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Oh crap what have I done ;)…….my first year in business – #D365ForHousing

Picture the scene. Its December 2020 we were deep in the pandemic with absolutely no idea how/when it was going to end. I was working (in a permanent role) as a Business Applications manager at Abri and had just let my line manager know I was handing in my notice to start my own business. He offered words of encouragement and as we ended our teams call I realised what I had done….

Conversations with family and friends had generally gone the way of ‘what the hell are you doing’ to ‘perfect timing mate, right in the middle of a pandemic’. I’ve been lucky to have worked every day since leaving school so these words of wisdom certainly weren’t helping my fear of the unknown.

In truth I’ve always wanted to run my own business but never knew what product/service I should offer. That was until John Barr & Jannette Alfano (Directors of Customer Service & IT at AmicusHorizon) gave me the opportunity to launch Microsoft Dynamics back in 2010. That was it, my love of tech, helping customers and supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our society had come together.

Why go for it now?

Fast forward to January 2020 and I (with the support of a small group of HAs) launched #d365forhousing at Microsoft. The idea was simple, build Dynamics 365 modules with those across the sector and then give them away for free. I wanted the sector to have an affordable option that allowed them to get away from legacy systems and make the most of a global product that provided access to a global pool of talent and applications….. freeing up funds to build homes. (more on the mission here)

The pandemic hit a few weeks later but I kept building the modules that would provide a great base for Housing associations who were thinking of Implementing Dynamics or needed to quickly implement a new module.

By December 2020 the interest in #D365forhousing had become huge and the fact that we had to work from home (via teams/zoom etc) meant that I could support housing associations without travelling hundreds of miles and being away from my young family for weeks on end….that was it, I was going for it!

One year on what have I learnt?

After the initial shock to the system of going it alone I’ve loved my first year in business. It certainly not been a bed of roses and I’ve even picked up a few things alone the way like…

  • Not having a boss is strange… first
  • Building a business takes time and costs money – I appreciate that the amount is very dependent on the business you are setting up but I wouldn’t believe those who say its free and quick to get going. I started off with three months worth of money to keep the lights on. And things have certainly got a little tight over the last couple of months.
  • Consistency is key – Possibly the most boring thing to say but its true. The way you look after customers, post online and create content that supports others needs to be consistent.
  • I can survive on only a few hours sleep lol – There’s been a few sleepless nights, especially when I started but I’ve had some great support from those across the sector. Having two kids is the best preparation for this one
  • There’s lots of opportunity – Having a Infinite mindset helps you reach your goal.
  • Think/Plan/Act – 3 things I live by. from moving to Hampshire in 2017, to leaving my job in March 2021 these 3 things help me keep going. Think about what you want/love to do/What steps do you need to get there/Act – go for it. It often means late nights, early mornings and working weekends at first but you’ll be doing something you enjoy (rather than just going through the motions) which is a very different experience.
  • Focus – Something we (and I still) struggle with in the world of social media and instant information. I plug in about 2 hours a day to just do some learning/business related tasks.

Moving forward

To help build on the first year I’ll be focusing on three key areas

  1. Creating modules – Income, Repairs and General enquiries are up next
  2. Learning – about business, Microsoft products and the housing sector
  3. Continue to work with customers (old and new) who want to do more Dynamics/Power Platform work in house and:
    • Save huge amounts of money on implementation costs
    • Ensure they aren’t stuck with one Microsoft Partner
    • Start to free themselves of legacy systems

Feel free to get in touch if you’re thinking about jumping ship and going it alone. I’m far from a Business Mogul but happy to share some of my experiences over the last 12 months

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