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Positive Thinking

The Night Before the Big Day

It’s almost midnight. By the time I finish this post, tomorrow will have become today. And that’s going to be a really big day, the day of our fresh start.

Our new member of staff – sales director, project manager, manager – whatever we decide to call him, is due to start with us.

I blogged yesterday about how so many things seem to have fallen into place since we began this journey, and the journey that has brought us to this point is just one of them.

T was managing a showroom, so we know him as a supplier. Back in October I told Dean I had a feeling he would work with us one day. Then in December we heard he was being made redundant and I blogged here about the dilemma we’ve faced over whether or not he should join us.

We can’t really afford to have him, but we can’t afford not to have him either.

I’ve been a bit lost, if I’m honest, swirling around trying to do everything and not getting anything done. Spinning headfirst, dipping from business accounts into pricing projects, fumbling from individual customer requests to accounts owing and company pensions, marketing to invoicing.

Because almost all of it is new, I am slow and sometimes dreadful. The business will never move forward like this. And so we take the biggest gamble of our lives, the widest, deepest leap of faith into the unknown.

We’re giving it a 12 week trial period so he doesn’t waste too much time, and we don’t spend too much money, if it isn’t going to work.

We still work out of a home-based office – ie a spare bedroom – so we have turned the living room into an office. It has been a renovation pit ever since we lived here so we have never used it as a living room and won’t miss anyhing. I bought a kidney-shaped glass desk from a charity shop and a new laptop which was set up for him yesterday. There is still no power through the electrical sockets in that room so he will work from an extension cable. I’ve felt like crap all week so we’re really not organised, but I really don’t know what else he needs anyway.

I cannot wait for him to get going!

I literally have no idea what is going to happen!

Bring it on!!





Goal setting Positive Thinking

Life Goals: Ere, Ear!

Many years ago someone I used to know had her ears syringed at the doctor’s, and came out raving about the procedure, telling anyone who would listen it was way better than any sex or drugs. (She never mentioned chocolate though.)

Obviously, I quickly made getting my ears syringed a life goal. How could I pass up the opportunity to experience sex and drugs on the NHS?

Luckily, a few years after my friend’s experience, I felt a bit bunged up and trotted along to the doctors hardly able to contain my excitement. It was rather a let down, to say the least.

The nurse looked in both ears and said:

“Oh no, they’re lovely and clean, I can see right through to the ear drum.

“You are due a smear test though.”

Imagine my horror. My afternoon went from a glorious experience rivalling the finest in drugs and sex to the non-glamourous, rather painful bad deal that comes when lying down with your feet in stirrups while a stranger sticks a large cotton wool bud up your privates.

And so that was it. My dreams of joining the ear syringing league fell at the first hurdle and seemed to be forever dashed.

Until recently.

As a teenager I went to boarding school. As a lifelong light sleeper, sharing a dorm with several other girls was very challenging and I developed a penchant for wearing ear plugs. Not just any earplugs, the wax variety called Muffles from Boots are the ones that get to go anywhere near my lugs. And they work wonders. The cone-shape goes in, the vacuum sound enters my head and usually I sleep like a baby.

Over the years, concerned about the amount of wax literally melting into my head, I’ve weaned myself off two earplugs and on to one, sleeping on the side that isn’t wearing the plug. And because Baldy has a tendency to sleep facing me, doing his pushy sleep breathing on my face, I usually sleep away from him with the ear plug mostly in one side.

Which means…

You’ve guessed it. Seriously, it could be 20 years since I first heard of the delight of ear syringing and possibly, just possibly I could be about to experience it.

This week I’ve also come down wth flu, which doesn’t help. But the last few weeks I’ve been waking up increasingly more deaf in that particular ear and for the past three days my hearing on that side has almost completely gone. It just sounds either like a very loud vacuum in there or like I’m standing next to an open window with a tropical storm going on outside. It’s almost painful, like there’s some serious pressure in there, but then that could be my flu-ridden head in general.

So, yesterday I made my first visit to our doctors since we moved here nearly three years ago. I knew immediately I was going to get on great with the GP, and she giggled away as I told her all about the life goal situation.

“Oh Izzy,” she said as she peered deep into my deaf lug. “I’m happy to tell you your dream is about to come true. There’s loads of wax in there!”

I punched the air in delight. But sadly my moment of beauty would have to wait.

I have to put drops of olive oil (doesn’t matter what sort – virgin, extra virgin, old tart, whatever) to soften the wax, every day for two weeks.


