Starting my own business: Thoughts

As I think more and more about starting my own business, the more I think “I have no idea how I’m gonna do this”.

I believe I have a specialist skill, as I am confident that I’m really good at finding information. In fact, I really enjoy finding information for people. I get buzz out of looking all over google and finding a gem that others may not have found. In addition, as I am trained in this area, I have the skills to find information quickly, find information that is relevant and also provide a concise overview of what I’ve found.

But is this skill needed?

I can say for sure that a lot of people can’t be bothered to take the time to search for information. I see it everyday at work for minuscule things that would take 2 seconds. But would I be able to tap into a need and earn a living from it? Are there people who would be willing to hire me to search for information? And if so, what kind of people would they be?

Those who work within a business, would have an information team available. High flyers would have a PA and a team around them. Those who really need information, for example, those from backgrounds similar to mine, would they have the means to hire someone to help them.

Ideally, I’d want to work for people who don’t have time to perform research and don’t have access to an Information person/team and for those from backgrounds similar to mine who need help in elevating themselves.

For example:

  • if someone was looking for a particular kind of job/role, I could find out what kinds of job titles are used, what industries are hiring for this particular role and what agencies specialise in sourcing for that role
  • I could help someone find out what courses are available to study a particular thing, where they are available and what people have said about the course
  • I could search within a particular industry, the market players, the market itself and the trends
  • I could find out what magazine, newspapers or websites cover a particular industry
  • I could search for technological advances in a particular area/topic or region
  • Etc etc etc

There is so much information out there, that is publicly available, but can be hard to source, if you don’t know how to look. This can be overwhelming and painstaking, so I hope to decrease the burden of sifting through all that’s out there, by providing a service that will enable people to have information rather than having to search for it themselves.

Sometimes, I imagine working in an information bureau where people would come for information. They’d be a counter and people would come in and tell us what they need and there’d be a team working in the back on their computers.

Thoughts on my career

I think I’ve decided that my life long goal is to organise the Internet and work closely with my clients. I want to be able to categorise a variety of different websites so that I know where to find all kinds of information. I want to be a human google with knowledge and added information that I can use to find the information that my clients need.

Having worked in a bank and various libraries, I have some understanding of the kinds of information a worker in a bank or law firm, a student or someone from the public need. I want to increase my knowledge in this area in order to help all kinds of individuals find the information they need.

The only way to do this is to work in a variety of different settings. Working in different settings will allow me to gain an insight into what kinds of information different individuals need and are searching for. This way I can tailor my approach to to the individual.

However, I have found it difficult finding a research role that would allow me to fully utilise the skills I have, as well as have frequent exposure to the people I would be helping.

My current role has thankfully allowed me to explore my research skills and thus develop them so that I am better at searching for information. I have also been able to explore ways in which I can help market our services to our clients.

However, I don’t get to regularly speak to or have conversations with my clients about their needs and wants – what areas they wish to explore or where they want to go in the future. The only time I get to do that is when I am meeting the new starters, who generally don’t have a say in where their department is heading.

I think I definitely want to have clients I can work really closely with, as this will enable me to help in the ways that they as an individual need. But I definitely want to have the freedom to explore and find out what is out there, organise it and share it.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Asking questions can be very daunting on any occasion. Whether you’re in a new role, on a course, at an event or travelling in a different country. Working up the courage can be scary, especially for an introvert like me who has feared social interaction for most of my life and who is scared of asking a stupid question.

However, I have found that life is so much easier when you ask. Instead of struggling for ages to find the answer, someone else can save you the time and the needless effort you spent scouring the internet or wandering around in circles.

Within my role, I’ve had quite a few requests where I literally have been clueless. In particular, as I work within a bank (with no previous bank or financial institution experience) many of the terms were new to me (still are). This meant that I had to search for what the term meant and then figure out how to find the information and/or data associated with it.

I have also had requests where I have had to fill out a form in order to get information, but have not known which form to fill out and what information to put in; or provide a specific type of information on a company where I haven’t been given the full name or jurisdiction or which document would be able to provide the information needed.

I know that if I had struggled in silence, I would have frequently provided and requested the wrong information, which would have wasted a lot of time and money. Thus asking the questions that need to be asked has become a necessary part of my role and has become easier to do in life.

So, I regularly talk to my account relationship managers, use the chat feature provided by some subscriptions, fill out contact forms on websites and email contacts, asking the question. In addition, I go back to my clients asking for confirmation on the details of their request and my manager is always there when I need her.

