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The best and worst thing about running a home based business is the fact that you are your own boss. This means that you need to make sure that you are doing what is needed to get your business to grow – no one else is going to do it for you, or take you to task if things are not going as planned.

There are, however, a number of things you can do to help you, especially in the early days when you will most likely be doing a lot of work without a lot of income coming in.

Vision and Goals

If you are going to make a success of the business you need to be very clear why you are doing it. Is it to achieve a certain level of income a month, pay for a holiday, clear your debts, buy a car or house that you have always wanted. Time spent creating a clear vision of what you want to achieve will make your business stronger.

It is important to create a really big vision that excites you and make you want to bounce out of bed in the morning – and then put smaller goals, or milestones, into your vision so you have a way of checking how you are progressing.

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For me my goal is to get my income up to and past the level it was when I was working as an Assistant Director, but rather than picturing money I am picturing the things it will give me – a canal barge, a new car, holidays, visiting my daughter in whichever country she is working in at least twice a year, able to pay for lovely presents for my extended family.

The key word here is picture the clearer you can see, smell, hear, taste and touch your vision when you think about it the stronger it will be. You must also think about the vision in the present tense – as something that has already happened and is already here, not as something that is in the future or you will never get there. This is not an easy thing to do, and it is easy to get weighed down by doubts, but do it every day and your ‘vision muscle’ will get stronger and so will your belief. Then whenever things don’t go exactly to plan – and they won’t sometimes – you are able to get through it by remembering the end you have planned.

Goals, or milestones, are the stages along the way. It is important to always celebrate achieving them and take time to enjoy this as building a business takes time and you need to enjoy yourself on the way or you won’t have the energy to continue.

Touch your business every day

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lao-tzuThe Way of Lao-tzuChinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

You should do something to move your business on every day – as the only sure thing is that a business that is not worked on will not grow but die. The actions should be ones that actively develop the business, not just the administration jobs that can make you feel busy but not move the business on. For direct marketing this means contact with a prospective team member or customer as anything else is not developing the business.

This is not to say that you should never stop working the business – as it is also important to look after yourself and take time out, but, especially in the early days, you need to keep the momentum and excitement going.

Plan 

The final point I want to make in this post is that you need to plan and map out your actions and write them down – yearly, monthly and weekly. This is so that you can check back to see how you have done, and review which things have worked and which ones have not. This is why I am posting now at the end of 2013 as this is the ideal time to spend some time thinking about your business and how you want it to grow in 2014.

BUT you must be flexible and respond to feedback or opportunities as being too inflexible will limit the opportunities to grow and develop your business.  Talk to any business  owner who has been in business for more than a year and, while they may have achieved the goals they set themselves, the way they got there is likely to have been different to how they planned it at the beginning of the year. Be open to new ideas and ways of working – but don’t go after every new idea, only the ones that fit in with the vision you have set yourself. You may change the goals, as they may become less relevant to the way your business is developing.

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The Arts Council England (ACE) have published this document on the 13th September 2011. It is intended to demonstrate how the strategic responsibility they are taking on for museums and libraries from October 2011 fits with their existing strategic framework ‘Achieving great art for everyone‘.

I have found it an interesting read, especially in relation to my role as Black Country Library Services Project Manager. I can see a lot of synergies in what I am trying to achieve with the ambitions for the sector as set out in this document. I am looking forward to seeing how this develops.

In particular I think the long-term goals for libraries and museums they list will be a useful reference point as library and museum services develop and change over the coming years (especially when difficult situations are being faced):

Goal 1: Excellence is thriving and celebrated in museums and libraries
Goal 2: More people experience and are inspired by museums and libraries
Goal 3: Museums and libraries are sustainable, resilient and innovative for everyone today and looking forward
Goal 4: The leadership and workforce in museums and libraries are diverse and highly skilled.
Goal 5: Every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of museums and libraries.
There are some particularly useful statements that I am sure I will see quoted in a number of key strategic documents in the future.

What has been particularly useful, as far as I am concerned, is the literature review that has been done to support this document. I have not seen this kind of review on library evidence in the past. The literature review clearly shows where ACE has found gaps in evidence and what they are planning to do to fill these gaps.

I wait to see with interest what colleagues in libraries think of their proposals, especially the idea of a one day census of library use.

The Future Libraries Programme final report was published today. You can find it here.

The following comments are my own and are my initial thoughts about the report and the responses it has had when it was first published and promoted.

There are some strong feelings going around about the recommendations in the report that libraries should work differently along the lines of ‘but that is what we already do’. In many cases this is right – especially in the better library services, but it is not true everywhere, and it may not be true in full in every library authority.

My concern is that the high level of press coverage with the annoyance at some of the content is missing some really useful messages that strategic library managers and campaigners need to be making use of when working to keep library services we can all be proud of and want to use.

The document has many things that would be better for us to make a noise about, 2 of which are demonstrated in the following quotes:

‘Investment in a good process will achieve the best outcomes both in terms of efficiency and effectiveness for local residents and communities.’

‘Change will only happen if political leadership and professional expertise are harnessed in the same direction. ‘

This document also says that change takes time to implement effectively (the document quotes 12-18 months).

Hallelujah – but does that mean those of us who are trying to develop innovative new ways of managing libraries in a financially challenged time will be given this type of support? Lets hope so, but we need to be passing on these messages not just the frustration that the document keeps telling us to do the things some of us are already doing.

Maybe the reason that we keep being told to do things we already do is that we haven’t told enough people often about what an excellent library service actually does in words that mean something to them? The report does make reference to this:

‘For many decades, libraries have developed good practice across a range of outcomes and demonstrated innovation in partnerships and programmes to meet the needs of new communities or changing customer circumstances and choices. However this has not always been reflected in strong corporate buy-in at the level of the council executive and corporate management team. One of the key lessons from the Future Libraries Programme pilots is the need to position modernising libraries within and alongside wider transformation programmes taking place in the council.’


I am starting a new role on the 1st August with a secondment for up to 2 years to the role of Black Country Library Services Project Manager.  I am still acting as an Assistant Director managing the Libraries, Archives and Adult Learning division for Dudley while working out what the future for all of these services will be. It will be an interesting challenge.

One of the first tasks that I will need to do in developing the Black Country Libraries project is getting a single, joint vision which is ‘owned’ by all four authorities. This leads me to wonder what it is about a vision that makes it successful and what is the difference between a vision and a mission.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines them as:

Vision: 1. the ability to see the area that you can see from a particular position; 2. an idea or a picture in your imagination; 3. dream or similar experience, especially of a religious kind; 4. a person of great beauty or who shows the quality mentioned; or 6. the picture on a television or cinema/movie theater screen.

Mission: 1. an important official job that a person or group of people is given to do, especially when they are sent to another country; 2. a group of people doing such a job; the place where they work; 3.the work of teaching people about Christianity, especially in a foreign country; a group of people doing such work; 4. a building or group of buildings used by a Christian mission; 5. particular work that you feel it is your duty to do; 6. an important job that is done by a soldier, group of soldiers, etc; 7. a flight into space; or 8. a task or journey that is very difficult and takes a long time to complete.

Looking at these I think I am will be working to develop a vision within definitions 1 and 2, although developing one can often feel more like 3 although not always religious!

For the mission – the key definitions for what I am trying to achieve are basically 1 and 5 and I need to work against it feeling like 8.

Any thoughts from others would be gratefully received.