The moment I knew 1284 had become a digital business

George Oliver

Feb 16


min read

A couple of months ago I was at my desk, on a call to a client.

They gave me a phone number for me to write down. Nothing unusual there.

Except that I didn’t have a pen. Or a piece of paper.

After scrambling through my drawers to find something to scribble on, I began to reflect that this was actually quite a telling moment.

It marked the shift from how I worked for many years as a journalist to how I work now as a (deliberately) agile small business.

I don’t really use pens and paper any more - and here's why.

Switching to the Cloud

I was telling the tale this week during a presentation to delegates at LUinc.’s event for Leicestershire Innovation Festival.

The theme of the festival is Productivity and the event was entitled 7 Software Essentials for Startups.

I was kicking things off by describing how my business became cloud-based.

This was partly out of design and partly by necessity - I purposefully work between several incubators and coworking spaces around Leicester and Leicestershire in order to:

  • Learn as much as a I can about challenges and opportunities faced by local SMEs
  • Manage the costs attached to my own startup business
  • Have an awareness of what is happening at the grassroots on innovation in the region.
George Oliver speaking at LUinc. for Leicestershire Innovation Festival (Picture: Irshad Mulla)

Changing long-standing habits

When I started 1284 in July 2020 it was natural for me to continue with working practices I had learned in 15 years as a journalist.

This meant carting around notebooks and writing meetings out in shorthand. These were necessary professional, legal and ethical requirements drilled into me as junior reporter in the mid-2000s.

However, as a startup owner in the 2020s, it meant creating invoices and logging time from spreadsheets.

The problem was, as the business grew and more clients gain onboard, I was:

  • Having to remember to take the right pad to meetings
  • Having to then scan or type up notes
  • Sending a lot of time on admin tasks such as manually logging time.

So I started to move more towards digital. Accounting software plugged into my business bank account, automated my invoicing, VAT returns and bookkeeping.

Phone lines went to VOIP and plug into my office administration platform. An iPencil means that I now make notes on an iPad and draw them back down from the cloud (an any device) whenever and wherever I am.

Learning how to do more

Those simple early steps towards digitalisation gave me confidence to do more.

In October last year I launched 1284START after receiving a Business Growth Grant to help me bring in more digital automation to reduce my costs for regional startups, non-profits and social entrepreneurs.

This included testing AI writing assistants well before the launch of ChatGPT. I now can’t really imagine working in any other way.

As I was telling the LUinc. Event, the systems - such as time logging software attached to my invoicing software - are also equipped to scale as new employees come into the business over coming months and years.

It’s all worked very well and supported growth. The only challenge so far has been trying to find that pen.

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