Whew, what a year it’s been for the ninjas! From meeting in November 2018 from a random Facebook comment to deciding we (Julie & Louisa) could work together and registering at the KVK (Dutch Chamber of Commerce) on 29 Dec 2018, Blue Ninja has gone from strength to strength this year. Here are some of our highlights.
Deciding How to Work Together
This was actually a very challenging starting point for us. Partnerships should always have an agreement of who does what, and more importantly, what happens if either is ill, dies (that’s a bit morbid!), want to kill each other (unlikely but you never know) or generally decides not to participate in the partnership but still expects to get paid.
We sought advice from a lawyer (yes, we have a lawyer and a great accountant!) as to how to make sure we were both protected. We then proceeded to work through a mutually beneficial agreement. We also talked to other people in partnerships to ask how they did it so we could learn from how they set up with some really valuable advice given.
Partnership agreement – done
Creating a Shared Blue Ninja Identity
We love our Blue Ninja identity. Initially created by Louisa in 2013 for her UK business, we realised that we didn’t need to create a whole new identity as Blue Ninja would work for us both. After a very intense evening of ‘what do we call ourselves?’ (in our local curry house with some beers), we realised that Blue Ninja has become well-known for excellence in support and has a good brand reputation, so why not continue to use that.
We did change the logo a little bit, adding a Dutch element to our look and giving the little blue ninja a bit more definition but other than that, we brought together our styles under the same umbrella…whilst it was difficult for Louisa to let go, she did and we are both so proud of working as Blue Ninjas. Plus, we now have Blue Ninja swag!
Identity – sorted
The Oops Moments
Every business has those moments where you know something didn’t go as well as it could. Our first oops moment was when we got our business cards printed, and as Julie opened her box of business cards she realised we had a typo on her phone number.
Another small glitch in our business management was when we ran out of social media posts but hadn’t noticed for a few days from our scheduler….we have since implemented a Monday morning meeting to set us up for the week specifically for our own planning as we were so focused on our clients that we realised we need time specifically set aside for Blue Ninja.
Oops moments – managed (somewhat)
Taking Time Off
A difficult time for any solo business owner is how to take time off work that gives enough time to recharge without sacrificing the needs and wants of clients. It took a little time for us to find our groove and also find out how to take the time off we needed – if you don’t ask you don’t get right!
We quickly found how much we trusted each other and felt comfortable leaving the business in the other’s very capable hands. We found that by allocating one of us as a lead for the client it meant we could clearly inform the client of our time off, then we could together work out a plan to minimise any interruption for the client. This has worked very well, and although we remain contactable to each other we have been able to take our holidays and give ourselves time to relax and recharge.
We also try not to work evenings and weekends, although it doesn’t always go to plan as our clients are internationally based, or we could use the quiet time during a rainy Sunday (it rains quite a bit in The Netherlands) to do a bit more thinking. Our aim at the start of the year was to not work on a full-time schedule….well that went a bit sideways but we have managed it and through a shared calendar system we are getting there by giving ourselves enough flexibility in our day to manage our time and work requirements.
Louisa travelled to Iceland, Belgium, Australia and Munich. Julie vacationed in Las Vegas, Croatia and took long weekends in Belgium, Vienna and the stunning Scottish Highlands.
Time off – achieved (woohoo!)
One of the many decisions a business owner needs to make is what to spend money on. With two people sharing a bank account this was doubly important to get right. Our partnership agreement gave us the parameters of what our budget cap was without input from the other, but as we got a sense of how we do business together we found what felt right as a business and it’s worked well.
We also found a sense of how we should enjoy our business together so made sure we allocated time for lunch meetings, training, special occasions dinners such as birthdays and also our fantastic Blue Ninja anniversary held in November.
Money – managed
Our Great Achievements of 2019
We have run registration for a 3 day London event, organised and run an international meeting in Portugal, ran two business workshops in our home city of Leiden, presented at events, networked like mad, got some brand consistency going, lost a contract and won it back again. We submitted a proposal for our first Dutch client (we didn’t get it due to language but we’re working on that), we revitalised business relationships, we wrote multi-million dollar proposals, we grew our team (and had to make a hard decision to let someone go), we drank over 500 cups of coffee and have had a laugh together every day (sometimes multiple times if Julie started Googling funny cat videos).
Personally, we have had a house move, joined a choir, started personal training, stepped up with Dutch classes, visited family, had family visit, survived biking in Leiden and generally found a happy medium between our personal and working lives. We went to concerts together, shared a bottle of prosecco or two and generally found a great balance as business partners and friends.
Our year has been a bit of trial and error, finding our feet together as business owners but we both believe very strongly in the power of Blue Ninja, our own abilities and our excellent services. 2019 has been an excellent year and we look forward to a new decade of Blue Ninja Business Support.