how to do business


How to Plan and Grow your Business

ring 0845 094 0407

Internet Traders and Business Consultants


Fletching Glasshouses

Free Spirits Ltd

How to do Business is a trading name of Free Spirits Ltd. We are based here at the Glasshouses at Fletching Common, near Newick in East Sussex.

Alan and Isobel Rae set this business up at the end of 2003.

Alan has continued developing small business training programmes in marketing and sales for entrepreneurs based on detailed research about how small companies really use IT and the internet. Clients include PCWorld, Small Business Service, EU, Welsh Government, Chartered Institute of Marketing and the small businesses themselves.

Isobel decided it was time to stop talking and start doing. So she set up selling plants on the internet. This business has expanded to sell biological controls on line and has acquired the 3 acres site you see above which is now producing organic flowers and vegetables for the local market.

The consultancy side of the business carries out projects as and has 2 additional sites which offer specific products. offers a complete marketing training course for the growing small business while offers training materials based on effective use of the internet for marketing and collaboration. Alan has been mentoring around 20 small companies locally and is an accredited Growth Accelerator Coach.

The 2 sides of the business - which now employs 10 people and turns over more than £ 0.5 million - share services and have a real synergy - the trading business acts as an ongoing live case study for the consultancy business while the consultancy supplies marketing and business advice to the trading business.

Business principles

When we set this business up, the first thing we did was identify 10 guiding principles for running a knowledge based business in the 21st century. These are

    • It needs to make a profit
    • It needs to be ethical – honest and straightforward
    • It needs to have a simple to understand purpose – and stay focused on it
    • It needs simple elegant processes that get better
    • It needs to know how to identify and surf opportunity waves and continually develop new products and services to attract our customers.
    • It needs to communicate with its customers and collaborators easily
    • It needs to choose the right staff and associates and develop them
    • It needs to be easy to manage from anywhere
    • It needs to stay out of its own way
    • It needs to be sustainable and renewable

We try to make everything we do demonstrate or teach these principles - which is why the glasshouses project fits into the overall scheme of things. We have integrated backwards from the knowledge economy into the real world. You can't get more real than vegetables.

You can read more about this in our e-book, 20 Business stories - notes from a business journey which tries to capture some of what we've found out in story form. An edgier version of the principles is available in our Business for Free Spirits paper while our track record in research and training programme development are also available as PDF downloads.

Why we can help you

Unusually for a consultancy company we practice what we preach. We have 25 years experience of running growth businesses in IT, Business Training, Internet trading and horticulture. Currently we run a £0.5 Million internet trading company - Plants4Presents - and a 10 employee Organic Vegetable Business. These give us a real-life basis for our consultancy and training business that underpins our research into how companies actually use IT to promote themselves and improve performance as they grow. During our previous business experience we created a self managing work team which we were able to manage remotely with a visit every couple of weeks. In 2010 Alan was appointed Horticultural Workforce Champion and produced the Growing Jobs report for SEEDA. Available here

Office of the Future

Our Managing Partner, Alan Rae set up and ran the Executive Studio - a purpose built flexible and knowledge based working environment in West London which ran from 1997 to 2006. We worked flexibly using laptops and docking stations and developed a raft of innovative learning programmes for companies implementing IT based change.

You will have the benefit of the 10 years experience of developing and delivering innovative training programmes within a "best practice" orientated environment.


Contact - To discuss how we can help with your business growth or marketing ring 0845 094 0407


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