Melanie Vala: the journey of a social entrepreneur

Intuit senior marketing manager Melanie Vala attended yesterday's We Mean Business conference, and couldn't resist passing on a few more of their useful tips and tricks for small businesses.

Here are 11 great tips from Deborah Szebeko, founder of thinkpublic, who started her business based on being inspired by wanting to help improve the patient experience in the NHS:

  1. Be adaptable: things will change, be open to this and stay flexible
  2. Learn the lingo: listen to others and record what they say, use this to develop your language.
  3. Develop your story and brand: each opportunity has a story and their story is their brand, embrace this and include it in all your branding, right down to your logo.
  4. Build relationships: don't underestimate your clients as your advocates.
  5. Give people respect and responsibility: by giving people opportunity they will be empowered to learn and innovate, and this will help the business to be great.
  6. Failure can sometimes be a good thing.
  7. Create a positive working culture: this draws the best people to work for you and creates an environment where the team members are accountable to each other.
  8. Find a great accountant: they will become the backbone of your business, just because there's money in the bank doesn't necessarily mean you're making money. An accountant can advise you on how to grow the business and reinvest.
  9. Find a mentor: just having someone to listen and reassure you is invaluable to keeping you on track.
  10. Don't forget to have fun: it's not worth doing if you're not having fun.
  11. Trust and follow your instincts: disconnecting with your heart will often disconnect you from why you started your business.

And finally, one great antidote Deborah shared was how she and her team have their own 'Come Dine With Me' competition at lunch time - each team creates a lunch and they vote. The challenge being that they only have a microwave at their office! Talk about a way to develop a fun, innovative and passionate work environment.

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