May has gone by so quickly in stark contrast to April which went on and on. It’s perhaps because we have been so busy. Weekdays are always busy but recently feel that I have been running Mum’s taxi service at weekends as I have driven my daughter to tennis matches and my son to non stop or so it seems football matches. All good though as you hear so much these days about childhood obesity so its great that where we live in St Boswells where there is so much for children to do. My kids are involved with golf, tennis and football. However there is also cricket and rugby which we haven’t managed to fit in yet. All in all it makes for a busy schedule especially now that daughter is playing in tennis matches and the football schedule has stepped up. May therefore has gone by in a flash and it looks as if June will go the same way as we have the Borders Book Festival, drama plays and a weekend away to the Lakes to look forward to.
So what of my New Year Resolutions? Well the Lakes is a good place to start with. This is where we spent the first weekend in May enjoying a walking weekend in the Lakes. It was one of the best weekends that we have had all year. We had three walks. One in pouring rain which despite the wonderful scenery and all the new-born lambs I struggled with. A final walk on our last day just above Glenriding looking over the lake a walk which brings back many memories of many sojourns on this walk over the years. The big walk though was the Saturday where we climbed on to the Roman Road from just above Brotherswater and walked about 14 miles in total. It was a sunny day though cold on the top of the fells. But one we will all remember for some time. My daughter or our mountain goat as we call her climbed the fell at speed. We kept getting told that “She’s up there.” “She’s fast your girl.” and finally “She says to say she will see you at the top.” Meanwhile I was viewing the climb which went on and on with dismay as it came back to me that I had been here before. As the horrible realisation dawned that there was shingle ahead my least favourite climb. I hate absolutely hate climbing and I moan all the way. But I love, love getting to the top of the fell which is why I do it again and again. As my heart sunk looking at the climb ahead. A small voice beside me said “What. No way I am not climbing that.” Followed by non stop moans all the way up including one of my better ones. “Never ever again. Never do you hear I am never ever doing that again.” I was therefore greatly amused that at the top of the fell there was a delighted cry. “This is wonderful what an incredible view and I did it myself.” Yes my son takes after his mother in his climbing habits. It was a fantastic walk and best of all unlike the last time we attempted a walk in the Lakes I did not crawl home and was actually quite sprightly on my feet at the end of the walk. So I figure that I am fitter than I was a year ago. Overall the walking ticked the extra exercise box too.
I am happy to report that not only am I in my size 12 jeans my resolution but so much so that I don’t actually look to see what size they are when I get them out of the wardrobe. I just pick up the first pair that come out of the wardrobe. That’s the good news. I have struggled with the 5:2 diet this month (two days 500 calories. five days normal). I am not really sure why I have struggled. Maybe as I have been doing this now since January but each 500 calorie day I have struggled through finding lunch and post dinner times particularly hard. I am also a few pounds off my target weight for the end of this month hoping it will come off miraculously at the end of this week. However I cannot deny now that I have lost weight. I am so near my goal target I need to keep going and then as importantly I need to keep it off.
I have made great progress in my writing though not on my Lewis project. I have parked it. As it’s too precious a project for me and I don’t want it to be the first creative writing I have done. Instead I am working on a short story that I need to write for creative writing course by the 5th June. I am 3/4 of the way through so need to make the time to finish it off and allow time to edit it. The main thing is I have almost written a short story and I am hoping the process will allow me to start writing now on a regular basis.
With regard to other resolutions I have made small steps of progress in all of them. Writing this blog monthly makes me aware of them so that unlike the usual New Year Resolutions they are following me through 2013 not left defeated at the end of another January. As for 2012 resolutions still embedded in my way of life. Diary of grateful things each day is up to date. All books read this month have been noted in my notebook. My recommendation for the month is “Life after Life” by Kate Atkinson. It is about a baby who is born and who dies then is born again. This goes on throughout her life as she is born over and over again and gets to change things. Set from 1910 to late 1960′s its nothing short of brilliant. Huge thanks to my sister and brother-in-law who bought it for my birthday. I kept it for a warm weekend and enjoyed reading it in our garden last weekend.
