How business guru TJ defied lockdowns to make new venture a success
Launching a new business on your own, just when a global pandemic was digging its claws into the UK, would be enough to make most bosses curl up and cry.
But not Tracy-Jane (TJ) Duncan-Moir, veteran of 30 years in the hard-nosed world of industry in the Mansfield area and a doyen of a roll-up-your-sleeves and get-on-with-it philosophy.
Determined and defiant, TJ refused to let the small matter of Covid-19 get in the way of her new business consultancy.
Battling past lockdowns, social distancing rules and tier restrictions, her initiative has not only survived, it has also thrived since its creation 12 months ago.
And from behind her face coverings, she has breathed life into Business Glu, which calls upon her vast experience and range of skills to transform companies across the East Midlands.
"It has gone much better than I expected,” said TJ. “I thought I would hit barriers with people saying we were an unaffordable luxury.
"But in fact, they have recognised that they get a return on their investment, not just financially but also in terms of relieved stress.
"It was slow when I started last April, but now I am beginning to put dates in the diary to ensure everyone gets what they want.
"So far, we have nine businesses across Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Leicestershire on our books."
Mum-of-two TJ, 49, decided to go it alone in 2019 after she left her position as a long-standing, pioneering director of the family business, manufacturing company A1 Flue Systems, of Boughton, near Ollerton.
"I had reached as far as I could go there, and was beginning to feel frustrated,” she explained. “It all turned sour.
"I was looking for a job, but then I suddenly realised that if I went for something specific, there was a danger I would be stifled.
"I had picked up a range of skills, from working on the shopfloor to business and finance, HR, business law and leadership and management, so I decided to go on my own as a consultant.
"Although I had been at the same company for 30 years, I had carried on my business education, so I thought it was time to instill my knowledge and experience into other businesses to help them succeed.”
The name, Business Glu, came about because TJ saw herself as “the glue that held every part of a business together, forming a strong bond.
"That bond would come through coaching, mentoring or consultancy on an interim or ongoing basis.
"We would also give businesses the keys to unlock new ideas, strategies or innovations that drive positive change and offer a fresh perspective,” she added.
When Business Glu was born, the dreaded pandemic had already reared its ugly head, and TJ admitted she faced a daunting task.
"Not just because of Covid,” she said, “but also because it was the first time in my career when it was just me. Previously, I had always had a team around me and had a regular wage coming in. Now, there was nothing in front of me.”
At first, TJ had to operate online. But she made an impression as firms realised how they could benefit from the advice of an external expert “who could see the bigger picture” and provide “ a bird’s-eye view”.
Her particular area of expertise was within construction, manufacturing and production, and she was able to tailor her service to meet the needs of all types of client.
What’s more, she had an army of freelancers with expertise in specialist fields, such as marketing, whom she could recruit to assist her.
In July last year, she was summoned to her first face-to-face appointment with a company in Grantham, manufacturers of portable buildings, Avalon Cabins Ltd.
"We marketed them, put a new website in place, overviewed their accounts and processes and introduced them to new suppliers,” said TJ.
It was her first success story, and things snowballed from there.
By September, more clients were on board and TJ began to receive some “great testimonials” from manufacturing firms.
Avalon’s finance director Jane O’Reilly said: “TJ allowed us to develop our business and look to the future with a high level of enthusiasm.”
Anthony Heathcote, boss of Rollin Fabrications, in Boughton, said: “TJ is very knowledgeable and experienced in all aspects of business. She also has many good contacts in the business world.”
Kate Burgess, of Areofab Fabrications Ltd, of Leicestershire, said: “TJ immediately identified all the positives about our company, areas of improvement and numerous sales opportunities, and also drafted a new infrastructure.”
It all added up to proof that TJ’s risk-ridden gamble had paid off. "To get testimonials like that is priceless, she said.
"One business increased its turnover by 196 per cent in six weeks. Another made cost savings of £2 million in taxes, while another created 12 new jobs inside six months and another increased its customer database by 34 per cent, which brought in additional revenue of £520,000.
"We created the wow factor in some businesses, with the owners unable to believe what had happened – and not just financially.
"One boss said he couldn’t believe how the morale of his staff had improved. If employees can see the vision of their company, they feel more positive.
"I have no regrets about starting Business Glu, even though it coincided with Covid. In fact, I wish I’d done it sooner.
"I love what I do. Clients are so much more grateful than employers.”