Starting a business: one year of success

One year ago I launched Bryan Alexander Consulting and changed my life.  It’s been a wild ride, and a successful one.  Since I vowed to share this work through social media, I’ll use this post to reflect back on year one of BAC, LLC.

2013-2014 has been a rapid voyage of learning and self-development.  I shifted from being in the non-profit space to becoming a businessperson, from chronically recovering from the literature professor role to thinking like an entrepreneur.

Bryan addressing NERCOMP

Addressing NERCOMP, March 2014.

It’s also been a very busy year.  I’ve been in continuous demand, which is a splendid thing.  At the same time I have been learning and experimenting a great deal (see below).

What does this new work look like?  It’s a mix of ideas, presentations, discussion, listening hard, research, discussion, brainstorming, reflection, analysis, more listening, and more discussion.  On a practical side, BAC’s efforts are split between speaking and consulting engagements.  For the former, I’m often asked to keynote organizational or campus events, from conferences to symposia.  For the latter, it’s been a mix: preparing analyses, helping campuses through academic computing challenges, and facilitating meetings.  The two sometimes overlap, as when a consulting assignment leads to a speaking gig, or when a breakout discussion or workshop follows a keynote address.

The work also includes a great deal of writing.  I’ve been producing articles, interview content, and book chapters.  A new book proposal is heading to a publisher.

FTTE logoA good amount of that writing happens in the monthly FTTE reports.  These free documents go out to more than 1000 subscribers, and distill my futures thinking.  They’ve also sparked relationships with active futurists and keen-eyed readers.

Still more of writing and futures work happens via social media.  Over the past year I’ve ramped up my social media engagement, using the Web to think out loud, in public.  That’s meant more blog and Google+ posts, Tweets, LinkedIn discussions, more comments on podcast Web presences, and a surprising amount of Facebook conversations, not to mention posts to old-fashioned listservs.  These have refreshed, enhanced, and challenged my thinking, sharpening my work.

On the back end of the business, I’ve learned a great deal: insurance, taxes, state policies, and  financial software.  Well, I’ve done some, while my wife has done far more.  Ceredwyn has become BAC’s chief operating officer, a major job with a demanding learning curve.  She’s indispensable to operations.   BAC wouldn’t exist without her.

BAC logo

Yes, BAC is pretty much myself and Ceredwyn, so far.  Over the past year we’ve hired people part time and for one-off functions, like a splendid accountant and a fine designer.

So what does it mean to turn my years of work into the for-profit path?  It has been a… honing of focus.  As a teacher, as a nonprofit consultant I always paid careful attention to my audience (classes, colleagues, organizations, campuses, etc.), and now it’s more so.  I’m more attuned to costs and revenues, obviously.  But I’m also freer to work.  I can connect with a larger universe than before, when constrained by a nonprofit’s foundational parameters.  The marketplace has been freeing in that respect.

The year flows differently.  As a professor life was deeply structured by the semester and academic year.  In a nonprofit devoted to colleges, that timeline was pretty strong, as were the lifespans of projects.  Now the year is a continuous, roiling chronology out of which opportunities and engagements rise and fall.  This may settle into a predictable pattern in the future, but is quite fluid at this point.  I’m always on the lookout for new possibilities, ready to pounce.

So what next?  More of the same, it seems, especially since this year has been so successful.  “If it ain’t broke” is a decent adage.  Yet… I’m considering expanding social media work to include, perhaps, podcasts or Web video.  As our client base grows we will have to hire people for individual jobs, and maybe more than that.   And, of course, I’m always on the hunt for new clients; perhaps new types of clients will surface, or BAC will focus on a certain category.

Oh, and financially?  BAC has been doing very well.  Our accountant described first-year revenue growth as “phenomenal”.   Onward!

(photo by David Gannon)

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3 Responses to Starting a business: one year of success

  1. VanessaVaile says:

    “constrained by a nonprofit’s foundational parameters” … yup, sure get that one and then some

  2. Pingback: My business after two years | Bryan Alexander

  3. Pingback: Four years in: under the hood of my consulting firm | Bryan Alexander

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