So May is almost over. June the half way point of the year about to begin what will it hold and what progress will be made?
The news recently has started to put a more positive spin on the economic situation in the UK but this may be cold comfort to many businesses who feel they are holding on by the skin of their teeth. Over the course of the current economic difficulties the weather has seemed to mirror the cold economic conditions particularly the past two years when we never seem to leave non ending wet conditions. Further bashing businesses with a cold winter chill in many sectors.
To take a few in turn. Retailers . How difficult is it to be a retailer just now.? Money is tight and people are still carefully looking at where and when they spend money. So with wet weather it is no surprise that clothes retailers are suffering and also it must be a nightmare for garden centres. Tourism is also suffering. At first the downturn seemed to benefit the tourism industry with the rise of the staycation and people staying at home. But all it takes is a few bad summers and non stop rain so far in 2013 and people start to want to return to the sun. The season may pick up but right now like the retailers its tough going in the tourism industry. These are just two sectors. I could also mention many others including the farming industry who have had a series of never ending nightmare years. All of this impacts on other sectors too so that despite the fact that the media may now be trying to talk things up more many businesses are feeling just now that they are holding on by a thread and any positive reserves they had about the future and survival are being rapidly used up. So what do you do?
I do not have a magic wand but experience of running a business tells me that you will have low days in business days when you wonder why you are doing what you are doing. As you are dealt a blow or a series of blows that you didn’t see coming and find yourself having to put on a smile and face the world when you really want to curl up and cry. We have all been there and had days like that or weeks when things just don’t seem to be going your way. So what can you do? Well me I do tend to have that cry and or that rant and I do allow myself 24 hours plus to feel sorry for myself and then I rise from the ashes and get going. Because that is what we humans throughout history have done. We have faced tough times much tougher than current times and we have survived and evolved.
So what do you do in business when you are facing tough times? A few pointers from my own experience.
1. Plaster on a smile – You may be feeling miserable and things may be very tough but your customers or potential customers don’t want to hear this. So its important to put on a cheery demeanour and smile and I personally find wearing something bright and cheery. It’s not a complete fix but I find it does even help you to think positively.
2. Communicate and Communicate – I say this time and time again but its an essential mantra in business. Existing customers will only remember to buy from you again if you keep reminding them that you exist so make sure that you keep in touch with them on a regular basis. New customers will only find out about you if you spread the word about why they should buy from your business. At the start of each day decide how you are going to communicate you business that day and at the end of the day reflect on how this has gone and decide what you are going to do tomorrow.
3. Network and network - we all have networks not just business networks but also personal ones. Make sure you use them get out there be seen be visible. Arrange meetings with existing customers and see if there is any thing more you can do for them. Meet or contact lapsed customers and see what you can do to get their business back. Meet with partners and potential partners and see if there are ways that you can work together. Attend local business events where appropriate and make sure that you have a visible on-line presence using social media and that you update that as much as possible with interesting and relevant information. If possible daily.
4. Be aware of all aspects of your business. Make sure that you are on top of all aspects of your business. Cash flow is key to this so keep an eye on this daily and chase debts. As a friend said nobody looks at a business that has gone bust and say “They did so well but never chased us for money.” It’s essential that you personally chase your debts and keep on top of your finances. You need to be aware of other aspects of your business too. Make sure you know that people are happy with the way the business is run. Offer great customer service and make sure that you deal with complaints as and when they happen.
5. Be market aware. No business is an island you need to make sure that you are up to date with current and future business trends so that you know where the market is going not just today but also tomorrow. Planning is key to this we can’t 100% predict the future but we can take time to imagine what might happen and make sure that we have contingencies in place to deal with it. And that includes the weather!
