March 29, 2009

The Adventures of a Chronic Sunday

Sunday bloody sunday.

Jamie is very poorly. Lots of eminations from both ends, he's angrier than ever, tired, can't keep anything down and has been to see the world's worst emergency doctor ("Give him this anti pooing medicine" "Erm, he won't drink it we've tried it" "Three times a day and he'll needs to drink all of it" *whispered* "This one has a licence to practice medicine? She needs to go and get more practice I think").

I also managed to crash our 2 day old car. We now have an SUV. Not through choice might I add, it's just how the very nasty tasting cookie crumbled onto the steaming pile of bad luck we seem to be experiencing. I hae an impressive dent in the front now. I'm at fault too - because I came out of a junction to turn and the Mercedes I hit that was doing much more than 30mph in a 30 zone was on a main road it would be difficult for me to prove. No injuries, apart from hurt pride.


Posted by AlexC at 07:29 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2009

Comments - anyone know how to fix them?

I have Haloscan comment snow and they seem to show the same comments under every post - anyone know how to fix that?

Posted by AlexC at 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2009

From The Ground: The Credit Crunch for a Small Business

As one of you may know, I am a self-employed contractor that mainly specialises in helping small businesses. I am a full accredited project manager and risk manager with around 18 years experience across a wide variety of industries but now concentrate on the helping individuals or businesses with up to 100 employees manage their projects and dependancies.

The credit crunch has now loomed large for around a year now. In that time I have lost around 60% of my client base simply because, as businesses, they relied heavily on invoice credit - by that I mean that a client would be billed and there would be a turnaround between the invoice being received and processed; typically around 30 days. This was not uncommon. On the understanding that the invoice had been received and was being processed, that the client was in good standing with the supplier and that regular business was being conducted the banks would bridge this gap and trading would carry on as normal. With no access to this line of credit and suddenly businesses now relying on their cash reserves a lot of businesses simply couldn't cope. It would only take on link in the chain to not be able to fulfil their obligation and the cash would dry up, with the banks now not extending the credit and having been burnt by their own greed and stupidity by not managing their assets (which, might I add, are their depositors assets - i.e yours and my money) with an acceptable amount of risk to cause a domino effect on the businesses involved.

Some of my clients have actually seen this as a blessing. Some of their competition that were undercutting them through credit based spending have now gone to the wall. On my advice some clients are now expanding their advertising base and commissioning projects for the upgrades of certain systems because all of a sudden it is a buyers market and no-one seems immune to this (take note Facebook and other exorbitant online advertising portals) and they are able to invest a relatively small proportion of cash reserves in getting something that in 12 - 18 months time will benefit them hugely. The expansion of the advertising base has certainly helped sustain business levels - the margins may be slightly smaller, but the number of clients has grown and has offset the anticipated drop off in business to the point where the figures are down year on year by around 15%, which is really not bad at all considering.

At the sharp end of things though is the realism that there is less money to spend now. People who have money are tending to be more cautious with it. Whereas before people would put the new shiny TV or car on some kind of credit offering now, with less credit available, people who can afford something tend to buy outright. People who have saved carefully are now finding that their money is not growing, there is less confidence in the consumers (who wants to go to a shop and buy a large item only to find them in administration the following week?) in the institutions as a whole. Confidence in the government is pretty poor too - with no real idea of how to "fix it" there seems to be a raft of half thought out measures coming out and this idea of part-nationalisation of banks is stupidity to an extreme. If I was running a business that:

  • A: I was losing money in
  • and

  • B: Had been proven to be incompetent in my role in
  • I would neither expect a bailout or mercy. My business would fail, I would lose my job and that would be the end of the story. It would teach others in my line of work or same business areas not to go down the route I did. Some of these banks should have been left to fail. That is surely what free market economics is about? You take the rough with the smooth.

    For me it means I have to work a little harder with fewer people now. As my family has never relied on credit (we want it we save for it until we can buy it outright) it means that we are in a strong position as consumers because not only can we pick and choose but with a fistful of currency our buying power means better discounts for us.

    However there is always an element of uncertainty. I still look out for new clients as it is better to be busy than quiet and if someone drops off then I am not going to be panicking. I have to work harder to attract the clients now but this is balanced by the recommendations I get. There is opportunity there, even if it is just a glimmer.

    For you though what has been the most immediate and telling impact a year into the Crunch?

