Creating Diary of a Young Start-Up

Website Users; 23
Going Right; Only a few bugs left before launch in a few days, ahead of current schedule. Hurrah.
Going Wrong; 2 months after original schedule launch. In debt.
Comment; Never, never put your trust in a web developer you cannot sue. Bastard. [Read more…]

A Rose is a Rose by any other name

Website Users 24;
Going Right; Got linked to someone’s blog; they called me a ‘bright idea’. Yay.
Going Wrong; Full site STILL wasn’t launched so anyone who clicked through saw a crappy WordPress pilot.
Comment; Quickly adjusted page header to say ‘Full Site coming soon, get 300 credits by signing up now.’ No-one signed up. [Read more…]

Real work begins, but it’s the weekend

Website Users 33;
Going Right; It’s Saturday, officially don’t have to work.
Going Wrong; Badly Scheduled tweets in hootsuite for weekend when no-one would read them.
Comment; So-called ‘last minute’ rescheduling actually took 3 hours. [Read more…]

Copy & Paste is an Excellent Idea

Website Users; 33
Going Right; All fixed with security certificate. Turned out to be a misunderstanding.
Going Wrong; Absolutely nothing.
Comment; Absolutely nothing happening on a Sunday. Apart from a few games of Bejeweled Blitz. [Read more…]

What has Elvis got to do with Investment Impact

Site Launch Day User Count Going right Going wrong Comment
6
 35 , then 34 again
 Brilliant celebrity panel interview blog arrives…
New user I got all excited about turned out to be a spambot.
 WTF?

I have many  brothers and sisters – a combination of steps and halves that I guess is relatively normal for a family which has seen 5 divorces, 1 death and 9 marriages. My siblings are Russian, English & Greek. And they are all fantastically unique – as is my relationship with each of them. From highly interactive to non-existent. One brother is aka Dreamweaver, the author and editor of the blog (not this one obviously – the much better one on the consultancy site).

Dreamweaver and I have a mighty similar anal retentiveness about us and are both – most bizarrely – fascinated by kitchen utensils. A couple of weeks ago, I walked into his flat in London and congratulated him most sincerely on his spice racks. They were wonderfully neat, beautifully labeled and – although I didn’t check – most probably alphabetically organized. As I would have liked mine to be. Unfortunately having a child, meant that nothing in my house was organized the way I liked it anymore.

“Ok” he said, starting our conversation in the middle, “have thought of the most puntastic title. I can work on it a bit more this weekend. Am down in Kent which is great, but I always seem to be at the mercy of the list of jobs that can’t be entrusted to Dad. The current thing is fixing the roof.”

Refusing to be drawn on any temptation to criticize his father – because he was not my father, I said – “Brilliant. I was thinking for the next one a kind of interview with some famous people’s opinions on how the internet is changing society?”

“Okay… like real people? Or made up with famous people like Richard Branson?”

“No more like, Elvis Presley…Audrey Hepburn, Anne Frank, JFK and Winston Churchill.”

“Ha. This one writes itself.” He said.

Of course it did not. He wrote it  – brilliantly as usual – and the accompanying email said:

“Sorry this one’s longer, but with 5 celebrities all having their say, the words just kept on coming.”

So you might be wondering, what on earth does Elvis Presley have to do with Investment Impact. Honestly? Bugger all. But – my brother is a great writer and as my networking contact from Real Eyes Marketing says,

“The Blogosphere and the Twittersphere [yes, those are real words] are all about pre-sales. The goal being to attract people to your website through interesting Tweets (remember what’s in it for them), get them reading your blog. Does it demonstrate your knowledge of your subject matter? Can it regularly hold their attention?  If so you have created awareness. If they find it interesting enough they may retweet (RT) it. Once people are aware of your site, you’ll be at the top of their list if they have a need for you.”

So whilst Elvis may have bugger all to do with Investment Impact, I think he remains interesting enough for people still to read a about him.