Finally if you are in business and you are still here after all that has been thrown at you in the past few years. Pat yourself on the back! You are doing well. Many have fallen by the wayside. You are still here you’ve already shown that you are a survivor. I hope these tips assist in proving that you are tough and when the going gets tough the tough get going.
I confess I’ve been watching the new series of Dallas and worse than that I’ve actually really enjoyed it. As soon as the music starts it takes me back to my childhood Wednesday nights the three of us (we never quite persuaded my dad of its merits) around the television glued to the dastardly deeds of JR Ewing. I’ve always had a soft spot for Larry Hagman and was sad when he died. It felt like the end of an era so I had to watch to see how JR was written out and before I knew it I was totally drawn in. The story was a wonderful tribute to JR who is shot (again!) or so it seems and at the end of the series Bobby having carried out JR’s last will and testament frames Cliff Barnes for his murder with Bobby and the younger Ewings now in control of Cliff’s billion dollar business. Fitting perhaps for JR. But was it fitting for nice brother Bobby who always shows that good is best over wrong? I wasn’t sure although I laughed at JR still pulling the strings behind the grave and I never ever liked Cliff Barnes.
It came to me though why I didn’t like it when I watched the first five minutes of this years BBC Apprentice. The ending of Dallas implies you need to be cunning, back stabbing and a liar to win. Something that each candidate that I saw in the opening five minutes of the Apprentice also thought they needed to do with comments such as “I will trample and walk over anyone who stands in my way.” At this point I switched channel I had been considering trying to watch this years series to write blog articles but five minutes in found it was not for me. Why?
I don’t believe that is how to win at business you win at any cost. I believe that people buy from people that they like and work with people that they like. You will find when you look at most businesses that they attract business from people who like them, feel comfortable in their company and believe that they have something to offer them. As someone who set up a marketing business at the start of the current recession I know how tough it is to start out on your own. But I know I have only done it through lots and lots of hard work, keeping an eye on the bottom line always, making as much as I can of my networks and making sure that I always give 100% to my clients. For me that is the key to business success.
So Dallas? It’s drama it takes me to another place and often takes me back to another time of life and I will probably watch series three. BBC Apprentice? More reality TV that is not actually reality? Just a chance for TV productions companies to make the most of people’s flaws and manipulate them. Not for me I am afraid. BBC Apprentice you are fired for 2013 and BBC a novel idea but perhaps a business series that is actually based on the foundations of how business is actually done might work? Do we really want to live in a country where business ethics are based apprentice style?
My son is a huge Manchester United Fan and he’s not going to take the news of Alex Ferguson well even this morning he was telling me that they are only rumours nothing more. For him Alex Ferguson is a legend even in his short life he has seen Alex Ferguson win a number of titles including to his joy the championship in style this year.
I would agree with my son that Alex Ferguson is a legend as would his father who as an Aberdeen Fan still fondly recalls their European win under Alex Ferguson’s leadership when he was a little boy. But is clinging on to this right? Or is he better to leave when he is at the top of his game?
I would argue that Alex Ferguson has left at exactly the right time for both himself and his family but also for Manchester United. He is leaving when fans, players and all concerned with Manchester United view him as a living legend. In a few years who knows people in sport and other aspects of life have short memories and although his fantastic record would still stand it could be diminished by a few years of poor results. Better to go when you are at the top of your game.
For me hearing this news today is why Alex Ferguson is a legend. He is choosing his time to go and I suspect he wants it to be when he’s at the top of his game. This is a lesson for so many sports people who seem to cling on to their sport long after their talent has waned so much so that people forget the genius they were at the beginning.
I also think it’s a life lesson. For two reasons. Firstly it is easy to cling on to the familiar what we have always done in life. It gives us security and even when you really know deep down that you are no longer giving it the same 100% you used to - you cling on to it as what would you do otherwise? But often when the choice is thrust upon you and you face redundancy and you think you are looking into the abyss. When you start to look at other careers you find that there are other options and a few years down the line you find that it is the best thing that has ever happened to you.
