Time to Re-start

Today is my birthday, and tomorrow is the book-signing of my third novel. Fifteen years ago the thought of becoming a fully-fledged author was an impossible dream, which I was encouraged to commit to paper. I was over sixty, for heaven’s sake.

We had recently emigrated from Kenya, my husband and I, mainly due to his failing health. Although the doctors and nurses in Africa were first class, the infrastructure left lots to be desired. So – yes – we became medical immigrants, coming to cause more burden on the NHS. Australia, our first choice, because the bulk of our family had settled there, had refused us on the grounds of medical health.

But I digress…

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With barely the wherewithal to pay for a tiny flat at the foot of the South Downs, and a husband who was medically retired – how was I going to find a way of earning a living?

I tried several options. While training for one of them, the concept of dreaming and setting goals caught my fancy.

It was no problem thinking up ten impossible dreamlike objectives, writing them down, and putting the list at the bottom of my empty in-tray. Writing a book and having it published was about fourth on the list. But I hasten to add that, although I am immensely proud of myself, my books did not lift our financial burden.

These past months Roy’s health has dwindled rapidly, and our lives have entered new territory. My admiration for the NHS has increased manifold, but the burden is different.

I have neglected my writing.

Today seems an appropriate time to re-start my Friday blog. I feel rather rusty, so please forgive me.

jb-smileyface

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Today’s The Day!

Launch Day Is Here.

Click on cover below to Buy My Book – and if you’re on Facebook, why not pop in to my party any time in the next twelve hours to partake in the festivities?

final-cover

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Bursting With an Idea

Part 4: Starting Your Own Business.

There are many types of businesses, some of them overlapping and interlinking, and as a generalist, I have met with an interesting variety of clients. My following list gives readers an idea of this diversity, and is by no means rigid or comprehensive.

  1. We have what I call the service industry, which covers a multitude of businesses, such as hairdressing, beauty, massage, mind body and spirit, catering, security, tailoring, property management, gardening, handyman.
  2. The creative industries include art, leather-work, fashion design, jewellery design, even computer games, music, film, entertainment, the media, writing/journalism, inventions / innovations (Dragon’s Den-type ideas)
  3. Often combined with the creative industries is manufacturing, which takes a multitude of forms.
  4. Retail – the selling of goods through, for example, shops, on-line, markets, auctions.
  5. Even not-for-profit or charitable organisations, and social enterprises.

Every business would benefit from prior thought, and although the details may differ, the basic groundwork of a plan can be applied to all.

Over the course of this series, to help readers better to identify with the concepts of the business plan, I will include stories from various types of businesses. I have changed the names and some facts, to protect my clients.

The leather worker

John arrives bursting with an idea, and he can’t wait to start. He has a feel for leather, and has learned the art from a late friend of his father, who passed on his tools to John. He has made a few trinkets and given his girlfriend a dangly love-heart. He has looked at some magazines, and surfed the internet. He’s even tried some leather upholstery work, and gained the interest of a vintage car enthusiast.

John wants to start a proper business. His family are encouraging him to sell his creations, but he’s not sure how to go about it.

No – he’s never heard of a business plan, and wonders if it is even necessary? All he wants to know is when he can start, and what are the legal requirements. Also, he might need some funding, because although he has about a dozen items, he will soon run out of materials, and he cannot rely on his parents forever. He and his partner want to move into a place of their own.

I settle into my introductory spiel.

  • A business plan is dynamic; it never ends; it should be revisited at least once a year, and can be tweaked and made to change direction at any time.
  • The bare template I have devised has a certain structure, and is, of necessity, laid out in a set of numbered points. But you can go about it in any order you please.

I hand John a double-sided sheet of paper.

This template is the bare bones of a business plan, I tell him. (I will include it at the end of the series).

I have found that the best way to start is by discussing the services offered, or – in John’s case – the goods he wants to sell. This is item number 4 on my business plan template.

***

PLAN SUMMARY

In about 5-6 sentences, provide an overview of the major points of your business, including the goods / services you intend to offer

***

Also at this stage, I touch upon a concept unfamiliar to John: who does he want to sell them to: who are his customers?

Marketing is item number 10 on my plan.

***

YOUR MARKETING PLAN

How do you intend to advertise/promote your products/services to your customers? What is your USP (Unique Selling Point)? Consider all the possible media. Consider how material will be distributed.

***

I ask John about his leather work:

Little trinkets, he says.

But exactly what are they?

