14 12 2009
And now the end is near, the end of the year and the end of a decade, also the first line to one of the Nations favourite pieces of funeral music: Frank Sinatra’s My Way.
Being as we are always, in financial terms, bringing up the need to plan for best effect, we thought it might be worth looking at some others who think, although probably not the most sensitive turn of phrase on this occasion, Outside the Box, when it comes planning for endings.
The business model, it would appear from personal experience along with limited knowledge gained from viewing both the amazing series Six Feet Under and Richard Wilson’s Two Feet in the Grave, is that time is of the essence in the event, often under circumstances when clear thinking isn’t at the forefront of actions, of a funeral. An event which, for some includes celebration and needs someone with not only a myriad of organisational skills but the experience and knowledge to bring out as many of the stops that one might not be aware of, but might be available.
A broker of sorts is required, to be there for the person who isn’t, someone who will negotiate on their behalf and Liz Lee is such a person with The Fantastic Funeral Company being such a place to go offering consultancy and advice for such end-of-life issues.
Their business model is one in which the client is accommodated and choice is available.
One in which, when life comes to an end, it can be celebrated. Whether traditional, or alternative, it’s possible to use a Wish List to truly sing out “I did it my way”
Life is ever changing and, as this Company proves; when life comes to an end our choices shouldn’t stop. There is more beyond the flowers.
UPDATE: 2013 – Liz has moved to pastures new, and regrettably, her business has ceased trading.
(Image credit: qthomasbower )
07 12 2009
As main thoroughfare for towns, the high street reflects the history of a place and its people, with its social habits and economy reflected in the shop windows. We were therefore intrigued by a recent talent show for various occupations, entitled Young (Whatever) of the Year, with the first episode finding talent from the world of butchers.
We thought we’d have a butchers at what such an occupation, that has seen its numbers dwindling well before the enforced changes businesses are currently seeing, can tell us about business, other than it`s not only Michael Jackson who can lay claim to the steel glove.
Master butchers require precise skills, as does any successful business, but the metaphors don’t end there. Good butchers know every vertebrae and joint of their carcasses and how to get the best cuts, not only for their customer, but for their benefit in terms of profit.
Watching the butchers` shop can be a reflection of current market forces as so-called cheap cuts are taking centre stage of the butcher’s display. Cuts of meat, never until recently, seeing the shop front are now proudly displayed. It seems that, in a downturn, customers are turning to their local butcher’s knowledge for less expensive cuts. Not only in finance is the word economy being used; watch any celebrity chef.
Tidy butchering, with precise cutting, is as necessary to the butcher as is efficiency with an accurate approach, and relates to many other businesses along with not too much fat or wastage. Working with the whole product a butcher has to be adaptable to their market conditions. If it’s hot - it`s BBQ cuts. If it’s cold - it’s the trimmings. It is no different for other businesses in order to survive. Nothing is wasted. What butchers use for displays and what they keep ‘out back’ alters along with their costing yields; reflecting customers demands they baseline accordingly.
A walk down the high street can show more than which businesses are coming and going, however, as for the young butchers, we can’t offer any comment on what making a Viking boat from a saddle of lamb and a cabbage leaf could mean for business and don’t think we’ll hear the phrase “I have confidence in my sausage” can be adapted for too many.
(Image credit: David Armano Article credit: Copyright SUF)
03 12 2009
YouGen’s Cathy Debenham recently asked the question “How many cyclists does it take to boil a kettle?” Her Blog included fascinating numbers, and debate followed at SUF Headquarters about Business Cycles.
How many employees does it take to maintain a Company? How many regulations does it take to manage a Company? How many entrepreneurs does it take to start up a Company? It’s all a bit chicken and egg.
Joseph Schumpeter contemplated boom and bust cycles, adaptation to new market conditions and economic circular flows and cycles with someone who is willing to be innovative, the entrepreneur, as key.
Keynes has especially been much talked about throughout the last twelve months, but with current market conditions and recent history we’re wondering if Schumpeter will be the next decades flavour.
IT innovation is altering all manner of business therefore perhaps the defining question for economist to consider should be the cyclists and boiled kettle because without sustainable energy both business information, and business in general, might be left in the Dark Ages when it comes to transforming opportunity.
