Beyond the Summit... a new way of doing business.

The Challenge

You may already know that on the 23rd July, 2016, my husband and I set ourselves a 100 Day Challenge.

If you know that, then you are probably aware that we set ourselves the challenge of building a place to work and launching a new business by 30th October, 2016.

You may also know, that this challenge came about after the untimely loss of our daughter which resulted in her two young children coming to live with us full time and changing he trajectory of our life path. As well as dealing with the shock (and ongoing shockwaves) of bereavement, we were hurled into what felt like a new dimension and everything we knew to be 'normal life' seemed to dissolve.  We needed to work out a new way of living that would meet the diverse and changing needs of our newly-formed family.

Sometime after the two year mark, we looked at each other one day and decided to get started building a new life for ourselves; the life we wanted to live.  The process we went through has been well documented through previous blog posts so I won't go over old ground.  Instead, I'll pick up from where my previous blog left off on August 27th, Day 36.  Up to this point, I have described the practical task of building the log cabin (with the help of family, friends and neighbours) that has become our Business Hub.  I have also described the coaching approach we took to developing our objectives and realising them. So this post acknowledges the work done since the completion of the build (on day 50), explains the changes that this project has meant to our business and reflects on what all of this actually means in real terms for us as a family.

The Acorn Business Hub

The cabin now stands firm and steady behind our home and has become a hive of activity as coaching clients, business meetings and Action Learning Sets have all taken place within its wooden walls.  At times when we don't have visitors, the office is set up to ensure that we can actively pursue our individual lines of work as well as engaging in planning the way ahead for our joint business: The Acorn Online Academy.

One of the main changes was in Raymy replacing his full time employed position with a portfolio way of working that fitted around his care of the children, the development of his Slow Coaching / Mindfulness practice and our shared vision to spend more time together. Working from the Hub has supported our intention to re-structure our lifestyle.

The building of the cabin was also instrumental in showing us the depth of human kindness and connection is still very much alive and well and is something to be valued and nurtured as we live out our purpose. This insight has been carried forward into our developing business.

The Online Academy: A new business model

On Day 100 of the Challenge the virtual doors of our Online Academy were opened to the public.

In the weeks preceeding this date (30th October) we went through a very interesting and, in itself challenging, process of de-constructing the face to face work we'd been delivering over the years - in Community Learning & Development; in further education; in social work, coaching and training - to create content that could be presented through online learning opportunities without taking anything away from the value.

Developing a business plan and marketing strategy for an online business is a far cry from running a coach training company or working as a senior manager for a public sector organisation. One of our biggest challenges was getting comfortable in front of a camera in order to produce quality videos and live streams where we could engage with course participants.  The other was our reliance on an IT online system when neither of us knew our way round an online platform and felt like we were learning a new language.  This remains well outside our comfort zone and continues to challenge us, taking us on our steepest learning curve yet! 

The Beta Test

Having created an online version of one of our most popular inter-active training courses, we arranged the sessions into 4 weekly modules and offered the course free to participants who would beta test our product and give us honest feedback on what worked well and what would we could do to improve the service on offer.  Fifty people signed up to test our course: Life Is... 28 Days to Personal Growth. The feedback was phenominal!  

There were some bits and pieces that participants suggested we might want to review - mostly connected with our unfamiliarity with filming and getting the production right - however, our biggest surprise was how well the course was received and the extent to which participants had taken the course to heart and shared life changing experiences - even in such a short space of time.  This was brilliant news - while at the same time it really highlighted that the 4 week programme wasn't enough!  Our intention in starting with a 28 day programme was to guide people through a tried and tested process to acknowledge how their life really is in this moment; to acknowledge where satisfaction levels were higher or lower and to get started on defining the life they really want to live.  Yes, you can do this in 28 days. However...what then?

In talking this through, we realised that something else was also happening for us personally.  We were really connecting with the online academy and this project was becoming more than just a new business venture for us.  As two professional community education workers, we were reconnecting to our life purpose; the purpose of supporting people to learn and through learning to become the best version of themselves,  The community was developing positive connections and going through the process of learn > connect > grow - the back-bone of the Acorn philosophy.  The private online group we esablished to encourage peer support and interaction, was providing a safe and supportive community forum where individuals could gain strength and feel part of something bigger.  We knew we needed to do something to provide a more ongoing supportive structure before the launch at the end of October.  We consulted with our beta testers about how we might take things forward and came up with a solution that would change our short course into an optional membership community with ongoing coaching support.

(We have given the last word to three of our beta testers who shared their thoughts below).

The Launch of Life is... 28 Days to Personal Growth

The Life is programme was launched on time and our 100 Day Challenge came to an end. The new, improved version of the course is now underway and we continue to get loads of joy and pleasure out of connecting with new people, sharing in their stories and seeing the community build the connections that serve to nurture and support new growth.  Our next Life is... course will be launched soon to begin fresh in the New Year.  Vouchers will be available to enable people to buy it as a Christmas gift to give to someone who might genuinely benefit from being able to take a fresh look at life from the perspective of getting ready for the new year.

The 100 Day Challenge is now complete!!

Although this single course enabled us to cross the finishing life with our intended outcome achieved, we are delighted to report on a grander scale, that the Acorn Online Academy is now open for business!!

Since 2003, Acorn Principle have been training and supporting the development of professional coaches so, also in 2017, look out for our new online Coaching Community which will offer a mix of online and face to face continuing professional development opportunities for coaches.

In addition, Raymy's contribution to the Online Academy (as well as collaborating on the above project) will see the introduction of Slow Coaching and Mindfulness programmes coming on stream early in the new year.

This has been a very fruitful and exciting 100 days and, on reflection, we learned a lot more than expected.  Now is the time to consolidate where we got to in our journey and to reach out to those who have made it all possible.  From the family who put up with our single-mindedness and jumped in to support us with the kids; to the friends and neighbours who rolled up their sleeves to get the cabin up and running; to the 50 beta-testers who showed us what was possible if we stayed committed to serving those who came along for the journey and to the new Life is community members who are now experiencing what it means to learn - connect - grow the acorn way: Thank You! 

Testimonials - what people are saying about Life Is...28 Days to Personal Growth

“Life is......a fantastic personal growth programme which combines the quality of a 1-1 Life Coaching experience alongside the opportunity for meaningful connection with others through a supportive online group of fellow participants". Sam

"To date I had never been one for online courses, but 'Life is....' has totally changed my mind. This affordable personal development course offers a perfect balance of coaching, support and self-direction, it has been an absolute pleasure to take part." Joyce

"The course is very well put together, it's totally engaging and having Michele there coaching us through each module gives a lovely human and personal feel to it. This came as a surprise to me as my experience of on-line courses to date have been that they felt quite impersonal. It's great value for money and has been a really positive experience, if you're swithering about it I'd say give it a go, you won't be disappointed.” Beth

If you want to find out more about the Life Is... course - log on here;

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