Want to start a business in Wirral? Why not start right here, right now?

We’re coming out of recession. The banks aren’t lending. Its nearly winter. There’s a million and one reasons why there’s never a right time to start up a business. And a million and one why it’s the right time.

You get to shape your own future, rather than have it shaped for you by distant beaurocrats. You get to develop your own ideas, unhindered by the pressures and politics of more noisier colleagues who are always putting you down. You get to shape the culture of your workplace rather than being the unwitting object of other peoples cultural outdated cultural habits. You get to employ people, create jobs and make a difference to others around you.

Sure, none of this easy, and none of this makes for sleepless nights and a stress-lite existence. For a sleep-full and stress-empty life, you might be better retiring to the hills, writing your memoirs and feel comforted in what could have been, what would have been, and what should have been.

But if you have an idea which is itching to get out, which will contribute to your community, your society and the people around you, then now is absolutely the right time to set up your new business.

Aspire Trust is now offering business start up services for all Wirral residents (or those who want to set up a business in Wirral). We offer:

Advice and guidance on income generation and funding
Structured 1:1 support and group based programmes
Cross trading opportunities with other new businesses
National and International trading links
Customised programmes for your own business requirements.

We work across all business sectors – creative, digital, retail, manufacturing, you name it – our advisors are there to help.

The service is not free – but its absence of public funding means that you don’t waste your valuable business time filling in pointless forms and ticking boxes for the sheer hell of it!  It also means that you won’t be working with advisors who’s interests are more on hitting their funding targets than on supporting your business interests.

Your time is the most precious asset you have – and our work with you recognises that.

Just drop me an email at nick@aspire-trust.org if you require further information.

Tips for Business Start Ups, Lessons for Life: where’s the pulse of your business?

Alison is struggling with locating the pulse of her new business venture. She’s recently left the armed forces, having spent years on manoeuvres in Afghanistan, Iraq and all points west of insanity. She’s been decommissioned now and returned to Civvy Street harbouring memories of attacking pirates off the coast of Somalia, nursing early morning nightmares of civilians dying feet away in pools of late night blood and the camaraderie of mates she would put her own body and soul on the line for.

Civvy Street is not the same as it was before she signed up and the currency of what she’s gained from the armed forces is having precious little spending power in the bizarre bazaars of urban lite living. She’s perplexed, thwarted and struggling with bringing her business idea out into the open.

She’s looking at it, laying on the slab of the screen of her desktop and wondering what it’s all about. Should it be a commercial operation which makes her a fortune – or a charitable enterprise which speaks to and for the thousand of other Alisons and Alans who are currently wandering their Civvy Streets, armed with skills, knowledge and passion but with nowhere to apply them?

The pulse of a new start up is always hard to detect, swamped as it is by the noise of personal doubt, family expectation and social distraction. But she’ll find it as long as she can just sit alongside it for a while and just listen for it- quietly and intently. No amount of business planning, cash flow projections or social media strategies are going to help here. Only by listening and waiting will she detect the pulse of her business telling her what the next step is and why her business matters and who it’s important for. We’re all hoping she makes the right decision.

Tips for Business Start Ups: what your holiday swimming pool tells you about your next business move.

Clare is currently on holiday, sat at a Mediterranean hotel pool-side considering her next career steps. A long history of regular employment within the manufacturing industry has been a source of much stability and comfort; but increasingly as that industry gets leaner and meaner, she finds herself increasingly inside someone elses business, looking out at the possibility of setting up her own. A recent redundancy threat has focussed her attention substantially.

This move from long term employment to making something from nothing is a huge step for a fledgling entrepreneur who’s not spent the last 3 years at university on various boot camps, workshops or motivational seminars which are all geared up to the thrusting alpha (fe)male, hungry generation Y millenials who grew up in Thatcher’s Britain and know nothing other than cutting your opponents throat before wishing them to have a nice day. For Clare, and many others who are coming into business after a long time in employment, the thought of taking the next steps into self employment is riddled with uncertainty and doubt.

Today however she’s at the hotel pool-side, waiting for her kids to join her and as it’s still early, the pool has been undisturbed, it’s surface flat and as still as a mirror. She sits on the edge of the pool and slowly dips a toe in and out: and that small action sends out a series of ripples across the pool surface which travel undisturbed to the other side and from end to end. A ripple pattern shapes it’s way across the surface and before long she sees her small actions having a series of small but significant effects across the pool. She’s disturbed the status quo and nothing will be quite the same again.

