The Business Owner: Vanessa O’Shea, Culture Shapers

The Brighton-based business uses a series of workshops to help other firms create "a positive, productive and authentic culture"

The Business Owner: Vanessa O’Shea, Culture Shapers

Founder: Vanessa O’Shea
Company: Culture Shapers
Brighton, Sussex
Proposition: Would you like to shape your workplace culture into one where your values are evidently outworked in your people? Lots of people are talking about culture at the moment, but it can be a nebulous and vague concept that is difficult to understand, never mind shape. I have developed a unique programme of shaping culture by embedding values, helping businesses to create a positive, productive and authentic business culture.
Size: 1-3

Describe your business model:

To sell the culture shape programme, initially through my consultation, over a series of workshops, and in time, as a standalone model which will be online.

How is your business different from what’s already out there?

My ‘lightbulb moment’ was more of a gradual realisation over 20 years of working in senior HR roles where staff didn’t know, or understand the stated company values, or didn’t understand how they impacted on their day to day work. So in fact, what the company said it valued, was not always the experience of the staff or the client/service user. There was a disconnect.

I also saw, how important, having the right ‘culture’ was to bring the best out of people; and values underpin your culture.

Over the last two years, I have developed a model that enables a company to ‘live’ its values, creating a culture of authenticity, in which staff feel valued in their diverse strengths and talents, more effectively contributing to company success.

It’s a model that I take into companies, on a consultancy basis; however, a stand-alone model is also being developed, that could be facilitated by a HR, OD or people leader. A supporting book and online course will be released in October 2017.

How did you finance your business?

I am self-funded; my clients pay me for consultation in delivering the culture shape programme. Going forward, they will be able to purchase an on-line stand-alone programme and a book, which will give further case studies, as the culture shaping work develops.

What is the most important thing to keep track of in business and why?

Being aware of the developments in your field, so you can keep adapting your product, to be as relevant in the marketplace as possible.

What is the biggest day-to-day challenge you face?

Juggling all aspects of the business, e.g. marketing, social media, keeping accounts etc., and prioritising my time accordingly.

What marketing techniques do you use to attract new customers?

I invite myself to give talks and presentations at seminars, for free. I find giving away something of value e.g., an exercise on defining your values, or how to embed a particular value, at these events, not only offers a taster shows that I will go the extra mile in providing my service.

Do you think it’s important for small businesses to export, any tips?

It depends on who your target market is. Mine is predominantly in the UK, but with the online element of my work, I fully anticipate doing business abroad in the next 12 months or so.

What’s the business app you couldn’t do without?

As I do a lot of writing and can get inspiration at any time or place I used to carry notebooks with me everywhere. However, I have recently discovered Evernote. I use it on my phone, iPad and mac. I use it to jot down ideas, take interviews, write lists and make notes.

Describe your company’s culture in three words:            

Creative, excellent, life-giving.

What would you like the government to do for small business?

Seriously, running your own business can be really stressful, so some sort of tax relief for health benefits would be very welcome. Providing some training and education for students at secondary school, could foster some young entrepreneurs.

Who’s your biggest small and medium enterprise hero?

There’s a company near where I live called Higgidy which makes delicious pies. Apart from the fact that I like pies, it was started by a mum who is passionate about making good food where the food is more about flavour, and goodness, without having to look perfect. They are also staying true to their values (brave/kind/smart) but putting all their recipes on their website.

Where do you want the business to be in three years?

I would like to have written two books and have an online stand-alone culture shape programme. The business would therefore be running itself, and I would be continuing to research and develop culture shaping. I would like the business to have grown in staff, to include roles in marketing/social media, and a PA.

What’s your top tip for keeping it lean and making profit?

Don’t expand too soon; if you need to grow, do so slowly and consider freelancers.  Make sure your product or service is relevant and cutting edge in the market place, by having an attitude of continuous learning. Don’t be afraid to take on some ‘bread and butter’ work, whilst you are growing your business, but don’t allow it to take more than half of your time.

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