15 07 2009
Not having an original 60’s San Franciscan Hippy Hiller amongst us doesn’t stop us appreciating that some of the best things in life are free; family, friends, sunshine and moonshine the more obvious and less debatable ones. Snapping at the heels of Freebies is Good Value, which is equally turning out to be the elusive Holy Grail as the ever shrinking economy is squeezing everything around us to the point of almost needing a fainting room, such as those used by Victorian ladies whose corsets squeezed their internal organs until they became dizzy.
Not only have financial products been reduced almost to the state of the Dodo, Universities are changing their criteria with some grants being restricted whilst tuition fees are rising. Some products seem genuine bargains but then add on elements not expected and they change into not such a bargain.
The constrictions being imposed can make us all want to make a break for freedom as Legislation isn’t usually on the statute book until after inevitable delays and the frustration of patchy reform.
So what does the quest for Value entail? Selectivity and long term satisfaction are our keys for differentiating between a bargain, cheap and good value and making the Wholly Grail possible. The Flying Lizards sang “The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and the bees; Now give me money (that’s what I want)”. We think it’s more possible than the Knights of the Round Table eating Spamalot to enjoy the freebies whilst striving for good value in those that cost.
(Image credit: fairbrand Article credit: Copyright SUF)
Movement, Men and Machines or ‘Kraftwerk’
The Tour de France takes around 23 days to complete and covers 3,500 km /2,200 miles. Rock Band Queen sang about the freedom of freewheeling on a bike… Bicycle..Bicycle..I want to ride my Bicycle… and Norman Tebbit as Employment Secretary is famous for the story about his unemployed father in the 30’s getting on his bike and looking for work.
Whilst Carl Horton didn’t get on a bike he completed his feat, after a visit to the Job Centre, in half the time of the Tour de France and is currently riding along running his own Company.
As a full spectrum welder who’d been made redundant he used his knowledge and experience to start a service-based business Horton Welding Supplies alongside sales of welding products; some of which are at his eBay store. Not one to stop the wheels turning and being used to melting things together, he also recognised that repair and maintenance is an alternative to buying new, therefore re-cycled products are also offered.
We don’t know if anyone near or dear to Carl is called `Mary’ but if there is they should be very Proud ….. Big Wheels Keep on Turning……
(Image credit: Derekgavey Article credit: Copyright SUF)
01 07 2009
No Paine, No Gain……
Living during a time of constitutional change, economic expansion, the birth of both National Debt and the Bank of England, Thomas Paine, amongst many things, called for revolution, defended private property, wrote on behalf of Banking, the Wage and Class Injustice, has been quoted by American Presidents and yet had only 6 or so people attend his funeral. His two centuries old quotes have resonance and relevance today; he would have made a superb and controversial Blogger.
“I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments and common sense; and have not other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to determine for themselves; that he will put on rather than he will not put off, the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his views beyond the present day.” (Common Sense pamphlet)
Using common sense or, as we with Northern roots prefer, gumption, is more relevant than ever before. Enlarging our views beyond the present day is a must in order to re-think our ideas in the multi-changing globalised world we exist in. Even the word gumption has transformed it’s meaning from ‘common sense’ in Paine’s time with ‘drive / initiative’ added to the sense of the meaning as businesses and economy expanded throughout the next Century. Those changes were the premise for Paine’s radical thinking just as the changes happening now are creating problems requiring solutions, of which some may also be radical.
Customer Value is a current buzzword but the simple fact and plain argument is that customer value has been ignored by both financial institutions and many of their customers; until now. Financial Institutions now having much leaner budgets are adapting their business goals and models accordingly and whilst their bottom line is value, unless those wanting funding determine for themselves to look beyond the present day, what may seem a straightforward product will become more complicated as resources deplete further. Looking at a Long Term Product in the same way as a Short Term Product is tantamount to prejudice through prepossession and the lending institutions’ customers could get caught out in terms of Customer Value. With financial institutions deciding to alter their lending criteria and consumer confidence being so low it is easiest to ignore the true character of a product. Just as when financial institutions decided to alter their lending criteria and consumer confidence was high it was also easy to ignore the true character of a product.
Paine’s work is hugely debatable and to some as equally as devoid for interaction as complicated products and finance in general. Finance is a necessity of life and the assumption and presumption is that you’ll use your gumption.
The following is a précis of the past few weeks showing up on the SUF radar as elements for your financial Sudoku.
We had warned that Residential Fixed rates were to rise, a severe prediction which continues with the market being driven into 5 year fixes, some High Street Lenders are already up to 7.5%; a 30% increase on last year’s comparison for the same period.
Another trend which is likely to continue is the Lender criteria becoming stricter, as the new world market evolves, therefore preparation remains key to obtaining a satisfactory result.
Personal Loans are holding well with rates, despite the unpredictable property market. Comparatively reasonable Redemption Penalties may sweeten any bitter-pill effect and can be used creatively for the savvy strategist.
On the subject of Rates and their effect on world markets consider the fate of Spain compared with Florida. The tables have been turned here and, whilst both have repos and thousands of empty properties, rates in Spain can be as low as 2.5 % for a remortgage whilst Florida is almost impossible to refinance, and purchase rates start around 9%.
Commercial property could, for some, be an excellent investment. With some propositions now falling outside of Bank Lending Criteria other lending lines are recognising the opportunities and are able to provide the necessary loans, including for properties with leases of less than 15 years.
