Are You Ephemeral?

You awake in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea, it consumes your thoughts and you have to start writing them down. The next thing you realise is that 4hrs have disappeared and it’s morning. The idea starts to gain momentum, world domination seems possible, ultimate wealth beckons and the idea starts to consume you day and night.

It is everything you have ever wanted.

Everyone you meet knows about your idea, you buy a domain name, rebrand yourself and launch this new concept. For 3-4 months you stay focused, until you watch a TV programme about something else, or are in conversation with a colleague about their business. Suddenly a new thought emerges, and you start to question your original plan.

A new concept is born and you can’t get to sleep, you toss and turn and awake in the middle of the night as it consumes your thoughts; you have to start writing them down. You now drop the original idea and move on to something else! You are surprised that your original idea felt so right but you can drop it so easily.

If this describes you, you are possibly ephemeral: attracted to short lived activities, almost as if existing for only one day.

Shiny ball syndrome is the name commonly given to this phenomenon whereby individuals constantly change their goals or focus every time they see a new “shiny ball” of potential. Be honest is this you?

Shiny ball syndrome, can often elicit amazing ideas but can also have a downside that it may not necessarily be something better… and more likely, could be a sign that you were never really committed to the original goal or haven’t even really spent the time to identify what you really want. Reader if this is you, it’s ok, yes you suffer from being Ephemeral, but help is at hand.

So often, being ephemeral occurs as a result of chasing quick solutions, get rich quick schemes and not dealing with what truly inspires you and/or finding your ‘why’. This lack of conviction about an idea in order to see it through, creates uncertainty, and the belief that you haven’t found the magic formula, thus making you prone to look for another solution. A savvy entrepreneur will check viability of their best idea and lay to rest their creative brain through one of many strategies, either a note book or an ideas box, and of course, accountability.

If you find yourself constantly changing your goals and direction, be very careful not to make it a lifelong habit. You could fool yourself into thinking you are inspired, motivated and goal-driven, when in fact you are just chasing your tail, making a lot of noise and going nowhere.

If you don’t build strong walls of commitment, you are likely to shoot off course as soon as you find another project that appeals to you.

Those who are susceptible to shiny ball syndrome should be especially careful not to adopt other people’s goals. If you don’t have a personal dream, sure as hell, someone else does, and you will be susceptible to all types of schemes.

I know from experience that if you are wavering because your ‘why’ is about getting rich quickly, someone will recruit you to build their dream, often a tactic seen in network marketing. Of course if getting rich or having a residual income is your ‘why’ then network marketing is an ideal solution; but if you do still have a passion for something else inside you then be warned you energy will be exhausted recruiting for distributors and your original dream will not have the time or resources to come to fruition.

Sometimes we see someone who is succeeding in a certain area of their life, and we decide that we’d like some of what they have! Your own goals then fall by the wayside as you alter your course towards someone else’s. You live their dream, not yours. You build their empire not yours. You could then spend years of your life chasing a shiny ball that was never even yours to begin with. The worst case scenario is if you actually succeed, because when you arrive, you will most likely realize that it was never what you wanted anyway, and you’ll have to start all over again.

You may be successful in achieving the goal, but if it’s not what you really want, you will never be truly fulfilled. I see this happen all the time.

“Success without fulfillment is failure” – Anthony Robbins

Today there are more opportunities and options than ever before. Every day new products, services, food, ideas, programs, books, courses, jobs, careers, and education are being marketed to you through the internet, television, radio, newspapers, billboards, and posters. Advertisers and salesmen are becoming extremely efficient at grabbing your attention and planting a seed in your mind on how to do less and earn more. Although the options are forever growing, one thing remains constant – you can’t do everything.

If you don’t stand up for your own goals and dreams, you will be swept away and distracted by the never-ending field of shiny balls being dangled in front of your face each day.D52 Supporting Entrepreneurs

So my suggestion, if this rings true, is to find what you love, what you’re good at, even if it isn’t the ‘get-rich-quick’ route and commit to making the idea viable.

