14 June 2024

Running a business for 25 years

By Susie Fisher

When I set up this business, I didn’t really have any long-term aspirations or goals. I simply saw a need, and felt I knew how to meet that need. At age 25, I also had the perspective of youth with little responsibility and plenty of energy! Who knew what would happen?!

Susie Fisher smiling

I had been working in the disability department of a University, trying to obtain alternative formats for our students from external agencies. However it proved mostly impossible to get materials transcribed in a reasonable timescale. What Universities needed was a transcription company with a strong online presence and quick delivery. Having gained skills in website design and finances from my own degree, transcription experience from my job, and knowledge of disability legislation and the education sector from various conferences, I was confident I could fill this gap.

After thorough research, preparing a business plan, and securing funding from the bank, I founded A2i Transcription Services in 1999. I did not consider the longevity or potential growth of the company at that time. I didn’t think about what I might be doing in 25 years’ time. My focus was on providing an essential service for students, ensuring equal “access 2 information”.

Many entrepreneurs set out with explicit intentions to scale their businesses, diversify, and achieve specific targets regarding turnover, employee numbers, or market reach. This was never my approach, yet here we are! A2i remains a small business, but it’s grown more than I ever imagined. The company has changed along the way and so have I!

More than anything else, I’d say the last 25 years have been a rollercoaster, marked by significant ups and downs, including economic recessions, booms, and the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve experienced periods of ‘desert’ with little to no work, followed by floods of orders. I’ve learnt that sales are rarely steady in a small business. It’s been exhausting at times, but incredibly rewarding more times than that.

I’ve seen the landscape change for many disabled people in our country, driven by legislation, increased awareness, and mutual learning. There are still improvements to be made, but it’s certainly easier to get alternative formats than it was back in 1999!

Looking ahead, I am pleased to have established company goals and a clear vision for the future. I enjoy seeing the company grow, developing more products and continually making accessible information better.

Looking back over 25 years, here are my top 5 tips for a business that will last…

  • Surround yourself with good people – good employees, and good and varied sources of advice.
  • Keep developing your products/services – move with the times and your business will stay relevant.
  • Expect business to be unpredictable – make plans but be ready to change them.
  • Make sure you keep a good balance between work and non-work – take breaks when you need them so you don’t burn out.
  • Learn to let things go – let your employees take over aspects of your work, otherwise your job will just get bigger and bigger.

What our new video to see me talking about A2i, and to learn more about our services.

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