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Change your life

Change your life

People want to work with us!

Just a quick, quick blog to note something amazing!

I just took a call from a guy asking if we have any jobs going – “because I heard you’re a good company”.

OMG!!!! This is everything I dreamed of! One of our aims is to be a good employer. How completely fabulous to have achieved it.

In other news, loads has happened and I haven’t blogged in ages. Need to dash now but I’ll update soon. Some good some bad and some heartbreaking.

Change your life

Starting Strong 2019

You know what, it’s been a fantastic start to a new year. Probably because we’ve got into action plan pretty quickly. Tomorrow marks a week since the new year began, and already I – we – have a few achievements under our belt.

Firstly, one of my new year resolutions is to get back into running with the dogs. It will be some time before Foxy’s up to running, but Frankie is a great companion.

Despite various attempts at losing weight, I’ve managed to start the new year heavier than I have ever been. I don’t seem to be able to stick to any diet these days, but at least getting running again will be fantastic.

Last year I started following a dog events company and today they had organised an informal walk, just a 5km/3 mile route.

They have another event organised for the end of January and I plan to run/jog that route. What a great goal to aim for!

Second, we’ve started a new thing, which we put into action yesterday – the One-stop property shop!

Last summer, after a really busy week, I had a Saturday afternoon when I was snuggling with the dogs and kept getting interrupted by phone calls from people needing our plumbing service.

We don’t yet have a business premises, we will do at some point but until the right place comes along we remain a home-based business.

So after my interrupted Saturday afternoon I started to wonder how we could create a ‘buffer’ between our home and public calls.

At the same time, I was conscious that many people constantly ask us if we know an electrician, a plasterer etc, and tell us they can never get a plumber, etc etc. I know booking a trade can be a really difficult thing to do, especially for people who live alone or even don’t find phone calls easy to do. It’s also really hard if that trade doesn’t turn up.

In addition, I haven’t been very prolific with referrals for my fellow BNI members recently. Now that I no longer really visit clients I am not out there meeting people like I used to be. It’s partly why I decided to take on the presidency, so that I would be doing a bit more for the group even if I’m not bringing in huge numbers of referrals.

I came up with the idea of the 1-stop property shop, based in the village hall once a month, where people could visit, get advice, and assuming we know the right person, we could link the client with an appropriate expert. So if people are looking for an electrician, or a plasterer, a mortgage broker or architect, we can put them in touch. And because we have recommended them, we hope they will give them some preferential treatment, if they need it.

So yesterday morning D and I set up our stall in the village hall and waited for people to come in. We ended the morning with three inquiries – a removal/man with a van, a heating engineer and a handyman to cut a hedge. It was three more than I thought we might get, and there are three people for us to give a fantastic service to and help.

I am so excited about 2019. As I mentioned in my last post, we hope to build on our business success. I want to make some decent money in 2019. I also want to move house. I’m also planning to bring someone new into the business… more on that later!

Change your life

Happy New Year 2019!

OMG I hope you’ve had a blast, I hope you’re ready for the new start and I hope it’s a good one – for all of us.

After such a busy run-up to Christmas, we were all set for a sedate trot into 2019 – but then I got a booking for our Airbnb room which we haven’t done in forever because we’ve always had people in the room.

But now my dad’s moved in next door we decided to move the room to his house! Well, he does have 2 spare bedrooms…

Cue a busy 48 hours decorating, purchasing, furnishing and finalising the new room and it looked lovely by the time the young Australian couple arrived. (It was a bit weird having them next door, and I was a bit concerned for my dad… it went ok, but I don’t think we’ll do it again. It’s just a bit weird having an elderly man on his own and I’m not sure how fair it is on any party. Anyway at least we now have a fabulous room for whoever wants to come and stay.)

Anyway, it turned into the longest New Year’s Eve ever! The Airbnb guests were due around 6 pm but finally arrived shortly before 10 – it was a good job we didn’t have tickets booked for anything! (Yeah like that would ever happen!)

In the end it felt like it had been nearly 2019 for about three days, but all we had planned was a night in together and a nearly-midnight walk with the dogs.

