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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.

 

 

And the business evolves... How to run a business

Growing pains

We have another challenge, in our big little growing business.

Well, it’s another challenge on top of the last challenge, and the one before that, and so on.

It must be a pretty common one for growing businesses like ours, and as opposed to being a new challenge it’s more of an ongoing one, that keeps on changing and evolving.

Staff.

We have, unbelievably, three full time members of staff, plus me and D. That’s a lot of people supported by this business. And that’s fine. The wage bill is pretty hefty for sure, but we’re covering it and doing ok.

But staff.

People!

Challenges!

I believe, and I’ve witnessed over and over, that anything new attracts a honeymoon period. During this time, everything goes so unbelievably well it feels perfect. And then the honeymoon ends and real life sets in and with that come all the things that were hidden in those first few months.

Out comes the reality of the flawed human being at the centre of all this. I guess it means different things in each situation but often it’s bad habits, laziness, slightly sloppy sides.

Our most recent employee, K, has demonstrated this perfectly.

We pride ourselves on a quality job with a quality finish even if it means going to the ends of the earth to achieve that. And his first two months or so were flawless. This past month the cracks have started to show. And by starting to show I mean some serious mistakes that have delayed the jobs by several days and meant we’ve needed to purchase replacement materials. All in all a few things that we could have got annoyed about.

But then I found out that D hadn’t been doing much training with him. I can only assume that because he was hired as an experienced guy, D felt perhaps intimidated to do the training, or he thought he wouldn’t need it, or – probably the most likely – he got a bit lazy about it.

(So there’s a learning – another step as we become a really really enormous very small business – now we factor training into our employment process. AKA there’s a reason companies have a box-tick training structure!)

The business has suffered, slightly. Our finishing of jobs has started to get a bit messy, again. Any profit has started to evaporate. So yesterday morning’s meeting was a bit of a rant. But mostly a promise to go back to basics. Because the more time spent at the beginning means more time saved at the end. And I think D can finally see that.

And then, of course, because we overran on last week’s job, D has spent the last two days finishing it off leaving the other two on the new job.

I am stuck typing this in a café with the world’s worst wifi and phone signal, waiting while the new van gets fixed (she’s under warranty so it’s ok).

T text me earlier to say he is worried about team moral. I am desperately aware that low moral is contagious. The two lads are feeling down. D is tired and down. T is going to be feeling down if we are not careful.

I am a bit scared, but I guess that’s pretty normal, for a growing business?

And the business evolves... Becoming employers Business success Change your life

Recruiting again!

Yup, we are moving up a notch – another one – and it’s still scary, overwhelming, advancing, exhilarating, terrifying… all the feels in one.

It’s almost three months since T joined us and despite my hesitation at the time I knew the only way we would move forward would be with him on board. Since he joined us we’ve gone from strength to strength.

His expertise and experience in selling bathrooms has been worth every penny. He is able to visit potential clients and price jobs in about a quarter of the time it used to take me. He accompanies them to showrooms and is able to advise on the products in a way I could never do.

He still needs work and support in project managing, because he has never done that, but with his initiative and erm, for want of a better word, what my Grandma used to call ‘gumption’ I have no doubt that won’t be far away.

I guess my only concern, although that is too strong a word really, would be that I have to keep reminding him to fill in the wall boards and our online sheets, updating on the progress of each job. He’s not brilliant at that and while it’s not so much of an issue now, when we have 10 people in his department it is going to be imperative that each one knows exactly what is happening with every job. I don’t want a business where a client rings and is told the person working on their job is off that day, I want everyone to know what’s happening. So that needs working on, but I am not concerned exactly.

Yet we have a problem. The bathrooms need to get faster. D and C are doing great but C is still very young and slow at many things. T joins them half the time as an extra pair of hands but he also has no experience, his enthusiasm only goes so far. We have a situation where D is still doing everything but also training two newbies and we can’t fly like we need to.