Ok. I’ve waited two decades. Two weeks isn’t going to kill me. Although the thought of being half-deaf for the next two weeks is a bit of a downer.

But I will be strong. The drops are going in. I WILL get my moment!



Positive Thinking

My Biggest Fear

I have this terror, almost constantly, that I am running out of time.

Even when I am talking to someone I often find my fingers are drumming, anxiously. It’s as though they are counting down the fragments of seconds to when it is all going to end.

It is going to end, of course, we are all due to die at some point, but I mean I worry that it is going to end long before I am ready for it to.

I am incredibly aware of how late I started on this journey, and yet I don’t honestly think I was ready for this until, well, until I was ready.

The last four and a half decades have taken forever and no time at all.

I might have less than that left. And I feel like I’m only really starting.

Life did definitely begin at forty for me – at least, this part of my life only began then. I feel like I was playing at it before.

But many of our clients these days are older, and although both Baldy and I really enjoy spending time with older people, it does make you ever more aware of your own mortality.

There is so much I want to do, what if I don’t get it all done?

I do not have a minute to waste, and then I find myself at the bottom of a Facebook hole I fell into 45 minutes earlier. I take 25 minutes to update Instagram, adding the likes and comments and interacting with those who have connected to me. I now manage five Twitter accounts – one for each business, my own and a further anonymous account. And then there are WhatsApp groups! (to be fair I’m only in a couple, but I know people who say they have a dozen or so going on). To keep up to date across all of those and not lose months of each year staring at my phone is a huge challenge.

I’ve been really bad at vlogging recently. Partly because it does take up so much time, and I got worried that I was putting the time into that when I should be focusing on the family business, the one that will hopefully make everything else possible.

Again, it’s all time. Time I don’t have to waste. Time none of us can afford to waste.

There are only 52 Sundays in every year and yet I cannot hand on heart tell you that today I made the most of this one, the latest one I will never ever get back.

My nails are tapping anxiously on my teeth as I type and I can feel my heart beating faster than normal. Tick, tick, ticking away…




Positive Thinking

A huge leap of faith

We are hurtling, at breakneck speed, towards something amazing. The thought of having a showroom wasn’t even on our radar even a year ago, but I’m going to stick my neck out here and predict that within a year we will have one.

Talk about getting serious! It probably sounds silly to a lot of people, but seriously I never would have dreamed of it even a short time ago.

Tomorrow T, the former showroom manager who is set to join us, is coming for a last chat to iron out the details of his employment. Honestly, I can’t wait for him to start. I know my work days will transform and I hope I will get so much more done – some days I flap about because there is so much to do, and do barely anything.

I wrote here about how things were coming to an end with C, who has been our full time employee for around a year and a half. The end truly arrived and he has gone, mostly to a feeling of relief. He’s been great but…

I understand now why people talk about how the business has to come first. Without the business, none of us have anything.

We’re still not out of the woods. The business is top heavy, but bringing T on board to pull it forward is the only way, I’m sure. If not, at least we will have tried.

Yesterday we travelled down to the NEC near Birmingham to the vast trade show that is KBB – Kitchens Bedrooms Bathrooms – and what a great day it was.

Given my previous experience of trade shows has been Cake International it was a little different but generally I guess every trade show is the same – dozens of stands showing off their wares and full of salespeople all keen to get you on board.

I still find my lack of retail experience hard, we might talk about the products but at a certain point in every conversation I know it should come to the pricing and that’s where my confidence lets me down.

So that’s where T is going to come in, hopefully.

OMG I can’t wait! I’m just so flipping grateful he came along!!





Positive Thinking

Someone’s little helper

A strange thing happened today and I’m still struggling to process it.

Dean and I went to price up a job and after the appointment he left to play golf. (If I haven’t mentioned before, I’m a golf widow).

I ran some errands and ended up in the queue at Plumb Center, behind about 8 men, all tradesmen from the look of it.

The solitary staff member behind the desk finished serving one man who turned, long lengths of copper in his hand. I was nearest the door so I opened it for him. He said, to the room of men, “Looks like I’ve got a little helper.”

I stepped outside as I pushed the door and as he passed me he said, “Do you want to come and help me?”

I replied – and I’m so pleased I did – “You can come and help me”.

But it left me feeling weird, so weird that I posted on facebook about it. I couldn’t work out if I should laugh it off as banter, or if I should be offended by a comment from a man around half my age.

