Monday, 19 October 2009

The Power of Crisis... but you still need a buddy

Over the last few weeks, I've become a great fan of Tony Robbins' material. It makes a lot of sense along with many other NLP-based personal development strategies etc. I've just listened to his Power of Crisis audio with great interest - it all makes sense and have felt motivated to try to take some action. But, even Tony admits that when you're down in a crisis, a friend, colleague, buddy can help - someone who has been through something similar to whatever you're going through.

"Crisis is the crucible of our lives - the blast furnace that often melts down life as we know it. It can take us, or can offer us the opportunity to recast our lives into something greater, deeper and more rewarding

Today, we're facing extremely challenging times: from the multi-trillion dollar loss in retirmement wealth that's left the stock market decimating people's life savings and the collapse of the real estate market with foreclosures at an all time high to the massive loss of jobs across the country. This distressing news offers us nothing more than fear. So where do we turn? How can we access the power of the human spirit to meet any obstacle and triumph over our greatest challenges, injustices and pain."

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Ch, ch, ch, changes...Turn and face the strain

Part of the problem I have faced is knowing what to do next. With a zig-zagging work history in the years before setting up my business, I find myself not only facing the financial abyss but also a career abyss.

Besides making and waiting on phone calls for banks, creditors etc, I'm trying to find a way through to some sort of new start. Finding out how to sell myself is proving a challenge as I haven't got enough recent experience on the one hand but have too many years experience on the other. I'm currently trying to find a way of phrasing the fact that I'm prepared to start at the bottom of my previous career ladder to get back up to speed, as, until I can find the time and money to give myself the luxury of re-inventing myself, a route back into my previous career seems to be the only way to pay the rent,

InternsOver40 seems to reflect pretty much where I'm at although much of the material is aimed at those who have the resources to take some time. However, it does put out some good stuff for when I'm feeling in a positive mood.

In this Career Change Tips & Tricks video, the one tip that stuck out for me was to find 3 to 5 other people who have gone through a significant career change - hey, that sounds familiar! A career change buddy system!!

Monday, 12 October 2009

Options, Schmoptions!

The options for ending your business depend on available funds/assets/finances. The one I've taken is to strike off the company (s652 of the UK Companies Act) as that is sort of my only option. That's because neither the company nor I can acess the funds to put the company into the hands of professionals - accountants to do my accounts, insolvency practitioners to wind it up, etc. I'm having to take the chance on it not getting too serious and having my wrist figuratively slapped from the company aspect and then deciding whether I want to hand my life over to the Official Receiver in bankruptcy. The UK Citizens Advice Bureau are offering some help on both sides but it's dragging.

At a personal level, I'm looking at lots of options available to me (IT, tutoring, languages, music, internet marketing, running away, dropping out) but therein lies part of the problem - no real career or specialism so I'm finding it hard to get motivated with the waiting for the weight to really hit the fan from the bank and HMRC as well as having to jump through loops for the dole and housing/CT benefit because I was employed by my own company which owes me money - I've had to spend a lot of time dealing with that.

I don't necessarily have a problem taking responsibility for my mistakes but where I do have a problem is when organisations hide their responsibility behind their faceless-nature - try getting the name of the decision maker! Who is the actual person with the buck, taking responsibility for risky banking decisions, toxic debt and government practices which contribute to business failures. Small business may be the lifeblood of the country but I'm find myself moving towards the conspiracy theorists camp when it comes to New World Orders, "1984" etc - if I'd have taken serious notice of the Zeitgeist Movie and The Trap when I saw them a couple of years ago, again, I don't think I would have taken the chance on dealing with banks. My naive business model is an idealised co-operative/hippy thing which has little value (financial or otherwise) nowadays.

In short, I can't see any fun for a long time unless my Lotto numbers come up (when I can afford to buy the ticket)!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The public consequences of failure

This doesn't refer to putting your failure on show to the public. It refers to the potential consequences of running a business, failing and then having to resort to public funds to get back on track. Here is a letter written to a UK MP relating to such a situation - some of it may be tongue in cheek but the sentiment is real

Dear Honourable Member of Parliament

Ref: Delays in JSA / Housing/Council Tax Benefit

Following the closure of my business in your constituency at the end of July, I had to resort to claiming JSA & Housing/Council Tax Benefit on 7 August.

Letters have been bounced backwards and forwards regarding “additional information” due to me being employed by my own company resulting in a 2 month decision delay which I find excessive and insulting.

As a previously positive person who
· attempted to play an active role in the regeneration of your constituency
· tried to create jobs for people in your constituency
· has always taken my financial responsibilities very seriously
· has tried to limit my reliance on state aid to a minimum
· is a British national since birth
my circumstances are currently so bad that I am writing to ask for your assistance to determine the process for registering as a permanent benefit recipient or becoming non-British (legal or illegal?) in order to expedite my claim.

My primary reason for seeking your assistance is that the amount of evidence I am being asked to provide by JSA Decision Makers and by the Council implies that I have somehow constructed my current circumstances in order to rely on state aid. I am about to lose everything, including over £50,000 over my own money that was used to prop up the business and try to keep people in employment.