We need the impossible – someone of D’s caliber and experience. Cloning D isn’t possible right now so I did a Facebook advert last week and sat back to see what would happen.

And then it struck us. Sheezle this is taking things to another level! Suddenly it has all become real – again. Taking on young beginners is one thing, taking on equals – as with T – is another.

How much are we paying? Well, we don’t know! We didn’t know who was going to come forward.

As when T joined us, we can’t afford to take on anyone else, but we know we have to, so we must, and we will make it work. Probably we should be sitting down and going through the budget and allocating a wage but we don’t seem to be able to work like that – yet. It is still a case of the business catching up with the workload and the workload creating the profit. I still find numbers and budgets a bit confusing and hard work and I am aware I need someone to work through it with me.

Off the back of our advert some fantastic people have come forward to join us. We are in a superb position and I am so grateful. I did actually use the Law of Attraction again this week, heavily thanking the Universe for the amazing and perfect people who were coming into our life. Once again I am convinced it worked. A couple of people came forward who we already knew but never expected to hear from. One guy – no one we knew previously – came for an ‘interview’ on Friday and I think he might just be the one.

So, exciting times again! In the midst of it all life continues as normal, whatever normal is.

 

 

 

And the business evolves... Becoming employers Hiring your first employee Leap of Faith

The Big Goodbye – and New Beginnings!

Crazy times! An ending, a beginning – and a leap of faith over a canyon so wide I can’t even see the side I’m supposed to be landing on.

So we’ve done it. As every evolving, growing, business needs to, we have crossed a huge employment milestone. We’ve dismissed our first employee.

We took C on in July 2016, back when we were general builders and knew that to grow we needed someone. But who? The very fact of being general made it hard to recruit anyone. Taking on an apprentice wasn’t an option for that exact reason. We knew few people around here and because we didn’t have much money we knew we could only afford to pay our employee minimum wage.

Then we met C, working behind the counter of a local builders’ merchants. I could see he was good with customers, reliable, appeared to work hard. Over the months of being served regularly by him I learned he wanted to do more. It was a case of why not him?

He has been a great employee in many ways. Loyal, steadfast, reliable. He’s been generally very amenable and done most of what we ask. He claimed to be an experienced decorator but it soon turned out he wasn’t, in fact he had little experience in most areas, but after years of working alone it’s probably fair to say D was a control freak and so they were probably well-matched. I am really grateful that our first experience of employment was such a positive one.

The problem is, as we have grown, and as D has evolved, C hasn’t really.

He promised us he would be learning to drive soon, which hasn’t happened.

He is slow and steady, but sometimes sloppy, which has been frustrating.

Last year, as we specialised in bathrooms, we took a gamble on him and paid for him to go on a course. Before it began we spoke about how we didn’t want him to stay on minimum wage forever, we were looking for someone to become an equal member of the team, to work hard and fast with us and to earn decent money once the business was on its feet.

He did well on the course, but his performance since then hasn’t been great. Constant, regular, mistakes. Working so incredibly slow. And no progress whatsover on the driving.

So, after the fourth job in a row where sloppiness caused a major issue, we had a serious talk with him. We gave him a month to improve – to get faster and to get better. Beginners’ mistakes are one thing, not doing what you have been told to do several times is another. He is a fantastic second man, but as a small business we only have room for first men right now, and so on Wednesday, after two more major mistakes, D verbally gave him notice. Contractually we only need to give him a week, but because he’s been so good in other ways he gave him two weeks from Friday – just under two and a half weeks.

I followed it up in writing the next day. It has all been very good-natured, but I know things can change when you’re working your notice so I am a little nervous about the next couple of weeks and I will be glad when he has gone.

He has also always been a little bit weird around me. He worships D, which is fair enough, but often I have arrived on a job and he has ignored me. It’s strange as I am his boss just as much as D is, and it’s frustrating. I  don’t want to turn this into a rant about sexism, because it might not be, and some men are weird around women, like the guy I blogged about here, but he has definitely seen D as his boss, not me, which is odd because it’s me who runs the entire business.

