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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McDonalds Monopoly Winning the WIN WIN

Without further ado – here’s the quick way to check if you have a winning ticket at this years’ McDonalds Monopoly.

  • Brown – Old Kent Road
  • Light Blue – Euston Road
  • Pink – Northumberland Avenue
  • Orange – Marlborough Street
  • Red – Strand
  • Yellow – Coventry Street
  • Green – Bond Street
  • Dark Blue – Mayfair (obviously)
  • Stations – Liverpool Street

Also, this year, save 10 of any stickers to get yourself a NOW TV pass. That’s just good sense.

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Finally, a Nintendo to Switch to

Excuse the pun. It was just to irresistible. But, you will have no doubt deduced that this blog post is in relation to Nintendo’s latest console release: the Nintendo Switch.

I indeed caved to the pressure to purchase one of these consoles. Primarily upon the news that there was a new Zelda game accompanying this launch, but also various other traits of the console that I though Nintendo had long-abandoned. This is my first Nintendo in 8 console generations and over ten years, and I wanted to share my first thoughts and predictions for the console as well as my overall comparison to previous Nintendo consoles as well as its bearings on other mainstream competitors.

Without getting to technical or detailed, here is an overview of the new Nintendo Switch – in case you weren’t already aware. Unlike most other consoles to date, there are quite a few ‘moving’ components to the console rather than simply a main unit and game controllers. The Switch offers the ability to play on a main TV screen, but also the ability to separate out an internal portable screen too. Essentially bridging the gap between home theatre gaming and portable gaming. The clever mechanism of the hand-pieces mean that there is an independent left and right side which, depending on the game, can even be used by two different players as competitors. For more involved games (such as the 2017 Zelda release) requires both sides of the controller, mounted in the classic arrangement. For portable play, to either side of the portable screen, or for TV gaming to a central controller unit that unites the two halves.

It sounds more complicated than it is. And a careful look at any promotional shot is explanation enough to how the console works. Perhaps that is why the ‘original’ Switch comes with alternate colour controllers for each side – to fully illustrate the gaming potential without too much explanation.

So let’s get into the good (and bad) stuff…

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Desktop Activity

Working for myself has its advantages, but one of (arguably lesser) disadvantages is the fact no-one gets to see how cool my desk-toys are.

I’ve worked in two communal offices in my work career, both of which has limited appreciation for my desk toys – which is perhaps why I value them so much now. I’d say my office is about 75% toys and 25% other stuff. And although I work with LEGO, I’d say there is a significant portion of it that is personal collection rather than stock. Kinda.

But the truth is that if I don’t have things to occupy my procrastination sessions then, well, I might just get too much work done. My latest obsession, LEGO aside, is Disney Tsum Tsums. Which are essentially all manor of Disney characters from various films and shows all re-shaped into pill-type rubber miniatures. What started as my daughters’ interest has become a bit of a hobby for me too. And while she is happy to have just about any of the characters from anywhere (although Frozen ones do top the list), I have a shopping list of Tsum Tsums that I intend to scatter around my desk. As you can see from the photo for this post – I’m starting with Disney’s Inside Out Characters. But I digress.

A lot of serious stuff that happens in business. A lot. And it would be very easy to remove all the fun from it and leave all the functionality. But that’s just not the way I see my work, my business or my anything ever going. The cool, fun, nerdy stuff that makes me, me needs to be evident. Otherwise I’d find myself just being a hypocrite. And if that fun side of me presents itself in the form of cool desktop toys today. Then today will be all about desktop toys.

Aren’t you amazed that this post barely mentions LEGO? Truth is, that is the ultimate desktop toy. But I could write about that forever, so I have spared your reading time that one.

And so concludes week 5 of 52.

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Hypocrite!

Nothing like an insult and exclamation mark to drive home a post title, eh? The title could relate to any number of people or things. Like the fact that this blog post is nearly a week late for week 4 of my 52 week blog journey. I mean that’s slack by anyone’s standards, and only the fourth week – wow! But, no, this post is about something a bit more close-to-home…

I wrote a blog post last week about the way in which the new US President, Donald Trump as been ‘welcomed’ into office by outraged social network users and media agencies alike. Not brilliantly. And while I could draw similarities between the title of this post and the said media agencies *cough* BBC *cough*, this post isn’t even about that.