Today we live in a society which idealizes self- employment, but this is the hardest route, as it requires commitment to ONE idea above all else and the ‘project’ has to wait until the first idea has been made viable.

So if you struggle with being ephemeral, maybe finding a creative employed route would enable you to follow as many shiny balls as you like in your ‘down-time’.

As a business advisor I am totally supportive of entrepreneurialism but would add that you need a strong business advisor to keep you on track if you do suffer from following transient projects.

I give my clients a Shiny Ball box™, a bit like Pandora’s box, which can only be opened when one idea has become viable.

To conclude: The greatest and best ideas come from creative and often ephemeral individuals, who are constantly finding solutions and seeing niche markets, but do take the time to decide on one workable course of action before moving on to something new. Being an entrepreneur is a blessing, so use your time wisely.

Word of Caution: If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything



BREXIT or Drought?

So Why have I entitled this article BREXIT or drought? You may ask!

With the increasing focus on the effects of Brexit we must not confuse the increasing food prices JUST on Brexit; despite the inevitable increases due to import tax prices are set to rise not because of Brexit but despite BREXIT due to the Summer drought.

This year saw the driest June on record comparable with 1976 with Southern England having just six per cent of the expected rainfall and Dorset (where I live) just 2mm, according to the Met Office. Having lived and worked in Lincolnshire and now Dorset I have many friends and family in agriculture for whom this summer has brought about sufficient hardship. Whilst 1976 did see more severe conditions than now, this has nonetheless been a really tough year for all types of farmer but particularly livestock farmers. The lack of rain has made it difficult to grow and harvest both grass used for animal feed and crops for human consumption and the summer drought-like conditions are now putting pressure on both diary and arable farmers.

It is inevitable therefore this winter, that we will see a hike in prices as supermarkets contend with a shorter supply of food such as bread, potatoes and onions.

‘As a broad generalisation, volumes of crops harvested will be down and for the majority of crops costs will be up. ‘(Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association)

The drought has affected the whole of Europe! This is not just a British problem.

Image result for drought

“Many German growers could go bankrupt if they suffer another crop failure, and too much rain in France is set to reduce output there. All combined, it’s shaping up to be Europe’s smallest grain harvest in six years. The damage to agriculture prompted Lithuania and Latvia to declare a national natural disaster and Germany was forced to import feed wheat from as far away as Romania.” (Bloomberg -July 2018)

The effect of Brexit? I think not, the effect of global warming? more likely.

In the period between March and July this year onion prices jumped up by 41 percent, while carrots rose by 80 percent and wheat for bread rose by a fifth.

So is it all doom & gloom? And what can we do?

  • Be realistic about the effects of Brexit
  • Support local growers and farmers by continuing to buy British
  • Be aware of the lack of produce availability in supermarkets and support local retailers
  • Buy what we need and don’t panic buy
  • Rethink food choices; returning to seasonal vegetables and creating menus from the produce which is readily available.
  • Ultimately, consider our green footprint

Whilst, we are not in ‘post war rationing Britain’ , we do need to rethink our obsession with a year round food supply not only from an environmental perspective but a commercial one. Perhaps if we altered our eating habits to reflect availability, behaving much as we did in 1976 (minus the flares and bad haircuts) the produce which is available would not be ploughed back into the soil, farmers would get a living wage and we could ‘do our bit’ for our local communities but additionally the wider global stage.

And there is some good news too. The extended sunny weather has produced a bumper yield of grapes and our vineyards will be producing more wine than ever this year. So whatever happens with Brexit, we can be assured that we will at least be able to drink a few glasses of wine in 2019. Cause enough to smile and embrace that good old British resolve and make the best of every situation.

The Challenge for Small Businesses – VAT

Recently I went on a fabulous trip to London to Visit 10, Downing Street organised by Enterprise Nation.

We were encouraged to consider key areas to discuss with government that we felt would help small businesses to thrive. Having worked with businesses for 13yrs in a variety of capacities, I was passionate about how the VAT threshold was impeding growth and was focused that this was one of the main areas to discuss (along with several other ideas on my agenda). For those of you who know me, sticking to purely one idea was difficult, however in discussion with everyone else I was able to bring up at least 2 suggestions.