The great thing about asking questions is that it doesn’t only help with the current request or predicament, but also provides you with information you can use in the future. It helps you increase your knowledge in different areas that you can then pass on to others.

However, I can’t just ask the question and then think that I’ll remember the answer for next time. I forget almost everything if only told to me once. And when I am constantly working on a variety of different requests at one time, it is easy for things to slip my mind.

So, from the beginning, I wrote things down – well typed up everything into an Excel Spreadsheet (I really love Excel). This included the different types of requests I get as well as where to look and the other terms people use when asking for that information. I can then always go back and refer to the ‘guide’ if I ever am unsure, but know that I’ve had a similar request in the past.

So, never be afraid to ask questions, you will always gain something from it. And never forget to write things down, you won’t remember everything.

Pursuing Research

Research is one of the things I love doing as an Information Professional, as it allows me to find out about so many different and interesting things. In particular, within my role, I can go from performing research on a particular market or industry to finding information on the sociological aspects that affect working within a business.

However, performing research for others can leave me feeling a little wishful about completing a project of my own. I get to utilise my skills and my resources for someone else, which is fine, but I don’t get to participate in the creation of something and seeing it through to the end result. Thus, I do wonder whether being an Information Professional is right for me.

I love information and I love the fact that it comes in so many different forms. But finding a role that allows me to fully develop and grow in the areas I want to, has been difficult. So, I have been thinking about reinventing the role to suit who I am, my skills and what I’m passion about, if the role doesn’t exist already.

I am grateful that my current position has allowed me to develop my research skills. But I believe that there is more I can do without the constraints of being in a business.




How to realise and help with the information needs of your clients

My primary role as an Information Professional is to identify the needs of my clients, in order to facilitate their activities. There are several ways of doing this, without badgering clients about what they need and want from our service.

One way is to meet the new starters. New employees are usually more gun-ho and enthusiastic and so are willing to meet and discuss what they do and how we could help. In addition, they are in a better position to pass on information about our services to their colleagues and managers.

Another way is when speaking to account managers, you can ask questions about who would use and benefit from their service, without feeling embarrassed about not knowing about certain functions of a business or what certain acronyms mean :S.

Furthermore, keeping track of the kinds of requests certain departments/areas of business have made, can help. I have categorised the different kinds of queries we get and who we get them from. This enables me to see what kind of information is needed by different groups and how often they come to us for help. Similarly, I can see which areas of business don’t come to us as often or at all.

In addition, reaching out on an internal social platform, by sharing news, research and events etc. will enable those who don’t know about out service to reach out to us.

By keeping track of the kinds of requests we get and the areas of business that use us and by posting information on the internal social platform, I can reach out with informed material.

Managing Subscriptions

As part of my role, I am required to help with managing the subscriptions of the users within our institution. This includes setting up and renewing the subscriptions, as well as keeping track of who our users and contacts are.

This can get quite complex as we manage a lot of subscriptions from different suppliers, with different account managers and any number of users. In addition, there is the added issue of people leaving and having to deactivate their logins.

So, in order to effectively manage them, having an organisation system helps. Using Excel to keep a record of the subscriptions, with information on costs, users and renewal dates, is incredibly helpful when needing to regularly update the list. In addition, the suppliers can help by providing a list of users. Also having a way to keep track of who has left will also help with knowing for definite who has what, how many users there are and if anyone can be added or swapped.

Keeping the contracts and invoices in a place where they can easily be retrieved also helps. As well as having information on costs, they can have information on the name of the subscription, supplier details, description, number of licenses, t&cs, renewal date etc. Thus, when subscriptions are renewed, this information can be put consolidated into the Excel spreadsheet, where the information can be easily seen and sought.

I mentioned in a previous post that I have created two separate spreadsheets to keep track of the subscriptions. In addition, in the document that has the information on users costs and renewal dates, I have created other sheets that have information on users that need to be deactivated and subscriptions ordered by renewal date, so that we can renew in a timely manner.

Using a subscription management service can also help with those subscriptions where only 1 or 2 licenses are needed for each subscription. It can help with renewal deadlines, creating a new subscription (finding out costs, negotiating, etc.) and keeping track of costs.

There may be other ways that are useful for managing subscriptions, but these are the ways I have found that help. Although, I would like to find a formula I can use that will automatically update the renewal dates and possibly costs in the ‘renewal date’ Excel sheet.