Secondly and linked to the above I strongly believe that we should never stop learning in life. I came out of University after years and years of study and thought that’s it job done. I then found that although I found marketing came naturally to me I had no professional qualifications so it was back to University and three years of night classes. For me at the end of that with two small children that was it. But it wasn’t what was relevant in marketing when I took my course is in the main still relevant but? The web was in its infancy and social media would have blown us all away. To be still relevant in marketing I need to continue to learn each year and make sure that I keep up with developments. Just now Social Media is key but what will it be tomorrow? In addition as the kids have grown I have gained time to develop personal interests again. Book club challenges what I read and I have recently taken up a creative writing course! As well as learning how to look after pigs and sheep a skill I never imagined I would need.
My point? I believe that as the bible says there is a time for everything and you need to know when the time is to stop a period of your life and start a new one however hard that might be at the time. In addition I strongly believe that to keep yourself on your toes you need to keep learning not just when you are young but through out your life.
For me Alex Ferguson the wee boy from Govan is a legend. Although I am saddened by his departure and it is the end of an era. I do applaud him for doing this when he is at the top of his game. Alex Ferguson won’t stop he will develop his skills and interests in other areas and will as legends do grow in stature. All the best Alex we have loved watching your management skills over the years, your handling of the media and your wry Scottish style. Now to break the news to my son. And tell him it was time.
April for me has been a month which is never ending it seems to have gone on and on and on. And as I write this at nearly the end of this everlasting month May still seems a long way away. Strange feeling as actually under my category April is a four week month and far shorter than March it follows or May it proceeds. But for me it has gone on and on and on. Why? I don’t actually know maybe the Easter holidays now seem ages ago? Could be that I was really really looking forward to pay day? The lack of spring? Although progress has been made and I can see changes in the garden. I still feel that spring is not quite here and winter still remains to give us one last kick. It’s maybe a mixture of all of them but for me April has been a month that has gone on too long. But what of progress in my resolutions?
Well the greatest achievement has been that four months into the New Year I have achieved one of my goal’s which was to get into my size 12 jeans. I am pleased to report that not only can I actually now fit them I have actually worn them out and about! So now the trick is to make sure that I still fit them on the 31st December or it’s just been a temporary achievement. So for the moment I am still on the 5:2 diet and once I reach my goal weight I can start the 6:1 diet. At first didn’t really see that I had lost weight but gradually I can no longer deny that I can see that I have. I even got a wolf whistle! OK it was from my husband but it did make me feel really good! So onwards and upwards to the goal weight. Was delighted to weigh myself today and discover I was two pounds under my target for the month. My goal is to get there before August but who knows I may get there sooner. But perhaps that’s where the hard work starts once I reach it which is my overall point about New Year resolutions they are not just for January they have to be a permanent change to actually be successful.
This was the month that I did make progress on my resolve to be a cash kinda of a girl! If I am really honest it was out of necessity it was rather a tight months with a few unplanned and not wanted expenses making me count the pennies more than usual. But as ever when I cash it I realise that taking cash shopping wither food or otherwise you really notice and think about what you are buying and are less likely to add unnecessary items. So pay day today. Contained myself to a bubble bath treat two bottles £4 and tea and cake at the bookshop with my sister – in – law and bought book club books. Then I’m back on cash! It makes you think and it seems to be the best way of keeping me on track. Clothes wise I feel that I have been good. Though to be honest way way back at the beginning of this eternal month I did buy my annual fit flops in a burst of enthusiasm that spring must be round the corner! They have had one brief outing and the lack of progress in that department has kept my favourite brands and shops out of pocket. Not sure I have been good or the weather in this case has been a positive for me. On the plus side too I have made progress on my writing goal. April saw me attend my first creative writing course. Now I have done many things that challenge me in my life but this for me was a mountain. I love writing. I would like to do more of it. But can I? Should I? Will I be told to think again? All these thoughts and more went through my head after I signed up. I had butterflies galore on the day and could easily have taken any excuse not to go. But I did taking encouragement from my kids who said go for it Mum. And? Well I am enjoying it. It’s a group of people from all different types of life with different styles of writing. But although each lesson is still a challenge as these things are when they mean a lot to you. I am really enjoying it. Though think the most important thing I have learnt is just go for it. Write a short story. Take time to do it. So I must make time maybe that’s a new resolution.