Firstly, With ERDF grant funding ceasing in 2020 I raised the issue of schemes that the government could embrace after BREXIT, in particular Growth Vouchers, which would show the government’s commitment to supporting post start-up (3-5yr +) businesses. I remain hopeful that this scheme will be re-introduced.

Secondly, I raised the issue of VAT reduction to 10%, (hear me out!) as this is the subject for this BLOG.

VAT: My thoughts – Don’t fall asleep

As many of you reading this are aware there are three main types of tax that are relevant to most organisations: income tax; National Insurance (NI); and Value Added Tax (VAT) and of course Limited companies are also liable to pay corporation tax. (Next time I’ll discuss corporation tax, if I’m ever invited back!)

As a business owner reading this you are conceivably paying VAT or are under the threshold and considering whether to register. Those with larger businesses are possibly remembering the day your business registered with HMRC especially if it was several years into trading. Perhaps as you read this you are recollecting the pain of the year after registration, when perchance some customers fell away due to price increases. As VAT is a tax on most sales, services and imports, and is paid at each stage of the production and distribution chain it has a large part to play in most growing businesses.

If a business expects to turn over more than £83,000 a year (and the business does not exclusively sell goods or services that are exempt from VAT), that business is required to register with HMRC.

Having supported over 600 SME’s the threshold has become a ‘growth-sticking-point’ for many of my clients.

Let me give you an example from my own client base.

I supported a small business owner who at the point of contact had 3 businesses one of which was a hair salon. As you can image its primary focus was the blue rinse brigade, with poor hourly profits, low price points and concerns over sustainability. We worked together and identified a need for salon software to interrogate the statistics and monitor performance as they made changes. We created a focused marketing strategy profiling their consumers, improving the client base to attract additional higher paying customers, thus increasing profitability. Over the first year they grew into a reputable, well priced, salon with good patronage and a secure employee base. Through competitions and incentives the hair salon became successful in the town, a vibrant growing business.

And then they ‘hit’ the (then) threshold of £73,000.

Could they afford to increase a perm from £50-£60 potentially losing customers to the competition next door? Were they going to have to absorb the VAT within the business? And was this going to affect turnover and thus send the business into a downward spiral

Because registering for VAT requires a business to charge VAT on the products and services, it was a huge consideration for my client, did they want to grow anymore, or just tread water? How could they survive charging VAT on every appointment? Yes, once registered, the business would be entitled to claim back the VAT that it had paid for business supplies and services (input tax), however the difference in purchase of shampoos and hair products which is deducted from the output tax before the business paid the difference to HMRC would not make a sizeable difference to such a business. In this case the Hair salon chose to grow and pay the standard rate (20%). They registered with in trepidation, however, due to the new client base managed to continue and eventually grow. I’m unsure whether they would have survived quite the same way had they been solely reliant on their elderly clients. Thankfully 8yrs on they are still growing and expanding.

However this is not always the case in business. I sometimes laugh that I am the 4th emergency service, as some business owners seek support in desperation a year after registering, questioning their survival. However on a serious note it is not a laughable matter. I have additionally known businesses diversify in order to avoid the tax, and have seen tax concerns stunt growth and indeed some register and see their business disappear.

In my opinion having a standard flat rate of VAT across all industries immediately they register with HMRC creates a level playing field from commencement of a business. This encourages businesses to grow, be the best they can be and indeed be more competitive in Europe and the rest of the world.

I am sure the government has the statistics on business turnover and how if EVERY business paid VAT it would affect business contributions. But if all SME’s are VAT registered at this rate they are also not paying out 20% so profit margins would be better and thus the possibility of contributing sustainably to the economy, indeed becoming future employers.

Win: Win.

I hope the government does consider the benefits of reducing VAT to 10%. Let’s watch this space

Death of the High Street?

I’ve been contemplating all the hype about the demise of the high street and whether this is really the effects of BREXIT or just an avoidance tactic of what is really happening in the retail sector.