  • Can he show me some; has he made a portfolio? John eagerly gives me the URL of his website. It is in its infancy, and only three items are displayed. Has he built it himself? Yes – but there’s a long way to go.
  • Has he looked at other websites? Not really. He knows what he wants. Perhaps it would be advisable to study the websites of other leather-workers, I suggest. He might get some ideas.
  • Who is going to buy his goods? The answer is a look of disbelief on his face that I should ask such a question – anybody and everybody, of course.

I need to focus him on the exact nature of each separate type of item, and identify the precise market.

  1. A love-heart – who would buy one? Easy: young lovers. So, it would be a waste of time trying to sell to middle-aged happily married couples. Except, of course, perhaps on Valentine’s Day.
  2. Key-rings – he could produce bespoke patterns for business promotions, if he found the right market: yes – corporations!

But he would hardly make a living by selling such inexpensive trinkets, unless he can manufacture them in bulk. And he is a craftsman, who likes to work on original, bespoke items.

  1. Another thing he’s done, he tells me proudly, is re-upholster an antique chair for the Royal Shakespeare Company. I am overcome with admiration: what a unique niche market! And I hope that it is not just a one-off, and that he’s charged them correctly. John pulls a face, and I understand that he was so bowled over by the opportunity that he accepted their first offer. Everybody does it; but the sooner John learns how to research and evaluate his worth, the better. However, he has a picture of the finished chair in pride of place on his website.
  2. He’s started repairing and renewing leatherwork on a vintage car collection, owned by a local enthusiast. Another excellent opening, I tell him. But the collector provides all the materials, and only pays John a minimal hourly fee for his services. By this time, John knows what I’m thinking. He’s not an apprentice anymore. He would be better off sourcing the leather himself, and factoring in his expertise for the final charge.

This will come – given time, knowledge of his own worth, and the self-confidence to be able to stand up for himself.

The most effective way to achieve this goal, is by thorough RESEARCH!

John does not want to reinvent the wheel, he needs to learn from other people’s mistakes.

Look out for the next instalment in two weeks’ time!

Meanwhile, exciting things are happening in my world. If you subscribe to my Newsletter, you won’t miss out.

 

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YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE.

I always love it when my old friend Ailsa comes to stay. She is such an entertaining, amusing person. But her new book sounds more serious. I’ve just taken a peek at the Prologue, and realise it comes with a serious health warning: make sure you’ve plenty of hours to spare before you get dug in. It’s already burning a hole in my kindle.

Ailsa Abraham's profile photo, Image may contain: 1 person

Thank you for inviting me to talk about my latest release today.

This is a departure from my previous series in magical realism. Here I take off on murder mystery. Why? Erm… limited attention span? Love of variety?

attention to death

Attention to Death is released on 10th March and here is the info on it.

“Find Attention to Death on Amazon: http://mybook.to/AttentionDeath

“In Attention to Death, Ailsa Abraham pulls off something I wouldn’t have thought possible – a steamy romance with a twist of murder and a splash of social conscience. A remarkable book that will have you turning pages as quickly as you can to find out what happens next.”  ~ India Drummond, author of the Caledonia Fae series

Finding a murderer among a group of killers is not going to be easy for two Royal Army Military Police investigators, Captain Angus Simpson and Staff-Sergeant Rafael ‘Raff’ Landen, whose Christmas leave is cancelled for an investigation into a suspicious death on a base in Germany.  The case is further complicated by unhelpful senior officers who make pre-judgements on colour, creed, race and sexuality. Yet the insight of the investigators helps them uncover a sinister plot, although they too have something to hide: their own fledgling relationship. Will Angus and Raff be able to solve the murder without giving away their secret? The best and worst of human nature is represented in this story, which is why it is suggested for over 18s only.”

I delved into my past life as an officer in the Royal Air Force and my lifelong friendships with gay men to research this book.  Coming right after LGBT History Month in February, it highlights the problems that men who have to be “in the closet” and the sort of bigotry that causes people to refuse to read a book just because there are gay characters in it, although this doesn’t stop them leaving reviews. Me? I’ve never been too sure. I’m gender-neutral which is why the first thing I wonder on meeting new people isn’t “What do they do in  their bedrooms?”

Read it for yourself and decide. Is it an honest portrayal of two men doing their job who just happen to have started an affair?

Bio and links

Ailsa Abraham  is the author of six novels. Alchemy is the prequel to Shaman’s Drum, published by Crooked Cat in January 2014. Both are best-sellers in their genres on Amazon. She also writes mystery romance.

