Wow! I cannot believe that I am already half-way through my 6 month exchange. The last months have felt like a blur, it both feels like time has gone so quickly, and we have achieved an unbelievable amount in such a short time. Coming into this exchange, I was so sure that spending hours on intricate planning and strategy was the only sure way to set up and launch a business – that taking something from an idea to a success was only achievable through meticulous paperwork and procedure. In the last few months with Dali, I have discovered this is far from the truth.

Dali constantly pushes me to think on my feet, to face challenges in the moment, and to deal with the nitty-gritty of business planning and development. Not every single event can be prepared for, and in any operation there are twists, turns and bumps along the way. I used to think that business planning and management was working towards one end goal, but I have learnt that this is a constant journey of reacting and evolving – you cannot plan for that! As Dali likes to say “Thank god for the challenge, it would get boring otherwise!”.

Noticing my comfort in theoretical matters, Dali pushed me head-first into interpersonal matters. I’ve had to overcome my own introverted nature, and realise the difference between mediocrity and greatness is the assertion of yourself; your best self. Dali is the perfect example of this. She herself is the heart and soul of her business. She is always going the extra mile to connect with everyone she encounters to provide special touches. From employees to business connections to clientele, through 5-minute tasks she elevates their experience with her business from something standard, to something special. Without her taking these extra steps, it would never be as memorable, and wouldn’t have people coming back again and again.

I have been granted the responsibility of HR and recruitment management, in which I am responsible for every part of the recruitment process from interviews, training and staff management. I have found this to be an incredible learning experience in the interpersonal aspect of managing a team, and finding the balance to motivate employees to meet their maximum potential while meeting their needs for success. This experience has definitely changed my plans for the recruitment and management of staff in my own business plan; no matter how skilled, experienced or well trained, all staff must feel that they have the tools they need to take pride in their work, enjoy their role and be successful.

Also, in my experience so far it has really struck me how impactful “the face of the business” is in marketing and operations. Dali has successfully incorporated herself into the “family-run” nature of her brand. Her business social media is exploding with personal touches and familiarity, and through the engagement on her platforms it is clear that her clientele feel a personal relationship with her and her team. This step away from strictly “professional” brand representation and lean towards a more inclusive, “behind-the-scenes” media presence is very in tune with the evolving nature of parasocial relationships and the media, and has completely shifted my approach to online marketing.

At my half-way point, I feel as though every day with Dali reveals another layer under what I used to see as ticked boxes. I have been challenged in ways I never expected, but as Dali says, it’d hardly be fun otherwise!