On Thursday he was working alone in the yard, filling the skip. I asked him to come and talk to me – clearly I was going to discuss money and what was owed/owing – and he refused, saying he and D had sorted it. I asked him to talk to me three times and every time he looked at me, shook his head and said there was no need, he and D had sorted it all. I even said D doesn’t know about money, how can you have sorted it and he shook his head and said no no, it’s cool. It was strange. Rude. And totally not anything I have ever come across before – I have never in my working life refused a conversation with my boss.

So part of me is glad he is going, because I will definitely feel more comfortable going to sites knowing that he won’t be there.

So, you might be wondering, what are we going to do now? Believe me, much discussion has gone on about how we would cope, and both D and his eldest son, C2, who joined us back in November, felt that C1 has actually been holding us back, slowing us down on jobs and stopping progress. They both feel they will go faster as a twosome, which is crazy!

I wrote here about how one of our suppliers, T, a showroom manager, had been made redundant, and how a couple of months earlier I’d mentioned to D that I thought he would end up working for us at some point.

I’m not sure how we are going to do this, but we’ve recently been talking and I am absolutely of the belief that we NEED him. The business NEEDS him. We cannot afford NOT to take him on.

So, somehow, it will happen. We will let the dust settle after C’s departure and then he will join us – taking over the parts I’m finding hardest, pricing, selling products, project managing. Possibly part time very very initially, but he doesn’t want part time for long and so maybe he does several jobs – sales, ordering products, managing the orders, project managing the job and also mucking in manually where required.

I am in effect doing myself out of a job but that’s fantastic, I’m really not enjoying that side at all. Weirdly, for someone who has never been good at numbers, I am finding the accounting/finance more and more of interest, and so I may go down that avenue.

And if T takes over the things I’m finding hard, and I’m soooooooo slow at, that will free me up to crack on with the things I am best at – thinking big picture, coming up with new ideas, marketing, networking, building us up. Because this business, passionate though I am about it, is only the first of many. There are so many ideas in my head!

And although it seems crazy to be talking about taking on someone expensive when common sense says I should continue doing it and learn the trade, my heart tells me that taking this gigantic, terrifying leap of faith is the best thing we could be doing.

 

Business success Goal setting Habits of Success How to run a business Positive action

Holiday – Disaster – Plan!

This is a frickin rollercoaster, folks!

I wrote here – only 11 days ago, for goodness sake – about my latest confidence crisis and how we seem to have overcome.

We ended 2017 (funny how old that already feels) with a tricky client and a job that was hard to price, a mix of various different jobs, much of it very bitty. As some of our jobs do, it has run over the estimated timescale, by quite some length.

Being so busy with our own house I put off doing a final count up of days (yes, ok, I was putting it off, because I knew it would be bad news). I finally did it yesterday and sure enough, it’s bad news.

So late last night I worked myself up into a meltdown which exploded over D today. We so needed that job to go well. Ok, correction. She was always going to be difficult, so the job was never going to make us much. But it needed to make us something. I stared at the final costings and knew there was no way I could charge her the final amount. We’ve simply taken far too long over it.

Last week D’s dad went into hospital so he was away for three days and the job booked for that week was pushed back.

The week before, I decided to book a few days for D and I to go visit my parents for my dad’s birthday – in France.

So we’ve gone from losing money on a job to having to postpone the next job and then booking ourselves on a trip to take us even further from actually getting any work. Talk about a catalogue of disasters. Talk about January being a write off.

Now, we absolutely 100% need a break, so I am looking forward to getting away.

But today I gave D an ultimatum. He needs to step up and get involved with the financial side, which he shies away from because it doesn’t interest him. But then he is detached from the reallity of the job and loses the urgency that he needs to be constantly driving the team forward.