In the end I did both. Laughed at it and also stormed angrily. Why on earth would I want to be a ‘little helper”? Was it just something he said awkwardly or did he actually think it was ok to say that about me?

Is it still so unusual to see a woman queueing at a plumbing merchants that the only thing she could possibly be doing is helping a man?

I am no gender rights campaigner, but this didn’t feel right.

On FB some people (women) got angry. Others thought they were overreacting. Most thought it was funny and posted innuendos about ballcocks and wrenches.

I just found myself wondering how, in the 21st Century, it is such a big thing for a woman to hold the door open for a man that he couldn’t just say ‘thanks’.



Positive Thinking

Need to Toughen Up!

I’m planning to post my new year resolutions for 2018 soon, once I’ve decided on them, but in the meantime I’ve had one pretty much thrust upon me.

We’ve got the joiners here this week. They are always incredibly busy, but back in November they suggested we booked them in for this week and I agreed, knowing it would be hard to get hold of them again.

The main job we needed them to do was fit new fire doors throughout the property. Even though it’s just a domestic home, the Building Regs inspector has requested fire doors to all bedrooms because it’s on three floors – in the event of a fire everyone on the top storey would be stuck. I don’t think we would have been asked to do this even a year ago, but everyone is being much more cautious since the horrors of the fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017, so this is the knock-on.

Unfortunately, partly through feeling crap and party through being crap, we weren’t ready in time. The speed at which this week has arrived took us both by surprise, so the fire doors were only ordered on Saturday with estimated delivery of Wednesday/Thursday.

No worries, we thought, we’ll give them other things to do. Which we did, and they’ve been done. Slower than we expected, but I’ve never really worked with a joiner so I wasn’t sure what to expect. D always works so fast it’s hard to gauge speed for ‘normal people’.

This morning though, 7 of the 11 doors had arrived. D and I left to go visit a local college to discuss getting funding for some training, and the joiners were asked to prioritise the four panelled wood fire doors for four of the bedrooms. By the end of the day they had got 2.5 doors up – disappointing.

Later this evening we moved my office upstairs – temporarily – because the new carpets will be going down on the 1st floor very soon. And as we worked upstairs we looked at the doors and realised the gaps around them were way, way too big to pass building regs.

FFS. These guys are loaded, their van is 2017. How is it we are here doing everything right and strugging for cash when guys like these are making basic cock ups and making thousands?

I’m pissed off, but determined to take a positive from it. And that positive has to be a learning – that I need to get tougher. It’s ok to have a laugh with trades but if that creates a relaxed atmosphere where nothing gets done, it just wastes time and money, neither of which are infinite.

From now on, whenever someone comes to work for me/us, they are getting a list with the exact jobs and what is expected of them. They can fill in a report at the end of each day outlining everything they have done. This will be done whether they are working on a client’s property or on our own house.

When I was working my temporary job at a letting agents, last year, I found both the boss’s wives distant and standoffish, kinda rude. I now realise that, while I don’t want to become rude, I have to develop a distance between me and people who work for us.

I don’t want to be a dragon, but I have to be a little bit scary. Or nothing will get done.

I feel silly that I’m only learning this now, but at least I’m learning it.

Just need to put tough and scary into practice!





Living Green Positive action Positive Thinking

Heart breaking news

I love life! And where possible, I hate to dwell on the negatives, because that really doesn’t get anyone anywhere.

But there are so many things going on in the world right now that can make it tough to keep focused on the good stuff.

I absolutely LOVE the saying ‘energy flows where attention goes’ because it is just so true – whatever we focus on gets the best result. For example, the film ‘The Secret’ tells us if we are anti-war, we shouldn’t focus on war but we should focus on peace.

Hey, here’s an idea – maybe if we all made a HUGE fuss about peace there would be no more wars?

Before Donald Trump was elected it was clear to see the attention around him, attracted by and fed by the focus on his bizarre story and campaign. Even the most outrageous stuff worked for him and it was no surprise to me when he made it to the top spot.

So I think it is crucial not to give negative things too much thought and importance. But these days with so much bad news going on constantly it can feel like the world is spiralling downwards.

Today my newsfeed is full of clips from the fires in California and my heart is breaking for the people and animals affected.

An out of control fire is terrifying. I can’t contemplate that people actually start fires on purpose*, and I can’t imagine the horror of being caught in a fire. I also don’t want to contemplate a world in which fires increase, but that seems to be the way we are heading, with more extreme weather and no one seems to be able to do anything to stop it.

