Tag Archives: Business and Economy

Tips for Business Start Ups, Lessons for Life: how to induce schizophrenia in your staff

It’s not lost on many people working in the public sector that we’re frequently asked to adopt two mutually opposing stances and attitudes at one and the same time. “Now run this way, now run that way – both at a very fast hard pace” is a commonly heard instruction albeit couched in terms which suggest the organisation knows what it’s doing and where it’s going.

Policy complexities of the poli-see and poli-do type (ie we say one thing vociferously and insist on doing the opposite equally vociferously) within a rabid target culture in which the targets are sometimes in front of you, sometimes behind you and sometimes imagined, contribute to a sense of working down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole in which nothing is as it seems, narrative logic is irrelevant and what counts is what doesn’t count.

This isn’t confined to the public sector of course; many organisations, of large, small or indeterminate size suffer from the syndrome of asking its staff to adopt mutually exclusive attitudes in the same body politic and organisational mind. It’s an occupational hazard of having an occupation and working in an organisation which may not be particularly well organised.

The trick for small business start ups is to maintain their vision and try to define their targets in ways which don’t induce schizophrenia in its staff. One way is to say what you mean and mean what you say, but as Alice found out saying and meaning, eating and seeing, and breathing and sleeping can commonly be confused with each other. Your job in setting up a start up is make sure you know the difference between all those bodily functions.

Tips for Business Start Ups: 9 questions which will tell you whether to do it or not.

The recession in the UK is generating several bizarre phenomena, not least being the fashion to encourage many more people to start their own businesses irrespective of their abilities, wishes or state of mind.

Many reasons are wheeled out as justifications for this life changing activity: you can be your own boss, you can turn up to work any time you like, you can turn a hobby into an income generator, you can play a game of golf whenever it suits. The fact you may come off the unemployment register is also a bonus to statisticians and politicians, massaging as it does the figures on the unemployment register.

But the notion that setting up a business is a realistic and achievable option for everyone, especially if they have just completed 30 years service for the same employer is a mirage.

Setting up your business isn’t an easy option which you can blithely dive into, with keys to your new premises and golden clock in hand, which will provide you with an easy route out of employment or a bit of diversionary relief to a retirement which is becoming riddled with boredom and inertia.

There are several questions to ask yourself before taking that plunge:

1. Are you prepared to wake up every morning of every day of every week of the year, preoccupied with the challenges you will face that day – and for which you will take the ultimate rap?

2. Are you comfortable with scary levels of risk? The occasional feeling that you are standing on a precipice, not knowing where the next weeks income is going to come from or how you’re going to fend off your increasingly noisy creditors?

3. Do you have any knowledge of the stuff of the business you want to set up? If you want to set up a restaurant for example, do you know anything at all about the restaurant trade apart from knowing what your favourite pizza topping is?

4. Can you add up and / or write in coherent sentences?

5. Are you handling the transition to Internet shopping, e-commerce and social networking with aplomb?

6. If the answer to any of the above is ‘no’, are you bringing in other expertise and voices to your dream which will turn the ‘no’ into a ‘yes’?

7. Is your motivation for setting up a business explained in terms of days off, visits to golf clubs or any other type of diversionary activity?

8. Is this business opportunity you’re dreaming of a great way of getting out of the house and avoiding the imminent marriage disaster you’ve seen coming for years?

9. If the answer to questions 7 and 8 is ‘yes’; and if you answer question 6 with a ‘no’, then stop hallucinating, pack the business plan back in the attic and don’t give up the day job. You will save yourself and your nearest and dearest a whole load of heartbreak – and may even enjoy your retirement to boot.

Tips for Business Start Ups: immortality ain’t what it’s cracked up to be

We’re regularly reminded in the popular press failure rates of new businesses: 40% of start ups fail in the first year of trading; 70% fail within 10 years; and no doubt there are some figures somewhere which show that an unacceptable 99% of businesses don’t make it to their 100 years anniversary. Shame on them: yet another searing indictment of modern day capitalism, the waywardness of youth and the irresponsibility of the public sector or any other modern ill you care to remember.

The language of failure is however one which needs some early retirement itself. Businesses – human beings even – don’t have a God given right to last forever and there is nothing pathologically or morally wrong with the notion that businesses last for as long as they’re needed – after which they are likely to come to an end. This is not failure but recognising that everything – including businesses – have their time and their space and their role is to inhabit their time-space node, contribute to those around them and when the time and space is right – to gracefully withdraw from action.

Immortality in business life – often referred to as sustainability or legacy – is a seductive concept and, in human affairs, is frequently the cause of great art and music. It is not however the cause of great business: the conceit that your business will last for ever leads to sleepless nights, increasing bar bills and bedroom floors strewn with empty pill bottles. If you can accept that your new start up may peak early, deliver beyond its promise and then burn out as quickly as it started, then you stand a chance of surviving notions of failure long enough to do it all over again with the next love of your life: your next new start up.

Tips for Business Start Ups: shift your image from being suited, booted and bollocksed.

We’ve all seen them: images of businessmen and women doing what they do well – shaking hands, sat at computer terminals and looking the consummate professional in their suits and boots, ties and hankies. These are what archetypal business people look like and what they do. They sit down, they stand up. They shake hands. They grimace.  They look like something out of an old Kraftwerk video.

But of course the life and style of an entrepreneur – someone who makes something out of nothing –  is lot more visually complicated.  They stand at ovens, they sit in boats on rivers, they may have nothing to do with a computer other than using it as target practice for their failed production line rejects.

We need to start rethinking the visual representation of business people if we want to attract new people, new ideas and new thinking to an activity which is fundamentally honourable in its intention to generate income, jobs and the economy as a whole.

Let’s see images of business activity which are less suited booted and bollocksed, and more ideosyncratic, beautiful and boundless in their vision and imagination.