SmarterPreneur Stories: Miriam O’Connell, Space For Change

Miriam at NSC
There is a special cohort at the core of our society and economy; ambitious people who run their own business. Some of them have joined SmarterPreneur Circles so that they can build a stronger and more profitable business. These are their stories.

Introducing Miriam O’Connell, owner of Space For Change.


Miriam, what is your business all about and what is your role?

When I look back over all my clients, I realise they all have two things in common, they are leaders who care deeply about their people and they care deeply about excellence in performance. They want their organisation to be the best in its field but they want their people to be best they can be too.

My business, Space For Change, is all about making that happen. My expertise is in bringing leaders together with their people so that they are truly joining forces to make their desired changes come about. I do this through sometimes working one-to-one with the leader or sometimes with the leadership and the entire team or organisation together.

Examples of my work are working with a CEO of a charity to engage all of the staff and stakeholders in coming up with their strategy for the next three years or working with a small business to help them define what excellent performance looks like for them and getting all their staff committing to delivering it consistently.

My work is heavily influenced by positive psychology and I co-create processes with my clients that will not only achieve results at the end, but will be enriching, rewarding experiences throughout for everyone.

My role is chief consultant and bottlewasher. In other words, there is only me but I have a wonderful panel of skilled and experienced fellow consultants that I can call on, and have many a time, to collaborate with me when the nature of the work requires it.


Can you remember when you first got the idea for starting your own business?

This is a tough question. I think I always harboured the notion of someday running my own business. But it was in 2010 that the stars aligned and the circumstances were right for me to finally do it. I felt I had the right skills, I had something meaningful to offer people and I was ready personally and financially to do it.


If you had €10k to spend on promoting the business, how would you use it?

I think I would spend it on developing my public speaking/story telling skills and on improving my blogging skills. I would spend some money on an expert to look at my website from an SEO perspective and amend it to make sure I am making the most of SEO.


If you could meet the person you were one year ago today, what would you tell them?

Trust your gut more and act on it. Invariably, you know what needs to be done – just stop looking for external validation and do it. It will be ok to get it wrong!


How long did it take for you to transition from “technician” to entrepreneur? (ok to say not yet!)

This is still an on-going process. Because the nature of my business is heavily focused on me providing a consultancy service to my clients, and because this is work I love doing very much, it is hard to say how much, if ever, I will pull back from the technician role.

However, I have changed my thinking more towards looking upon Space For Change as a business and I am looking at some options that may generate income without me having to show up at a client’s premises. One such option is being the Irish distribution agent for some excellent Appreciative Inquiry learning materials (Appreciative Inquiry is the approach that I use for the most part in my work). I am currently getting the e-commerce details etc, sorted out for my website and that should be coming on-line soon. I also envisage myself writing some books and giving talks somewhere down the line in the future.


What approaches/techniques help you get the most out of your working day?

Let me make a list:

  • First on my list is LISTS! If I make a list, or a written plan of what I need to achieve in a day, or a week, the chances are I will achieve everything, or nearly everything on that list.
  • Reflection/meditation/affirmations – It really is a combination of all three of these. I reflect on why I am doing this work, the difference it makes to people, how grateful I am that I get to do it and how I really need to be present in the moment to properly listen to and connect with the people I am working with.
  • Declutter – I have recently moved to an office space that I keep completely clutter free. I only have on the desk those things that I need for the particular task in hand and it really helps me to focus and complete the task.
  • If I am working with a client, I always arrive prepared but also with an open mind, ready to listen to where they are at today and if that has changed since the last time we spoke, I am prepared to adjust how I work to accommodate where they are at now.


What has your experience in SmarterPreneur Circles taught you about yourself?

It has taught me that I work better, smarter, by taking time out to reflect with and be challenged by other people about my business and my relationship with my business. By getting me to think about where I wanted my business to be in the future, it got me to realise that I love collaborating with others and that I want to create something that represents what I believe in. That has brought more meaning to what I am doing every day in the business today.


Who would be in your Dream SmarterPreneur Circle (living or dead)?

Fred and Geraldine Karlsson of DoneDeal. I have had the privilege of visiting their offices and interviewing their staff for a blog I wrote and they have created something very special over there in Wexford. It is a resounding success business-wise, but their staff are so passionate and engaged in their work that it makes you envious of them.
Tony Hsieh of I loved what he had to say in his book “Delivering Happiness” particularly about hiring people that you would be happy to go for a few beers with.
Chris Brogan because he seems to be a mine of sound advice about how to create a successful business you love in your own freakish way.
Yvon Chouinard – founder of Patagonia. He is another example of someone who has created an extremely successful business while sticking to his values and what he believes in and really looking after his people. His book, “Let My People Go Surfing” shows that he was a true pioneer and maverick in his time. Still is, in fact.
Michael McIntyre – comedian. We can get too much up our own you-know-whats at times when it comes to business and to have some brilliant, on-tap, observational comedy to knock us back to our senses would be refreshing and healthy and of course, hilariously funny!


How have you adjusted your business arising from your SmarterPreneur Circle participation?

I think that the biggest adjustment I have made is I have stopped trying the be the answer to everyone’s problems and I have started to focus on the clients that I know I can do the best work with. I get fired up and excited when I think about being involved with organisations that are passionate about being the best at what they do and where their people are thriving everyday in their roles. They are concerned about being a positive impact on society as well as successful in their particular mission. They are the types of clients I want to work with, that I know I can make a real difference with.

I now have my “Red Velvet Rope” policy where I “vet” potential clients and will only give my time and energy to those whom I know will benefit from my particular type of service (which I now realise is not for everybody) and who I will enjoy working with. I think this has allowed me to perform at the top of my own game more consistently and so have more of a positive impact for my clients.


You can connect with Miriam on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.

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