Avoiding IR35 can be inspirational

Site Launch Day User Count Going right Going wrong Comment
4
34
 A real person signed up on the basis of a tweet!
Sweden boiling hot, packed totally wrong clothes, boobs already too big for all bras.
Faced with prospect of wearing yoga bra and expandable tracksuit bottoms for next two months.

It’s Tuesday I think. Since I work most days, I seem to have moved out of the confines of the civilized  time measurement system of 9-5 Monday to Friday….here on Brännö, I drift in and out, only reminded that everyone else uses the Gregorian calendar by my many Skype meetings. But when I am in the UK, it is a fairly time bound life. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t know whether I was able to get my Starbucks fix in the morning before dashing off to an early breakfast meeting in the city.

Starbucks has fulfilled not only the caffeine need in its consumers, but added a precious extra 10 minutes to our mornings to spend with our children or important other stuff (plucking eyebrows, the sun salutation etc). Starbucks helps and ironically – by reinforcing the home/work divide – perpetuates the work/life balance conundrum.

But different countries work in different time zones. Surely if I like working in the middle of the night, I should work with those people who are up in the middle of [my] night. And here is the real usefulness of the internet. Not only does it destroy geographical boundaries but it also allows you to hover between time zones more effectively then ever before. Because there are only two timezones now….online and offline.

Like all babies Investment Impact didn’t spring fully formed out of my womb. No. It was the culmination of many ideas. Both reactive and proactive. And the first one was reactively-actively trying to avoid the IR35 legislation (“Oh what is it?” I hear you ask. Well I shall tell you).

When I took the so-called-voluntary-but-heavily-coerced redundancy from Vodafone, I said

“But I love what I do, maybe I’ll just be a financial consultant, consult back to Vodafone and that way earn more money through my own company” I said naively – forgetting as most people do that the accountancy costs money, the holidays are haphazardly taken between contracts and the burden of proof on you for proving justifiable business expenses is heavy.

“Ah but remember the IR35 rule” said my future fellow consultants in brainwashed monotone voice. “You can’t do anything that looks like it’s employment disguised. Otherwise you’ll be taxed like an employee” (that IS the rule by the way, want more detail you can look here).

“But I won’t be employed, I’ll be a consultant.” I said confused.”None of the perks including the Vodafone Christmas party.” That alone should have been enough to convince the HMRC.

“If you go to work like an employee, are paid monthly like an employee and do a similar job as an employee, then the HMRC considers you guilty of avoiding IR35.”

“But you’re all consultants.”

“Yes, but I haven’t worked for 6 months this year.” said one sad consultant (let’s call him Mr. Stretched).

“And they only extend me week by week.” said another haggard consultant (let’s call him Mr. Maverick).

“And I do extra work in the evenings for another company.” said a third consultant (let’s call him Mr. Dark-Circles)

And looking at them, it dawned on me, the price you had to pay to gain an eensy-weensy bit more dosh.

Ah ha! HMRC you fiend you. Challenge extended.

My consulting services had to be nothing like employment. Firstly, I needed several clients per year. And secondly I needed not to be required on site every time there was a contract. In fact, there seemed to be no escaping it. Investment Impact, the supposed platform for my own consultancy services, actually had to be a real company. Because I did not want to end up stretched, I wasn’t by nature a maverick and pre-daughter, the only dark circles I had came from too many parties.

The Laziness of the Human Race

Site Launch Day User Count Going right Going wrong Comment
5
 35
One more user. This time an unknown.
The user calls himself OBD Connector. Looked this up and found out it is part of a car?!
Name too cool and geeky to be a spambot…I think. If name turns out to be spambot, will feel like a dumbass. Also if turns out to be girl, apologize in advance.

“Don’t tell me you’re writing your blog online.” Said my boyfriend. “My god didn’t we learn back in 1992 that you could lose the whole thing by pressing the back button.” 1992, being the dark ages of course.

