About Karen Espley & The Chameleon Guide | The Chameleon Guide
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About Karen Espley & The Chameleon Guide


“Sell a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man how to fish, you ruin a wonderful business opportunity.”    –   Karl Marx

Why work with me?

It’s a good question if you’re looking for a business coach.

You don’t know me from a piece of chalk

It’s fair to say I’ve had an eclectic career, but one that has by happy accident led me to where I am today; passionate about working with small businesses which have been operational for a while and want to change, but are not quite sure how to take the leap to the next level.

That next level may be growing the business with a view to selling it some time down the road, or growing the business to make it more profitable to make life really comfortable, or in other cases changing the way things work to allow the owner to retire or work part-time, but still enjoy the benefits of their business. It varies from one business owner to another.

I work with ambitious small business owners who are looking to have a profitable and efficient business. One that works for them, rather than rules their lives.

My background

I started life in the corporate world working in health insurance for 15 years. I started off as a humble admin assistant and rapidly got promoted through the ranks, including managing a claims department of 100 people, running a Provider Services team, negotiating contracts with large hospital groups to being the business manager responsible for delivering a £12million IT project which completely changed how we worked.

Wanting to expand my knowledge of how business worked outside of health insurance I did an MBA whilst working full time.

Finding the consultant in me

In 2000 I went freelance and did a whole range of consulting pieces with companies as varied as a private clinic, an outdoor adventure company and a healthcare brokerage. I joined a small software testing consultancy and helped them grow it with my back office skills and supported them through the sale process once we reached 150 employees and they tempted me back to the dark side of employment with the role of Marketing Director.

When I left them in 2008 I went back to consulting and then became a director and shareholder of a fledgling software testing consultancy as the Marketing/Ops/HR director. This was very successful and at one stage we had nearly 30 billable consultants – which was pretty good going in less than 18 months! Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to sell an otherwise thriving business. With my background as back-office queen, I was not needed by the much larger organisation that bought us and I (very sadly) exited stage left to seek horizons new.

In what’s turned into a rather large nutshell, I have learned the disciplines of the large corporates, worked for start-ups, been in a business that failed, been in a business that grew from nothing to over 200 employees and got bought, worked freelance and worked for myself.

I have learned a lot along the way. Some of it rather painfully.

And now, a new world

In 2014 I discovered a whole new world I hadn’t known existed – a world of small businesses and self-employed entrepreneurs. And found my forté.

It turns out there are hundreds of thousands of business owners. The reality for many of these smaller businesses is that they need business support, because whilst they are brilliant at what they do, they are less skilled at knowing how to run an effective, profitable business. Which is where I come in.
Did you know of the 300,000 plus new businesses that started in 2013, it is likely that a third will fail within five years. That’s quite a scary number if the same is happening every year. With my broad experience of running back-office functions and management, I give businesses the best chance of succeeding and getting the lifestyle business they always dreamed of.

Why on earth is your business called ‘The Chameleon Guide?’

Firstly, I knew I wanted to have a different name. I didn’t want to be a ‘me too’ Karen Konsulting, or Espley Consulting Associates, or Blue Sky Results, or other names that bounce around the world of business coaching/consulting. And that’s not to do down those other companies as there are many excellent ones.

The challenge was in coming up with a new name. And it came about because my hair was turned orange! True story…

From carrots to chameleons

I’d treated myself to a hairdo before going to the FSB awards to support one of my clients who had been nominated for an award (for which yours truly had written the submission…)

The Chameleon Guide - About page

I’d stressed that my hair had a tendency to the gingery end of the spectrum, so I was after a cooler colour. Which they promptly ignored and turned me a bright shade of carrot.

As I sat there in my chair staring out of the window waiting for them to finish their panicky conflab in the mixing room, I noticed the Horsham Christmas lights. Because of the window frame, the lights were fragmented, and one part looked like a stylised chameleon.

And Bang! It hit me right there!

I rang my designer and we batted different name combos around. He wouldn’t let me have Karma Chameleon, or the Chameleon Quest (sounds like a board game apparently). Until he finally came up with Guide. The Chameleon Guide was born.

I love it – it’s about adaptability and changing to suit the client and what their needs are.

Charity/Volunteer work

In 2016 a dear friend passed away after an all too short battle with cancer. Rob, was cared for wonderfully by
St Catherine’s hospice in Crawley. I discovered at a network meeting that they need to raise £17k per day to keep doing their good work. Yes, that’s per day. As a result and in a moment of madness, I decided I was going to raise on day’s worth of funding for them.

This set off a whole range of activities, from me shaving my head at the Dorking Rugby Club Networking group who very kindly agreed to let me take over one of their meetings. You can see the full horror of it here.

We also organised a Mad Hatter Ball in November 2016 resulting in 120 people attending. Others got involved and raised money through running 100k in 10 days. Others gave the proceeds from a Christmas fair. And we also got loads of donations from generous people who knew and loved Rob.  As a consequence, we managed to raise over £24k for St Catherine’s which exceeded our wildest expectations.

Young Enterprise

I am on the board of the Young Enterprise South Surrey Area. It’s a great charity that helps develop business skills in school children. The Company programme is one of many they run, where 16-18 year old students run a company from start to finish in nine months. I started as a business adviser supporting the companies. I have since become a judge at the competitions (which I love!) and consequently was asked to join the Board in 2018.

Stop the Old Bags

I have become an eco-worrier! I’m obsessed with our reliance on plastic and the damage it is doing to the planet. We are drowning in the stuff. Unless we take urgent action, we will get to a point of no return where there is more plastic in the sea than fish.

Our website will be going live soon…

Along with Lucy Pitts (of Strood Copy) we set up Stop the Old Bags to help people like us reduce our plastic use. We want to encourage the powers that be to take meaningful action. If you’d like to find out more – join our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/Stoptheoldbags

I also volunteer at the Horsham Repair Cafe where people can bring their broken electrical goods to get fixed by experts (who also give their time for free).