Niall Mason has worked in trade finance for over 10 years. So when he re-connected with me saying that he had a plan to create an innovative business in this market and needed a steer, I was interested, excited even. One of the key steps to creating wealth, in my view is “to bring something new to what you know” and Slate Logistics Finance does this: it’s a new way of tracking all the paperwork required to move goods around the world and borrow money secured, partly, on them. Traditional accounting systems don’t work and spreadsheets have been the only viable alternative: useful but as we know they require a lot of cogitation to match the entries on the PC to the paperwork and messages streaming in. New technology, in this case Microsoft Azure, enabled Niall to build an entirely different process that can deal with the “non-linear” supply chains that are international trade: it doesn’t matter what happens when, there’s always a place to record and view it.
Maybe it’s the fact that Brexit seems never ending, or the feeling that it’s the biggest sideshow of them all, pushing real issues to one side, that prompted the Hay festival to change its strap line from “Imagine The World” to “Imagine Other worlds”. This expansiveness was reflected in its growth, with talks or shows (James Acaster, Laura Mvula et al) going on 3 or 4 hours later than last year.
I’ve been living in Monmouthshire for two years now and it’s great. So lovely in fact that people have formed a (quite) orderly queue to come and stay with me and enjoy its charms (in the presence of me but you can’t have it all, remember!).
Mostly people drive and nowadays a postcode is usually sufficient. But in the countryside a postcode can cover quite a large area and phones can lose signal, or even charge (which happened last month). So some written directions can come in rather handy. And after two years I’ve nearly got them right!
One of my favourite aphorisms sits on a shelf at home. It says:
- Live fully
- Love continuously
- Laugh often
Is it really possible to make this maxim a reality? How many mountains over 20,000 feet do I have to climb to have had a full life? (answer – 1) And what constitutes continuous loving? Can’t it sometimes be a bit, um, wearing?
I know that you’re in a difficult position, one in which many FDs would empathise: borrowing is high; problems, especially social care/health and housing, need solving; and tax rises (cost cutting to an FD) aren’t popular.
If you think that you can “kick the can down the road” by borrowing more, then good luck. Markets will correct in the next year or two and conventional economics dictate that interest rates should fall. Unless they have risen by then this won’t be a cure, as Japan’s experience demonstrates. And if they rise the cost to the Exchequer will start to pinch other budgets.
As I rapidly approach middle age – well OK at 56 maybe I am actually in it – it would be natural to think that I should be able to feel comfortable. So when people talk about getting outside of my comfort zone I wonder why?
It appears that my view of where the comfort zone is is wrong. It wasn’t comfortable climbing Kilimanjaro but it wasn’t especially difficult: I’ve climbed mountains before and Kili, unusually for such a high peak, doesn’t require any skill beyond putting one foot in front of the other; oh and camping, and not having a wash for a week. In other words things that I have done before. (Just to put your mind at rest Macchu Picchu was the other occasion I didn’t wash for a while).
While the Tory party conference was, ahem, in full flow, I heard a debate among political commentators observing the current political landscape. Their conclusion was that fewer and fewer people don’t feel that they have a stake in the capitalist system. This disillusionment is driving support to the socialist dream of Jeremy Corbyn in which wealth is distributed fairly (from the few to the many). Those appearing most attracted to this vision are young people who haven’t experienced the turmoil of the 1970s. We were youths once; we knew it all back then and didn’t need history as a guide. I always saw Robin Hood’s antics as necessitated more by the absence of Good King Richard than Bad King John. Only latterly did I form the view that there have always been bad people in some positions of power for a long time. But it also doesn’t follow that everyone in power is a bad person –as we all learned at school, the converse is not true.
John Eales, former Australian rugby union captain was probably the only second row forward who also kicked goals. His range of skills was phenomenal and he was nicknamed Nobody, because “Nobody’s perfect”. In WealthBeing we recognise that almost no-one has all the skills required to run a business successfully – that even the individuals such as Sir Richard Branson have great partnerships – and so we advocate engaging a business partner or a mentor as one of the critical initial steps. Taking on a business partner is a big commitment and the downside can be significant, so it’s best to start with a loose relationship (and a fair way of ending it) for a year or so.
As WealthBeing says, it’s inevitable that things will go wrong with your product or service. But that’s not a problem in growing a business, so long as you deal with it well.
Software is less “buggy” than it was. But nowadays everything tries to connect with everything else and this is where a lot of issues arise. Helpdesks are essential as are FAQs and checklists but these are just tools and the more skilfully that they are wielded the better the result. Done well, support can be not just a problem solver but positively enhance the reputation of the business and so build its brand. I think that the key word to convey to the team is Listen”.
As you may recall, I went to the Hay Festival earlier this year. One of the more popular speakers was Evan Davis –TV is quite a good marketing tool! And appearing at the weekend coincides with the greater turnout – it’s not just effort but organisation that boosts sales.
His book is titled Post-Truth: Why We Have Reached Peak Bullshit and What We Can Do about It. He said that he had started thinking of a book about bullshit a couple of years ago but the pressure to write it became unstoppable with the rise of Trump. His thesis is that low-level dishonesty is rife – exaggeration, selective use of facts, economy with the truth, and careful drafting is apparently so effective that it has become the communications strategy of our times.
I went to the Hay Festival for the second time this year. It’s only an hour from my house, through fantastic countryside (which feeds the soul) and stimulating to the mind. Mark Stevenson was very interesting in his view of how things can change for the better, revealing, for example, how plants are being re-engineered to use less water so that we will have enough food to cope with another two billion people. The best bit is listening to the questions which are so insightful. I feel that we’re not the only ones who think about how the world can be better and are willing to debate this.