Secondly, he needs to be planning the jobs in advance. As in, writing a list of the daily tasks needed and ensuring they get done. It’s something we started doing but again it doesn’t interest him so it stopped happening. I’ve written a few times about the importance of setting goals and here we have, in perfect clarity, a superb example of what happens when you don’t – there is nothing to measure progress against.

If he/we had planned this job he/we would have been able to identify it was running over. Also, the team would have had something to refer to and measure themselves against. It sounds so simple, and it is. So why haven’t we been doing it?

(I’ve got to bring in the renovation of this property here, it has been a massive distraction. But we could have taken 20 minutes to plan, so there’s no real excuse there.)

So in less than two weeks I’ve gone from thinking that we are going to make it, to sheer panic and the distinct possibility that the business may not survive beyond March.

Just two days ago I wrote about having to get a bit tougher when dealing with the team and with trades. Oh yes.

When we get back next week, I will be talking to the team. In no uncertain words. It’s 100%, 100 mph or nothing. Certain people will get an official warning to improve their performance or they will be out. Each job will get a written plan and that will be checked off at the end of every day to ensure we are on schedule and everyone is playing their part.

And I need to step up. Forget just doing all the office side, I need to be managing the team too. I need to be ensuring the management (D) can feel my boot hovering not too far from his backside, keeping him and the team on their toes and on track.

Or in March we both start looking for jobs. It really is that serious.

I am so glad this has happened now, when there is – just – time to turn it back round. But my gosh it’s scary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business success How to run a business Overcoming Doubt

The Three Day Wobble

Remember when 2018 felt like it was ages away? Yeah, about that…

Happy new year! I hope you had a good one, wherever you were.

 

We celebrated like true icons… in bed. D asleep, me trying to sleep but all plans for breathing hjacked by the four gallons of treacle someone had injected into my chest. It didn’t work, so by 12.03 am on January 1st I was standing by the window watching a display of eight fireworks set off by a group of teenagers in the park close to the house.

This was especially challenging as, trying to teach the dogs not to fear fireworks, I had to keep my breathing slow and regulated at all times. Well it was slow, but I may have pushed the definition of regulated.

I was however hoping that the sticky start to 2018 meant the year might finish in triumph. But it’s the end of day three and already I’ve had a major wobble!

The crises in my own confidence are nothing new, they regularly drop by to fill my doubtful head with helpful stuff like

I can’t do this…

I’ll NEVER be able to do this…

I’m not cut out for it…

We’ll never make money…

I should just get a job…

We should both just get jobs and give up while we still have seven pence between us and financial devastation…

Oh the humiliation of giving up…

The humiliation will be worth it for the relief…

And so on.

Probably mostly due to being ill, but don’t ever underestimate my ability to self-sabotage even the safest of bets.

Today I dragged my sorry flu-ridden backside out of bed at 5.30am (ok, 5.45am) and staggered into BNI. By the time it came to do my 60-second presentation I was barely able to see the words.

After BNI I staggered across town to pay in a cheque, a deposit for a job we will be starting later this month. We’ve joined a well-known high street bank for our business banking and frankly they’ve been a major disappointment. There was me thinking the world of business ran slick, huh?

That list of disappointments was to rise even further this morning when the cheque was rejected at the ATM for being ‘faulty’. And of course, on Wednesday’s they don’t open until 10 for staff coffee and idle chit-chat for staff training.

I looked NOTHING like this guy running through the streets

 

At least the bank disappointment meant I was a whopping two minutes early for my new year new start meeting with our accounts lady. After three hours of chasing long-lost receipts and missing payments I drove home in a daze, climbing over two rested and newly-energetic but disappointed dogs and disappearing beneath my duvet in a feverish slump, feeling too worried and panicky about money to rest properly.

At 3.30 pm I sat bolt upright, grabbed my laptop and began listing our regular business monthly expenditure.

