A Look Back on October

As with life, business is full of unexpected twists and turns, flips and fuggles and October 2017 has been just that.

As we approach the final day of the month – Hallowe’en (which as someone with a phobia of zombies is really not much fun at all) it is surprising how much things have changed in just 31 days.

And then I suppose that is life itself – you can tread water for ages before suddenly a huge wave comes along that sweeps you somewhere completely unexpected, leaving you tumbling headfirst into new waters trying to catch your breath and hoping your swimsuit hasn’t ended up in a compromising position.

We hadn’t been treading water exactly. The last few years have been full of steady growth – of us, as well as the business. But this month, our first month trading officially as our bathroom business, has definitely been all about swimming in a very different ocean from before.

So we were always due to hit a few waves as we crossed into new waters.

In short, October 2017 has been challenging, rewarding, terrifying, frustrating, demanding and – overall – exciting!

We started our first job under the new company banner on October 2nd. A dated, traditional bathroom to be transformed into a luxury shower room for its elderly residents. It was always going to be a challenge to complete within two weeks as they also wanted a storage unit to be built in one corner, but it was just about do-able.

It wasn’t just the new business name, this was the start of our new way of working, our new approach of scheduling jobs into timescales and making them happen, as opposed to a less confident, slightly airy-fairy approach of things taking as long as they need to take – impossible to plan around. Dean and our newly-trained employee Craig were fired up and ready for the new challenge.

Meanwhile, in my office I was feeling pleasantly smug that we were in a seriously good place. Carla, our wonderful VA, and I had some highly polished systems and we were ready to get busy! We got on great, the time difference between the UK (me) and the Philippines (Carla) completely irrelevant. Her loyalty to us and her excitement for our future matched mine.

And then, the worst happened – she became ill. A few days off turned into a week, then, because she hoped to be able to come back, stretched into a few weeks. I have no reason not to believe her – she has sent me the medical documents, although I didn’t ask – but sadly it looks like she will need surgery before things will improve.

At first her work sat undone, waiting for her return. But when she did attempt to work, it was clear she wasn’t able to concentrate and mistakes were made. Eventually, last week I had to tell her that we would find someone else – someone temporary – in the hope that Carla can return to work eventually.

I called a lovely lady who runs an admin support service, who I had met at a networking event, and as I type this she is beavering away at the mountain of receipts that has mounted up as I waited for Carla’s return.

Staffing, and managing staffing, and knowing how to manage staffing, will be one of the biggest challenges ongoing, I can tell!

Back to the bathroom, which proved to be extremely tough. Once the bathroom was stripped out, everything that could have been tricky or challenging proved to be. The pipework was strange, the drainage challenging.

Dean made a couple of silly mistakes, that he kicked himself for, including prepping the room for a shower tray that measured 160cm in length.

Missing out the crucial extra 20 cm that he needed for the 180 cm tray ordered and paid for and waiting in the couple’s garage!

Actually I may have kicked him for that one, too.

A replacement tray was ordered, and the couple agreed they would be happy with the smaller size. I reduced their bill for the inconvenience – it seemed the right thing to do. Other challenges were – eventually – conquered – and they are pleased with the outcome. We need to go back for one more day to fit the storage unit doors and fit a last trim to the splashback around the basin. We have lost a lot of money on this job, and it will hit us hard.

But the learning was priceless. Even as we pushed our way through it all, both Dean and I had a strong feeling that everything that was happening was right and was happening because it needed to.

As a result, we have sharpened up our practices, improved the wording of how we go to price up jobs and – hopefully – put a few systems in place to prevent silly mistakes from being made.

The next two jobs – one completed and one still ongoing – another elderly couple going from bathroom to shower room – have both gone completely differently. We took the learnings from the first job, and both have been much kinder to us anyway.

As a result of receiving so many inquiries from older people, we also decided to register for VAT sooner rather than later. It was – still is! – a complete unknown for both of us, but October 1st was our start date and so October 31st will be the date of our first return. Gosh. Kind of sums up the whole rollercoaster of a month.

