As Steve Jobs famously said (and I’m paraphrasing here) you can’t really plan your life, you can only look backwards and connect the dots.
Looking back over my life, or at least the part of it that I’ve experienced so far, the time I spent marketing The Music Room was a really pivotal time in my life, for many reasons.
I’d been working for Bennie for several months by this time, and while I hated leaving my babies every day (Phoebe was about 3 and Nelson about 1 years old) in the care of my husband, I absolutely loved working for Bennie. I had an easy commute from Kensal Rise to Oxford Circus, and for the first time in a long while, money was tight but regular.
Bennie largely left me to get on with it, but was available if I needed him. We had little meetings about once a week to update him and so I could ask for advice. I sent him a weekly report updating him on marketing activities. It was all very informal but with just enough structure. I’m very self directed, so that was perfect for me.
He’d given me a bit of a pay-rise, plus the promise of commission from any bookings I got for The Music Room, which was exciting, being the first time I’d ever be paid on results in my whole life. I was determined to make a go of it and to justify his apparent faith in me.
I did that in two ways, by starting to work on the marketing and starting to work on myself.
Marketing Of The Music Room
I realised very quickly that, if I was going to let out The Music Room, I would need a cleaning company, furniture hire, and catering companies to refer people to so that they could hire them as well as the room. There was NO WAY I was going to be doing the cleaning!
I gathered some recommendations and put together a fact sheet to give to potential prospects, which I created in the still fairly new fangled Word document – yes, Windows had arrived just a while earlier and replaced the black screen, green writing of DOS.
I also used my newfound web design skills – really one of the most useful things I’ve ever learned – to put together a very simple website with a gallery page of pictures of the venue, floor plans I drew on graph paper and scanned at the local photocopy shop, an about page (all about the building’s history), and contact details.
I outlined the various uses that the venue had been put to, suggested a few, and then bought a domain name and hosting and pulled it all together.
(The Space Organisation did have an IT department, but I’d seen the websites they had created previously and I wasn’t that impressed, besides which, they were painfully slow to get any project done!)
Within a week I was ready to go looking for customers, which I proposed to do by trying both direct mail and email marketing.
I had, then as now, a horror of picking up the phone, and instinctively realised that if I could get them to come to me, I’d be in a better bargaining position when it came to the daily rate.
I’d determined to set the daily rate for hire at just over £1000 a day. Well, after all it had been being hired out for £750 a day a year or so before, and I figured it would be easier to discount it on the spot (and look really generous) as well as discounting for bigger block multi-day bookings, if the price was high to start with.
The Music Room was in a strong position really, as it wasn’t bringing in any money right then, so anything I achieved would be better than nothing, a philosophy many new consultants would do worse than to adopt!
I spent a couple of days in my local library manually making notes on the biggest PR companies, as well as the Press Offices of all the big department stores, museums, art galleries, universities and colleges, and anyone else I could think of that might periodically need a big empty space.
Last thing on a Friday night, I stuck the stamps on the last couple of hundred or so letters, which included a full link to the website, posted those, then came back and hit “send” on a couple of hundred emails… not everyone had an email address in those days.
Then I held my breath and crossed my fingers…
Working On Myself…
You remember I’d had an epiphany in the previous year, when I realised that “if it was to be, it was up to me”?
That nobody was ever going to come and save me, prince charming style, and that even my poor husband wasn’t able to do that. I was 38 years old and was starting to grow up. Perhaps it was having the kids and suddenly being responsible for other people…
I also felt a deep sense of gratitude to Bennie and I wanted to do my best for him and overcome my demons about working for someone else. He did rescue me, in a sense, and had given me a dream job just when I was at my lowest.
Every time I needed to get out of the office, I’d go for a walk.
Despite being near Oxford St and my favourite shop of all time, Selfridges, I had no spare money, so had to be careful what I did with my time.
I would bring books in from Kensal Green Library, or go and visit Books Etc, round the corner from Danceworks & Natureworks, and occasionally treat myself to a new book
Having got married and had my babies, books like “How To Love A Difficult Man” were now off the menu, so I continued my lifelong love affair with reading by continuing to pay attention to both the science fiction section and the business/ startup section. Still, deep inside, was the dream that I could have my own business one day.
One day, as I was walking out of the shop, there being nothing new in either of those departments, a book fell off a shelf in front of me. It was “Swimming With Piranha Makes You Hungry” by Colin Turner and it was making its escape from the Personal Development section, which I’d never paid any attention to before, despite loving a good “how to” book.
I thought of myself as practical, down to earth, even perhaps a bit cynical, so was about to put the book back on its shelf. However, the little picture of the piranha on the front caught my eye, and when I read the back, I discovered it was all about getting out of the rat race and becoming independent by starting your own business.
“Nothing to learn here” I thought cynically “I’ve failed plenty of times and no book can teach me what I’ve been doing wrong, surely?”
But I was desperate for something to read on the tube, so I bought it, took it away with me, and started to read.
For the first time.
I was to read that book five times in total. Why? Because I had the feeling that there was something in that little book I was missing, perhaps something in all the business books I’d read in the past too that I was missing.
I was determined to keep reading it ’til I “got it”, whatever “it” was.
And I finally did get it – it was hidden in a simple little drawing near the end of the book. That drawing was going to change my life completely.
P.S. Little did I know that one day I would be interviewing the author, Colin Turner, who contacted me after seeing a review of the book I wrote on Amazon, over ten years later!