A little over six months ago, I made a significant life decision, starting my own company.

A little over six months ago, I made a significant life decision, starting my own company. I wrote about it at the time, outlining my motivations and hopes for the future.

Now felt a good time to look back at what I set out to do, think about how things have gone and what the immediate future looks like.

As all the people I have spoken to (bored!) over the last few months will know, my motivation and commitment to establishing a successful business and delivering high quality work is at least as high now as it was back in June.

I am delighted that the business has so far exceeded my expectations and given me confidence to make important decisions in the months ahead. It helped that I had spent the previous 10 years working in polling and research, making connections and friends across government, business, politics, the media and the third sector, and I am in debt to those who have shown trust in me to deliver work; they know who they are, just as they know that, without them, I would not be writing this blog!

But while the thrill of a new challenge and of delivering good quality work is undoubted, starting a new business comes with significant challenges. Of course, there is the ever-present pressure of new work and of delivering that work; this is a given and something which has not come as a surprise, but the process has proved testing in more unexpected ways.

My time is precious and planning it efficiently is a challenge which has taken me some time to master. My primary commitment will always be to keeping clients delighted by delivering high quality work. But one of the thrills of business ownership is in exploring new avenues and planning growth, not least because this will improve my service to clients. In line with many new businesses, the early days have rightly been about delivery, but longer-term planning is also required. Equally, finding the right pricing point and avoiding over-promising at the risk of compromising timescales or work quality are key challenges, as is the thorny issue of managing all the organisational administration, especially after leaving my previous cosseted existence when much of this was done for me.

So, I used the recent break to step back, take stock and think about the future. For many reasons this was instructive and useful. During this reflection, I realised that, while I was certain I had made the right career move, I had to make some important decisions rather sooner than I had anticipated; broadly, continue the business at its current level, accepting some capacity constraints, or take the plunge and grow.

I have chosen the latter path and hope to make announcements on recruitment and premises in the next few weeks!

While this is, of course, a risk it is one that I feel confident and optimistic in making for a number of reasons.

When I think back to my objectives and what I wanted to achieve, they are as relevant now as they were then; providing high quality research, consultancy and advice to clients does not need to be shrouded mystery, cost a fortune and take forever to deliver – those I have worked with in the last six months know this, I appreciate it more than ever and will to continue to offer sound advice, flexibility and value for money. And even in the digital, sometimes remote world of doing business I appreciate that nothing beats sitting round a table to understand what clients want and how I can help them. And above all, Scotland is, and will remain, an exciting, changing and challenging place to do business; understanding the political, social and business context and being able to communicate that will always be my focus.

So, thank you to all those who have listened and offered me sage advice over the last few months; I hope you know how much this has meant. I hope we continue to work together.

And to new friends, get in touch and let’s see how I can help.

Written by Mark Diffley

20 February 2018

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