Insurance, memberships, fuel, taxes, advertising, accounting, wages – oh yeah, those.

The figures started to climb and my heart skipped a couple of beats.

I added a small weekly amount for me.

I took the monthly amount and multiplied it by 12 to get the expenditure for a year. Ok, bad idea. But then I divided the monthly total by 22 – the average number of working days per month.

I stared at it. It was a high number. But it wasn’t crazy high.

It was actually pretty much where we had been aiming at.

A breath of relief left my lungs, travelling more freely than any had for some time. In the midst of my terror came confirmation. I had needed to do this for some time and now I had done it.

And the figures were ok.

You know what? As long as we carry on carrying on, and we carry on with how and where we are carrying on to, I think we’ll do this.

To 2018! And the next crisis!

 

Business success How to run a business

A dilemma

I have a dilemma. Quite a nice one to have, but a dilemma all the same.

I have the opportunity to replace myself. Which was always my plan, because I want to go on to do more, but I wasn’t expecting to be in this position until at least well into 2018.

For the past year or so I have been learning how to run a business. Firstly, a building company and then, since October, our bathroom and wetroom business.

It’s been a steep learning curve in how to run a business. My twenty years’ experience making TV programmes gave me practically no business experience so that has all been new.

Business admin, payroll, taxes, bookkeeping and so on were all fresh ground.

Pricing up, handling materials, running credit accounts and so on were VERY scary even 12 months ago.

Even though I’ve been self employed in the past, I was still working for other people, generally on a fixed rate, so it was really like being in a job.

And although Dean was a builder, a sole trader, he worked on one project at a time, generally working alone.

So we have scaled on, scaled up and scaled out beyond anything either of us knew about before.

It’s going well. But I’m struggling. I LOVE running the business. I love managing systems, coming up with new ones that make us more efficient or effective or both, managing money, building and growing relationships.

If I’m honest, I’m not so keen on the other stuff. The managing of individual jobs, clients and costs.

It would probably be correct to say that in that area I am holding the business back.

I’m definitely not pushing us forward like I could be.

Recently I’ve found that I’ve been putting off contacting potential customers because I wasn’t sure what to say to them. And experience has taught me, if I constantly delay doing something then it’s just not for me. Not the end of the world, I told myself, it’s just something I need to work on and get better at. It could be a year or more for me to get good enough at it to build it into something I can hand over to someone else and move on to other things.

And then… along comes T!

We’ve built a good relationship with T, the showroom manager of one of our suppliers. I don’t know him very well but he seems to share our values and passion (we truly care for our customers and want them to have an amazing experience with us, not feel ripped off or compromised in any way).

A couple of months ago, randomly I had a feeling that T would work for us one day. I told Dean what I felt, because of some of the amazing things that have happened to us since we began this journey to change our lives.

Then two weeks ago, Dean went to pick up some materials and came back with the news that T is being made redundant in January – the company are closing the showrooms.

WTF?

It’s crazy. Months earlier than expected, and yet here it is – the opportunity.

The perfect person – at least I think he is – to start doing all the stuff I am finding hard. Someone who sells bathroom products every day, who already juggles quotes, figures, all those things that are still another language to me.

But how can we afford to take him on? I blogged here about how we’ve just taken on our third member of the team. So that’s three people currently supported by this baby business which is still finding its feet. Still funded by my somewhat erratic pricing and amateur invoicing.

(I am currently funded by my rental income, not really taking any salary, just the odd snippet here and there.)

We are by no means rich, just getting by and learning the ropes which change every day.

And yet, if we somehow make it happen for T to join us, I suspect he will move us all forward so much faster than if we do it alone. I am seeing him as someone to head the sales, then manage the bathroom refurbs, ordering materials, managing stock, booking subcontractors and so on.

I could step back and manage the business, do all the networking and the marketing and the things I really enjoy and am good at.