Oh and in between it all we are working on our own house. We finally have some heating installed, the kitchen is ripped out and the skeleton of the downstairs is being revealed – stones and timbers that haven’t seen the light of day since approximately 1790. What a gift to have the opportunity to transform a property. What an honour.

Oh! The learning curves can be breathtaking at times but the journey is spectacular! Here’s to November!

 

 

October Goals!

It’s October! Suddenly the summer has come crashing to an end and the year is starting to feel old without anyone really realising.

On one hand I am horrified at how fast the year is speeding past, on the other, the start of a new month means the opportunity to start afresh, to set targets and goals.

I set goals back in August, and then failed to do pretty much all of them except for the ones that involved setting up our new business. But that was pretty all-encompassing and now, with each passing day, there is less to do than there was, so I feel I am starting to get some time back during the day.

So here are my goals for October 2017, to be renewed and re-set in November.

Weight reduction, fitness and exercise goals…

Business goals…

And these are minimum gals, I am kinda hoping to smash ’em!

I am already looking forward to checking in on my progress at the start of November!

Back on Exante

It would be fair to say that my journey to lose 44lbs at the age of 44 has had its challenges.

The biggest challenge of all has been my inability to keep going.

Seriously, Exante is such a fantastic, effective diet I am furious with myself for being so weak. I know it can work – fast – as long as you stick to it.

I am in AWE of people on the Exante Diet official Facebook group who have stuck to it for months. And, of course, they’ve seen the results they deserve to see.

As for me, well I’ve fannied about, frankly, and after losing 22lbs earlier this year – so halfway to my goal – I’ve since stumbled.

In August I started again and after a strong start I fell at the third fence – or at least the start of week three. And then never recovered. And then I did what all really bad bloggers/YouTubers do, I disappeared. Partly in shame, partly in denial.

So today, Sunday, I weighed myself and decided to film the weight, more as a way for me to remember my weight than anything else. And then, as I waited for something to download, I checked in at YouTube. There were messages and comments that I hadn’t seen, asking where I was and how I was getting on.

I don’t know about you but when a total stranger takes the time to tell you they are missing your motivation, that is one jolt back into action.

So here we are folks. 12 stone 5 7/8ths lbs, or 173 7/8th lbs. A weight that I have circled around for years.

And a drawer full of Exante products. Back on it as of tomorrow!

4Networking and the BNI

I’ve only gone and done it.

I’ve joined not one, but two, networking groups!

I joined 4Networking a couple of months ago now. Our nearest group is in the next town, assuming our bathroom and wetroom business grows as we hope it will, that will be our next area. So it’s a good place to make contacts.

4Networking is a network across the UK of business professionals, every meeting involves a speaker and everyone then gets three 10-minute one-to-one’s with other members. Once you join you can visit other groups and it’s all quite gentle, friendly getting-together and promoting.

And then … this week I joined the BNI! (Business Network International).

So the BNI is 4Networking on steroids, basically. Only one of each profession is allowed to be a member of each group, or chapter, and then all the members work to help each other by gathering referrals as they go along.

It’s pretty hardcore, and I’m a little nervous.

But I think it’s pretty crucial for the business and also for me as an individual.

Because I’ve never had what I would call a ‘real job’ and never had to work to targets or similar, I know that one of my weakest areas is in pure hard selling. And I’m pretty sure the BNI will help me improve on that.

I’ve signed up for a year.  One morning each week I will meet the rest of my chapter at 6.30am for breakfast and networking, and I’ll give them the details of the potential clients I’ve found for them. And the clients I get from them I will have to ensure we act on and do the best job possible.

It’s all slightly scary! But here’s to the future – the future’s bright, the future’s BNI!

 

 

 

Stop Complaining and Get Grateful!

I LOVE this lady, Terri Savelle Foy!

Her clear and compassionate films offer guidance and support for almost all life’s challenges.

I always feel better when I listen to her.

This film is definitely worth putting 10 minutes aside to listen to – and then put her suggestion into practice.

It could actually send you leaping forward over whatever hurdles are holding you back right now – so enjoy!