“But I don’t intend to press the back button,” I said

He grabbed my laptop and said, “What happens if your finger happens to be touching CTRL at the same time as you’re deleting something?”

He waved his fingers menacingly over those two keys.

“Most browsers have that command programmed as going back a page. And if you do that and it isn’t saved, you lose the whole thing.”

“Don’t do that,” I shouted, “I haven’t saved that draft.”. He looked at me for a long moment smiling evilly. I said nervously “Did you erase it to teach me a lesson? “

“No, but I couldn’t stand you if you lost your work like that. It’s so dumb.” (Note YOU, not IT)…

Well it’s a pity you’re having two children with me isn’t it.”  I said, without the slightest intention of changing my habits.

You see, even the threat of repulsion from my boyfriend, can’t persuade me to write these blogs offline in notepad and then copy them to put them online. Because it’s too much like hard work. To back up my files I use dropbox (It’s automated and I highly recommend it – please let me invite you if you want to use it – because the more referrals I make, means the more space I get), but for my blog, I simply write in the online space word press provides and risk the possibility of losing EVERYTHING…

Whether or not I back up, I am absolutely 100% sure that I am not alone with this psychological block. People are inherently lazy. Including me. And it’s our being lazy that has surprisingly driven us to such heights of ingenuity. The wheel, for example, would never have been invented if those Chalcolithic dudes hadn’t been so apathetic about pushing their own boats into the river to go fishing.

That’s why, against all evidence to the contrary, today’s diary is not about backing up (to my boyfriend …MWAH HA HA).  Although sure, it’s a good idea, but you probably won’t. No…it’s about making things as EASY as possible for your clients. If they have to jump through hoops to get to your stuff, well, they won’t. And on the internet remember – jumping through hoops simply means scrolling down the page an inch further than they have to. Of course I know this theoretically, but there still doesn’t seem to be enough room on the page for what you want to say (if you’re reading this then you’ve scrolled down…)

Yes, we may have walked on the moon. But taking a second extra to click, is still a step too big for mankind to make. So if you want your stuff to sell, put it/damn good teasers on the front page, remembering that depending on where you want to sell – not everyone reads left to right….

(Ps. Also back up)

No-one likes being told what to do

Site Launch Day User Count Going right Going wrong Comment
6
 35
 Got a good review for a product
Reviewer said they hadn’t actually tried the product yet
Was pathetically grateful for any review at all.

Actually plenty of people like being told what to do. S&M Submissives. Brainwashed disciples. Insecure depressives. But I am not yet classed in any of those categories.

So when I informed my boyfriend yesterday that I felt like eating a packet of crisps (pregnant woman’s prerogative) and he told me categorically that I shouldn’t get them after last pregnancy’s experience of big butt syndrome, I found myself all of a sudden 20 minutes later sitting in the depths of the Swedish forest eating the most ginormous packet of Cheese Doodles…the cheesey wafery bits ground under my nails, the E-packed cheese powder caked round my mouth and in between  my teeth and 7 cheese doodles melting on my tongue sticking to the top of the roof of my mouth. The birds twittered, the leafy sunlight dappled my skin and the bag was finished within quarter of an hour. Heaven.

And then I went home and told him 🙂

“But why?” he said. “And why now are you telling me if it was supposed to be secret?”

“Because you SHOULD know by now that the word SHOULD, SHOULD be banned.” I said. “Telling me what to do means that you don’t have enough respect to treat me as an adult to make my own decisions.”

“And eating an entire bag of cheese doodles just to prove that to me is the behavior of a grown up? I told you not to because you will be miserable when you get fat and have to exercise to get slim again. I don’t want you to go through what you went through last time, because I love you,” He said.

Hmmm.

“Having children ruins your body and I’m not complaining about the sacrifice I have to make – the pain, the back ache, the saggy tits, the sleep deprivation and the split pelvis. My butt might be big for a while, and it might make me unhappy to have to work it off in a year’s time, but it’s still my decision to make. If you just have to suffer a bigger butt than you find attractive, then that’s your sacrifice. I DESERVE those cheese doodles.”