I would also be interested to know if there is a way that I can apply retroactively for my change in status. Additionally, I am sure that my new status would provide additional benefits that I am not currently aware of. If you would provide me with an outline of the process to change status (retrospectively if possible) and copies of the necessary forms, I would be most appreciative.

In addition, my financial difficulties are having a serious effect on my physical and mental wellbeing, which means that following advice from family & friends regarding the pressure of debts, I am seriously considering bankruptcy. Therefore, I, Your Constituent, currently being of sound mind and body, am holding You, Honourable Member of Parliament, Mr. DecisionMaker of JSA Decision Makers and Mr Finance of The Council Finance Department, personally accountable for all decisions regarding JSA & Housing/Council Tax Benefit and their part in any actions I take should my “wellbeing” deteriorate to a more serious state due to the financial pressure.

Yours faithfully
Your Constituent

Sunday, 4 October 2009

What they don't deal with in your business plan

Looking back at the mistakes made leading up to business failure is something which is done on a regular basis, in many cases with the help of seasoned professionals. It can obviously be a useful learning exercise. However, wouldn't you think that with the wealth of experience which has built up around this, business start-up advisors in banks and other business support organisations would by now have started going a little deeper into exit strategy implications?

Looking back on my experience, my business plan got more than a small thumbs up from many experts for its comprehensive content - marketing, staffing, profit & loss, cash-flow etc. Mistakes in all these areas contributed, to a greater or lesser extent, to the business failing. Even my exit strategy of "selling" the business once it had achieved its 5-10 year growth projections was seen positively - and there in lies the problem. No-one really pushed me on the negative exit strategy which I am living through now.

Don't get me wrong - like many entrepreneurs, rightly or wrongly, I may or may not have been so blinkered in my determination to get the business going, that I would have been blase about such failure. However, I believe that if the frightening consequences of failure had been presented in a constructive realistic manner, the very real pressures of debt and re-inventing my life would have made me think a few more times than I actually did - I am (was?) a optimistic realist at heart and I'm more than capable of assessing risk etc.

So, what don't they deal with in your business plan? They do not address your true capability and resources to deal with absolute meltdown, financially and mentally. It's impossible to see all the reasons why a business may or may not fail (recessions, for example, come and go with random unpredictability) but I now believe that it is possible to address the consequences of failure and to present a few nightmare scenarios when assessing the business plan.

And why don't they do this? Well, let's take an example from my personal case: a lease company requesting a personal guarantee which I was unable to provide meant me going to a family member. It took a few phone calls and email exchanges to finally get them to admit that in the worse case scenario, house repossession would be an option and I was able to make a judgement on that (a very mistaken judgement in hindsight). They were unwilling to present the worse case scenario up front because they just wanted to push for the leasing arrangements to be taken. That family member is having to deal with the ugly consequences of my erroneous decision - happily, for the moment, without house repossession.

So what don't "they" deal with in your business plan? They don't really deal with effect of failure - and this failure should not be restricted to the business - they should deal with the effect on the physical and mental well-being of real people. Some people are more capable than others of dealing with bankruptcy, insolvency, mental pressures etc. In my case, it has completely flipped my personality - taking the 80/20 rule, I was previously 80% optimistic, 20% realistic compared to currently 80% pessimistic, 20% pessimistic! All individual circumstances are unique but I believe there are certain factors which can't be ignored when assessing a business-person's capability to recover and go forward.

These factors include and are not limited to
  • age
  • financial resources
  • career and experience
  • support network
So, with just under a couple of years of business experience, I am able to say that, irrespective of the business case, my personal situation and lack of resources should have sounded some alarm bells. I may be fooling myself but I believe that with a little realistic insight based around factors such as those above put up against worst case failure scenarios examined by experienced professionals, my business venture would have been based on stronger foundations, if indeed, I would have allowed myself to have built it at all.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Business Failures Anonymous started by professed 'failure'

This is an article from a US newspaper. It could be from any business coaching related blog or business advice forum. You may be surprised when you see the origin at the bottom of the article.

ARCADIA, Calif (AP) - Can a man talk himself out of failure? A 40-year old engineer who has failed himself, been jailed for drunkenness and spent the last 18 months in Alcoholics Anonymous thinks so.

In fact he started his own organization a few months ago, patterned after AA. It is called Business Failures Anonymous.

The founder, like all BFA members, insists on remaining anonymous.

He is soft spoken, the father of three, and a proprietor of a going engineering business. But he describes himself as a failure.

"I'm a self-made man and proud of it. But I can look back on a self-made career and find that I did a terrible job"

He and the members don't seek professional advice on how to achieve success. They probe for solutions within themselves. The meetings are devoted to frank conversation in which "the people try to find out where they went wrong."

The only requirement for membership: "The individual must show a desire to avoid failure in the future."

So, 1959! Early rumblings of self-help business coaching... plus ca change...