It’s about the very notion of hypocrisy. The definition of the word hypocrite, according to dictionary.com, is “a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.”

And in the light of that definition, I think I need to make something quite clear. I am, by no means or measure perfect. This will come as no shock whatsoever to anyone who knows me. But I wonder if I dare suggest something grander, we all suffer from imperfection. The classic line whenever we mess up to excuse ourselves: ‘nobody’s perfect!’ comes to mind. And while flippantly used here and there in our daily lives – it’s actually a really truth that we should pay attention to every now and again.

So at the risk of beating a dead horse (a physical action I would highly advise against, but in analogy’s sake…), I revisit the Trump debate. Since my last post, there have been several actions of the new President that have been wildly unpopular amongst the louder-voiced of the Western World (dare-I-say, making their point seem more universal than it actually is). But it’s debates like this one that bring out the best and worst in people.

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Top Trumps

Yesterday was my birthday! And it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love birthdays. So much so, that I take two weeks off to celebrate every year. I’m sure I’ll go into more detail on how and why that works another time. But first, I want to talk about something else. Something that I couldn’t avoid whilst checking my lovely HB messages on Facebook yesterday. The Trump card.

Now, we live in a modern democracy. Modern in the sense of sophistication. Modern in the sense that times have changed. And as a democratic society, I think it’s safe to assume we can agree on one thing. There is a lot that divides us as people and, it seems, increasingly less that unites us. If its belief, sexuality, gender, political conviction, sports team or favourite ice cream flavour; it seems that the divisions in our modern society are far louder than our united causes. It would be easy for me to sit and point the finger here, but I’m as guilty as most. I just hear the name Trump and I’m automatically on my high-horse, ready to defend the 45th President. Perhaps a reaction to hot-topics is only natural, but since the introduction of social media as a steady source of global news, it’s amazing how much opinions and facts get mixed up. And with the US Presidents’ inauguration ceremony two days ago, my social media timeline has been a minefield of political opinion and speculative statements towards this issue.

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Finding zoo birds pets book

Any parent will tell you how wonderful the gift of television is. Sure it’s probably frowned upon. Yes we’re supposed to limit the amount they watch. But have you SEEN how happy it makes them to see their favourite characters on screen? It’s sheer joy. It also helps that you get a moments’ peace to collect your thoughts. Does this make me a bad parent? I hope not. I love parenting. My girls are literally my joy.

As a result, I have seen a lovely selection of kids movies over the last year or so. And I have to say – some are a lot better than others – as my kids will attest…

Let’s go…

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When the stars align or Procrastination Constellation

It seems a little late to wish everyone Happy New Year, perhaps that’s because things are moving so fast. Not surprisingly, then, that we have nearly reached the end of the first week of 2017. Crazy.

It’s usually about this point that I give up on my New Years’ Resolutions. In fact – that’s the main reason that I gave up on them. To quote my instagram post from New Years’ Eve 2015:

“The only thing that will change for certain tonight is the date. Everything else remains as unchanged as you want it to. This year I’m making daily choices, not one-off resolutions”

And it’s true, resolutions can give the inaccurate illusion that by publishing dramatic lifestyle changes to social media – that you have actually achieved it. When, in actual fact, the resolution is probably a lot more involved than a quick decision on December 31st. And then, when most probably, it doesn’t happen – you end up feeling worse than when you first began.

But here’s the thing. There’s another side to it too. For me, at least, it’s so easy to not make any drastic decisions for the year ahead. But then forget to make the little ones daily too. And decisions and actions for change can be a really good thing. Even if they are uncomfortable at times.

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Crowns

I haven’t had much time to write over the last few months… But in the meantime, there have been so many blog posts I have wanted to write, but just haven’t been able to put fingers to keys. My hope is that, unless the momentum dies out from those stories, they will be told in the coming weeks and months.

But while there are but a few hours remaining for 2016, there is one post that I wanted to get out there before all of the others. As with all of my posts, this is primarily for my own sake and sanity, but I welcome anyone who wants to read along for the fun of it.

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