It has been brought to our attention that a huge percentage of pets are insured whilst only a fraction of us insure personal income (63% vs. 6% – not able to reference this as it was during a conversation). However, a reminder that if you have a debt, you need protection; an unfortunate component of personal finance.
26 06 2009
Extending our theme of Cafe’s we’ve been made aware of a restaurant that hasn’t got itself into a twist but is using a dual business model to full effect. Sullivan’s run by Bernadette Farrell of Rhosneigr is using her premises to full benefit as Cafe , Wine Bar, Restaurant and with American launderette facilities the choices seem limitless. We recently made comment about cafes and restaurants not making the most of their opportunities in our inclement climate but finding Bernadette’s extensive model has once again shown that lateral thinking in business generates business models that benefit the client and therefore the business. With an idea like this we won’t be surprised if we hear about her laundry going for franchise.
(Image credit: Rickremington Article credit: Copyright SUF)
12 06 2009
A Cafe with No Coffee…. but it’s Free
How refreshing to hear of someone who wants to leave their place of work rather than being pushed. Margaret, the Ying to Nick’s Yang, has handed in her notice to Sir Alan, as right hand (shoulder) ‘man’ and, like all difficult to replace employees, she will be sorely missed.
The majority of those who are out of work are not in a place of their choosing. With unemployment rising, school leavers and students about to spill out into the 3rd quarter of the year and the debate about gender gap continuing, it is understandable to hear of the desperate and admirable measures, such as the wearing of placards extolling predicament and availability, being taken by individuals.
Whilst the economy is rooting around for green shoots , we still believe in the strength of growth from downturns. Very recently we heard of a successful new business, LaidOffNeedaJob , born directly from the experience of unemployment. For obvious reasons, we hope this will be a short-term success however the sentiment of not being unemployed and isolated is relevant.
Something , which can be especially effected by disheartening unemployment statistics, is usually, an immediate requirement for most employers: A quality CV. The Interview stage of The Apprentice illustrates, via lots of rabbits caught in headlights, the raw exposure of the interview process and CV revelations. Ali Deegan’s CV Cafe offers a CV build service for free. Along with tips and advice your CV can also be stored online ready for your potential employer…. How brilliant is that? There’s only one downside…. you make the coffee.
(Image credit: Chairman Moneko Article credit: Copyright SUF)
08 06 2009
Wednesday, June 8th 1949, saw the first publication of a book which, putting the ideologies aside, has its basis about the removal of individual thought and freedom and the control of information. With the Bankers` party over and politicians retreating to the playground to continue their squabbles, it would be very easy to think about the resonance of Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Fours dystopia .
60 years ago we were given such phrases as Room 101, Thought Police, Newspeak, Doublethink and Big Brother. A recent phrase not from the book, but could well have been, is ‘ Computer Says No’ – having always been a staple of the majority of large corporations but in the contrary industry of finance it’s a phrase which is increasingly being used.
Over the years we’ve learnt to ignore the unpleasant elements of the finance world and focus on the important issues hence the lenders we use aren’t always the obvious choices because we have access to human beings.
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03 06 2009
Understanding what is happening in the economy is not about money or the making of it, however, understanding what is happening around us can help us gain some perspective – a favourite word at Step-Up Finance – in order for us all to make choices appropriate to that economy.
It’s inevitable that interest rates are eventually going to go up and become part of our future and when the climb starts it’s a reasonable conclusion that money will be more expensive. Meanwhile no-one wants the cost of borrowing to rise.
The economic world is less about the science of economics, more the maths and problem solving of the business world being connected to economics.
Whilst the Summer is around us it’s easy to have our heads in the clouds.
01 06 2009
Life on Earth climbs out of the Swamp….
We’re not historians but this does, to us, seem to be echoing the metaphor of Survival of the Fittest. Adapting to conditions achieves survival necessary to go on and become the fittest. With an attitude of weeding out the weak, the ‘survival’ phrase has been a business mantra throughout the 20th Century, taken to new heights during the mid 80’s and continuing until very recently.
Ironically, the fittest may no longer be fit. We have a new economic world with different surroundings. It was futile during the age of ‘might and arrogance’ to talk about the trust we’d built up with our clients. Reliability and loyalty weren’t priority characteristics in the swamp. Those that had the same ethos worked quietly alongside us without the bells and whistles of a louder, brasher way of working.
However it now appears that we might be something of an anomaly. An outcome of the economic evolution has altered many to now think about something we have been advocating since our inception 16 years ago….. Take One Step Backward to Make Two Steps Forward. Those surviving to become the fittest are those that adapted alongside us. The Brontosaurus is a better known dinosaur than the Apatosaurus but, as Sir Alan said during an Apprentice sales task, ‘novelty sells’. Whilst one is easier to say than the other, neither survived the evolutionary process, and both are the same dinosaur . The Apprentice’s Brontosaurus, whilst being novel didn’t survive as choice for the sales task either; he was deemed too expensive by the chap who got the chop.
Many believed, during Victoria’s reign, that the theory of natural selection could only have been born during that time of Laissez-Faire attitudes, which remains an argument for now, as some would say, there is many a dinosaur walking the halls of Westminster, especially looking over their comments in the news over the past few weeks. The evolutionary process of natural selection should be interesting to watch emerge from that particular swamp….. but our persistence and tenacity has ensured our clients’ and customers survival which in turn ensures our survival – proving that we’re not lofty cold-bloodied dinosaurs.
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