The question then came as to what I’d precisely do… From my previous jobs, from university, from family, and from the Institute of Mathematics, I had quite a few contacts in various places: so I caught up with them. I also visited a local small business meetup to understand what their problems were, and I asked family and friends to put me in touch with anyone they knew who might have some interesting problems to solve that I could apply maths to.
This led to a bunch of initial chats and lunches with various businesses and charity people. Because of my disposition and genuine interest, I was fascinated. I did struggle slightly to get a good format for the discussions, and as a result they were often freeform and I left perhaps not getting what I wanted from them. I started to experiment with putting together a framework/agenda before each session, but for some reason I never took them out of my bag: perhaps this was because I was worried it would turn it into a meeting instead of a chat. I was (and still am) keen that the brand I build be one of approachability. In any case, the act of preparing felt extremely valuable. Perhaps Eisenhower’s now-cliched “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable” holds here.
After these discussions a few things were clear:
- Few business owners knew that maths could solve their problems
- People had heard of Analytics (and sometimes Data Science)
- Sales is hard
I also came to realise:
- Fixing small business’ immediate, known problems was seen as being more about marketing (with the people I spoke to at least)
- Larger businesses were often keen to get the benefit that others were getting from data
- There is also something useful to be done around “smart data collection”, which fits well with my data-driven-decisions philosophy
- A lot of people could do with some help improving their internal culture, and would see benefits by focusing on delivering value for their customers
I decided on the back of all this to focus on finding applications of maths, and in particular on using data to inform decision-making. Often this would involve predicting outcomes. This was good because I could use Open Gov data to start with, without needing businesses to share their data.
Now that I knew where my focus should be, I needed a name for the business I wanted to start. Over Christmas my family and I used our scrabble set to come up with a name (true story):
Back to where we are now: I’ve got time, I’ve got ideas of what to do, and some leads on who to do it with. If you, dear reader, have any analytical or cultural things you might like help with, please do let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any feedback (especially on content or style) please comment below so I can improve :).