November 2023: since Iconic Project Management was founded in 2018, the journey has had plenty of obstacles and deviations. Lizzie tells us how we went from kitchen-table industry to a thriving business.
Let’s start a business!
On 25th July 2018, I had a call from my husband Darren that changed everything.
I remember the day with absolute clarity; it was our youngest child’s last day at primary school. The weather was perfect, and I was sat in our local park with a large group of her school friends’ mums, enjoying a picnic and a bottle of prosecco while our children played.
At that time, I was writing the dissertation that was the final assignment for my MA(Res) Medieval Studies, so a few hours of rest and relaxation was much appreciated.
Darren called me to tell me he’d had enough of working for other people and he wanted us to set up our own business. Would I help?
Of course, I said yes. I knew Darren had been dissatisfied for a while and I would do whatever I could to make him happy. He was very pleased to hear that and had a short list of things I could do to help:
Come up with a company name
Register us as a business
Get us a website and email addresses
Design us a logo
Please could I get these things done by tomorrow morning so that he could submit a fee proposal???
Darren was away on business so I’d have to sort these things out myself. I gathered up the picnic things and went home to get to work.
The project plan
The first thing I did was to call my Dad, Andrew (now our Director of IT), who had extensive business experience.
His first suggestion was to find a business name that was available at Companies House and had a good web address available (ending in either .com or .co.uk). This involved long hours with a dictionary, the rest of that bottle of prosecco and a lot of Google searching.
I tried hundreds of combinations that sounded good and would give people some idea of what we do. Finally, when I got to I in the dictionary, I hit on Iconic Project Management Ltd. Bingo!
I asked my Dad to secure the URL, get us email addresses and run us up a quick homepage. Luckily, he’s a resourceful guy. I just needed to register us with Companies House and come up with a logo. By this time it was rather late at night, and I am no graphic designer, but this is what I came up with:
After having walked the dog, fed the kids, put them to bed and written 20,000 words on Reading as a Medieval Trading Town, the ‘set up a company’ project was completed on time and on brief, for almost no budget. The fee proposal was duly submitted and we won the work.
Iconic was born and our first ever project was to fit out this beautiful shop for Boden.
The next eighteen months passed with Darren doing all the project management and business development while I did the invoicing and created a bit of content for our website.
We won more work, which was great, but we only had one of Darren and he was operating way beyond capacity. He was exhausted. He had a few project manager friends he could call on for short term support but we realised we were unsustainable and we needed to change.
Little did we know that change would be brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read about how our fledgling business was affected here but the short version of that story is that all our projects were put on hold, we were forced to look for other employment and Iconic was mothballed. It was disappointing, to put it mildly.
Education will set you free
In January 2021 we set about resurrecting our business. The first thing we did was sign up for business coaching from the wonderful people at ActionCOACH Reading and Wokingham.
I took part in a year-long programme of group coaching which was invaluable. It taught me, step-by-step how to run a business, encouraged us to be much more ambitious in our plans, and is largely responsible for us being the thriving business we are today.
One of the first things that ActionCOACH had me do was to read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber, which you can access for free here.
This book really opened my eyes to where we were going wrong; Darren had been trying to build the business whilst delivering projects and it just couldn’t be done by one person. It was time for me to step up and lead the company, freeing Darren up to deliver projects.
Over the course of 2021, we won enough new projects that Darren was able to return full-time to Iconic and we recruited our first employee – Assistant Project Manager Peter Bou Assi.
Hiring our first recruit was scary; it felt like such a big responsibility. However, we quickly realised that expanding our team gave us more capacity, which meant that Darren didn’t need to work like a dog to deliver all the work himself. It was a watershed moment.
The rest of the story wasn’t always plain sailing (more on that in a future blog post) but, just two years later, we have grown to a team of 11, delivering a diverse range of projects across the commercial sector.
Our apprenticeship programme means that we are developing the project managers of the future, who will help us to achieve our grand plans. I am so excited.
Lizzie is CEO at Iconic Project Management, taking care of the running of the business so that the project managers can get on with the important job of managing projects. Check her out on LinkedIn or say hi on Twitter @captainlizzo.