There’s no end of the Rainbow

 

When you run a business you always think everything will be better/sorted next week/month etc.  But the reality is you never arrive, it is a constant journey.  The trick is to make the journey enjoyable, as far as possible.  I suppose if you sell the business for £££ that is the end of a rainbow, but apparently most entrepreneurs are instantly bored and start another business.

So I must enjoy the odd respite from the endless work.  And also do my best to enjoy the endless work itself.  As I’ve said before, retirement isn’t for me, I like to be busy but I must make sure I have a bit of time off.

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Lying to your staff

 

I think this must be one of the most stupid things an employer can do.  The staff won’t say anything, but the bond of trust will be damaged, if not broken for ever.

An example – a local firm had decided to move offices from one town to another.  The staff aren’t stupid and had more or less worked this out.  When the bosses have lots of meetings behind closed doors its obvious something is going on.

The employers needed to tell the staff.  Instead of saying, “please all come to a meeting tomorrow” they said “come to a compulsory training session tomorrow”.  When they duly turned up they were told the office would be closing.

If they can lie about one thing (where frankly there was no need to lie) how can the staff trust them not to lie about others.

One of my resolves is to be as honest and open as I can be about everything, including how much money I do (or don’t) make.  It will be interesting to see if I start getting more secretive as I get more successful.  I hope not.

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We are innately conservative and don’t like change

 

Where did I read this? I know I get comfortable as things are, when things have to change there is some inertia, I find it really unsettling until I have decided what to do next but once I have decided I go for it and feel a weight lift off me.

My apprentice is getting to the end of the scheme.  My fellow solicitor would like to start building “her” Purely Probate in Sidmouth.  How will I cope without so much of either of them?  I will have to recruit someone new to take on some of their work load.  Who?  What is the spec?

I have done some interviewing already and not met the right person, but the process has been helpful.  One thing I am completely clear on is that in a small business someone who doesn’t fit, or who doesn’t pull their weight will be a disaster.  That makes the pressure to pick the right person even more acute, and not everyone wants to work in the middle on no-where in the middle of Somerset.  At the same time quite a few people are starting to come to me, unsolicited, looking for work

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Stop before you email

I know I should never send an email when I’m cross BUT it is so hard not to, especially if you are someone who tends to reply promptly and hates to leave something festering.

So far there have been no unfortunate consequences to my recent email written while still fuming. Maybe if you don’t know me well you wouldn’t realise I was cross, but it was a stupid mistake for someone of my maturity (!) I must repeat, “the client is always right” at least 100 times.

Next time I really will walk away from it and not reply until I am feeling completely calm.

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Setting up a new website

I have mentioned before that I set up a new site, www.goingstrong.co.uk with a view to encouraging others to contribute blogs.  The site we (well, really my apprentice Jess) set up on Wix looked great but was difficult to add new articles to, so I decided it should transfer to WordPress, which I know how to use.

It has been a huge struggle but we have kept going, partly because at last a few people have volunteered they want to contribute.  However today we accepted defeat and have gone back to the old site, which looks lovely in my unbiased opinion, but is hard to add articles, etc.

My new year’s resolution was to get to grips with technology, so perhaps this was meant to be, before the year is out I will be an expert Wix user.

But in the meantime PLEASE have a look at the site and send in articles.

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Older and Wiser

I was shocked to see a whole page article in the Observer about us Oldpreneurs.  It was even titled “Oldpreneurs …”  What a cheek!  That’s my name, it would have been nice of them to contact me.

But it’s great that so many of us oldies are setting up businesses and apparently we have a better success rate than younger people.  Not surprising really, we should have learnt a few lessons down the years, even if we are using different skills to the ones we learnt during our careers as employed people.  We have watched and learnt.

One of the key lessons I have learnt is that what goes around comes around.  There is no point at all in treating people badly, whether employees, clients or people you meet on the street.  Particularly in a rural community it will come back to bite you.

Similarly for something to work it has to be a decent deal for everyone.  If one party gets stinking rich at the cost of others, eventually it won’t be sustainable. The world is littered with examples.  So don’t be greedy..

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Nothing to do with Work

 

I keep saying that now I run a business I have to get away – even from home – to get a break from it. I used to work from home and it is 400 yards from the office so being there doesn’t always do the trick of getting me to turn off.

Last weekend we went to London for my sister’s 60th birthday.  What a privilege it was to be surrounded by family – our parents, 3 sisters including me, and lots of nephews and nieces.

The party was in the Kentish Town Community Centre – a very nice venue, and I feel the caterer deserves a special plug as the food was fab.  She is a charismatic lady called Saima, who achieved the great feat of keeping us all calm, and we had a Persian banquet which was very tasty, different, and delicious.  Her website is http://thehampsteadkitchen.com/

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Clients have an unfair advantage

I know in theory that the customer is always right, even though sometimes we grumble about them. But occasionally we get a client who is impossible to satisfy.

