The Victoria Chart Company won the Award for Innovation at the West Kent Business Excellence Awards, in October 2009 and immediately impressed me with their story of how they have created change in the world.
The business produces reward charts that help children develop, and also cope with difficult challenges, by focusing on encouragement and praise. It was founded in 2003 by a charismatic graphic designer called Victoria Ballard.
Victoria’s first son was
diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when he was 18 months old. Her business started from wanting to help him to develop his motor skills. She turned her design skills to creating for him a reward chart that would encourage him to progress by acknowledging and rewarding his progress day-to-day. When his baby sister was on her way, Victoria extended his chart to include social skills like being a kind older brother.
Her charts regularly caught the eye of other mothers, who wanted one for their children, and the idea for a business was born. Victoria developed a range of charts that dealt with common issues in children’s lives, but which allowed carers to tailor it to their own child’s needs.
There is more on Victoria’s story on The Victoria Chart Company website, www.EncourageAndPraise.com.
Stress and Control
Her son’s diagnosis was a time of massive change in Victoria’s life when, doubtless, her hopes and dreams were suddenly compromised. Dealing with change is always stressful and stress arises from a sense that we are not in control. Taking control allows us to deal effectively with the stresses of change, and that is precisely what Victoria did:
“Creating these charts was something I was in control of.”
The Victoria Chart Company Change Management Process
How Victoria has developed her product so far follows an excellent change management process, which we can learn from.
Step 1: Start with a Vision
All worthwhile change starts with a vision. It is clear to me that Victoria started from an ideal and her vision was about helping children:
“My business is dedicated to positive development in children,
creating quality products and building our brand name.
It has not been about rushing to get big bucks.”
Step 2: Get your Change Right
Victoria wanted to produce the best product she could: “I had to control it properly – I listened to people and did as much research as possible.” In particular, Victoria used online feedback to refine and retune her charts.
Step 3: Take it Steadily
Change upon change leads to chaos – a reason why many organisational change programmes fail. Victoria knew this and has developed her business slowly: “It’s been one step after another – very controlled.” For her, the outcome is essential: “I’ve taken time to get things right” and she continues to do so.
Step 4: Build a Great Team
You cannot make change alone and Victoria describes her dedicated team of like-minded people as “a solid base” to her business.
Step 5: Be Passionate about the Change you are Promoting
Victoria certainly is. She is energetic and committed to her products: “When I am not with my children, this is what I do.” This is not just some workaholic tendency; it’s real passion:
“It’s important that I love what I do.”
Step 6: Work Hard at it Every Day
Victoria is a realist who points out that making change is not just about fun and passion: “Never put off to tomorrow, what you can do today.” Yes, this is a cliché, but it is fundamentally about dealing with the present as much as focusing on the future. For Victoria, there were lots of aspects about running a business that were intimidating and certainly not fun. She knuckled down and just got on with it.
The “so what?”
Creating change requires commitment and a process. You need to know what change you want, be passionate about it, invest in getting the details right, take it one step at a time, build a solid base of support and help, and work hard at it every day. Simple, but not easy.
Six more lessons
If you have enjoyed this blog, you may also be interested in a posting on The Jumping Boy’s Blog which focuses on six business lessons that the Victoria Chart Company offers you.