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And now Marks and Spencer

Well there’s no CVA mentioned, but at long last, Marks and Spencer join the long list of companies leaving the high st.

I’m normally on the business news throughout the day, but missed the announcement this week. But as I cut a key at a local garage, while chatting to the garage owner, his wife broke into our our small talk with the big news.

‘Marks and Spencer eh, closing a hundred stores!’ She was really shocked, it was the beginning of the end for all of us.

Once again, this is a brand, steeped in history, that’s struggling with where it is, and who it is. Want some unusual Christmas stuffing, or some black court shoes for work? Marks and Spencer is where you want to be. However, what else  grabs you and pulls you in? I can’t think of much.

As the 2018 Retail cull continues, it’s clear now no-one is immune. Shops near to empty, drab interiors, uninspiring displays. Whoever’s getting our money these days, the experience is either amazing entertainment, or a faceless, on-line retail transaction. It doesn’t matter that Amazon’s experience isn’t exciting, they just need to have it and fullfill on the promise. They do, so we all keep returning to their site.

This sharpens my mind, making me think about our quiet times, and how I can make our shop something people remember.

How can I make us the one that they think of when they’re deciding who to give their precious money too?


My day off, at work.

This week I planned Friday off. It’s not easy when you own the business, but I had a train to catch with family, to see my daughter in London. It’s a big deal and so instead of doing half a day and stressing about making the train, I booked my day off.

But I still had to nip in to work to do the banking, and do a handover to Simon my employee. Five mins max. Then I get my day off

  • But phone rang
  • Then a walk-in, a delivery, another walk-in and a problem.
  • The car key won’t programme.
  • The computer password is locked.
  • The parts are wrong.
  • Another walk-in!

This is my day off!

Then a customer who knows my wife (so I should give them some special attention) arrives (even though I’m not at work). So now I can’t dash off, and I’m struggling because the car is faulty,  and the key won’t programme. This should be a simple job.

Another phone call.
Another walk-in.
Time is ticking and I can’t sort this flipping key out.

Eventually my calm exterior must be cracking when I’m asked ‘you struggling?’

‘Well I’m not supposed to be here, it’s my day off..’maybe unprofessional but there, I said it.

‘If it were my day off, I’d just switch the phone off mate’….

Great advice  (bearing in mind I’m trying to actually fix your car)
Did I think that, or say it aloud?

It’s not easy when you’re the boss. It’s hard to say no, when, you want it all to go right. Sometimes the pull from home and customers feels like it will split me in two. How much easier just to have a clone of me!

So I deal with the walk-ins
and I deal with problems

and then a couple of hours later it’s all quiet.

I know Simon can cope
The backlog is clear.
So now I can go home now.

After all, this is my day off.

It Went to Plan

There are days when it all goes wrong. As a business owner it’s easy to feel that there’s a conspiracy. Job after job has problems, you’re not getting paid and its eating up your time. It’s easy to have a day where nothing went to plan.

However, when we have a day where it all goes right, how often do we stop and think how good it feels?

This Saturday was one of those days. Customers came, they were chatty and grateful. Everything worked and we earned some money. It all want to plan, a blueprint for a good day.

As I pulled down the roller shutter and set the answer machine, I took a minute to be grateful. We can take sucess for granted, but when it happens we should enjoy the small moments as much as we can.

When you’re planning your new business and you get a win, celebrate. Go for a drink, meal, or maybe just a run. Share the news with your partner so they don’t just hear the bad news!

Enjoy, it all went to plan.



The new Trendy CVA

I’ll be honest. I’d never even heard of a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) before last month. In the olden days, companies just went bust and shut up shop. However, it seems like over the last two months, the list of companies entering into a CVA just gets longer and longer. This very public process of reviewing just how in-trouble the business is, has become daily news.

The obvious start is overpriced food. Prezzo,  Jamie’s Italian, Byron and Chimichanga.

Then stuff we’re just learning to live without, Carpetright, Maplin and Poundworld,

Then of course, rediculously overpriced Jaques Vert, or the uninteresting clothing stores such as New Look.

Worryingly, healthcare is in there with Allied Healthcare, looking after our old folks in care homes.


Then this week, restaurant chain Gauch (whoever they are) and the iconic House of Fraser join the list.

So what is a CVA? It’s a badge. A label. It says ‘you can’t touch us for a while. We’re in trouble, we need some help’. It allows the rents to be negotiated and the refinancing to begin. Store closures and job losses follow to try and save the brand.

As the minister for magic said, ‘these are dark times, theres no denying’.

Are there just too many stores competiting for a tightening purse? or as a country, are we just not spending our money on overpriced tat any more?


My plumber problem solved

Solving problems is good business. This might be an emergency (Help…I put a nail through a pipe and water is pouring through roof). Or it’s normally a basic, routine problem, such as a car key battery needs changing. Just this week, our plumber problem was solved, and the water was fixed, let me explain.

We’ve been in our house for ten years, and it’s seen its fair share of plumbers. There was Dave, the family friend. I’ll do it cheap (but not show up). Then there was Bill, who came to sort out the problem Dave had caused. He insisted in showing us every part of the toilet system, very much into his work.Next please.

Then to sort this plumber problem came John. We did some locks for him, so it only seemed fair to offer him our next job that needed fixing. Well, it was still the job that Dave did at the very beginning, still not right and he told us all about it…

‘Blimey mate, who’s been in here? This should be a five- minute job.They done it all wrong. This isn’t meant to be here, it’s supposed to go there. Left handed, it should be right handed. What size pipe? No-one uses that for this job.

It went on and on. Like we’d failed to vet Dave, interview him, to check on his plumbing skills first, silly us. By the time he left the toilet flushed, but we still had a plumber problem. John had made us feel thoroughly stupid.

So, it’s no wonder that, when our hot water started to play up, I put off getting it fixed. Just the thought of another plumber in the house filled me with dread. This is a problem.

We need a another plumber.

Fortunately, my website man is part of a networking group and they’re always after tradesmen that leave a good impression, so here goes. I booked someone from his company to come out.

For a start, this smart, young man turned up, on time. Firstly, he listened to the problem, asked a few simple questions, and then just got on. He didn’t moan about the pipework, or the cowboy who’d been there before him.

He didn’t even scratch his backside, moan about the last job and how much work he had on.

‘You’re lucky to get me here mate’ wasn’t spoken.

He just fixed it, drunk his tea quick and was gone. It wouldn’t have mattered on the price, I was so impressed that he’s now in my phonebook.

This is what we should all strive for, this is the impression we all need to leave when people call us to solve their problem.

So impressed, I can leak water with confidence.  We no longer have a plumber problem.