 

 

A Wasted Journey… almost

So it could have been infuriating.

On Wednesday night Dean and I left Cumbria for the 223-mile journey down to Peterborough.

We were due on the Joint Venture course at Progressive Property*. Two whole days of learning how to work with investors – which agreements to use, how to ensure we stay well within the law and within agreements that will work for us, any potential investors and everyone else.

Wednesday was a crazy day. Hey, every day is crazy for us!

My parents have come to stay for a month (I enrolled them in Sam-and-dog-sitting some weeks ago), and just before they arrived Dean decided to take down a wall and the old ceiling in their en suite. Then he found the existing shower was faulty. Then, both jobs we had ongoing developed unexpected issues. So, everything fell behind schedule and when my parents arrived, wearily stepping into the house after a long, long drive, the room was still filthy and full of tools and Dean was flustered and busy with hours ahead.

Naturally, one of our neighbours/friends who has been incredibly supportive then called to say her bath was leaking into the floor below.

It was also enrolment night for Sam at his new college course.

We had an appointment booked with potential bathroom clients which I had provisionally aimed at approximately 5.30pm.

So the plan was to casually swan off, all ready and prepared at 4.30pm, pop into college with Sam, then leave him settling in with all his new friends and with money to take the train home while we headed south, via the potential clients.

Of course that didn’t happen!

At 4pm, with Dean still hard at work, I took my mum and the dogs up to the field so she could see what to do when it came to walking them.

At 4.50pm I took Sam into college, he enrolled, but of course we couldn’t leave him, they needed to speak to me. Apparently adults are still responsible for young people, even once they have reached the dizzy age of 16!

Dean and I finally left at 6.30pm, got to the friend/neighbour’s who had by then gone out, we made it to the client’s house at 7pm – they want to go ahead, which is good news – and eventually set off on the long road south at 8 pm.

And then came the final disaster. As we neared the final 90 minutes of the journey, the A1 was closed with a diversion in place. It took us on a wide tour of central England, a long line of diverted traffic crawling through sleeping villages and past dark farms, as we argued over whether we should stick to the diversion or follow a different route using our phones. It was well past midnight by the time we got to the hotel and entered our stale smoke-filled room. The mattress was pretty lumpy and uncomfortable – a little like a water bed, wobbling every time one of us moved.

We arrived at Progressive Property towers just before 9;30am on Thursday feeling absolutely shattered. Even through my exhaustion I sensed something was wrong when I saw the small group of peple gathered there, with trainers I recognised from a different course – I’ve done plenty of courses at Progressive, I usually can’t recommend them highly enough.

My sinking feeling turned out to be right. The course had been cancelled some weeks earlier and for some reason I was never notified. It was pretty mortifying after the long drive and the cost of the fuel, hotel and, most importantly, our TIME.

But, it was my own fault for not checking and, with the benefit of hindsight, it seems extremely stupid to have set off for such a long way without double checking the event was still on. (In my defense, all the courses I’ve attended previously at Progressive Property have all run as planned, in fact they’ve all without fail been absolutely superb learning.)

We returned to the hotel in a disappointed daze, gutted to have wasted so much time, but determined to make the best of it that we could. We popped to the shopping centre next to the hotel and bought some new shirts for Dean (he was a man in desperate need of a few shirts!) Then we set  off for home feeling shattered and resentful and dreaming of the wonderful sleep we would have had that night if we were at home. As Dean drove, I leaned against my pillow and tried – failed – to sleep.

And then, something miraculous happpened. From somewhere came a second burst of energy, and we started talking about the property we’re living in, the one we’ve been considering turning into a house of multiple occupancy – an HMO.

We priced up pretty much the entire work needed, something we’ve been planning to do for ages. If the sums don’t work, we won’t do the work needed to create the HMO, so this was crucial.

We also stopped at a few kitchen places on our way back up north.

It meant that once we arrived back at home, to two delighted dogs and three bemused humans, we could begin a serious discussion about what to do with the property. And so the decision was reached. There will be no HMO. Instead we will renovate to a high standard, ready for a family home, and either let it or sell it as such.