So what’s positive about that? Ok – I admit, I’m scratching around for positives here, but I think I’ve found one…

I am already quite a ‘green’ person – an ardent recycler, supporter of green issues and I try to limit my own consumption – but I am determined to make changes in my life that will ensure I tread even more lightly on the earth than I have been doing.

We’re close enough to the start of 2018 for me to make it my first official New Year Resolution.

I know that whenever I start doing something, several million other people will also be doing the same thing (hey, I accepted that I am far from unique long ago!).

So maybe, just maybe, by the end of 2018 a few million people are going to consciously be less of a burden on our precious planet. And if one good thing can come of those catastrophic Californian fires, a few million people living greener would be a fitting result.

And then there’s this guy – the man rescuing rabbit from the fires. Someone who risked his own safety to save a terrified animal. How on earth can I say that it’s hard for me to stay positive, so safe and far away, when this brave soul in the face of danger shows such love and courage for a helpless creature?



*I’m not suggesting these California fires were started on purpose, but many fires every year are started around the the world, some by accident and others deliberately. People are sooo weird!


Positive Thinking

Giving It Some Welly

I have an announcement, ladies and gentlemen: I think I’m in love!

This is a slightly unusual post for me but my journey to success isn’t always going to be about business and life achievements, sometimes the everyday problems have to be covered too.

This week I have covered the eternal problem of what footwear is best for dog walking. Anyone with dogs knows how hard it is to find walking boots that don’t split or leak.

And with two dogs needing walking several times a day, I won’t be the first person to squelch back home from a walk after yet another pair of wellies has let me down.

This winter I’ve already gone through three pairs and I’ve had enough of returning home with one cold wet foot. Now, especially as we are in full renovation mode, the last thing I need is more socks to wash!

So, last week I popped into a local farm supplies shop for a bag of sheep nuts (sheep food, before you start panicking!) and had my usual moan about the state of modern wellies. I complained about how hard it is to find a good pair of wellies that won’t split and the lovely sales assistant (I didn’t get her name, but she looks like a Tracy) recommended I tried the Good Year wellies on the shelf behind me. I did – and OMGeeeeepers – it was like stepping into a different world!

They were so thick and so sturdy I just had to have them. Tracy assured me she lives in wellies back on her farm and said one pair usually lasted her for at least a year. A whole year, imagine that! They didn’t have quite my size, so I ordered them and picked them up today.

Tonight the dogs and I christened my wellies and I have to say they are the best things I’ve ever had on my feet!

They are snug but not too tight, they’re warm warm warm, my ankles feel so supported, I grow about 2 inches when I put them on… in short, they’re amazing! In short, they’re my ideal life partner!

I’ll report on how they get on. Three dog walks a day will test them, and if they are still in one piece AND watertight in May they will get my award for long service.

I can’t link to them at the feed shop as it’s just a small retailer but here they are on Amazon if you would like to take a look.

Best foot forward, chaps!



Positive Thinking

More networking!

Seriously, life is a spinning whirl of networking at the moment and today was a double whammy!

Today started off at 6.30 am in the dark with BNI, and ended in the dark at a meetup for property investors a few miles up the M6.

BNI was fab, as always – what a lovely group of people I have had the good fortune to stumble upon!

The property meet was great. Although we are mid-renovation of our home, and we do work to other people’s houses, we’ve been out of the property world for a little while, as we concentrate on building our business.

So it was brill to spend a few hours chatting about investing, renting, landlording and of course a good natter about everyone down at Progressive Property, the UK’s biggest property training company. Property is just such good fun!

We are still relatively new to this area so it was also good to get some info from locals who know their own patches, so we can start to think about where we will invest when we are ready. There are some big expansion plans for a few local big employers, and new jobs means more people needing somewhere to live.

We also discussed the current talk of the financial town – Bitcoin. I haven’t yet invested in this online currency and I’ve definitely missed the early boats where the biggest gains have been made, but the value continues to rise. Hopefully there is still time to get in there – I’ll let you know if I do.

The view on the wet, dark drive home!

To top it all off, we ended the evening talking about conspiracy theories. I haven’t done any YouTube bingewatching for a while but that really is the best place for conspiracy stuff, and while some are ridiculous, others make you wonder what on earth any of us really know about anything.

I definitely don’t know much about much at all, so I will stick to networking and the joy of knowing a good like-minded bunch of people. Because as Rob Moore says, your network is your net worth!






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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