On the less successful side. I haven’t read any more than a chapter of the same business book that I was reading last month. Just haven’t had the time or the inclination. Although I have done lots and lots of walking especially when we were on holiday at Easter. We’ve been so busy there hasn’t been much time for dancing! So lack of progress on the additional exercise front. So these are two for May. Hopefully the sun will shine giving me time in the garden to read. And we will dance!
As for 2012 resolves they continue. My grateful things for the day has continued some days with lots being written in my diary and in other’s just one sentence. But it’s something that I consider every day and it humbles you to realise that there is so much to be grateful for. April was a bumper month for books. I have read I confess nine though that includes two children’s books. There has not really been a bad book in the pack though I wasn’t particularly keen on book club book titled Gold. My favourite though by far had a similar theme to Gold which was about childhood cancer sufferers yes not an easy read and in both books I cried at various parts. But the book I would recommend for April is “The fault in our stars.” It’s not an easy read and it is a far from comfortable subject but like Gold you see the disease from the child’s perspective and that’s humbling as you see how their worry is for their parents. It is principally about the relationship about two teenage cancer suffers and it is maybe one of the most poignant love stories I have ever read. Read it.
Finally was able to share my love of books this month thanks to World Book Night and my other sister in law who told me about it and urged me to be a giver. Was delighted to be able to hand out to St Boswells mums one of my favourite books “The Island” by Victoria Hislop. Hope they love it as much as I do. And it’s set in sunny Greece so you can sit and dream that maybe just maybe the sun will visit us soon too. Or May might be a long month too.
I wrote in February about the opportunities for butchers in the light of the #horsemeat scandal.
. Since then the scandal seems to have grown and grown to the point that even kids are very aware that there are issues with horse meat and are questioning what they eat and where it comes from. Giving a huge opportunity for butchers.
But it got me thinking have butchers seized the opportunity and really promoted that they know where each and every piece of meat they sell comes from? To a certain extent the Farmers Union have done the job for them and have been really prominent in the media and have made a brilliant case for using locally sourced meat. However the Farmers Union can’t do it by themselves and to be honest just because you hear that on the radio you aren’t necessarily going to change from buying meat at the supermarket to buying it at the butchers unless your butcher also gives you reasons to buy. Which gets back to my question have butchers seized the opportunity?
Now in case you think I am having a go at butchers it’s not honestly. My point is that so often in life and I include myself in this that we see an opportunity get really excited about it. Have great plans for how we get make the most of it talk about it constantly for days and then? Normal life gets in the way you get busy with your daily routines and jobs and the opportunity fades from your mind and before you know it you’ve forgotten about it. And the next time you look at your business and want to get more business its easy to start moaning. Blame the weather for poor sales, blame the competition, blame customers for not buying, blame the government or the local council. There are always loads of people we can point the finger at to blame. But what about ourselves? Why did we let that opportunity pass us by? If we had seized the opportunity what would it have meant for our business would it have negated the bad weather and the other things that we are blaming? On a personal basis where would it have taken you if you had seized that opportunity?
So what am I saying? Is this a go at butchers? In a way it is as I am not aware that butchers themselves have really seized the mantle and taken up the opportunity given to them by #horsemeat scandal. But no it’s not a go at butchers per say its a lesson to us all myself included. As was said by Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. “You need to seize the day.” Tomorrow is too late. You need to do it in the here and now. So if there is a opoortunity that needs action wither on a personal or work basis that you know would be great for you and or your business action it now TODAY!