Dear First Ever Basic Training Babs

Dear Basic Training Babs,

The day is over, but our journey together on the hop-on-hop-off BABWorks bus has just begun. Every week, I write a reflection on the week just passed to the Core Team. Now, I extend part of that to those who came to play on Saturday, because after that day, we’ve gone from being “we” the startup Core Team to “Us” (so far). In the spirit of “do and reflect” instead of “plan and hope”, these are three immediate thoughts about Saturday: how one of my dreams has come true, getting organised, and next steps, especially on financials.

[BTF] A Dream Come True

As I explained with the serendipitous “BAB” term, I use Three-Letter Acronyms (TLAs) as working titles for the tsunami of ideas that roar through my head. I use working titles because in the past, I have always spent so long thinking of names and titles that 99% of the time, I end up with a beautiful Name for the idea, but no Thing.

No more.

[BTF] stands for “Basic Training Festival”: my initial working title for June 4th. It started as something in my head, which I then worked on with the team. After each iteration, it got insanely better, and also changed titles.* The whole Core Team pitched in to put it together for everyone, and with everyone’s participation on Saturday, “Us” all made the final, beautiful version the most powerful one.

When my dream became our dream, it came true! #PowerofUs

Crème-y centre Bootcamp Babs: Remember how I talked about the stages of team development (#CIMAalert)? We broke through that storm in the Norming stage and exploded into Performing on Saturday. I can’t even begin to express how proud I am of us for that. (More in the Dear Bootcamp Babs letter at the Department of International Mystery – you know where that is.)

Organised Now

After we got to know each other as people, from Tom to Joan and everyone in between, we got vampire-slaying. Here are the stakes:

Opera Solutions

I didn’t get to join in because I was running around with a phone timer in hand, but this is the single most important solution that unlocked the next level for me to accept my Mission and optimise my bandwidth to optic speeds.

I really thought it would take a miracle to get my creative mess organised, but this year I did it using this book:

The Organised Mind

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel Levitin.

It draws on a wealth of research from a number of fields – neuroscience in particular – and gives a sweeping panorama of tried and tested hacks and tactics (“hactic”?).

However, I am fully convinced that it wouldn’t have worked if I had just read it. I have tried self-help books, listicle hacks, and  – I could get no satisfaction. What made it work this time were three hard but fun steps:

  1. Read and underlined
  2. Took notes by digesting it into something my brain would accept
  3. Picked top 3 by determining root causes with practical hacks
  4. Went through trial and error to arrive at a system that worked for me

Most importantly, I gave myself permission to remain supple around plan changes, whether invoked by me or by someone else (as long as I give or get a heads up). Then nobody saw me coming, nobody heard a sound. No stopping me since I found my Inner Ninja in January.

Commercial Considerations and Finance in Real Life

As the clock ticked towards 2:30pm “Swiss Time”, you all surprised me by telling me you didn’t need more time. You were ready on the dot and delivered solid pitches. The Mission was an exercise of two hours that might have been as merciless as a Spaghetti Jam, so we were pleased to see such collaboration, team bonding, and creative and promising pitching result.

It was Basic Training, so we weren’t expecting anyone to have a rock-solid financial business case (maybe except for one of you) in that amount of time. Each team did very well to get someone to cover it and present it, though, so bravo.

In Real Life (IRL), however, for our own ventures, we need to be aware of important points. There are many different industries with many different business models. A restaurant is different from a consultancy. It’s key to go in with eyes wide open and understand each industry and the entire value chain and ecosystem around it.

There are basic nuts and bolts principles that you need to understand to increase chances of success (which is never guaranteed!). A few that arose in discussion (#CIMAalert):

  • Operational leverage
  • Supply chain
  • Different types of costs (fixed and variable, direct and indirect)
  • Profit and loss statements; calculation of profit margins and ratios
  • Sustainable competitive advantage
  • Knowing your numbers cold during your pitch

Also, the single most important thing to bear in mind with these ventures is cash – don’t just let it go! But be fair. The most important thing to note here is:


That’s what’s sustainable into the future, and it’s just the right thing to do.

We’re planning deep-dives on business plan and these finance issues, don’t worry. We will design workshops to home in on, hone these skills, and get stuff done.

Next Steps

Remember this Wish List, and some of the points raised at the debrief to the Mission? Let’s get involved to find or make our solutions to these.

Wish List

Meanwhile, your have your souvenir BABWorks Pocket Manual and these leads based on some issues raised over coffee chats and at the Mission Debrief:

More than an accountant: One you might try is Ainsley Fox Accountants. Ainsley gives a free 1-hour trial consultation. He is not just an accountant – he’s an experienced, CIMA qualified business partner who took the time to understand the intention of my business and explain esoteric things about the UK system to me in a non-scary way. The key is to have a clear picture of the type of person you are looking for and to articulate that.

Intellectual Property consultations and administrative papers: The Library of Birmingham offers free IP consultations and a treasure trove of business resources at the Library of Birmingham Business and Learning Centre. I saw Paramjit for my IP consultation – he was very professional and properly trained by the IP office. He and his colleagues are the folks to see. Book ahead!

Communication and presenting: Andrew Lightheart and his book, Presentation Now. He is coaching all the TEDxBrum 2016 speakers (maybe also ask him about time management!). He can sometimes be spotted at The Impact Hub, where I accost him from time to time. From the website:

Presentation Now

Isn’t this book talking to some of you? NEXT WEEK! (Oh yeah, wait. #stopthingstalking)

Your Story

In the spirit of data collection and evidence-based decision-making, we ask that you fill in an online survey we’ll send you this week when we send you the cleaned-up version of the slide show that took on a life of its own.

Before the Research and Development Phase comes to an end in a few weeks, we would be grateful for your story about what happened on Saturday – in whatever form you feel best telling it. We will include these in our memories and the data we digest to get into the Analysis and Planning Phase.

Most importantly, we will shout these stories all over Brum, the country – and the world.

Diversity was Incidental

“Diversity was Incidental” Interaction Design + Photo on Instagram. Extended-armed groupfie. Everyone in person. Jax 4 June 2016

We’ll keep you posted on the next meeting. The adventure’s just taken an exciting new turn, now that we’re taking it together.

Onward and upward,




Sorry, I’d put this on our actual website, but I haven’t trained yet on how to put pictures up and time is of the essence. #henceforth

* “E-School Basic Training”, “Something Basic Training”, “BABWorks Basic Training”… For whom?? [BAB] started as “Basic Accounting Bootcamp”, then “Basic Adventure Bootcamp”, then “BABWorks”


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Inner Ninja



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