Shaftesbury business owners will be shown how to identify new growth opportunities when an innovation expert shares her inspiring stories.
Semley-based Erica Wolfe-Murray has helped major companies including Disney and Harvey Nichols realise future potential. And Erica passionately believes that every businessperson can benefit by thinking about his or her own working experience. “There hasn’t ever been a single business or a single freelancer that I haven’t been able to find new revenues, new ways of working or new things for them to offer,” said Erica.
On Thursday, Erica addresses Shaftesbury Chamber of Commerce’s networking lunch at The Grosvenor Arms. She’s kindly giving her time for free, but her message may be lucrative to people who adopt her ideas. “There’s going to be something that they can take away and do, either that afternoon or tomorrow,” she promised.
When people talk about a business having intellectual property, they often mean trademarks, copyrights or patents. But Erica will argue that the smallest of businesses and sole traders will each have experiences that could be considered a valuable commodity. “It may not be intellectual property as a lawyer would term it, but what they’ve got is what I call intellectual assets,” said Erica. “Everything that’s got you in your business, or you in your life to here now is your intellectual asset. It’s what you know, your list of clients, whatever you’ve been paid to do. It could be property, it could be articles you’ve written, it could be interviews that you’ve done. I help companies to understand what those intellectual assets – those ingredients – are, and to do new and interesting things with them.”
Erica says she helps businesspeople understand what the customers are really buying. Once that special quality is identified, it could form a new business opportunity. She explained using a café owner as an example. “If you’re running a café, people will come to you not just because you make good coffee, but they’ll come because of the environment that you have created, that they are sitting in. You could teach other people who want to launch cafés the business of running a café because you’ve got that knowledge. You’ve got yourself there.”
Erica’s talk and her book, ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas: Build a Bigger, Better Business’ will provide case studies featuring her international and local clients. In the Shaftesbury area she has worked with ‘Right Over the Top’ hair salon and Jake Eastham Photography in Swallowcliffe.
Erica accepts that busy businesspeople are usually immersed in the day-to-day operations and ‘can’t see the wood from the trees’, as the saying goes. “People end up working in the business and not on the business,” she said.
Erica’s book is written so busy people can dip in and out of it. “You can open it anywhere, and you could find a paragraph that might only be 100 words. There’s an idea in there that you can implement tomorrow, most of which are at no cost to yourself. I could just put a notice up in my window saying, ‘Thinking of running a cafe? We’re starting a course in two weeks’ time’. See if there’s any interest. It has cost you a piece of paper and five minutes writing a poster.”
Again, Erica stressed that the unique experience that every Shaftesbury area businessperson has is of value. “Nobody else in the history of the human race will ever have the life that you’ve led to here, so if you base your business really clearly on your knowledge, on your unique client list, understanding what you’ve done, you can build a business that effectively nobody else can compete with. But it is understanding how to do that. If you’ve got a business already, you can launch products and services that are, again, completely unique to you.”
Recently the Alfred podcast has featured the success of Shaftesbury on-line retailer Botanical Candle Co. Amalia Pothecary has shared her business story on her social media updates. Clients all over the world have joined Amalia on her business growth journey.
Erica believes that storytelling is a powerful tool for any small business. “There isn’t a single person on this planet who doesn’t have an amazing story. It’s actually just finding the time to sit down, listen to it, but everybody’s got a story that they can tuck into their business. When someone starts a business, the reason that they’re starting it is generally either because they’ve got a passion for that, they’ve got some aptitude for it or they’ve identified a gap in the market. All of those have stories to get you there. So you start with the business that you know something about, and that’s your life story,” said Erica.”
“People buy people,” she continued. “We’re human and that human contact has been with us since the very earliest, and that’s not going to change. The more you can get across that story, the more likely you will have relevance to people.”
Erica explained that she had attended a talk by one of the buyers for Selfridges’ food hall. “She said what she always looks at is the unique story of the people who created the brand, because for her, it is the most important thing.”
Erica says future potential can split into five areas of opportunity. “What can you sell to your past and present clients and who might your future clients be? Can you write contracts differently? The third area is what can you sell to your competitors? The fourth one is who are new buyers in the marketplace. And the fifth one is what can you sell the person in the street, for example, new audiences?”
Erica’s unique skills come from working in both the creative and financial sides of business. “I worked in advertising, in both product and graphic design. I’ve had a TV production company. I’ve been a creative head for companies with blue chip clients. But I’ve also been a financial director. I approach businesses both from a creative perspective, but also from a financial perspective. One side or the other, never get switched off. It’s always both.”
Erica continues to work with major corporations, but she says her book and talk has the sole trader and small business in mind. “I wrote the book because the methodology that I use for big companies could be used by freelancers and micro companies,” said Erica. “If you’re a micro business, or a freelancer, and there are lots of those in Shaftesbury, nobody helps you. Nobody really gives you advice. I thought that if this methodology works for individuals, put it into a book written for micro companies and freelancers. I really care that people who’ve got families and mortgages or people moving on from careers in bigger companies have got something that they can seize and is written for them by somebody who’s in their boat too.”
Erica’s talk on Thursday follows another successful local event. “We did the talk in Semley six weeks ago. There is this moment when you’re giving the talk and you see people look at you and then they slightly disappear into their own head and you can see them thinking about their business. And there is just this sparkle in their eyes when they go, ‘Oh my God, I just never thought I’d got so much that I could use or reuse’. The talk has lots of case studies and examples that people can take away.”
Erica’s talk is at the Grosvenor Arms Hotel from 12pm-2pm on Thursday 23rd May. The Shaftesbury Chamber of Commerce networking lunch is open to all. The cost for food and a hot drink is £12, payable on the day. You will need to email email@example.com to book and to provide details of dietary requirements.
Erica’s book is available on Amazon and locally from the Semley and Ludwell village stores.