This is what our New Year’s Eve looks like…

And the magic happened. Some 13/14 weeks ago our sweet Fox went into surgery to fuse her arthritic leg, and we were given the date of December 21st for her to go off-lead again. I will write a post on the nightmare that it has all been, but in the meantime let’s just say she definitely had NOT not been ready to go off-lead… but on the night of December 31st, in the dark, on a safe quiet stretch of country lane, the lead was unclipped and finally – FINALLY – she took 10 minutes of freedom. It was wonderful, and quite emotional. What a way to end 2018.

The last walk of 2018 – both dogs off lead!!!

On the whole, 2018 has been all we could have asked for and more. A few downs as expected and plenty of challenges but mostly ups ups ups and aways. Surprisingly so, really.

We’ve grown in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of (although much of that has been my waistline) and we’ve been joined by some really fabulous people on this crazy journey, I’m so grateful for our team!

2019 is set to be pretty exciting – we have soooo many plans and ambitions some of them completely terrifying others just plain old beyond exciting.

Part of me is curious to know what post I’ll be writing 12 months from now, hopefully I won’t be posting from the gutter, instead here’s hoping our businesses will go from strength to strength, hopefully a house move (might even get a decent living room and be able to unpack after 4 years), I’ve set myself some decent goals for fitness, education and personal development to keep us on track – got to keep these pups in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed hey?

HAPPY 2019 EVERYONE!! Hope the new year brings you everything you hope it will!!

Oh, and one of my new years resolutions for 2019 is to blog more, I promise!

Change your life

Boxing Day 2018

Planning our business so we get to where we want to be

I hope you had a fabulous Christmas Day yesterday!

I did. At least I think I did. I mean, it was lovely, really it was. Somehow if you don’t have children, and especially young children, you never quite recover the wonder of Christmas and so even the nicest of Christmas days can still seem a bit flat. My stepson and our youngest employee C lives with us, but he’s 18 and moody, so it’s hardly magical.

When I compare to our Christmas last year, when we only just got the kitchen finished in time and were still living in a renovation pit, it has been pretty good.

But D and I spent almost every moment together, we took both the dogs out to see the sheep (pretty momentous actually – more on that later), then we both cooked dinner together, we all ate dinner together and then I persuaded D and C to watch The Secret with me.

Seriously, that film gets better every time I watch it. I swear I must have seen it a dozen times now and each time I pick up something new. Plus I just love Bob Proctor, and he’s in it so it has to be good! (Sadly D fell asleep not long into it, so he will just have to have a re-showing).

The day ended with a walk with Frankie which turned into a swim (for her, not me) and then we watched the story of Torvill and Dean on tv. In bed. So a pretty fabulous ending to a lovely day, even if I can’t absolutely be sure it was lovely.

It was the perfect ending to a crazy build-up. I know the festivities will go on until the new year for many, but that’s pretty much it for me on the socialising/partying front, even though we have closed the business until January 7th.

The last week of work was a busy one, what with the community project on the football loos, then our company Christmas night out. D and I then made a laughable attempt at Christmas shopping on Saturday, oh and I had to walk to get the car from where we’d left it partying, then on Sunday I went to Manchester to drink gin with a dear friend, it was great to catch up with her and share some gossip from my old days in telly.

On Monday D and I drove to Leeds to drop pressies off and see his family. And before we knew it, it was Tuesday and Christmas Day and although the only guest was my dad, it was still a busy day cooking and then recovering.

I decided some time ago that today, Boxing Day, would be our recovery day. We wouldn’t be doing much except watching films and chilling.

So naturally I awoke this morning with an inability to sit still and a burning desire to get busy. It was officially time to do one of my favourite things – setting goals and planning how to achieve them.

It was soooo good to be at home with D, tidying up our kitchen and our lives, making plans and agreeing strategy.

I’ll post more of our plans later but in the meantime, I am starting to feel like 2019 is going to be a seriously good year. And by good I mean exciting, productive and lucrative.

It’s hard to describe but I have so many plans in my head and it can be hard to work out when each one will or should begin. But laying out a roadmap for the year can suddenly make things like that clear. Sure enough, I can now see that if all goes to plan on our existing two businesses, I will be in a position to bring in our third business a year from now.

