Note from Jenn: I’m so excited to bring this week’s Hong-Kong-based spotlight to you. I first connected with the lovely Nicole Graham a few years back through her other business Modern Goddess and I’ve always been impressed with Nicole’s vision, creativity, and ability to make things happen. Her new business Bauhinia Solutions celebrated its one year anniversary earlier this month. Congrats, Nicole! Read on to find out what sparked this innovative, international business idea, how Nicole responded proactively to her business landscape, and what fabulous tips she has for creative entrepreneurs. All photos courtesy of Nicole Graham.
What is your business and what makes your business unique?
Bauhinia Solutions offer virtual business services for Executives and Solopreneurs. Our services range from secretarial/administration support, content writing, and blog management to graphic design, Facebook page development, and web development. We’re a team of nine including myself and my Office Manager, and we all work from our own office environments either from Hong Kong, Australia or Canada.
The thing that makes us unique, particularly in Hong Kong, is that we offer administration and secretarial services on an ‘as needs’ basis. Other business offer writing services, graphic design and web development, I am specifically marketing to those looking for secretarial and administrative support, and allowing the other services to flow naturally. The other unique aspect to the business is that we are one of two active, English speaking companies offering these services in Hong Kong.
How has the Right-Brain Business Plan helped you? What is different for you and your business after approaching planning in a creative, visual way?
Business planning is not new to me; I’ve had extensive experience in the traditional method, however back in June, I was still vague about the direction I wanted to take my business. I was stuck and I felt I needed to take a different approach to my business planning.
As an ideas gal, a creative thinker, a mind mapper, a vision boarder, I found Jennifer’s Right-Brain Business Plan™ easier to work with than the traditional business planning approach. Once I started, the process flowed.
The traditional approach usually takes me a month to complete as I really drag myself kicking and screaming through it. This time, my Right-Brain Business Plan™ took me a weekend. I had to force myself to take a break and to go to sleep… I was so excited and right ‘into’ the process.
Today, I am really clear on our direction, the type of people I want on my team, who my ideal clients are and what my strengths are within the business. I am now saying to my clients “My strengths are… and this is how I can help you…” Previously, I wasn’t speaking up, I wasn’t being heard.
What goals (big or small) on your business plan have you already accomplished or have made progress on?
One of my goals was to implement a project area for the team and on our 1st birthday which was on 1st December, I introduced the team to Pax, our Client Project Management System. I have had it custom built and not only will the team use it, clients will also be able to use it to check project progress, add tasks (if they have a Virtual Assistant) or respond to a request (if project related).
Another goal was to recruit a couple of Virtual Assistants and at the same time, write a Policy and Procedure manual, a proper Associate Agreement and outline a clear recruitment process. This was all achieved and in the process I recruited three top notch PA’s who wanted a lifestyle change. I offered them flexible, work at home opportunities, and they offered me extensive, high level, executive experience. It is a win, win for all of us.
How do you use your creative intuition in your work?
For me it is listening to a client’s administration or business frustrations and then mulling them over – actually I ‘sit with them’… I let them in, float around, and then allow Spirit to guide me and provide me with the solutions in a timely manner, and Spirit does.
Being an ideas gal and also solutions focused, I find that a number of options present themselves. This is one of my strengths. I take a consultative approach.
Once the client decides on the path she/he wants to take, I then allocate one of my team members to execute the solution. I’m not a great executioner.
Is there anything you’d like to share about your Right-Brain Business Plan in terms of what it’s made out of or how you made it?
Rather than use magazine images, I searched the Internet for images that I wanted and took photos myself. I also used real testimonials, created wording in fonts I liked and used coloured paper that matched the colours of my business brand.
I created pockets for aspects of my business plan that would change over time (goals, action plans, position descriptions, services, products). At any time I can change the cards within the pockets or add to the pockets. The shell will stay the same for some time (ideal client, the feedback I wish to hear, my expenses, my office environment, how to set goals etc.).
What’s your vision for your business?
In Hong Kong many companies do not offer people in the administration and secretarial field opportunities for flexible working hours or work at home opportunities. And many small business and Solopreneurs are working long hours trying to do everything within their own business because they do not know there is support available to them.
My vision is to introduce Executives and Solopreneurs in Hong Kong to Virtual Assistants and to provide more flexible working hours and work at home opportunities for those that want it.
What advice do you have for other creative entrepreneurs?
- Be yourself.
- If you need it, ask for help, whether that is asking Spirit, family, friends, associates or colleagues. Don’t be shy.
- Write down your goals and then write down an action plan on how you’re going to achieve them.
- Ask questions, most people are always happy to share.
- Celebrate successes – big and small.
- Have a support network – on or offline.
- Commit to self-development at least do something once a year.
- Put pen to paper and journal for reflection and celebration.
- Meditate, even if it’s just for 5 mins a day, it will help.
One thing I’ve learnt is that any idea I come up with and run by my darling husband is not necessarily fantastic – he loves me, he’s in the airline business, and he’s constantly amazed at how many ideas I have. Of course, to him, my ideas are fantastic… I’m an ideas gal and he is my rock, my security, my base and I love him for it but he’s no longer my ‘run my idea by’ guy.
I now know that I need to run my ideas by people who are in business because they understand business, and the challenges that we can face managing a business. I still share my ideas with my husband; however I’m no longer relying on his feedback.
Be selective with who you run your ideas by. Family and friends can be supportive or just the opposite. You want people to be objective, knowledgeable and in touch with the business world.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I started Bauhinia Solutions due to what seemed to be a gap. While working in my other business, The Modern Goddess, I had people approaching me asking if I could offer certain services. They had often been referred by a client or a participant of a previous workshop. For more than 12 months I said I couldn’t help them with whatever it was they were asking me about.
Then one day I had an ‘aha’ moment… instead of saying ‘no’, what if I pulled a team together and said ‘yes’. From that moment, the Universe provided. All along the Universe had been showing me an opportunity which I had been ignoring. At first it was just a few clients, while I sorted out how the business was going to work. After a month or two, I realized that the business name was not right and thankfully I hadn’t done much in the way of marketing. I quickly rebranded and launched as Bauhinia Solutions.
From that point, business has flowed with very little marketing or promotions (mostly blogging, and chatter on our Facebook business page). Our clients have come to us through word of mouth or via Facebook.
I found that what I resisted persisted and the more I said no, the more people contacted me and asked if I could offer all the services I offer today through Bauhinia Solutions. The thought of ME having to do the actual service sent me running for the hills, however once I stepped back and looked at it more creatively, I realized I could still utilize my strengths as a coach and consultant, and also use the strength of others.
The lesson learnt is that once I listened to the message the Universe was sending me, things flowed and business flowed. I am using all my skills as a coach and I am still assisting people to move forward with their business; it’s just not the picture I imagined it would be.
For now, I’m going with the flow and putting things in place for Bauhinia Solutions to evolve and grow. I plan to move back into actively working in my other business, The Modern Goddess and have a balance between the two.
Jennifer, thank you for the opportunity to be your Spotlight. It was a delight working with your Right-Brain Business Plan.
I wish everyone’s Right-Brain Business Plan journey to be magical, and I wish you all great success in your business.
Click here for more information about Nicole Graham.