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Five years on the road: from first project to first employee

Back in 2014, I was faced with a choice. Having built up some experience in a director post, I could look around to find something more permanent at that senior level. Or, I could try something new. So that’s what I did: Lucidity Solutions Ltd was born on 6 August 2014 as a consultancy with a difference. And despite some difficult moments, I’ve never regretted the decision to go it alone. As Lucidity looks back over its first five years, here are some of my highlights.

First projects

I have to admit that my decision to start up my own business was helped by the fact that I had an amazing opportunity to work alongside a great thinker. I was introduced to Michael Stevenson in my last employed role, on a project to develop new approaches to learning. We hit it off and started discussing the possibility of working together. This led to a fantastic first-year in business working on a range of stimulating and challenging projects.

The most substantial of these was to develop thinking about a new model of engineering education for the then-fledgling enterprise, NMITE. My role was to identify innovative approaches to delivering education from around the world, develop case studies from the most interesting, and then use that to inform different options for the NMITE team to consider. This was a perfect project for me. I’m passionate about looking for innovation and sharing that with others, and the chance to really challenge my thinking was incredible. Best of all, NMITE has now secured funding and delivered its first Design Cohort year. I’m really proud to have had the opportunity to be involved in the early thinking about what this new university could become.

Great clients

Building my own set of clients was the next big challenge. Working in universities had given me some connections across Scotland, but I’d never been one for networking. So I was delighted when one of those connections reached out – and with one of the most challenging projects I’d ever worked on. The client – ARMA (UK) – needed support in reviewing strategy, business processes, governance, staffing and member engagement, so I got involved in it all. I started working with ARMA in 2016 and have been lucky to have continued this involvement for the next three years. A repeat client is a wonderful thing to have, and I’m incredibly grateful for the trust all my clients have in put me to help them over the years.

Diverse challenges

One of the main reasons I started my own business was to get involved in a wide range of different projects, as I work – and think – best when I have different things going on. And the reality of my contracts has really lived up to this promise. I’ve worked with universities and professional associations in Scotland and across the UK, developing strategies and designing new processes for them. I’ve led major consultation exercises, talking to a huge number of interesting people from a wide range of backgrounds. And I’ve dipped my toe into different sectors, writing copy for niche travel websites, training providers, and B2B marketers, at the local, micro-business level and for clients in North America and across Europe. The diversity sometimes makes it tricky to pin down exactly what services Lucidity can offer, but I wouldn’t want to lose that variety for the world.

Unusual requests

Related to this variety means that you can sometimes get unusual requests. I’ve recently been involved in a project evaluating the impact of a research centre, where the end-users of the research have been unable to give me any details of what they do with the research, why it’s been useful, or the difference it’s made. And looking for work via online platforms can lead you to unusual clients. I definitely know more about cement repair than I need to!

New skills

I’m a keen advocate of professional development, so I’ve made sure I can invest in some for myself. As well as keeping my technical skills up to date, I’ve participated in two excellent training courses over the past couple of years. The first was a week-long course on innovation and policy delivered by the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex. As well as introducing loads of great material that really got me thinking, the opportunity also led to meeting a group of committed professionals from around the world, with participants from Africa, South America and Europe. A truly global experience! On a very different note, the Visual Facilitation course by WorkVisible introduced me to Bikablo, a technique that uses icons to capture and illustrate discussions. I’ve incorporated this into as many aspects of my work as I think I can get away with and am thoroughly embracing the joy that putting pen to paper can bring.

Teaming up

Last, but not least, I’ve had the great opportunity to work with some great colleagues over the past five years. The associate model was built in early to my pattern of working, and Michael was a great person to start my journey with. Since then, I’ve teamed up on individual projects with Research Consulting and the Partnership Lab. These experiences made me think about where I wanted Lucidity to be, and that’s when I decided to take on a member of staff. It’s an exciting week in Lucidity HQ to have the wonderful Jess Vant join us.

So, five years in and Lucidity is going stronger than ever. It’s great to be able to look back over what’s happened since 2014, to what I’ve learned and the people I’ve met. But it’s even better to look forward to the great opportunities that – I hope – are on the horizon!

If you need support thinking about your strategy, business processes or communications, then get in touch. We’d be delighted to help.

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