So now we’ve clarified our journey, I can bring my concentration back to the small stuff of the here and now. And I’ll complete these smaller tasks faster and better for knowing how each one is moving is forward, forever closer to our dream.

We have just less than two weeks before we are back in action and the world gets super busy again and I intend to make the most of it.

There’s loads to be done before January 7th – D will be going in to complete the football loos and he has a kitchen to complete. I have a gazillion things to work on, including our tax returns, emptying my email inbox and umpteen admin-y-style projects that I want to get clear before our administrator angel C comes back to work and fills me with shame me for my messy desk and lack of action.

We did sit down, eventually, this afternoon, and had a gorgeous snuggle on the sofa with our two sweet pups – at least until my mum and sister facetime’d me 30 minutes before it ended and the moment was broken.

But it didn’t matter. Now that we’ve clarified our plans – or at least part of them – I’m feeling more inspired and excited than ever. There will be plenty of time for dog snuggles when we’re loaded!!

Change your life

A helping hand

If you were asked to define success, what would you say?

I know I’m not the only one who struggles to do it, because few material things appeal. I have no desire for a Porsche, or a yacht, or diamonds. And sometimes it makes me wonder if I will ever be satisfied.

I know D feels the same way I do, but luckily there is one thing we do both feel, and that is a wish to help others through our success.

So back in the summer I read a Facebook post (aka rant) about the local village football team and how they were struggling to pay the rent on their football ground. Bizarrely, because he really is not a good reader, D also read the post. Unlike me, he got straight on the phone and offered to help.

(I didn’t offer, not because I wasn’t planning on, but firstly because I read it and thought oh I’ll discuss that with Dean later and see if we want to offer any help, and secondly because it was a semi-political rant complaining about the rent being charged by the village association, so my instincts said obviously not to get involved.)

But, involved we got and so we agreed to go meet up with the football manager at the next game. We could help, he said, but rather than financially, they could really use an update to their toilets and the referee shower room.

He wasn’t kidding. The ref’s shower was pretty grim, and the toilets were split into one loo and then an open urinal which you had to walk past to get to the toilet. It was all a bit unusable by any female spectators or possibly eventually players.

I was rather surprised to see how many local lads were members – most of whom had their own building businesses, hmmmm – but hey ho maybe none of them were able to re-fit a shower room or toilet. Anyway, we put that to one side and decided to take the opportunity to do the project whenever we could. The week of December 17th seemed likely – we probably wouldn’t be welcome inside anyone’s home to do any building work. So we put the plans to one side until December.

The project was done, with us providing the labour and local suppliers providing the materials and building products. Obviously, I took the opportunity to market the event, so I did a daily video from the site with updates on the work and shared across social media.

The response has been amazing. Lots of thanks and likes, and it’s surprising this hadn’t been done years ago really by someone on the team. But, sometimes it takes a bit of outside energy to make things happen.

Being able to do this community project and improve the facilities for a group of local people, really is the definition of success for D and I.

Forget diamonds, Range Rovers and electric gates, being able to turn up with 3 lads and a bunch of know-how to make someone’s Christmas means more than any luxuries.

I guess that, right there, is our definition of success!

Change your life

We did it!

The dance floor on our Christmas do 2018

You may recall how in December 2017 I looked around a heavily decorated room filled with drunken, dancing, happy people celebrating Christmas, and set myself the goal that in 2018 we would also have our first proper Christmas do.

I am proud, excited and slightly emotional to say we did it.

There were six of us, as our fabulous administrator C couldn’t make it, so I invited a few of the trades we regularly work with and so we had a fabulous table of 20 at D’s regular golf club.

The night was a success. There is always a danger that when you mix employees and alcohol things could get messy, and sure enough, they did, but we managed to call it a night just before anything got out of hand.

We took our place in a busy room full of tables of other businesses and as I looked around I couldn’t help but feel so proud of all that we have achieved. We’ve survived, we’re comfortably well over our first year, and we’re doing ok, we are paying our employees and we are moving forward.

