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At Citizen: People Leading Better Lives
In 2005 the founder of Citizen, Martin Hogg had one big idea- how could he set up a business that enable people to lead better lives.
Martin strived to make it easier to access counselling and coaching by
Nine years later, he’s built an entire social enterprise around this philosophy, which has diversified and grown during the height of recession and is headed for big things in 2014 and beyond
Getting off the hamster wheel
Feeling unfulfilled working for a large corporate, Martin set up Citizen Coaching in 2005, with an ambition to enable better relationships at home and work through coaching and counselling techniques. “I liken it now to being on a hamster wheel, I had a staff of 530 and a turnover of £27 million, targets were always on the increase and people were becoming an afterthought in a business where profit was becoming everything. I was very unfulfilled and I noticed my stress levels growing.”
“I saw an advert for a volunteering opportunity working with young people as a coach. After a month I was hooked and started working on an exit strategy to leave my job and complete my counselling training.”
“The idea behind Citizen was to earn an income from training, counselling and coaching work so that I could spend two days a week on local community projects. I had no idea what a social enterprise was back in those days!”
Based at the Custard Factory, Citizen Coaching became a community interest company in 2010. Ninety percent of its income comes from selling counselling, coaching and digital marketing services to a diverse customer base of individuals, third sector organisations, private business and statutory bodies.
“Earlier this year we realised the story and key messages about Citizen Coaching and what we do were getting lost. We’d diversified in so many areas, picking up new contracts – from coaching ex-offenders to delivering social media for UK conferences – and were struggling to get across the full extent of our services and how they inter-relate.”
This was brought into focus when Martin was selected for a new national programme of social enterprise leaders looking to grow their businesses and increase social impact.
“To move forward and grow, I realised that we needed to consolidate and build our core services and communicate these to our customers in a straightforward way. Over the past few months we’ve focused on grouping together activities under three trading brands. Each has been given its own brand identity, so that we can better connect with target markets for each service.”
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At the frontline, Citizen Coaching trades as:
“Everything we do is about translating the complicated into the real world. Services are designed from the customer perspective so that we’re easy to work with and many of our services carry a 100% ‘eat my hat’ money back guarantee – even our one-day anger management courses! We do this because we have complete confidence in our offer. You have to have the systems and processes in place to deliver to a standard that you’d be happy with receiving yourself.”
“The ability to innovate and spot market opportunities, and deliver great quality services at affordable prices, have become the bedrock of our business,” says Martin, “and Citizen Click is a great example of this”.
“We measured our marketing efforts from day one and quickly found that the internet and social media was the most effective way of finding sales leads and new customers. Other social enterprises and third sector organisations started to ask who did our digital marketing and soon we found ourselves helping others discover the benefits too.
“After hearing so many stories of the shockingly poor and expensive service out there, we seized the opportunity to formalise this part of the business and began to offer social media and website development and training ourselves.”
Crucially, the Future Jobs Fund enabled Martin to take on two team members to develop the digital marketing business in 2010. At the end of their initial six-month contracts, sales had grown to the level where both staff, Nate Sheridan and James Farrell, could be employed full time. “I’m very proud that two years on, Nate and James are the face of Citizen Click and have the confidence and flair to grow the business and help other young people gain marketable skills through our volunteering and internship placements,” says Martin.
Replicating the model
Running alongside Citizen Click is Birmingham Counselling Services, which experienced 100% growth during 2012. “1 in 5 people are affected by stress, depression or anxiety and would benefit from some kind of professional help, but face a long waiting list for counselling and therapy on the NHS. We see clients within a few days of initial enquiry. They have a choice of counsellors and our flexible pricing scale makes the service immediately accessible and affordable,” says Martin.
B the end of 2014, Martin plans to replicate the Citizen Anger Management counselling service by franchising the Birmingham model to 30 UK towns/cities.
In 2014 Martin Hogg and Citizen were the runners up in the SSE/Lloyds Bank Social Entrepreneur of the Year
“I applied to the SSE programme to access structured support with opportunities to link with social enterprise leaders across the country who are also preparing to scale-up their businesses. The integration of digital media in our growth plans caught the eye of programme partner Nominet Trust, securing access to specialist mentoring and further cementing our future direction and strategy.”
“It’s been a tough couple of years and being based in a city that is experiencing unprecedented spending cuts and uncertainty is not easy. As a result, our business looks very different to what it did even a year ago, but we’ve had to be proactive and sharp in order to stay close to our customers and serve them well.”
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Martin Hogg is Founder and Managing Director of Citizen: People Leading Better Lives. We enable better relationships at home and work through the power of counselling, coaching, and digital media services.
Tweet Me @MartinHogg
Adapted from an article that appeared originally in BVSC Update Magazine in 2013.
With thanks to Ranjit Bansal