She has lived in France since 1990 and is now naturalized French. She enjoys knitting and crochet and until recently was the oldest Hell’s Angel in town . Her interests include campaigning for animal rights, experimenting with different genres of writing and trips back to the UK to visit friends and family.  She is also addicted to dressing up, saying that she is old enough to know better but too wise to care (pirate gear is her favourite!)

Web-page

Amazon.uk

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Our Good Ole NHS

There’ve been times, recently, when I have been tempted to write to the local press, denouncing all the frightening adverse publicity about our NHS. They have been absolutely wonderful to my husband. Nothing has been too much trouble. And I cannot fault the dedication and professionalism of the doctors and the staff. But…

My husband has just spent five weeks in our local hospital. He was admitted in January, a victim of the prevalent ‘flu. We have both learned so much.

I’d better tell you that, although I was also suffering, I do not have the complicated medical history that Roy has accumulated over the past twenty-five years. Since arriving in the UK, I have spent about seven years as a Volunteer Advocate for Age Concern. My primary motive was to learn the system, and be able to cope with Roy and his ailments when the time came.

So I know the importance of standing up for a sick person, and pushing continuously for attention.

It has sometimes been quite frustrating, and tiring, but I have always been treated with politeness, sympathy, and a desire to help. Even if I’ve had to issue an occasional firm reminder.

It is getting things done in a reasonable amount of time, which appears to be the stumbling point.

In an emergency, nothing is better than the NHS.

We had one, a year or so ago. I was accompanying Roy along a long hospital passage on the way to a dermatology appointment, when he suddenly collapsed against the wall. A mini heart attack, we learned later. The corridor was deserted, not a wheel chair in sight. I supported him up. Being Roy, he pulled himself together, and leant on my arm. Somehow, slowly, we managed to get to the lift, and reach the department.

“He’s not well,” I told the nurse who was preparing to take a biopsy of a sore on his leg.

Roy told her his symptoms. She knew immediately. She told him it was not advisable to go ahead with the biopsy. We must go home and call the doctor, who would take appropriate action from there, and call an ambulance.

I looked at her in astonishment. It was as if she were reciting a rota. My Advocate’s hat flew onto my head.

“But we’re here, in the hospital, already,” I said. “He’s clearly in need of urgent help. It makes no sense to go home, call the doctor, and then come back here again hours later.”

In my mind I wondered how on earth I was going to get him home, dizzy and confused as he was, struggling to make his eyes see straight. It was a wonder we’d managed to reach dermatology in the first place.

“Stay right here,” said the nurse. And she disappeared.

She returned, a new, relieved expression on her face. “I’ve got clearance from my manager,” she said. “I’ve ordered a wheel-chair. Leave it to me.”

And that nurse – bless her – wheeled Roy off to cardiology, with me struggling to keep up. She had phoned through first. She stayed with us while they took his blood pressure and gave him an ECG and did other procedures. She wheeled him from room to room, carrying his already voluminous file.

But there was a problem. She couldn’t find a doctor to see him. The waiting room was full. Nobody had time to spare.

The nurses went into a huddle.

“The only way we can get him to see a doctor,” she told me, “is to take him to A&E.”

I couldn’t help a little smile.

“I’m taking you,” she said. “I’ll see you’re not pushed into a corner and forgotten.”

And she did. She greeted her fellow nurses, who had already been primed. It was then that I realised these versatile ladies often transferred from department to department within the hospital. They were quite a community.

Roy was taken away for an X-ray. When he came back, she ensured he went into a central cubicle and stayed nearby until a doctor had examined Roy and confirmed that he would be admitted for observation.

Next month, I will tell you another little story about our NHS. I have many.

Meanwhile, I, too, am a person of many parts. Would you like to subscribe to my free Newsletter? Please click on the logo below:

jb-smileyface

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What Works For You?

Part 3. Starting Your Own Business.

Before you can start building a Business Plan, you must, of course, have a definite idea of what your business is going to be.

I am astounded at the different reasons for which people come to me for help.

Some have a definite idea.

But you think you cannot move on, because you have no money, and how can you start without finance? This thought is fixed in your mind, and you believe you have no hope.

It’s not about the money (at first) – you should start from the very beginning. One step at a time. And see where it takes you.

Some seek help because for whatever reason, they cannot find a job.

You feel forced into thinking about starting your own business, and want to know how to go about it.

Wrong reason! You’ll never succeed if you’re full of negative thoughts… but even in this scenario, I can help you turn them around. While doing the exercise of researching for a business you think you might like to do, several clients have found suitable employment instead.

Others like the thought of having their own business

But they expect me to give them ideas of what might work.

You will have to help me, by finding the ideas which could work for you.