Our business journey, like my success project, is exactly that – a journey – we certainly haven’t arrived at our destination, wherever that may be, but this was a glorious step and waymarker.

I have to admit, I wasn’t feeling completely good about going. I weigh probably the most I’ve ever weighed at the moment, and even though I picked up a charity shop bargain dress I didn’t feel particularly good about myself. I really have to do something about my weight in 2019, if I am able to.

But going back to Friday night, there was no way I could let my weight stop me enjoying the night and our celebration of all that we had achieved.

I was so proud of D. He shone as the business owner with his name over the door. He got comfortably drunk, when the plasterer got very drunk and rowdy D joined in just enough to be able to control him without becoming authoritarian.

He spent a lot of time on the dance floor, as did I. Firstly it was just so good to be able to move – something I don’t do enough of at the moment! And secondly it distanced himself from the dramas going on.

I looked back on past Christmas do’s I’ve been to, back to 1998 when I joined a small TV production company which, like us, had started in a spare bedroom. I remembered the husband and wife team who ran it and thought how funny it was that two decades on D and I were experiencing the same emotions that they would have been – including the slightly bemusing sight of seeing your employees drunk for the first time.

So yes, it was amazing. Will we do it again? Absolutely – but maybe not such an alcohol-driven evening event. No doubt our Christmas do’s will evolve just as the business does.

Tell you what though, I can’t wait to find out what I’m writing about in exactly a year’s time!

Change your life

Recruitment is Amazing!

She is truly, truly amazing.

Who?

The wonderful creature that is our new business administrator.

We may not be able to afford to have her, but once I met her I realised we couldn’t afford to not have her… hmm, where have I said that before?

In numerous places, probably, because, once again, the process of recruitment has surprised me.

I always assumed we would grow the business to the point where we were bursting, where we had a clear vacancy for someone and the money to pay them.

Instead, so far for the last three employes, we’ve recruited before we could afford them and even before we had work for them. I mean, we advertised for K back in the summer because we desperately needed a third installer, not because we were finishing projects, but because we weren’t. We weren’t finishing the projects on time so we didn’t have the money for a third person, but by taking one on we were able to complete jobs and get paid far more quickly. Does that even make sense?

Back at the start of the year, T came along because I could see the value he would bring to the business, not because we had anything like his wage in the bank. He hit the ground running and literally created his own salary as the business sped up and became more productive and efficient through him.

Four weeks ago, I had a meltdown. I just wasn’t getting any of the important stuff done because I was getting too bogged down, inputting invoices into Xero

It was time for change – so I ran our first proper Facebook recruitment drive (as opposed to just sharing a photo of our vacancy ad). Her email popped into my inbox, with her impressive CV attached, and I realised the minimum wage I had assumed I would be paying was going to be way too low.

I also realised, with delight, that the scenario I had envisaged – the basic bookkeeper inputting invoices so I could concentrate on producing reports and doing the higher level stuff – was also not going to happen. She is wayyy more competent than I am – so once she’s inputted the invoices, the one doing the reports and doing the higher level stuff willl be her.

I already can’t imagine life without her. She’s now in week three, asking the sort of questions that make my heart sing. She’s still working her way through the huge backlog of invoices that I had waiting for her, but she’s marked on her 2019 wall planner when the van’s MOT is due, and it was upon seeing that that I fell in love.

And that’s the thing about recruitment, just as in life, you don’t always get what you want, sometimes, actually, maybe, most of the time, you get what you need.

 

 

And the business evolves... Business success Change your Mindset Gratitude

Feel the fear…

I absoutely LOVE Facebook memories (most of them anyway!) and the way they throw up random past happenings, thoughts or muses. A bit cringey when they date from 2007 when we all spoke in the 3rd person, but hey ho.

I’m the same with a paper diary, I’ve never kept one for the Dear Diary moments, but years later I just love to look back and see what I was doing on that day.

And keeping a diary is absolutely a must when you start a business, or at least start to change your life, as I have. Reading back over your past is a great way to recognise your progress – it just might not be visible to your weary eyes.

So yesterday Facebook threw this one up for me: “Eeek shizzle just got rizzle! Feel the fear and do it anyway I reckon!’