The work needed to make this old, slightly awkward property into a 5-bed, 5-en suite HMO is just too much and too expensive. It would take every penny that we have, and it would take forever. And right now we need to keep hold of some money, and we need as soon as possible to be able to concentrate 100% on the business.

And although I’d been looking forward to putting an HMO together, it is a relief to have finally made a decision. Now we can move forward, get it done, and get back to business.

I would have preferred not to spend hours in the van, traipsing for miles through the dark, not really sleeping on a dodgy mattress, and losing a day’s work.

But by deciding not to let the day be a waste, we turned something that could have been really negative into a positive, and that was definitey worth doing.

(Oh, and Progressive have offered to reimburse what we’ve spent and they’ve given us a choice of dates to attend the next course, so we will be back – although we might change hotel.)

 

*Progressive Property is probably the UK’s biggest and best property success story, started by two friends and colleagues, Rob Moore and Mark Homer, and offering fantastic training into how to make money from property. Their courses are awesome (we’ve been on loads of them) and it all starts at their Multiple Streams of Property Income course (MSOPI) which is a 3-day course all about property. Tickets usually cost a few hundred pounds but they are free if you get referred from someone else – if you would like free tickets email me at projectlifesuccess@gmail.com and I will make sure you get yours!

I am giving up!

I’m out, chaps. It is over…

For now, anyway.

Foxy Loves, my e-commerce pet product store, has nothing left to sell and is about to officially close.

I have had a ball. My first venture into e-commerce and I’ve worked with some wonderful people – suppliers, designers and customers. I’ve stayed up all night dealing with delays to an order and I’ve sucked my breath in hard as a spate of refund requests all arrived together.

Even more so, I’ve held my breath as Amazon has switched and increased its fees, its algorhythm and its rules.

When I launched my small pet product business, importing from China and selling through Amazon.com across the US, it was pretty easy.

You offered products for free or huge discount in return for reviews and as the reviews came in your sales grew with them.

Then, Amazon banned all discount reviews and the goalposts changed. As always happens in business and indeed in life, nothing stays the same and people must adapt to deal with those changes.

The challenges grew, I grew with them and had the most amazing Q4 – the in-trade name for the final three months of the year. Seriously, as Christmas came closer, the sales were breathtaking. I would pick up my phone every morning to see the sales (it isn’t midnight on the US west coast until 8am in the UK, so plenty of time to check in).

I was also able to divert 50 dog beds out of a delivery of 500 to donate them to a Chinese charity that rescues dogs from the slaughterhouses there. THAT felt good, let me tell you!

In short, it was a rollercoaster.

Foxy doing some late night research into finding products to sell
My sketch which formed the basis of Foxy Loves logo
But I always knew I needed more money to give me really good purchasing power to buy stock at the best price.

And as I’ve grown busier here, I started to struggle to fit everything in.

The final straw came with the latest round of long term storage fees issued by Amazon. My last shipment was delayed, leaving me with more stock than I had planned.

With hundreds of items sitting in Amazon’s American warehouses, I was stuck. I couldn’t get them out of Amazon – I literally had nowhere to send them. For the first time I started to feel very vulnerable.

It was time to get out.

I held a huge sale and cleared the last of my stock this week. I’m just waiting for the inevitable refund or two (even at sale price!) and I’ll be closing my account. I have lost money, but not quite as much as I would have done – and now I can concentrate on other things.

I feel slightly relieved but mostly quite sad because it has been an amazing experience. I had no knowledge of retail before, now my eyes have been opened. Retail is gambling, basically – researched and educated, but every product is a gamble by the retailer.

I WILL be back.

But, when I’m back I’ll sell in the UK – so much more manageable – and I won’t be sourcing from China. Maybe I got lucky but I’ve had nothing but good experiences dealing with the Chinese.

But I just can’t justify sourcing pet products from a country with no animal welfare laws and that encourages animal torture, and I have told my suppliers that.

So it’s the end of an era but hopefully the right decision to allow me to concentrate on the businesses that I have here, right now.

 

 

 

 

 

How many of us are Self Sabotaging our own lives?