***

I love listening to people. Everyone is different, everyone has a story to tell, but…

Some people are easier to help than others.

Here are a few questions you could ask yourself:

  1. When you were young, just finished your education, with the world at your feet… given no barriers, what did you want to be?
  2. What are your hobbies? Music, sport, art, animals, figures, history, reading, walking – the list is endless. You are more likely to succeed, if you are passionate about what you are doing.
  3. What is your consuming desire in life? Don’t tell me it’s money. Tell me what you’d do with that money.

Lucky are those who can turn their hobby into a means of earning a living, and who love what they do.

You may have to compromise. You could look for a mundane job, possibly part-time, while you work on what you really want to do. You could find employment in the same field, which might lead to better things. At the very least, you will be lifted into positive thoughts and a pathway to follow.

There are several aids on the internet, which you can use to identify (or confirm) your strengths. On the National Careers Service website, there is a self-assessment test, called the Skills Health Check. They provide links for further exploration into suggested careers. You could also google “career assessment tools” and find one which suits you.

 

Some businesses start themselves.

o   I didn’t plan my first business, which was running a guest house in Kenya. I was a widow, with three small children. At first, I just found a couple of paying guests to help with the rent. Then I bought a larger property, and expanded. But I still had to go out part-time temping to make ends meet.

o   I wrote short stories and articles for local magazines and newspapers. I even had a newspaper column for two years. I had to be firm when it came to payment, and refused to continue if no cheque was forthcoming.

o   I started a riding school. I have been horse-mad all my life, and I taught at Pony Club. But it was necessary for the children’s ponies to earn their keep. I ended up providing regular lessons for children from two boarding schools. By insisting on down-payments at the beginning of every term, I eased the burden of paying my children’s education. In Kenya there was no State education.

Then I took a job. Being an expatriate without a work permit, I could only work for the diplomatic community. I ended up as a Personal Assistant, monitoring aid packages for the European Economic Community. A deadly job. The only way out I could think of was to gain a qualification acceptable to the Kenya Immigration authorities, and start my own business. So I did.

After four years of distance education, I ended up with an Australian B(Bus) degree majoring in End User Computing and Human Resource Management. Halfway through the course, I applied for a self-employed work permit as a Management Consultant, and succeeded. I gave in my notice to the EEC.

The professional nature of my work fortunately did not require initial funding (although I had invested over £4,000 in my education), and the only documentation I had to produce was a comprehensive statement to the Kenyan authorities justifying my intentions and outlining my services. A very mini plan.

In those days (the 1990’s), I had never heard of a business plan. But looking back, I guess I went through all the stages at one time or another. Most people with a burning desire to succeed will instinctively do the same, as I have found during my mentoring work.

Clients often ask me if I think their business will work. My answer is always the same.

“If you really want to succeed, then your business will prosper.”

Nowadays, a written Business Plan is necessary for you to gain credibility, and to give yourself a chance to obtain funding, if needed. Here in the UK, you have to tell the Inland Revenue what you expect to earn in the first year of trading. For this, you need a Plan!Regulations of countries differ, but the general principles of forming a Plan are the same.

I may appear to be waffling, but this preamble is necessary to set the scene. In the next section, we will get down to the serious business of drawing up a written Plan.

Meanwhile, if you wish to have a taste of what is in store for you, and experience in advance the importance and subtlety of marketing (which is the backbone of any business), I suggest you search for somebody in your field of enterprise, and subscribe to their Newsletter. Study it, and learn from it.  Is it interesting and informative? Would you look forward to the next issue? How is it structured?

My own Newsletter comes out monthly, and I am always on the lookout for ideas from fellow authors. You might like to sign up for it HERE.

jb-smileyface

 

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Launch party for Never on a Saturday

Ailsa is a character – and a good friend. And Sue Barnard is also my Editor! Her books are must-reads.

The Bingergread Cottage

Hello Sue, Hello Guests!

Thank you for inviting us over for your launch party. We wish this book as much success as all your other ones,which we loved.

Us? Well, I’ve brought two lovers from my own books Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum. They were fascinated by the idea of love across time. Let me introduce them to you….

IAMO Greetings, Readers and Scribes. I am Iamo a priest of the Mother Goddess who happens to go adventuring, much against my better judgement, to fight demons. I love reading. I studied Ancient and Modern Religions at University under Professor Adrian Oliver. Scribe Sue is a good friend of our Scribe Ailsa so I have met her several times and stand in awe of her enormous knowledge of so many things.

RIGA Wotcher. I’m a Black Shaman Assassin (no, not a rare job for a woman in our day) so Iamo and…

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