Any start-up business is a work in progress, an environment where the founder is driving whatever the business sells as well as the business itself.
And in spite of the thousands of textbooks written on the subject, like a sport, it is only when you’re on the playing field itself that you learn how to play the game.
Such is the case for Umbrella Health and Resilience director Gaynor Parkin. The registered clinical psychologist is used to working with individuals and teaching to a university class. Her experience of running a business and driving it forward is much less, and is a situation where she’s often had to apply her own training.
UHR provides business training modules that help employees (and managers for that matter) better deal with stress and make ongoing changes to their behaviour. (see story here).
Running the eight month old business has been “a learning curve of a thousand percent,” Parkin says.
“It’s fun, exciting, very satisfying and rewarding, and also slightly scary. I’ve had to practice what I preach about staying calm, watching what I’m thinking, and how I’m looking after myself.”
Parkin’s been assisted by Viclink as an equity partner and business mentors, and also completed Grow Wellington’s Activate course. From them she’s had help developing business plans, a marketing plan, financial plans and aspects such as employment contracts and managing staff.
‘The best advice I have been given is to consult with experts,” she says. “It is much faster and more effective than trying to learn all the essential skills yourself.’
Life’s been an even bigger juggle since starting UHR, an attempt to balance a home and family life with the incessant need to drive the business forward.
‘With a start up business there is a constant juggle of competing requirements for your time, the trick is learning which tasks are urgent and which ones are slightly less urgent,’ she says. “Then trying to maintain a life outside the business is equally important”.
Her current dilemma is how to protect the intellectual property of her resilience training modules that are delivered over either a day or two half days – with a follow up review a few weeks later.
The vision for UHR is to have a team of experts, and one way she achieves this is by having the course facilitated by a clinical psychologist. To be scalable (and Parkin’s envisaging that her resilience courses will be available in Australia and the UK in the near future), she’s got to figure out a way to protect the knowledge packages.
“Basically, we have to brand it to within an inch of its life,” she says. “But it’s very difficult to stop people saying ‘that’s a good idea, I could run that sort of training’. A service business is very different from a technical business.”
One aspect she hopes will help is that trainers or people delivering the course “need our facilitation to learn these skills and how to apply it,” Parkin says.
However, because the workshops are based on scientific research and are evidence-based to produce best practice, the courses have the ability to be changed.
“It’s about adapting quickly, changing the material or what’s on offer whenever new research comes out,” she says.
“What someone learns at a workshop could be different in three to six months if we discover that something else is more effective.”
Parkin’s also determined to ensure that UHR develops beyond herself.
“I want to grow the brand beyond me,” she says. “It’s not about Gaynor Parkin resilience training. I want the value to be in the content and training that our facilitators are able to provide for people.”