Dipping her toe in and out of the pool is her first business move: the occasional phone call, the hesitant email, the chance meeting all combine to produce a series of actions which show the early business actions, reactions, causes, effects and consequences: all at a distance, someway removed from where she’s sat: but actions they are, and there’s no un-doing them.  Her business is beginning to make ripples back in the UK and when she gets home, her second steps will be to make some bigger waves and reap the consequences of those first tentative toes in the water.

Tips for Business Start Ups: the joy of early morning sales

Every now and then a business you work with goes quiet. It goes underground and its lack of visibility is worrying.  What’s happened to it?  Have the owners packed their bags and high tailed off home in a fit of embarrassment? Has there been some kind of confidence meltdown which means the owner has gone back to their day job to face up to their ‘told-you-so’ colleagues and critics?  Or did they just wake up from their dream?

But every now and then, that ‘oh-so-quiet’ moment passes and the business comes knocking at your door again and presents itself in all its opening and early trading glory.

It transpires that the business plan was written and then unceremoniously dumped; that the finances have been found wanting and given a good shaking; but that the solicitors are now busy beavering away on contracts and lo! There’s the early Spring whoosh of an invoice being paid.  All the signs of a start up finally shaking off their chrysalis, starting to stretch their tender limbs and beginning to do what they’ve been dreaming about doing for months, some times years.

This is a glorious Spring moment and never fails to amaze me. It doesn’t matter whether the business is about trading  coffee, constructing electrical sockets or intricately folding pieces of paper into peculiar shapes: the thrill is the same and the joy of the business owners a wonder to behold.

Tips for Business Start Ups, Lessons for Life: Yes You May.

Sharon is in the throes of starting up her new business idea of selling coals to Newcastle. On one level it looks a fairly dubious proposition; the coal industry in Newcastle is heaving (or so we are led to believe ); the last thing Newcastle needs is any more aspiring coal importers and in any case the railways aren’t what they were so trying to get the black stuff into the city is more difficult than ever before.

However, Sharon is blessed with a supply of high grade magical coal which does what no other coal has ever done before; she has access to the key Tyneside decision makers and she can guarantee that her first import will put a smile on her bank managers face (well, assuming those faceless automatons have faces any longer).

What Sharon is struggling with is permission. She’s looking for permission to set up the business and looking for an outside agency to say “yes, you may.” – as opposed to the more ambivalent, “yes, you can”.

“Can I really book that freight car?”
“Yes, you may.”
“Can I really contract a volunteer to work with me? Is that legal?’
“Yes it is and yes you may.”
“Can I really put my own logo on our website?”
“Yes you may, and yes you should and yes yes yes.”

Such is the conversation. Many business start ups, like students in their final year at uni; or kids at the edge of the swimming pool who are about to make their first dive into the deep end; or anyone who is about to make the biggest decision of their life; are looking for just one thing: permission. For some-one to say “Yes. It’s not illegal. Yes. It’s a good idea. Yes. It will be hard work. Yes. You might sink but on the other hand you might just swim. Yes. Your coals are just the sort of coals people in Newcastle are looking for. Do it. And do it now.”

“May I? Really?”
“Yes, you may.”

Tips for Business Start Ups: White Lines of Delusion (Don’t Do It)

Some time ago a colleague and I had what we thought would be an absolutely knock out business idea: we would rebuild air zeppelins, float them above Liverpool Cricket Club in South Liverpool and then organise day trips across Merseyside, carving out new flight paths in the sky to connect up our local towns in new and interesting ways. There would be special trips to Wales; one offs out to the Island of Mann and all sorts of zany and exciting possibilities. We would be reinventing the Zeppelin building industry; we would be reintroducing old skills that had died out over 100 years ago and before long, our Zeppelins would be in the top ten tourist destinations across Europe.

However, we overlooked the fact – for a short period of time – that we had no track record of designing Zeppelin Airships. We didn’t have a clue about flight paths or the behaviour of large gas filled balloons in high winds over the Irish Sea. We didn’t even have a bank account. We were – mercifully for a very short time, until the alcohol wore off – completely and utterly deluded.

Now, a level of delusion in business start ups is partially essential, partially an occupational hazard. No-one ever got anywhere without some degree of crazed, unconnected and completely irrational thinking. However, there is delusion and there are the White Lines of Delusion: thin white trails of hopes, aspirations and fantasy which the business start up would be well advised to keep clear of. Those white lines can lead you to wrecking your bank balance, your credibility and your place in history. The White Lines of Delusion spell trouble and the sooner you can wean yourself away from them and settle for plain old fashioned wishful thinking (coupled to a bank account), the sooner your start up will really start up and start walking the walk rather than crashing and burning in a blaze of white line fuelled glory. Remember the Hindenburg and save your hot air for a better investment.

