I have sadly lost a member of my team. Because of who I am I regard it as a personal failure, but it is inevitable and healthy that people move on. What we are is not going to suit everyone. We (including me here) are not perfect.
The individual leaving has left a space for someone else, and I’m thrilled that my former apprentice is coming back into the fold. She spent the last 18 months or so at Waitrose where she will have learnt masses, and will be able to share her knowledge with us. She may also appreciate not having to wear a uniform, work horrible shifts and have to cover endlessly for staff. Her technical skills will be a real bonus and hopefully she will soon help me to bring some new life into this blog.
So losing staff creates opportunity, while also being a loss.
Being an Oldpreneur doesn’t make me old.
I’ve noticed that when we get older we might say “I am now middle aged” and so on but mainly we don’t really believe it is true.
So, I describe myself as an Oldpreneur but I don’t think of myself as old at all. The fact that I am 20 years older than the next oldest member of my team is rather odd, that’s all. I have my tongue in my cheek when I say Oldpreneur and if you are one too I expect you to do the same.
Inside every old person is a young person who can’t quite understand what happened.
Can small things make big changes?
When you start in business you can be overwhelmed by the amount of advice you receive, and feel a failure before you start because there is no way you can do all the things you know you really should. This is one of the reasons I was attracted to read Margaret Heffernan’s latest book: Beyond Measure: The Big Impact of Small Changes.
Being a somewhat lazy person I was hoping that there would be some small adjustments I could make which would transform everything. Sadly it isn’t quite that simple. However here are some of her suggestions:
- Do not be afraid of conflict – conflict is healthy, so is having a range of different personalities working together;
- don’t multi task and don’t work long hours- the brain really isn’t designed for either;
- If you think a person or group will perform well, and let them know, they probably will. And of course the flipside is complete de-motivation for everyone else not deemed to be high flyers.
All common sense really
I don’t often blog about the day job, but as this gets a wider audience than anything I blog on my Purely Probate website I am compelled to say – discourage anyone from naming their Bank as executor of their Will because your estate will be fleeced.
We are in this situation with some clients, the Bank have refused to stand down even though there is nothing complicated, and the deceased lady’s children are also all executors and beneficiaries, and have all requested she stand down. The reason is quite simple: the fee charged by them and their lawyer is 3 x the amount we had quoted.
Moral – if at all possible appoint relatives or trusted friends/advisors as your executors. They can then choose where they get their legal advice from.
I have never had a mentor. I feel very sad about that, I can’t think of anything nicer than having someone who believes in you, who supports and encourages you but also guides you in a realistic way.
I am getting a mentor as I have joined the Growth Accelerator scheme, and will have a coach. It’s not quite the same as having someone who will be with you for years and isn’t paid by the hour for time they spend with you. But I’m sure it will be great.
What I want to think about for myself is whether I can’t fulfil that role for others. It will be a real privilege to feel that I have helped and encouraged some people. It’s a sad thing that it feels much easier to do this with young people, not too set in their ways. Us oldies need help too!
The more I read about Michelle Obama the more I admire her.
She gave a speech recently about the subtle racism she has encountered throughout her life, it was astonishing. It was broadcast on the Today programme and blew me away – it was totally credible and, I’m sure, true.
There was recently an article in the Sunday Telegraph by Clarissa Prabi. Obama had visited a school in London with a high number of immigrants. She gave a fabulously motivating speech about what is possible, not settling for second best, and working hard. But she didn’t stop there. She invited some of the young women to the White House and then to Oxford. What a privilege for them, and how astonishingly motivating it must have been.
Michelle’s advice that left me feeling tearful was “picture who you want to be and reach for people who make you better”.
I love to surround myself by people who make me better. In my case they are cleverer than me, have done well, and are happy in themselves. The last trait is the most important. Those people always bring me up.
I am very fortunate to have a Korean daughter in law. She is lovely in many ways. I have learnt a lot from her –whenever she makes a suggestion about my business it is a good one. For example it was her idea to give clients a Handbook to give instructions to their executors.
But the lesson I want to mention now is that she doesn’t just accept things. It’s a British trait to be rather accepting of unsatisfactory things. With her if someone doesn’t show up on time she is on the phone straight away to sort it. Why wait?
So when that happens to me I think of her and follow in her footsteps, and it’s almost always the right thing to do. Otherwise you wait and wait and then you ring – by which time you are fuming. Or you just give up.
In order to be efficient just do one thing at a time.
It’s always obvious when you are talking to someone on the phone and they are on their computer at the same time, and only giving you a small part of their attention. But the real reason is that the work you do if you try to do several things at once is almost always substandard. It really isn’t possible to multi task (unless one or both of the tasks doesn’t use much headspace – of course I can cook and listen to the radio, but if I am cooking something tricky I won’t be paying much attention to the radio)
In the end things get done quicker too if you do them one at a time.