As a retailer in the 80’s and 90’s in largely independent shops and a few well known chains I appreciate the challenges retailers face. Now a business advisor to many in the retail sector it is clear that high street shops do face some hurdles:

Consumer fears: Fear of the unknown combined with media persistence of relentlessly covering the negative impact of brexit is encouraging consumers to hold tighter to their purse strings, feeding fear of future recession; inadvertently creating the very financial crisis they wish to avoid. Decreasing spend, combined with the rises in inflation and lower wages, are reducing consumers confidence in buying from high street shops.

Ecommerce: the rise of armchair consumerism is growing as the millenials increasingly utilise social media websites and apps to find a date, socialize, order food and purchase even larger items 24/7 all with a promised next day delivery. Increasingly the opportunity to compare and utilise budget sites such as Ebay, Shpock, Amazon and more are encouraging the younger (and indeed the elderly) generations to avoid the busy city centres, increased parking charges and surly customer service in preference to buying online

Experiences: Consumers are now preferring their leisure activities to be “experience-led” whether for an adrenaline rush, a music event, a comedy moment or food; unique opportunities and special moments are rewarded by customer loyalty rather than the purchasing of just “things.”

The effect on retailers should not be underestimated.

But is this all negativity necessary? Our society has seen change consistently in its history. The small independent retailers replaced in the 80’s by supersized superstores with mass produced items we all wanted, and so we ALL had.

Independent retailers suffered during the 80’s, 90’s and into the new century and only the truly unique and exclusive survived. How ironic that these retail giants are being replaced by an online consumer, reminiscent of those who moved from the independent to the superstore in the first place. But isn’t this excellent news for independent shops again? Consumers now want something more. Consumers want experiences, to be “loved” “valued” and given something more than a quick sale; purposefully choosing elite towns and cities to buy and experience something different. Only the retailers who embrace this will survive.

My advice is “Let’s stop blaming the demise of the high street on BREXIT but embrace a new way of trading again.”

Consumers ARE still buying it’s just their habits are changing.

Last month, wages outpaced inflation for the first time this year which will have a positive effect on U.K. growth, with projections on target for 2% growth this year. In Quarter 1 2018, the value of household spending in current prices increased by 3.3% on the same quarter in 2017. When comparing the volume measure of household spending in Quarter 1 2018 with the same quarter in 2017, it increased by 1.2%. (ONS Gareth Powell 29 June 2018)

If we look at the restaurant businesses for guidance we can see a change in consumer behaviour for healthier eating and experiential dining and an increased focus on food provenance and sustainability the retail sector needs to learn from this.

Local sourced, unique, handmade products from independent retailers who offer an experiential shopping environment hold the future.

But towns and cities need to help. High rents, long leases and poor management will not encourage independents to return.

A revision of traditional retail into one of pop-ups, shared spaces and shorter leases will ensure our high streets remain vibrant and give shop owners the ability to profit and improve our economy.

With changes in every industry it is an exciting time for innovators, entrepreneurs, retailers, manufacturers and designers through whom the UK can grow and prosper.

We have seen significant changes in business operations throughout our British history; from cottage industry where consumers bartered and artisans were celebrated, artists prospered and individualism grew came the mechanisation of the textile industry, in the late 18th century. Tasks previously done by hand were brought together in a single facility, and the factory was born – the industrial age, with emphasis on production. This progressed in the early 20th century, into the age of mass production; thus impacting on retailers and handmade products; retailers following with mass produced lines.

However, since the 80’s came a third revolution – digitalisation. ( I remember when our shop had it’s first computer it was a frightening investment.) With the technological age came a focus on electrical systems, enhanced travel, computerisation and the internet and our retail habits have naturally followed suit with many having an E-shop facility.

So what next? are we are in a new age? Are we returning to preindustrial Britain? And need we fear change or embrace it?

Change made us Great Britain. We are still Great Britain. Let us not forget that when faced with challenges we always find solutions and progressive ways of working.

We still have artisans, artists, innovators, entrepreneurs and need to find new ways of working in a digital age. Yes, the retail sector has to change but its advent will provide exciting times ahead.


Death of the high street – I doubt it? Change? Absolutely.