What does this mean for a business? Well for one, that you should never tell your prospective clients what they SHOULD be thinking or they SHOULD be doing. Although you might possibly get away with telling them a tongue-in-cheek “SHOULD NOT”.

“You should absolutely not eat this delicious packet of cheese doodles. It will cause you immense pleasure and relatively less weight gain. ”

Or you could just let them do what they want without selling yourself at all.

“You may or may not eat this packet of cheese doodles. Here it is, if you want to buy it. Or not. Whatever.”

Or you could try and balance out a little temptation with a little product placement on the LinkedIn “Snack discussion Forum”

“Cheese doodles. Not the kind of snack you want to be addicted to…but you can have the first packet…for FREE….”

Me? I plumped for what they call the “Freemium” model combined with an open review system to allow users to give stinkingly honest feedback. The beta testers get products for free, and then get to say what they like.  Very scary.

Why did I do it this way?

A) Because no matter how much I considered it, I couldn’t see myself trying to do the hard sales (I’m not a saleswoman either). The products and services needed to be good enough to stand on their own two feet, or if they were shit, users had every right to say it.

Or

B) Because I hate being told what to do.

(BTW, that entire cheese doodle conversation was made up. Or was it. I never told him. He’s sitting there at his computer now reading my blog wondering whether I did indeed eat an entire bag of cheese doodles. I guess you’ll never know, honey, will you :))))

Counting on others in Business

Site Launch Day User Count Going right Going wrong Comment
7
 36
Someone wrote to me and told me this blog had a brilliant conversational style
Felt chuffed until they said that the actual site wasn’t as good.
Maybe I should change professions.

This post could be really short. Just one word really.

Don’t.

Yes, alright – two words, but abbreviated. It’s a terrible lesson to learn because I truly want to believe in human nature. And not a lesson that despite all my pontificating about the work-life balance being a matter of perception I carry over to my personal life (Oh, I haven’t pontificated about that yet? Don’t worry I will). You see with those I love and like OUTSIDE of business I am a firm believer in Kismet, the Law of Attraction and the miracles of the Universe.

In plain English, put your faith in others and you will be rewarded. Believe that they are untrustworthy, and it will be so. Amen.

But in business, somewhere, somehow, things have become terribly skewed. Self interest and politics get in the way of generosity of spirit and honoring of one’s word (especially if that word is verbal). So when my web development team got back to me today on my query as to whether the next stage of work was imminent, I was furious but not unduly surprised to hear:

“The production schedule is very busy for August I’m afraid, so we would be looking to start in late August or early September at the earliest, but otherwise at a time to suit you.”

The time that suited me of course being the beginning of August as we had said in our conversation at the beginning of July. A month is a long time in the internet business.

Don’t get me wrong – in many ways they are very good. They have worked hard on the website – but its no favor, they have been well paid for it. Do you remember when I said you should not be offended by swearing? Oh you do. Good.

FUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCKKKK.

The next stage of web development kicks off the gaming system in Investment Impact and is – as I see it, key to the entire success of the business. I feel royally screwed, but its my own fault for not recording the damn conversation. Otherwise they would have had to stick to their side of the deal.

So do yourself a favor and remember, the people you do business with ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS. Take insurance, cover your ass and always, always, plan for delays. Because they will happen. And if on top of that you are to suffer a heart attack from the stress, well that wouldn’t be very pleasant, would it?

Short List of Tools to cover your ass:

1. Skype/phone Voice recorder. Those gits at Microsoft have now made you pay for skype plug-ins but believe me its worth it. (See how the universe reminded me of this the minute I stopped paying for plug ins).

2. Don’t forget email…bcc/cc field…cc can be used strategically to ensure all parties know they are being screened or evilly, to pull a trump out of your hat

3. A blog like this one to expose – and reward – your network. Oh how poetic.

Be afraid….