I read it and grinned, wondering what I was going on about. I read the comments.

Chris had asked ‘???’

And I had answered ‘Biggest job yet!’

So in our Monday morning meeting I showed the guys the screenshot and began to work out with Dean what that job might be. And do you know, we had no idea.

How ironic that something so big and scary that I Facebooked about it, just 365 days later has faded into the fog of time and memory loss.

But it has made me think back, to all those times I didn’t do things because I was afraid to, or I thought I would fail, or I was scared other people would laugh. And there we were, 12 months ago, feeling afraid, fearing we might fail and knowing full well our competitors would laugh if we did – all for it to disappear into the passing weeks and months.

We all owe it to ourselves to fight our inner fear and not allow it to stop us doing exactly what the fuck we want to.

Dammit! We all get one life here on this fabulous planet and the least we can do is live it to the full.

Ensuring we fill our minds with gratitude is one way to squeeze the worry out.

So with that in mind, today I’ve felt the fear but I’ve ignored it and I’ve shared a Facebook job vacancy post. So what if we don’t have huge amounts of money, we need someone to do all the data-inputting, letter writing and general admin and I have accepted it is starting to hold me back.

I am feeling extremely grateful for the perfect person who is about to come into our lives and take that job!

I am 200% confident that if we take on the right person to support T and I, both of us will fly higher than before, just as I have done every time we’ve taken on someone new. Committing to paying someone’s salary is scary, but I’m going to feel the fear and do it anyway, no matter how rizzle the shizzle!

 

 

 

Business success Change your life Start a business

Glorious New Day

And then just like that… we’ve had a great few days.

All the fears and concerns of the first half of the week have been forgotten.

Life is amazing.

Business is amazing.

We have got this.

The future is certain.

The future is glorious!

We can finally book that world cruise!!

Nothing can stop us and we will never fail again!!!

Ok, I’d better stop dreaming. But still, it has been such a good week they all got to the pub on Friday, which is the week end that I have been dreaming about!

I can’t believe I only posted on Wednesday about various issues with staff which had us all worried. There were concerns over staff moral, would we ever manage to finish a job early, would we even manage to finish anything on time, ever again?

This week started, as they all do, with our Monday morning meeting, but this week was the first time D really laid into the lads about the following:

  • Doing things his way (because he’s had years of discovering which is the best way)
  • Respecting each other
  • Checking, checking and double-checking
  • Keeping the van tidy
  • Calling him if in doubt
  • Etc etc et

It was a good meeting. We always try to make it a collaboration even if there are some strong words to be said. We try to be leaders, not bullies.

This week could have gone disastrously and on Wednesday I was only too aware of that. We still had last week’s job – a kitchen – to finish, even though D had worked all through the weekend it was a long way from being done and it wasn’t clear why (he did later admit he had gone the extra mile with the tiling and created loads of small cuts just to centralise everything, when being slightly off-centre would have looked just as good and given this was a cheap rental, no one would ever care, but that’s just his own personal battle with being perfect).

So although all three got to this week’s job on Monday, D ended up leaving C and K, got held up in traffic, didn’t get to the kitchen until late and so still needed a full day there on Tuesday.

Our new van, purchased last week, has developed a fault which the vendor agreed to honour under the warranty. So Tuesday morning I headed an hour north, carrying my laptop and prepared to spend the 3 hours needed in the café nearby. Of course it ran on, finally at 5.30 pm he gave me a different vehicle and so I got home hours late after spending most of the day with no phone signal so unable to do any of the calls I had planned on doing. I did write a fabulous Halloween-pun-ridden script for BNI though!

I hardly dared inquire about the progress on Tuesday but although it was a long day things seemed to be ok and the kitchen was finally finished. As I sat frustratedly in the café on Tuesday, T text me, worried about team moral.

So at 10 am Wednesday, as I left BNI and called D, tentatively, to find out how things were going, I was so relieved to hear he had finally been able to join C and K on this week’s job and amazingly the progress seemed to have been good.

He was really happy with what they had got done.

In addition, they had both called D with questions when they hit problems and seemed to have really taken on board the issues raised on Monday.

