Business Growing Pains: Business superheroes and supervillains

I think one of the most interesting and exciting pays off business is the fact that everyone, in one way or another, has it in them to stay a fresh venture.

Truth is, not everyone gets the chance though. Which makes it all the more important for those with power to help those who take the initial leap of faith in business.

Sadly, contrary to what the government would publicise, there is little support for new businesses out there. Don’t misunderstand that, there is a lot advice or there. A lot of advice. Some nuggets of pure gold, others are more in the region of fecal nuggets. Far be it from me to judge that advice, and that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about actual support.

In order for me to define support, I need to explain it in the context of giving. If my dog wants dinner, I can support his needs by providing from my larder supply of dog biscuits. Needs met, dog supported. If I wanted to support my dog’s quest to catch and eat the neighbours cat, I’m helpless. I may want to help. But the cat isn’t mine and I’m in no physical state to catch agile kitty. There’s no way I can support my dog here. One has to have, in order to give. And the support that I’m referring to here is in this context (not dogs and cats specifically, just to clarify!).

Ever heard the phrase ‘those who can, teach’? (‘…those who can’t, teach p.e.’). And ever considered how selfish a superhero would be to gain super powers and not use it to help people who need his/her support?

You’ve probably guessed where I’m going with this. But I risk believe after 9 years of business, there is a massive responsibility for those who have been largely successful in business to help fuel the next generation of businesses. And there are a thousand and one business superheroes out there ‘sitting on their super powers’ – the ultimate act of selfishness.

I’m referring quite specially at the national and multi national companies that rule the business world. When they were first starting out, they were able to utilise new markets long before substantial and hindering red tape was ever introduced. I mean just listen (or read Alan Sugar or Steve Jobs) early business history. They jumped upon market gaps that literally would not exist in today’s world.

That’s not to say there aren’t business opportunities out there, because there are. But when these opportunities arise, business principles and instincts are capped and hindered by politics that today’s successful never had to endure. And I think that’s why those who have the resources should support the newer startups…

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Farewell, hotmail. You were my first email.

Why I have to leave hotmail. A not so simple explanation.

The simple explanation
Don’t worry, this isn’t on political, religious or charitable reasons. The reason is quite simple, I’m blown away at the volume of emails that aren’t getting through to me. Not getting redirected to junk, but literally thrown aside at Microsoft’s’ discretion at any given time without notice given to the server or the (non)recipient. What follows is a long and detailed account of how I came to realise this issue existed, as well as my ultimately futile exploits to resolve the matter. There’s no need to read them all, unless you feel compelled, but I do urge you as one email user to another – if you use hotmail: change supplier for your own sake as well as people trying to contact you.

I have been a hotmail user for as long as I’ve had an email address – and to this day still use the first ever email address as my primary source of web mail – and its a hotmail address. So it genuinely pains me to change things up, but I have completely exhausted all other options. This post is a means to try and explain the problem, my multiple attempts at fixing the issue and Microsoft’s belligerent and arrogant responses to my heart-felt desperation to fix the problem.

I would urge anyone using hotmail addresses (this includes any emails containing the following; @hotmail, @live, @msn, @Microsoft, @outlook or @Skype) to seriously consider moving services across to another provider. Generally speaking, the much better alternative is Google Mail(Gmail) anyway.

The not so simple explanation
The problem of not receiving emails had been present for a very long time. But naturally, as a user of one of the world’s most well-established Webmail softwares, the obvious culprit to missed emails that never arrived was clear – sender error. So over the years that had been my most common assumption towards such occasions…

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Business Growing Pains: The Money Bin

Eight years and nearly eight successful self-assessment tax returns. I’ll admit, it was a bit of a learning curve to start with. The terminology alone used by the HMRC is a hurdle the size of Everest. The text may as well have been hieroglyphics to any self-respecting new self-employed individual. Gradually, with the help of Google and business friends, over time this got easier to understand. Eventually I had a system in place where each years’ tax return was a doddle. So-to-speak. Paying back the tax, not so much, but at least I knew where I stood with the strange terms coined by the HMRC.

Enter 2017. This year, things needed to change due to the nature, gradual growing success and time availability for my business. I needed to open a business bank account, I needed to register for VAT, go on as a Limited Company and I needed to move my websites to a dedicated server. Lots to do in a short space of time. As it happened, I concluded that all-at-once was impossible – so I staggered the processes to ensure successful implementation.

But these hurdles, and more, have brought some serious drags in my time and energy as a business owner. Things that should be easier and things that are complicated immensely by big-dog-companies (who should have a responsibility to make easier for younger businesses). Sadly, its the aforementioned big-dog-compamnies that maintain and add-to stresses and obstacles for the underdogs. But if I can share my experiences to help others that may suffer the same obstacles – then perhaps this is all a little more worthwhile. And I’m starting with the biggest dog of all. The bank.

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Business Growing Pains Prologue

There’s no doubt in my mind that starting my own business was the right move for me after an eight-year stint selling asparagus to upper-class Sainsbury’s customers. I loved my time there, but it just didn’t utilise my skillset. In fact it leaned quite heavily upon putting me in a directly customer-facing environment. Somewhere I can’t say I thrive. That being said, let me strongly reiterate that I think jobs like this are highly respectable and even an essential part of life. I have far greater respect for people working in jobs like these, than those who wait around on the Income Support for the ‘perfect job’ to fall into their laps. I digress.

Customer one-to-one was the pain of my life back then. In my current line of work, there is very little face-to-face customer interaction. It’s beautifully suited to me. And usually, if there is customer face-to-face, they are genuinely nice people. Yup, the customer pains are long-since a thing of the past. But running a business brings new pains. And this month has been no exception. In fact, a combination of things led me to feel like a polar bear in a desert sand storm. Or, as Delboy once put it, like a turkey who just caught Bernard Matthews grinning at him.

I was amazed at how little down-to-earth advice was out there for Joe Sole Trader. And that’s why I’m writing a few posts about just some of the struggles I have had to battle. I’ve got a few lined up at the moment, each looking at one of the most frustrating times I’ve had in small business. Maybe there’ll be even more in the future. It’s a record for me. And perhaps, someone somewhere, won’t have to go through the slaughterhouse in quite the same manner I have.

As I draw towards the closing of a relatively profitable financial year for the business, I find myself straining to walk through a metaphorical swamp of jargon, fob-offs, technicalities and antiquated systems that can only be navigated by the ancient politicians who invented them (or folk who have been forced to waste far too long learning the language). It’s reminiscent of the pains I felt all those years ago of those frustrating snobs who didn’t want their Lemongrass sourced from Spain on political grounds.

I cannot believe how antiquated the business world is. We are living well into the second millennium and we are still at the mercy of a system built by people in the first one. I hope that these stories may help anyone that reaches the same stage I am now at. Warnings, really. What to expect. And how to avoid them.

So, on then, with my Business growing pains.

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