I think – I KNOW – that I have self-sabotaged. Because sometimes failure is the easier option.

Success sounds great on paper but it brings with it responsibility, a move out of the comfort zone, the loss of old habits…

So even though we WANT success, our fears and weaknesses could be holding us back, causing our subconscious to sabotage our own journey.

I have sabotaged my own diet many, many times. If I am honest, I have probably also sabotaged my own success.

Take five minutes to listen to this by the fantastic Tony Robbins.

Unfortunately Tony does describe an experiment which involved giving rhesus monkeys electric shocks – which frankly is just disgusting and anyone who even thinks doing that to animals has no place on Earth in the 21st Century.

But, he does

 

 

Worth the Weight

I didn’t want to say anything too early, but I’ve just completed my first week back on the fantastic Exante Diet.

As part of my Project to develop a Successful Life, I am determined to make achieving a healthy weight a big part of it. And at the grand old age of 44, I decided to set my target at a reduction of 44lbs.

I lost 22 of those lbs a few months ago, documenting my progress on my YouTube channel. And then I lost focus and decided I would maintain for a while – yeah right – and got back into eating my own body weight on a regular basis, gaining 10 of those lbs back.

Plus, I’ve been so busy recently getting the business ready that I’ve almost forgotten what exercise is. Literally, hours of sitting at the computer, writing copy for the website, writing contracts, writing blog posts – or not! Even dog walks have been down to the bear minimum.

Last Sunday I woke up and just decided it was just time to get back on the Exante diet wagon. One of those unexpected but agreeable decisions that come from the feeling ‘enough is enough’.

This time, I decided I would record not just my weekly progress but daily – every mealtime in fact. That’s quite a commitment, as I discovered!

It’s also quite a lot of footage! Too much for one film! So I split the week into two – this is the first film covering Days 1-3:

The week ended on a real high at my weigh-in this morning with 6.5lbs gone – half a lb off half a stone!

Needless to say I feel so much better already – my stomach is flat(tish), I have more energy and my clothes are fitting more loosely.

Returning to the Exante products has literally been like meeting old friends again! Why I didn’t keep it going while ‘maintaining’ I will never know – I really could have replaced one meal every day with a product and that would have helped. I know now that is what I need to do to maintain, once I achieve my healthy goal weight of 146 lbs (10 stone 6lbs).

So I finished the week with this film.

I’ve been doing some affirmations recently (if you don’t know what they are, check out this article which explains all about them and gives some good examples you can use).

I’ve been reminding myself that:

“I am strong, focused and self-disciplined” because these are three areas I figured I needed some reminding about.

This week, I’ve felt stronger, more focused and more self-disciplined than ever. I actually feel that I am going to get to goal, and I’ve never, ever felt that certainty before.

Many successful people swear by the power of affirmations, but I have to admit I’ve never done them rigidly enough before to give them chance to work.

Could it be that I am experiencing some of their magical effect?! Whatever it is, I like it!

 

 

 

 

Anger, earthquakes and 4Networking

Crikey, what a day yesterday was!

It began dramatically enough. Actually it began REALLY dramatically, only a few hours after Dean and I fell out quite badly.

It is unlike us to ever argue but I was annoyed at him going off to golf (he generally plays three times a week – am I being unreasonable?) while I was left to supposedly take Frankie to dog training class, even though I have so much work to do on the business. Then at 4.30 am he woke me by standing up and pulling the covers, sharply, to straighten the bed.

He swore he didn’t do it deliberately, but I know that I could feel the malice in the action. It’s really not as though he has EVER done that before. So, I switched the light on, an argument ensued, he stomped off to a different bedroom and I picked up my laptop and started working – my alarm was due to go off at 5.30 anyway.

At 6.30 I waited for Carla our wonderful VA to get in touch for the first of our weekly Friday morning meetings. She spent yesterday preparing much of the financial reports, profit and loss calculations etc, that we had agreed would be on the agenda.

Then a message came through on Skype:

“Izzy there is an earthquake here.”

“We are hiding under the table. I’m scared.”

