, I knew I wanted to work specifically with charities and in the main, I’ve done that, and where I’ve not done that, I’ve tried to steer it in that direction. That was quite tough to begin with because I had to get my name out there and get known.
I’ve also learned to trust my gut. It’s why I insist on meeting anyone who would potentially like to work with me face to face, well, on Zoom actually, just to get to know them. I’m a firm believer that you’ve got to get on with the people that you work with. You’ve got to have some commonality. Essentially, if my team are going to do the best work, you’ve got to be a nice person and we’ve got to be able to work with you. That was challenging in the start because I didn’t always stick to that. Being new, you just want to do whatever you can to make your business a success. I went outside the scope of doing charity work and I worked with people my gut was really telling me not to.
What I wish I’d done now is really listen to my gut. But hey, lesson learned, isn’t it? You can’t get these things right all the time. Even though I had all that experience behind me, I’d never actually worked for myself before and it’s not the same as being employed. When you’re employed, you might think about your work quite a lot, but I think about my business pretty much all the time, and not in a bad way. I think about all the things I want to do, all the extra things I can deliver for clients, where the business is going, just all these things and it’s not negative, it’s exciting. It’s just my brain sometimes tends to work 100 miles and I’m thinking, “Oh, I could do that, or could do that, or would like to do that.”
You can’t do everything at once. It’s got to be a little bit planned, hasn’t it?
A few thanks
I also want to say thank you, to the people who have helped me get this far. To all my clients who I’ve worked with in the past five years, thank you. Thank you for being amazing, for being supportive, for doing what you do. It’s just a joy to work with you all, it really is.
But there’s one specific client I want to mention who’s been with me from the start, and that’s the Co-operative Heritage Trust.
This is a charity that I helped establish back when I was employed. It’s been a joy to work with them for the past five years and to see them on the journey from being an unincorporated charity to an incorporated one. I’ve been involved in some of that journey and then last year, I became involved by basically taking on their outsource finance function. It’s just been fantastic to see that charity go from strength to strength, it’s something I’ve got a personal connection with. So huge shout out to the Co-operative Heritage Trust, to the fabulous team there. You’re just amazing, led by the fantastic Liz McIver and all the trustees there. A shout out to Mervyn Wilson, who has just stepped down as being the Chair of Trustees. You’ve just been amazing; all the support you’ve given me from when you were my Chief Executive back when we worked at the College together, I just want to say thank you.
Then there’s some other thank yous that I want to give to all the CIMA Members in Practice out there, and those in the community who have been super supportive of me. You know who you are.
I’d also like to shout out to Lucy Green, who’s my business coach; I started working with Lucy at the start of lockdown and she’s really helped me clarify my thinking. I was like, “Oh, I don’t want to go over the £85,000 threshold because then I had to become VAT registered. If I’m VAT registered, I’ll have to charge my client 20% more. And as charities, most of them aren’t VAT registered, and they can’t recover VAT.” There was this clash, and it was because I wanted to grow my business.
I’m an ambitious person but I didn’t want to charge my clients more. So, I came up with a plan: I let them all know six months in advance what was happening. As it turns out, I didn’t lose a single client through that. So, thank you, Lucy for being part of my journey. It’s been brilliant to work with you, just to have you as a sounding board to help clarify some of my thinking.
Then there’s Annie Browne. Annie is my VA and she’s amazing. She’s a fantastic businesswoman herself. She owns Hello My PA. She’s just been fantastic, especially around organising me, around the marketing side and the newsletters. She’s been brilliant. Thank you, Annie, and her team, at Hello My PA.
Then I want to say thank you to my family who have been super supportive, particularly when I’m having a bad day and a little bit cranky. We all know you take things out on those closest to you. Thank you to my four boys, to Jack, Sam, Alfie, and Archie: you’re amazing. One of the reasons I’m running my business is for you guys, because I can be flexible around you and your needs. I feel like I can be there a bit more as a mum and I’m hoping I’m setting a good example to you. Then to my fantastic husband, Mr. Beyond Profit, Dan Willder. He’s just been so supportive of me. He’s been that supportive of me that he joined the business back in January. He’s just been there when I’m having a bad day and I need to sound off, he always offers an ear to listen if that’s what I need, or a solution. So, thank you to Dan as well.
I want to sign off with this. It’s a little bit of a celebration. Around 60% of start-ups fail within their first three years. And I’m still here five years later; I’m still going and just taking the time to step back and think, “Oh my god, how amazing is that? That actually is amazing.” I don’t normally shout out myself and give myself give the permission to celebrate but by god, am I celebrating this. I’m going to say I’m so proud of myself and I’m so proud of my team. It’s been a journey and it’s going to continue being a journey and hopefully an exciting one.
So, here’s to five more years and five after that. And five after that.
Finally, I just want to say we’re celebrating for a whole month because that’s typical Emma-style; why celebrate for one day when you can celebrate for a bit longer. So, throughout the month of June, we’re going to be putting out some more posts and more blogs. We’re going to be launching something new, so fingers crossed!
Happy birthday to Beyond Profit.
Five years in. Here’s to five more.
Thank you everyone!