Monthly Archives: November 2014

On reflection – building a shed day 400

IMG_5486Never let it be said that I’m an admirer of Donald Trump, but I once heard that he spends an average of three hours a day reflecting (in the early hours I think it was).

I’ve always believed that we spend more time with our heads down (eyes glued to screens most likely) than is good for us personally or professionally. So I applaud Trump for finding such space in his day to reflect…

Before embarking on my current journey, I worked in an advisory role with charities and social enterprises for over a decade. That experience convinced me there’s a valuable role for outsiders to take people away from their desks (and preferably out of their offices) to ask what may be very simple, but surprisingly challenging, questions. I’ve often stumped people by simply asking “how would you define success for your organisation?”

Readers of this blog will know I’ve been ‘building a shed’ (The Repair Shed) for the past 400 days. I started the timer on 1 October 2013 when joining the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) start-up programme at the Eastern Enterprise Hub. One of the most valuable aspects of the past 12 months has been the many opportunities I’ve had to reflect with others on where I’ve been going, going wrong, and why.

This blog: Started to coincide with my attempt to start a social enterprise , I doubt anyone is really interested in my learning, but just sitting down and writing a regular blog has taken me away from enterprise development and ‘forced’ me to draw out lessons from what can be quite a solitary activity – getting a venture off the ground.

Even posting my ‘80 Enterprise Essentials’ over the past 40 weeks has meant I’ve re-visited tips that I put together back in 2011 and thought about which of the 80 I’d replace if I was compiling the list now.

Learning days at the Eastern Enterprise Hub: Each day has been an opportunity to ‘take stock’ of what’s gone well and less so in the intervening periods, and to benchmark my progress against others in our 16-strong student cohort. For me, the Action Learning Sets (facilitated, small group problem-solving sessions) really helped me through particular stumbling blocks.

My Lloyds Bank mentor: A part of the SSE programme package, my mentor has been a great sounding board, someone with experience in a very different part of the business world, with a personal and professional interest in my exploits. Having to account for myself on a regular basis is scary but valuable.

The Repair Shed Steering Group: Nine months in, I set up a steering group to increase my accountability. I don’t believe even the most maverick social entrepreneur should operate alone. Like the meetings with my mentor, the regular reporting is scary but the reflection and guidance from others is ultimately very helpful.

Monitoring by the School for Social Entrepreneurs: I’ve always said that spending someone else’s money brings responsibilities, and completing feedback surveys and keeping spending records to make claims is part of that obligation, as is the whole process of ongoing monitoring and evaluation.

Research with Sheffield University: Beyond the East of England, I’m part of a national longitudinal study – Start Up Journeys for Social Good – to better understand the support needs of social entrepreneurs. A programme of online surveys, Skype interviews ,and a visit to Sheffield University are further opportunities to assess progress and review the direction of travel.

So I may not be able to trump Donald, but if The Repair Shed doesn’t ultimately achieve what I hope it will, it won’t be for a lack of opportunities to stop, think, assess and act.

You can find all Eighty Enterprise Essentials at and more about The Repair Shed at