It’s also very tempting to think you are too busy to finish a job, but if you don’t it will take longer to get back up to speed, remind yourself what needed to be done and so on at some later time. Or the job will never get finished. Might not matter, in which case the job should be ditched, but if it does then just finish what you are doing before you move on to the next task.
We have just acquired a Wills Bank.
A very nice and competent Will Writer I know is retiring. He offered me his Wills bank to free himself from ongoing insurance costs. I take over the Wills bank, he can cancel his insurance, if I’m lucky in due course some of the Wills will convert to Probate matters, and the executors will instruct me. It might work, time will tell.
What I hadn’t quite appreciated was the size of the job going through all someone else’s Wills, and making sure we are happy with them. We are writing to every single client summarising their Will to be sure they are what the client wanted. There are 75 of them, and it has taken me and the team most of a week to get them onto our systems, read them all and write to the clients.
It’s been a really useful exercise – if it works we will do more. And if it is a larger Wills bank we will if necessary take on extra staff to deal with the process.
We have started to use Office 365.
I am NOT a technically minded person. I find it nearly impossible to keep listening when someone tells me about technology.
Having said all that until now we have used the free version of Dropbox in the business. We have hit against storage limits, and were advised to move over to Office 365 which comes with Share Point (for clever sharing) email accounts and One Drive (for some other clever thing – I will remember what it is in a moment).
It was all going to be so simple BUT a problem – we have lots of folders then sub folders in our business, and it couldn’t cope. But now it seems there is a simple solution – we move some of our folders to top level, but still have folders under each of them. Has this made any sense? Well it kind of does to me.
So next week I will try to work out a rational structure for our files and folders and off we go again.
Do I recognise my limits? I am 59, my energy is pretty good but there are times when I know I might burn out. This week I am out 5 nights out of 7. That is too much for me and makes me stressed/means I don’t sleep well/ starts the downward spiral.
I should know better than to allow that to happen. The key for me and probably most of us it to know when to say no to things. Hard though when you actually like to be out, and it’s good for business
We needed a new fireproof filing cabinet. Our safe is almost full with Wills we have written, which is great. However, getting the safe into the office was a complete nightmare, so I decided that rather than getting another we would buy a fireproof filing cabinet. I knew it would be heavy but I had no idea it would be as heavy as a safe.
My assistant Laura managed to buy a splendid Chubb filing cabinet on ebay for £150 and astonishingly it was delivered from Northamptonshire to Somerset for £57 (using Shipley to get a good rate) but when it arrived it was quite obvious that many strong men would be needed to get it out of the van and into the office.
This is when my lovely office neighbour Snips and his mate Mike dropped everything and made it all happen. I am SO grateful, and hope they will read this.
I thought I was too post to push, but here are some of the things I didn’t expect to be doing when I left a grand corporate environment to start my own business:
- Buying the office coffee, tea, milk, loo paper etc
- Burning confidential waste in an incinerator in your garden every weekend. Believe me the incinerator was one of my best purchases, so much quicker than shredding. But of course you do have to live in the country.
- Cycling to the post office with letters that have to be sent recorded delivery and to buy emergency chocolate biscuits – and loving it
- Doing the cleaning when the cleaner hands in her notice, again!
- Negotiating hygiene levels with our lovely office neighbours, with whom we share a kitchen and loos. And yes they are all guys, and yes we are mainly dames.
- Enjoying a quiet Friday afternoon writing this blog.
This is obviously why people get office managers. Maybe soon…
And I am not hoping to get the wrong sort of search results by having that as a title!
What I mean is, what is it that you get excited about in your business?
For me, it is new projects and ventures, and new people. It isn’t money.
I have also learnt a lot about what turns me off and stresses me: people issues, bad vibes in the office, and being late. But yet I continually organise my time so that I am just in time. What’s that about?
This morning I had 1 ½ hours to kill in London and it was heaven. I went to a lovely garden centre, chatted to the café staff, sat in the sun and made some leisurely and useful calls, then left with plenty of time to get to Paddington where I did some shopping. Fab!
These days it is very easy to appear bigger than you are. If your website is compelling you can kid people you are an established, large company even if you are a start-up.
Some new businesses go further and register for VAT way before they have to in order to create the impression of size. I would never have done that myself, as my clients benefited directly to the tune of 20% before I had to register for VAT.
You should assume that you will be successful. For example, when you begin even though you can retain most information about prospects in your head you must have systems for recording all your quotes etc. Start as you intend to go on.