Tuesday, 30 November 2010

December will bring the usual Christmas slowdown

December arrives tomorrow, and as the Christmas lights go up in people's homes and offices, so thoughts naturally turn towards the festive season. And despite, many good intentions, people begin to switch off from work. (Except for those in retail, of course.)

December has always been a quiet time for getting things done in the office. Any project that relies on as much work being done in December as in, say November, will fail. It is a disappointing fact of life.

Even if you can get through the first week or two with steely determination to cary on regardless, then by the third week - for example, this year the week starting 20 December - you will find yourself weighed down by the lack of enthusiasm for work shown by everyone else.

You might as well give up fighting and enjoy the Christmas period just like everybody else.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Royal Wedding no holiday for small businesses

It's all very well for the Royal Wedding on 29 April 2011 to be a cause for celebration, but for those of us who run small businesses, the declaration of a bank holiday is a royal pain!

A non-working day means no income for small businesses and freelancers.

Those who work for large corporates will be delighted, of course, as will any business that might make some money out of the occasion (a Wedding mug, anyone?).

Perhaps the secret is turn your business to try and make an advantage from the Big Day, but most of us do not make branded cups, or lacey goods that might be suitable.

How about: A 20% discount for everything ordered on 29 April 2011?

That might work.

Monday, 22 November 2010

We'll never run out of ideas

Having a big idea for a new business is what we are all looking for. The TV programme 'Dragons' Den' is all about this, as the so-called dragons trawl through the big ideas of the would-be entrepreneurs.

I was talking to someone the other day who seemed to think that all the ideas had been dreamt up already.

This is not correct and never will be.

Think back to, say, 1980. What major inventions have we had in the 30 years since then?

Take PCs and the World Wide Web as two major examples. The first eventually spawned the second and between they have given the platform for almost all of us to start up and run our own businesses, which for most would have been impossible before 1980.

So, there are always new ideas to be had. They may not all be on the scale of PCs and www, but you can form your own niche.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

No business loves Christmas like a retailer

Retailers look forward to Christmas as their busiest time of the year. For many, it is the key to survival as they achieve most of their annual sales in the Christmas period.

For those of us in small businesses that are not in the retail sector, however, Christmas is disruptive, and it seems to have begun early this year.

We have noticed a slowdown in orders recently. Of course, it may not be entirely down to the season, as the economic climate will undoubtedly be having an effect on the amount people and businesses are prepared to spend. However, i do think it is highly unlikely that things will get very busy for us again before Christmas and the New Year have passed.

The festive season can mean four to eight weeks of slowdown for non-retailers. So, while they are all busy dressing up their shops from the end of October, the rest of us have good reason to fob it off, and then hope it will go away very quickly.

In the meantime, pass the nuts, sherry and mince pies, and light a candle!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

How Mervyn might explain the inflation rise

Inflation was up again in October, to 3.2% from 3.1%. As it remains above the 2% Government target, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King has to write to Chancellor George Osborne explaining why this is so.

One can only imagine the letter.

“Dear George,

Inflation was ever-so slightly up last month to 3.2%. But, hey, it’s a good job we don’t use the old RPI figure – that was at 4.5%!

Of course, this rise isn’t really my fault (I can’t remember when it last was actually). It’s those pesky fuel people who keep putting prices up. Oh, and you might want to look at your own figures – that nuisance fuel tax rise on 1 October didn’t particularly help, did it?

I’m not sure you’ll be too bothered about this, but food inflation for those poorer folk was actually down. You might want to use that as a headline?

I reckon this rise is only temporary anyway (did you see my quote on that one?), so let’s not be too down; it’ll look good next month if inflation is down for Christmas, eh?

Mind you, then you’ve got that VAT rise coming in January, haven’t you? Again – not me!

Look, the bottom line is this: we can’t see beyond the next couple of months, but we’ll just say that inflation is likely to be down to 2% by 2012. How’s that?

Hope the family are well. Regards to David.


Thursday, 11 November 2010

Blackpool manager upsets the status quo

Many managers,when they enter a new organisation, want to "make their mark" and show what a difference they can make. They often end up changing things for change's sake and the result is to upset the status quo and they end up with disgruntled staff who perceive no benefit in the changes.

How refreshing it is to see a manager who does things his own way and doesn't worry too much about upsetting the norms and mores, not of the oragnisation he has joined, but of the profession he is in.

