Lessons from 2010


Steve Dunn and Steve Greensted

We survived 2010

On the left is my old friend and frequent former client, Steve Dunn. We were captured here congratulating ourselves at an Irish wedding in The Episode Hotel in Leamington Spa on 2 December.

We had survived 2010.

Moments later, we looked less jolly when a Salvation Army choir suddenly joined us in the bar for a festive singalong.

It was,  nonetheless, a very cheerful night, watching James Whiteman and Nina O’Connor get married, and remained so until I got on the last train back to London.

The train’s heating system was not working.

A dinner jacket and a dress shirt are very rarely recommended for dealing with Arctic blasts. How was I going to survive the journey?

Shivering convulsively, sure of my impending death from hypothermia, I started to review my life, and also my bank balance. What could I learn from 2010, even if it was unlikely I was going to survive to see any part of it?

During 2010, I won business from Workman, Gravitas PR, Volante Research, Microsoft Italia (no, they haven’t paid me yet but I’m sure they will) and the EU. On behalf of the EACA School I went to Athens, Warsaw, Paris, Istanbul, Aarhus and Copenhagen. The EU sent me to Kiev, which I adored.

But I still seem to be short of money despite having had a thoroughly enjoyable and busy year. What lessons should I learn?

Well, they are, of course all the things you tell your clients. So, if  I make my money by telling my clients simple things about, for example, cash-flow, why don’t I apply the same principles to the way I behave? And it’s not just me. I know plenty of other sole trading consultants who ought to be fabulously wealthy by now, but are not.

So, here are five things I swore to observe, as I shivered convulsively on the train:

  1. Until you have the money in your bank account, you haven’t been paid. Promises of imminent payment are not to be taken seriously
  2. Before taking on a job, find out what the payment terms are. It turns out that Microsoft’s is 90 days. This is OK providing you know about it in advance. You can then make up your mind. Is your bank balance sufficiently strong to last those 90 days? If not, negotiate. If yes, negotiate anyway.
  3. Everything is negotiable, but a sole trader only has negotiating power before taking on a job. Thereafter, you’re committed, largely because the job soaks up time which would otherwise be devoted to new business. Once you’ve taken on the job, you have to make it work. And remember, if you don’t do a thorough job, the word gets around, so don’t sulk.
  4. Do not be coy and embarrassed in chasing for payment. Business is not sentimental. It’s just business. Your clients pay their most important suppliers first. The others can wait. You can move up the payment schedule by getting noticed, and that means persistence.
  5. Get a routine. Review cash at hand regularly. Reconcile cash in with cash out. Can you meet your credit cards’ minimum payment this month? If not, can you hurry up payment? If yes, wait until the last moment, in case some other liability arises, like, in my case, two new low profile sports tyres on  my Audi TT, a new windscreen, and a £1000 overhaul of my flat’s heating system. None of these were budgeted.

I got off the train at Marylebone with no communications working between my brain and anything below my ankles. For all I knew, I had left my toes and my reason behind on the train.

The next blog will try to answer a digital marketing question: why blog? I’ll probably do this after Christmas, so, to all of you, have a lovely Christmas.