(Image credit: WizPip)
25 11 2009
It has emerged that the Bank of England was lender to RBS and HBOS in autumn of last year, for the sum of £61.6 billion on top of the taxpayer bailouts.
Revealing the bailout to the Treasury Committee, Bank Governor Mervyn King said “confidence can best be sustained if the Bank’s support is disclosed only when the conditions that gave rise to potentially systemic disturbance have improved to a point where the disclosure itself should not be a cause of such disturbance.” The Bank had decided that for its Annual Report, published 18 May 2009 ‘ to limit the extent of disclosure in its financial statements’ .
It has now decided that all danger has passed and disclosure made. If it wasn’t so serious it could be an episode from a classic British comedy.
Setting: Chaotically organised Institution
Plot: Repressed, miserly person in charge gets a betting tip which he asks his disorganised and confused employee to place without his effective Second in Command knowing. The bet comes through and the winnings are handed to a second employee so the effective manager isn’t aware. (This employee seems willing to do the most bizarre things to keep their job.) When the one in charge decides to take his winnings a partially-sighted and selectively-deaf guest of the Institution, whose trait is to believe they are always right and won’t listen to others, announces they have money missing and is convinced someone has stolen it. Chaos ensues between staff as to who saw what and who claims to have seen what; meanwhile the money has been given to a senile old gent, who forgets what he did with the money. Eventually the money is produced and given to the very demanding character. Soon after, further money is handed over after being mistakenly lost. Chaos ensues again as each character tries to protect the other, eventually the truth is blurted out by the senile gent but an expensive vase is dropped and the lost money is given over to the very demanding character in lieu of the expensive accident.
What is the message from those in authority? “There is nothing that can be done” or “We know nothing!”
Questions will be doing the rounds again such as who made the decisions to keep things quiet, who takes responsibility, why now and are we to expect continued communication problems?
………And when can we expect to hear “Don’t tell them your name , Pike?”
(Image credit: thermionic)
Making No Bones About Being a Pub Landlord
There is far more to running a pub than chatting with the locals and pulling an occasional pint. With notoriously long hours, a determination for your business is a necessary requirement for a landlord’s business success.
So, in one of Britain’s best known industries, how does a pub landlord respond to customers’ needs other than pool, darts and big screen sports to create a successful business?
A country pub in a city, real ale, locally sourced food, beer garden, coal fire and traditional pub games instead of TV, pool table, and juke box or games machine.
In our view, even without brilliant offerings such as live music, arts exhibitions, an artist in residence, poetry nights, and events such as Summer and Winter Beer Festivals complementing their cask ales and menu, but purely because they have a book-swap facility, they’re probably the best in the world (as a certain larger brand might announce) and most deservedly winners of their many Awards.
In the Nursery rhyme of Old Mother Hubbard, reference to the cupboard being bare and her dog going without a bone could, it is said, be referring to poverty at the time. We don’t think Eve and Alex, as landlords will ever have to sound like OM Hubbard as their cupboard is well and truly stocked with Outside the Box ideas and proving that traditional doesn’t have to be boring.
With a Knick-Knack Paddywhack, give your dog a bone. This old man would come rolling home very happily from such a place and can’t wait for them to roll out into other counties.
(Image credit: AdmlCrunch Article credit: Copyright SUF)
17 11 2009
An interesting name, occasionally coined for small businesses that are owner operated, is The Mom and Pop Shop.
Independently owned and managed with few employees these businesses, like families, have the potential to grow. As such they add value to the economic health of a community and sometimes offer job creation.
Usually in retail or service based industry, they remain in a single location and, whilst many large retail chains are suffering the ups and downs of the economy, such individual businesses are often able to remain and even thrive through the troughs.
Such businesses shouldn’t be underrated as they operate in microcosms of market sectors all around the giants. Not beginning as a highly funded start-up doesn’t prevent potential.
Having to juggle work and family schedules and being committed for full 24 hour days gives such businesses the bonus of hands on experience and a commitment that dictates the intention of any goals.