Lean back and glare: a waiting story in the supermarket ebb and flow

I was shopping as-per in the as-per multinational su-per market today and was confided in by one of the check out staff whilst I was waiting to rid myself of my unwanted cash in return for their highly desireable goods.

I’m off in 8 so I sit back in my chair and glare at them hoping they’ll go away“. ‘Them’ of course being your average as per customer ie the likes of you and me.

I thanked her for her insight into the ways of the check out staff and made a mental note that next time I visited the as per su-per market, i would keep an eye out for staff who were due to come off their shifts, stack up the trolley with as much produce as possible, stagger over to them, laboriously unload all my shopping and then admit to forgetting my credit card.

This would be a sure fire way to disrupt the massive machine that is the as-per su-per market. This action could be coupled with plans for other shoppers to amble slowly the wrong way around the shops; breaking eggs in the wrong aisles, taking phone calls at the fish stall and ensuring that the smooth movements the market has planned for us the moment we enter their premises are disrupted at every conceivable opportunity.

Whilst this may not encourage modern capitalism to reconsider its ways, it may be a contributory factor to ensuring that the su-per market senior management oiks have to respond to the irrationality and unpredictability of human beings, even if it does mean their staff have to stay a bit longer and clean up the mess. There’s always more reasons to find ways to ensure every little helps with their overtime bills, I’m sure.

5 tips for everyone: how not to become part of the business world

Every now and then you have to take stock of what you’re part of and what is expected of you in this multi-demanding world we find ourselves in. Either every teenager is expected to want to go to university, or everyone over 50 is expected to don their dancing shoes, shake off the years and become lean, mean fighting machines, or every public sector worker is expected to turn into an eagle eyed entrepreneur and set up their own business, often on the flimsiest of pretexts.

This latter expectation is particularly worrying given the myths and legends which seem to populate public fantasies about what it’s like to work in the business world. So, here’s some advice on how not to become part of that world, should you wish to stay sane in your own personal world of education, employment or imagination.

1. Don’t think in terms of targets, key performance indicators, goals, strategies, visions, missions, or any thing else that has vaguely military overtones to it. Don’t even use these words. Ever.

2. Don’t dress to impress or invest. You can spend far too much time worrying about what you look like in other peoples eyes, particularly those who you imagine might have access to large wads of cash. They frequently don’t.

3. Don’t polish your shoes. Ever. Shiny shoes are a sign of mental anguish and a desire to please the craven. They promise the world and deliver the gutter.

4. Dowse the word ‘marketing’ with a large cup of petrol and throw a match at it. Stand well back. Try not to promote anything to anyone, ever.

5. Imagine your world shorn of logos, brands and tradmarks. Aim to live your life with the minimum of these commercial albatrosses around your neck.

6. Either trade in your passport for or take out as many as you possibly can. Refuse to identify with any one nation, one corporation or one brand of chocolate.

Go on, you know you want to.

Theresa May: clearly a woman who has never stood in a queue at Heathrow.

So, Mrs May, you want to forge trade links with Never Never Land and build another runway on a site which will soon stretch from Swindon to Basildon.

Good for you. Trouble is Mrs May, the xenophobia and hostility of your party and its apparatchiks to anyone born south of Dover or east of Essex means that trying to forge these links is an increasingly difficult struggle.

Have you ever stood in a passport queue at Heathrow, trying to get into the country along with over 500 other visitors when there are just two passport controllers at the desk who are working their hardest but who are clearly at the end of their rota duty and want to get back to the staff canteen as fast as they can? Have you ever spent the mind numbingly underground trip from shopping mall 83 at  Heathrow to shopping mall 2042 in Tottenham Court Road?

Rhetorical question I know. Of course you’ve done neither, and probably haven’t the foggiest idea of how to go about either of these processes. Fact is Mrs May, for all your rhetoric about forging the greatest partnership of the 21st century, your party’s beliefs and value systems are firmly stuck in the 15th when the catch phrase ‘you’re not from ‘round ‘ere are you?’ could be said to visitors just seconds before they were disemboweled in a congratulatory fit of English nationalism.

Mrs May, if you really want to forge those partnerships then throw open the doors to this country and stop it becoming a haven of miserabilist, scared and paranoid shopkeepers.