Step forward manager of Blackpool Football Club, Ian Holloway.

From the start of the season when Blackpool joined the Premier League for the first time, Holloway has been determined to do things his way, for example not paying his players the over-inflated salaries that most Premier League players get paid - but scarcely earn.

Last night Holloway made ten changes to his Blackpool side to face Aston Villa at Villa Park. The Premier League is understood to be investigating Holloway's decision. Holloway says he will resign if he is fined by the League. Last season Wolves manager Mick McCarthy was fined £25,000 (suspended) for fielding an apparently weakened team.

Holloway's team lost 3-2 at Villa last night, but Holloway maintained that they were worth a point, and opposing manager Gerard Houllier agreed.

Holloway was forthright after the game, saying: "I'm manager of Blackpool and I manage the players how I want. If some bright spark from the Premier League wants to tell me who I can pick then come and have a cup of coffee and you'll probably get it chucked in your lap.

"Let them try and fine me, it's an absolute disgrace. I'll show the Premier League. We were a credit to football, and let the Premier League try to tell me otherwise."

Good on ya, Ian. Buck the trends. I wish you luck.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The truckers of the night world

I drove home from Leeds to Woking last night between 10.30pm and 2.30am. It's motorway for 204 of the 212 miles.

What a different motorway world it was. The world of the truck driver.

Morrison, Royal Mail, Eddie Stobart, UKMail, Logistics companies by the dozen. Large trucks outnumbering cars by probably something like 15 to one. Columns of them working their way north (and south) to destinations around Britain.

It's a world most of us don't see.

On the motorways during the day there are more cars than trucks, but at night there are almost as many trucks, but far fewer cars.

The trucks are moving to stock Britain's shelves - not just the obvious supermarkets, but stockists of any kind - car parts, stationery, fuel, electronics - everything. They keep Britain ticking over.

Keep on trucking, guys!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Anyone for China?

I read that Chancellor George Osborne and Business Secretary Vince Cable are visiting China in an attempt to increase the amount of business done by Britain in China. Prime Minister David Cameron and 50 business leaders will join them tomorrow.

Mr Cameron will also raise the issue of human rights with Chinese officials, but it is the broadening of trade links that is the priority, with an emphasis on fast-growing development markets as exploited by both China and India.

Exports to China are on the increase, but are less than those to the Irish republic, for example. Vince Cable said that China had huge potential.

If you run a business it should star you wondering if you’re offering a product or service that might be wanted or needed by China, and, if so, how you can market it and deliver it there.

The Internet, of course, makes life much simpler that it used to be, but getting the message to China’s people might not be so straightforward.

Chinese translation, anyone?

Friday, 5 November 2010

Nonsense still rules in the office!

Now that I work from home, I don't have to put up with office bullsh*t any more. Or any of those crazy phrases that appear and (hopefully) disappear rather like records used to do in the charts.

An article on the BBC website showed some of the most hated currently. I'm pleased to say I've neve heard of some of them. These are my ten favourites (i.e. most hated) and the contributor.

  1. idea showers (Anon)
  2. product evangelist (Philip Lattimore)
  3. incentivise (Karl Thomas)
  4. touch base (Gemma)
  5. I've got you in my radar (Stephen Gradwick)
  6. low hanging fruit (Paul)
  7. 110% (Ricardo Molina)
  8. paradigm shifts (Barry Hicks)
  9. strategic staircase (Peter Walters)
  10. we are still optimistic things will feed through the sales and delivery pipeline (Alexander)
Oh dear, oh dear. For a more in depth review, see the orignal on the BBC website.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Service sector index on the rise

The UK service sector showed stronger than expected growth in October, which has boosted the pound.

The purchasing managers’ index (PMI), a survey of activity in the UK service sector, showed an increase to 53.2 in October, up from 52.8 in the previous month. A fall to 52.5 had been expected.

Boosted by the news, sterling rose by some 0.5%, to $1.614 and 1.148 euros.

The PMI is produced by data services company Markit and any number above 50 means an expansion in the sector. The October score was the highest since June.

As the sector represents around three-quarters of the UK economy, it is a significant figure. The survey also found evidence of increasing price pressures in the sector.

Nevertheless, service companies have lowered their expectations for the coming months due to concerns over the economy and the impact of government cuts.

Monday, 1 November 2010

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