Later on Wednesday something amazing happened – the customer waited until only young C was around and had a go at him. It was pretty unreasonable, but it was the behaviour of a man who is uncomfortable with being out of control. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it had the magical effect of grouping our little gang together around C.

There is nothing like a common enemy to unite a band of bros!

The hope was we would be finished on Friday morning but it was actually 3 pm before the guys made it to the pub. But, my dear dear universe, THEY MADE IT TO THE PUB AND THEY HAD A PINT TOGETHER.

Ok, this is not an exact pint consumed by our triumphant team – but they looked pretty similar to this one

It’s hard to describe just how important this is for us. Suddenly opportunities sparkle in front of us. We are a successful business which finishes early on a Friday. Our lads go for a pint together. T went to look at a job to refurb four – YES FOUR – shower rooms in a social services home. Ooh, our first commercial job!

Oh mighty-oh-may, how things so magically play!

Of course it’s not perfect but compared to how the week could have gone, it’s amazing. AMAZING!! AMMMMAAAAAAAAZZZZING!!!!!!

And so I’m sitting up in bed at 10 am on Sunday morning writing this, literally fizzling with gratitude for the wonderful week we have had. Progress was made this week and achievement was achieved.

Whatever challenges next week brings (and there will be some!) we know we can do it.

 

 

Change your life

Meet Vicky the Viking

OMG. ANOTHER big step…

We’ve only gone and bought our second vehicle!

And just like every other step we’ve taken on this crazy journey of business, it’s scary and exhilaring at the same time.

It – she – is an Astra van. We know she’s a she because her reg plate starts with VK – so she’s quickly become Vicky the Viking.

The Astra van is probably the best, handiest, most user-friendly vehicle EVER for any business. Until Vauxhall quietly stopped production back in 2012. I mean, who knew that Vauxhall stopped making Astra vans? I had no idea!

Even I had an Astra van, back in the late 1990s, a bright red cool dude called Pedro. Boy did we have some good times together!

And so when T, our project coordinator, started to make noises about needing a vehicle, getting him an Astra van was one of the first things that came to mind.

So T’s job covers a few different things. He visits customers, draws up quotes, selects products for them, then manages the job as it runs and manages the end of the job and sign-off with the customer. Basically, the things I used to do… mostly slower than him.

Recently, I’ve started to pass more on to him. He now sends the final invoice out. He also does the guide to products that we leave with the customer.

(It’s all part of my plan to remove myself gently from the business, so I can start my next business… and the next business… and the next one.)

Vicky for T!

Ever since he joined us, T has used his own vehicle for all this, and we’ve paid him mileage. He drives a sweet little Fiat, and I think we’ve all been aware this was a temporary situation. It really wasn’t practical for picking up materials and there was always the risk of damage to his car. So a couple of months ago when he first started making noises about having a vehicle, it felt like the right thing to do. We are ready to grow and a second vehicle would make getting the third one easier, if that makes sense – I do believe that the second of something can actually be more challenging than the first.

So, we got on the hunt for an Astra van. A white Astra van, so it works with our signwriting. And then we discovered Astra vans are no longer in production. So we kept looking, slightly half-heartedly, because frankly we’re all busy. And then we discovered that looking for an Astra van is like looking for a needle in a very large haystack.

And then by magic, she popped up. T drove straight over to see her, and I think he fell in love. She’s quite an old lady, but in true Viking style she is a true trooper. She’s a bit more expensive than we had hoped, but she is there, and available, and then we can all get on with our lives.

So, we’ve bought her.

At least, we’ve reserved her and we’ll pay when we pick her up.

She will belong to the business and be available for us all to drive, but she will be T’s main vehicle. We’ll get her signwritten so that will be more advertising driving around for us. And we’ll probably pick up a private plate so that no one can see how old she is.

I am really hoping we’ve done the right thing! Things have been a little tricky recently, what with Fox’s surgery and a few tough jobs. Again, it’s scary, it’s a big financial outlay and it could all go horribly wrong, I guess…

But every step we’ve taken so far has moved us upwards and onwards and I hope this van will continue to do just that.

Let’s do this, Vicky!