When someone you have gotten to know sends you a message like that, you forget all your domestics. A tense thirty minutes or so followed, until she messaged saying it seemed to be over.

The meeting, when it finally happened, was a success. And they will only get better, as they become habit and we start to explore and compare reports further. It was interesting to see how within a few minutes of seeing the first report, we were talking about the need to reduce how much we spend in materials and other outgoings. (Dean and I were talking for the meeting, although it died off again soon after the meeting closed).

This was exactly how our weekly business meeting looked!

I remember Kevin Green, the multi-millionaire whose weekend we attended right back at the start of our self-improvement journey, saying it was so important wherever he was in the world that he knew the exact figures for his business. Every Thursday his PA Suzanne preps the reports so he has it all to read during breakfast on Friday. It made perfect sense at the time – except I didn’t really know quite what those reports would consist of.

I do now though!

I’m just going to go off on a tangent for a minute, bear with me:

The Law of Attraction – it’s true!

You probably have heard of The Law of Attraction. If you haven’t already, you MUST watch the film The Secret. I am very open to the claims made by believers of the Law of Attraction, but I have to say I often felt like it somehow passed me by.

Recently, though, I have found it working more than ever. I’d say that actioning change in our lives can create some pretty impressive energies, bringing sometimes the people or knowledge we were just needing, into our lives at the right time. Now I don’t know if that’s the Law of Attraction or simply a movement of energy, but I like it!

And so it was, 4 weeks ago, when I made my first visit to my local 4Networking group Friday morning breakfast. (I joined, immediately, because, well, just because, and no doubt I’ll post about it in more detail later.)

The guest speaker was a solicitor, and as it customary her 20-minute presentation was not about her business, but giving content and value to those who were present.

On this occasion, I heard her speak and knew it was what I was needing to know, exactly at the right time. I wrote each one of these points and they quickly became:

Our Weekly Business Meeting Agenda!

1. Profit/loss for the week

2. Profit/loss for individual jobs

3. How much have we invoiced this week?

4. How much are owed?

5. How much do we owe?

6. Cash flow – what’s the bank balance today?

7. How much owed to tax?

8. How much owed to VAT (not yet!)

I was thirty minutes late to the meeting yesterday morning, my third visit, and I explained during my 30-second spiel what had happened, and how grateful I feel that I live in a country where we don’t have to worry about earthquakes and other natural disasters. I mean, no one knows what is going to happen tomorrow, but Britain is a pretty safe place to be.

Did you know? Your Network is Your Net Worth

Success and wealth gurus are forever reminding us how our Network is our Net Worth – here’s a great article explaining the theory behind it – and whaddaya know, someone even wrote this book about it!

Right now, my network – ie, the people I know and hang out with – is pretty much:

Me (all day at home)

The dogs Foxy and Frankie (delightful company but no great investment potential)

Sam my stepson (also fab but again, not a current business partner)

and

Dean (and the less said about him the better).

So I definitely need to get out more! Joining 4Networking was a deliberate move to grow my circle and list of contacts. The meetings are super-friendly and enjoyable – and as you can see, I’ve learned loads already.

So all in all we’ve had a pretty good week (notwithstanding arguments and earthquakes). We’ve finalised our letterhead, we have spoken to plumbers, tilers and a joiner to get them all on board, our new systems are in place on the en suite renovation that began on Monday. I’ve updated some of our details on Checkatrade, with more to do this week.

We’ve also pretty much pinned ourselves down to start work on this property (the one we’re living in) at the start of October. We’ve booked the tilers for two weeks at the end of November, so now Dean and I need to sit down and draw up a plan for the renovation, working backwards from then. Both exciting and terrifying!

Dean and I have pretty much made up now, I’m glad to say, so we can concentrate on moving forward. He’s playing golf again today, but that was booked ages ago. I’m just hoping for the odd occasion when he actually acts like he is happy spending time with us instead of constantly obsessing about golf. That truly would be a miracle so maybe there’s little chance of that happening, but you never know, now the Law of Attraction is kicking in that miracle might just occur!

 

 

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