We try terribly hard to get it right – almost too hard, but if someone is dissatisfied with us they can bad mouth us wherever they want, including (heaven help us) online.  We on the other hand can’t say anything public in our defense, or indeed anything at all about them.

It’s a pretty harsh world.  Those bad reviews on trip advisor can finish a business – who would knowingly go somewhere that has been slated?

Perhaps some re-balancing is needed.

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How to blow your own trumpet

I went to a swanky optician in Bath.  The price of the glasses was eye watering (sorry couldn’t resist it).  The owner of the shop told me that he has a member of staff who helps customers choose glasses, and that she is legendary for her skills.

So – even though I am just taking his word for it, I am tempted to travel 30 miles to Bath, and spend twice what I would in my local shop (which I am very loyal to) to get the advice of someone I have never met.

What is it about what he said that was so compelling?  The ambiance in the shop, his confidence, and the fact he was talking about his employee, not himself. Though in the end I didn’t go back, I believed him and still rather wish I had gone to see the legendary lady.

There are lessons here for any business.  There is absolutely no point in having a fabulous service, and hoping people will learn about it by magic, or because they are so discerning they recognise quality when they see it, and will then tell all their friends.

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Getting out and spending money pays

My lovely apprentice Jess missed our Christmas pizza because of flooding.  I said I would take her out to lunch.  I decided we would go to a rather nice restaurant which I wanted to try.

I have been thinking of starting my own business networking group, as the ones I have been in have fallen by the wayside.  So, I asked in the restaurant if they would be able to host a breakfast meeting, the chef told me such a meeting was already happening the following day.  A phone call later and I was invited to attend.  It’s a really nice group, and I know it will work well for me.  And if I hadn’t decided to give Jess and me a treat lunch it would never have happened.

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Jargon we love

 

I can’t resist publishing this email I received; I promise it is verbatim, from a firm of solicitors:

Thank you for your e-mail of the 7th of January 2014, the content whereof we note. We are referring the matter to our clients whereafter we will revert back to you herein.”

Love it!

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Retiring – so yesterday

 

I remember the days when teachers were encouraged to retire with great pay offs at 50.  Same went for my old firm.  Now it has all changed and most of us are keeping working.  It’s no joke for people stuck in horrible jobs but for those of us lucky enough to have some choice in the matter, it’s interesting that quite a few of us choose to carry on.

In an ideal world I would work 3 or 4 days a week, each day doing at least one thing I really enjoy, and be free to take plenty of holidays.  In particular I would like to see more of my son, who currently lives in Beijing.  I don’t need or want to go off for weeks at a time, which would be tricky whilst running a business, but it’s only by getting away that I get a break from the business.

The business does excite me: I meet new people, it challenges me, and keeps me busy.  I know I would be bored if I filled my days with tennis games, shopping, and doing lunch so retirement really doesn’t appeal to me at this stage in my life.  I think there are lots other people who feel like me.

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Resolution for 2014 – enjoying the business

I have joined a group of small business owners run by a business coach.  We meet once a month, and he keeps us on track, tells us how to focus on the big picture, make plans, different techniques for selling and so on.  I find it extremely helpful.

We had to set a goal for 2014 – for most businesses this would be some sort of financial measure.  I chose the very un-SMART goal of enjoying the business.

The business must make money, of course, and it is starting to in a modest way.  However that isn’t what gets me out of bed in the morning and I am immensely privileged that I have other sources of income.  What is far more important to me is that I get a buzz from it, I meet interesting people who are grateful to me for what we are doing for them, and so on.

It is helpful to have this goal. If I’m having a miserable day, I remind myself that I want to enjoy myself, and somehow it takes the sting out.  As most of my misery is self-imposed (eg working to stupid deadlines, feeling I have to get back to clients that day) it can just make me relax to remember my goal.

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Perfect Girl syndrome

A teacher friend used this term the other day.  I know I have it.  I hate to make mistakes, even (or particularly) small ones.  Where does this need to be perfect come from?  It is extremely unhelpful, leads to anxiety and self-criticism where it really isn’t needed.

And why don’t guys suffer from it?

Actually I am getting a bit better at acknowledging my mistakes and not letting them get me down.  Running a business you have to, because otherwise you would be constantly in a state of high anxiety.  The more you do, the more likely there will be the odd unforced error.

We recently had such a cock up and I grasped the mettle, rang up the client, apologised, and offered to know the extra cost off the bill.  It wasn’t so bad.

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Parties

I do love them, and I have given a few in my time BUT in my middle years what I really want is:

  • To meet interesting people who talk and listen and don’t assume that because I am over 50 I have nothing to say and do nothing interesting;
  • Not be so noisy that you have to shout to be heard and miss every third word of the person you are talking to, leaving you to guess what they are talking about.  Same goes for restaurants by the way;
  • Where I can sit down if I’m there for more than an hour.

Is this a sign that I’m getting old and grumpy?  Probably, but bring it on!

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