And it’s well organised too. 7 speaker venues arranged round two courtyards, interspersed with good quality refreshments and a few stalls. Talks start simultaneously, last an hour and there is a half hour gap until the next ones.
If you read my last blog you’ll know that I split my time between my home in Monmouthshire and work in London, and that I’m planning to create a B&B at home. It’s going well.
The first thing that I did after the planning permission came through for the guests’ sitting and dining room was to check that it was legal to offer B&B without the need for further consents. I asked two lawyers what the law was but they said I should ask a planning consultant which I did (always good to ask the right person!). Turns out that to offer a room in your house for occasional use doesn’t constitute a change of use within planning regulations. So there’s no chance of being closed down and I can start another business.
In the WealthBeing blog, I shall be sharing our progress in developing the business and applying it to ourselves and others.
I’m firmly of the view that you can only ask others to do something if you’re prepared to do it yourself. That’s why the picture beside this blog, is not a perfect view from a picture gallery, but a view from my house, taken by me. If you look closely you’ll see that I’ve pruned a couple of trees which are now the “wrong” shape. But it’s a good view, and it satisfies me. I love it here and I can think of no better visual representation of WealthBeing than this view of our “green and pleasant land”. I’ve been here for 18 months and my challenges in that time have been some of those set out in the guide- creating the home that I want and finding ways to live, now that I have the financial freedom that comes from successfully selling a business that I helped to grow and then sell.
While 2016 may have been a challenging year on the global front, our personal lives have not been much affected yet, it seems: full employment, rising/stable markets and the only unrest so far has been transport – hardly a change. But only a hermit could fail to take note of the marked change in the world order at the start of 2017 which could lead to some of the dramatic effects of which we’ve been warned.
We develop coping strategies to deal with threats and one of the most successful for me has been singing, with Some Voices, – “The closest thing to being a rock star”. Whatever my mood, its sound never fails to warm my heart and tingle my spine. And it is now a thriving community, like the best village where everyone is accepted, no-one is talked about negatively and whose harmony is the perfect metaphor for guiding a rapidly splintering world.
It seems that in the four years that I have been writing my blog the world has been getting stranger and stranger. I’m not referring to Hillary Clinton’s bid to be the first female president of the USA, but Glenda Jackson’s portrayal of King Lear on a set adorned with plastic chairs, whose manservant turns out to be Ian from The Archers. Oh, and the vote, announced on our 9/11 that the US had Trumped the UK in its decision to blow a rather large raspberry at the Establishment.
WealthBeing says that in order to succeed your service needs to be good – not perfect and not quite good. So I thought I would share this business card, which I think is good, and so indicates that the person to whom it belongs is good too. Here’s what I observe:
Malcolm was interviewed by Alison Jones last week. Here’s what he had to say.
I was interviewed by Nick peters recently. You can listen to this by clicking here
I’ve known Bob Apollo for a while. He’s an expert in improving sales as this blog demonstrates. In essence he is saying that you need to be realistic, listen to what the potential buyer is really saying and make sure that they understand the costs of alternatives, including the cost of doing nothing.
Last month I was on a panel of investors hosted by Rockstars mentoring at the Great British Business Show in Olympia. The best presentation that I saw was for a product called C-lash because it applied the principles of WealthBeing perfectly. Its founder, Codilla Gapare, had had chemotherapy and, amongst other things, had lost her eyelashes. She discovered that there was no existing solution to this problem so she created one – eyelashes that can be glued on to eyelids – unlike normal false eyelashes which are attached to natural lashes.
I’ve always enjoyed cooking but over the last few years I’ve spent more time on it and now even my fellow diners enjoy the results! I was wondering to Tim as to why I enjoyed it and he, no mean chef himself, pointed out that it’s a mindful activity. I do feel present when I’m doing it, I have no time to think about anything else and of course the tastes and smells use more of my senses than any negotiation or business plan ever did. It fits the definition of Flow (see p 128): It requires skill and has a clear set of rules (wrong time or temperature and it’s ruined); I have skills sufficient to be confident but not finding it too easy; I have to focus hard so there is no room for anything else; and I get clear and immediate feedback.
As a bit of a writer I’m fascinated by the way language evolves and love to get new words and TLAs (whilst also trying to avoid phrases that become over-worked: if I hear another star tell me how ‘privileged’ they are I will have to fight the urge to bop him on the nose). Did you know that BoP now stands for Bottom of Pyramid, the poorest in our world? But it is also shorthand for Balance of Payments which has been an issue for the UK longer than there has been a BoP class.
I write this as markets pause for breath in the wake of their collapse in the dog days of August. I hold shares, which my IFA manages, and which he liquidates (i.e. converts to cash) if necessary. But he hasn’t done so and I’m not perturbed. The main reason is that I have sufficient cash reserves to ride out any short term fluctuations because I took some cash out in March 2015. My thinking was twofold:
I moved into a new flat recently so I had to get some furniture and set up internet and TV. As you know there are many choices to make, and it’s difficult because they all promise the best, perfect, service. But is it?
No. They all turned up on time, they all used the technology (mobile phones simply) to let me know that everything was in hand and I essentially got what I wanted But not one of them was perfect.
As WealthBeing says, business is easy until you put numbers to it: anyone can make and sell something, the hard bit is making sure that sales values exceed costs. And when you’re starting out the common assumption is that costs will be high, and precede income, so at some stage it’s easy to just keep spending and hope that enough income will come in later.
I stopped buying the Sunday Times a while ago because its chief rugby correspondent, one Stephen Jones, refused to fully recognize the success of my beloved England rugby team. No matter how low the sweet chariot was swung Mr. Jones (of Wales) would continue to say it was still far from acceptable.