Whilst multi-nationals offer products that are (usually) known, micro businesses rise to competition by circumnavigating to areas that are missing; often through specialism.
Aggressive marketing or limited choice offers up no alternatives, creates homogenization and potentially drives markets away. For an economy to be healthy balanced competition is required.
Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got, till it’s gone. (Joni Mitchell)
(Image credit: musicpb)
09 11 2009
What have you done with the garden entrusted to you? asked Spanish poet Antonio Machado with the closing line of The Wind, One Brilliant Day and we began to wonder as it took us several hours to locate a specific garden at this years’ Sandringham Show - Surprisingly difficult considering the centrepiece was 8 tonnes of metal in the shape of a Sultan tracked command vehicle.
Integral in a garden of wild meadow, paths and pools and quiet reflective stopping points it was made to honour Britain’s armed forces and those responsible for its creation had done a fantastic job, equally ensuring the cause it supported, Help4Heroes, was less difficult to track down.
With so many charities vying for support, raising awareness takes outside the box thinking and we feel that service charities such as The British Legion and Help4Heroes manage to do exactly that. Without politicising or criticism they put first the servicemen and women and give non- political and non-judgmental support.
And where is the tank hidden now? This hide and seek Gold Award garden, dedicated to those in the Armed Forces both past and present, is to be is to be reconstructed, as part of a garden of remembrance at RAF Honington.
Stepping back, considering how our metaphoric gardens grow and putting things into perspective is always to be encouraged.
(Image credit: John-Morgan Article credit: Copyright SUF)
01 10 2009
Murder in the Dark
“Mama Told Me Not to Come” sang The Animals, Three Dog Night and later Tom Jones with the Stereophonics. Ambiguous lyrics run through and a mantra repeats that it was a Mama who had forewarned of potential trouble. The earliest version gives an air of discovering something unknown, the following version hints at fear with elements of hesitance, the final version shows a confidence beginning and all three exude the excitement of taboo. No matter what the era, ‘Mama’ gave advice which, on an eve of discovery, that alone might just be the reason to go ahead.
So what has this to do with our subject matter of finance?
For the majority of us, as we scrambled through our younger years trying all manner of new experiences, there will always have been some parental figure, in the background, wagging a finger of warning. Some may have had an advantage of any mistakes having the metaphoric plaster applied and some later appreciating any scolding for the sentiments behind them. As we move on, such parental figures move aside and their reprimands are something that remains only in our heads and we begin making our own decisions.
The outcome of any decision making is a choice, made between alternatives. Approaching the choice varies between logic and emotion. Rational only decision making excludes all emotion and assigns only criteria however emotional decisions can include logic. ‘Mama’ made any decisions with a basis of emotion and added logic therefore when adjusting from being guided by ‘Mama’ to making personal decisions, seeking out advice from different sources ensures a balance to decision making.
Financial decisions are huge, not least because they impact on every aspect of our lives and certain aspects of our lives are subject to emotion more than others. So, is there a ‘Mama’ in matters of finance?
Not to detract from some lending institutions’ charitable deeds, whilst their media campaigns are that of being friendly and empathetic the reality is that their decisions are made with (their) logic and, as we move further up the chain, upper echelons are further removed from emotion when it comes to their workaday decisions.
Finance, especially personal, is a difficult taboo subject for many to talk about. Although information about the subject can be garnered from all corners and debt advice charities such as Citizens Advice shouldn’t be underestimated but when it comes to that warts and all conversation a ‘Mama’ substitute is required. Since the oxymoron of Solvent Bank came about, finance and trust have been torn apart but trust is needed for such a conversation.
We’re always talking about the need to secure knowledge in personal finance and we’d like to think that those who ignore such advice aren’t doing so to be petulant. If you want to have fun you might consider turning the lights on or, as with a recent crazy party which we’re all aware of, things can soon get out of hand and it seems a crime to ignore the opportunity of once again having a ‘Mama’ who’ll wag a finger of understanding instead of waiting for an en masse finger wag when it all goes wrong.
As Agatha Christie once said: “Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that’s no reason not to give it”.
(Image credit: mattw1ls0n Article credit: Copyright SUF)