Plus, at the same time I could continue with all my big ideas and, in time, start all the other new businesses I passionately want to see up and running.

It is a true dilemma!

We are meeting up in early January and I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

Becoming employers Hiring your first employee HMRC Start a business

No more paydays!

For years, payroll was a mystery to me.

I knew how to make payments online, of course, but how a company actually made the action of transferring sums of cash into its employees’ accounts was shrouded in the deep unknown.

 

When we took on our first employee, Craig, in July 2016, I looked into finding someone to do the act of payroll for us. I asked around.

Our accountants wanted around £250/year for the privilege of doing it. And, of course, they strongly advised we took them up on the offer.

But others, both real people and those online, assured me it wasn’t hard at all and there was no reason why I couldn’t do it.

I watched several HMRC YouTube videos which helped explained the process.

The advice team at the Federation of Small Businesses, which we had joined a couple of months previously, were really helpful. (I recommend joining this fabulous organisation if you are considering going into business, if only for the free legal advice line alone).

And so I downloaded HMRC’s free software, Basic PAYE Tools, and got started. It really was quite straightforward. I followed simple steps and suddenly we were away.

Things that had been completely mysterious to me before suddenly started to come clear. A tax code is the bracket each person is put in so HMRC knows how to tax them. The amount of National Insurance and Tax that needs to be paid is clearly outlined to you once you have inputted those details. Payroll is paid when a finger on the hand of a person’s hand presses the ‘Pay’ key. Quelle mystique!

And so we continued. Until things got a little more complicated. Basic PAYE Tools is fabulous, but it doesn’t allow you to print payslips, and, try as I might, I could not find payslip software that worked with Apple Mac.

Then when we registered our new limited company this summer we decided Craig should be dismissed from the partnership business we had previously run, and be immediately hired by the limited company. In an attempt to tidy up the payment process, I set up payroll on Xero, the online accounting system we started to use round about October last year.

It took me some time to get used to Xero but once I did, I found it superb – slick and straightforward. Unfortunately, the payroll section was not quite so clear. Without realising, I made a mistake that meant that Craig’s earnings from the previous financial year were added to his current earnings for this year, and on our October pay day he was taxed heavily.

It was time to let the experts take over!

Our new accountant, Mark, recommended a payroll firm and I made contact with them. Through several long conversations – the one thing you realise is that tax is a complicated subject and even the experts can need to take their time to ensure they have fully understood it – things eventually became clear.

Nothing of course moves quickly in the world of tax and HMRC. For a new accountant to deal with your affairs HMRC needs to send you an authorisation code. You then give it to the new agent and HMRC will then recognise them. It’s all standard security practice, of course, but it doesn’t half take forever when you are anxiously waiting to hear that everything will be restored with the next payday. Craig had taken the disaster pretty well but I knew his patience would not extend into a second month.

The authorisation code finally arrived two days before payday and the new accountants were able to send me proper payslips. As I printed them out, it felt like we were once again moving up another step into the world of running a successful business.

So am I glad I decided to do our own payroll?

Yes, I am glad that I took the decision to do my own payroll – at least for a short time.

Craig, of course, may not agree with this because I know his month was a stressful one (so was mine, but differently!)

In hindsight, I enjoyed doing payroll but I am glad and relieved to have passed the responsibility on. I am so glad I did it for just over a year, because now I understand the process enough to go forward and it will help me deal with any potential future issues.

But, being very honest, handing over is a relief. No more pay day scrambles, and no more panics over getting things wrong!

One thing to remember is as an employer you are expected to be almost super human and never to get anything wrong. Employees and their family and friends have a remarkable ability to forget that employers, especially start up business owners, are people just like them, on a huge journey of learning and discovery.

The responsibility of funding someone’s life every month is a big one, and definitely, DEFINITELY not for the faint-hearted.

 

 

 

 

 

Business success Positive action Positive Thinking Start a business

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!

 

 

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