    Posted by AlexC at 10:44 AM | Comments (2577)

    March 16, 2009

    The Reins of Terror

    Something a little more light-hearted for my loyal reader ;)

    Jamie is now nearly 2! For those of you who know angry toddlers Jamie is right up there with the best of them. He gets furious about all kinds of things. Food, naps, bedtime, your unreasonableness at not wanting to get up at 4:00am and watch endless episodes of "In The Night Garden", wanting to use the laptop, wanting to sit down, going to work, coming home from work, getting him dressed, getting in the car, going shopping. He is now very mobile. For something so small to be so fast is incredible. He climbs on everything - me, Sally, the sofas, the tables, the laptop, the chest, the bottom step, his slide outside, the backdoor step, chairs, anything that stands still more than a minute are all fair game.

    Due to his speed, his absolute steadfast refusal to hold on to anyones hand we have encased him in baby reins. Personally I hate these contraptions. They look like they should be used in some kind of weird S&M film and I keep thinking they are going to get tangled up under his little feet and send him sprawling. With his turn of speed it means I have to trot to keep up with him and he has as much directional sense as a 90 year old in a Porsche at an intersection. Of course being close to the ground means that it's infinitely more fascinating than, say, where a litter bin may be coming or a group of people walking in your direction might be. Things such as drainage gutters are to be stepped in and out of, all objects on the floor are to be considered food and forget where the adult may want to go because that pigeon over there needs to be chased and (if possible) caught and eaten.

    God forbid that anything with wheels suddenly comes into his line of sight. Pushchairs are to be hauled around regardless of owner or content, shopping trolleys are a source of delight and temper when he realises he cannot push all of them, disabled buggies are to be chased around and roadsweepers hand carts (with their flashig lights and noise) are an object of awe.

    All in all it makes for an interesting experience taking the little chap anywhere at all :)

    Posted by AlexC at 01:34 PM | Comments (1903)

    March 13, 2009

    For New Things To Happen Old Things Must Die

    Hello. I'll come to why I've not been posting later on. For anyone who's interested I've got a Facebook profile and I'll add you if you're interested. Drop me a comment and I'll sort it :)

    Does anyone here know Bruce Sterling? He's an author of very few novels, some short stories and despite being an excellent writer somewhat in awe of himself. Along with a few other authors in the 1980's he helped kickstar the Cyberpunk genre. Now, 20 years on, having seen some of the ideas and concepts that he and his peers wrote about he makes some quite startling observations.

    Computers as accessories. Off-shore terrorism. Globalisation. Large corporations not restricted by national boundaries. Governments shaking under the weight of outdated bueaurcracy and debt. Youth that refuses to form the next generation of workers. Disposable technology and ever changing fashion that literally last weeks. Any of it sound familiar?

    He (and I paraphrase here) said it was like being a prophet. That looking back on these works and having predicted this our failure to avoid it was somewhat depressing. I'm farily sure we've all had the What-If conversations with people and drawn conclusions. I guess for people who have, even accidentally, predicted these things to see them becoming true must be soul-destroying. When Arthur C Clarke wrote about satellites I wonder if he thought about the wider implications of spying and a lack of personal freedoms that come bundled with the idealism of "greater security"?

    Like most people who have children how the future is going to pan out nags at the back of my mind. With the recent credit crunch and the huge burden of debt that my government has chosen to saddle future generations with I wonder whether my children are going to enjoy a better or worse lifestyle than my wife and I have. I wonder if the years of work that I am putting in now will ever mean anything. I wonder if they are going to follow insane fashion trends and have a burning desire for disposable phones, computers you can fit in your pocket. Will they have more than a handful of "real" friends that they have met in person, and the rest of their relationships consist entirely of online avatars that they have a tiny precis to refer to?

    I am sure that contrary to what we have always been told to believe, that the world is not a better place. It's not a safer place. The more extremes of behaviour can be seen in snapshots of news that flash up on our screens before being replaced by more sensational (and more importantly fresher) stories. Positives are buried so deeply under deluges of negatives that soon people will stop looking for even for these small glimmers of happiness.

    I think perhaps that my children, my wife and family, my friends all provide me with the most positive of experiences that it more than makes up for the crushing weight of negativity and vacuous celebrity that we are relentlesly bombarded by. I was never a big consumer of TV. There is even less reason now to watch it. Positives need to abound in this sea of mediocrity and negativity.

    What's your vision of the future for you, your family, work?

    Posted by AlexC at 01:47 PM | Comments (3041)