WANTED: A 5 yr forward bank-integrated cash-flow system

Who has an expenses, budget and payment system that they are happy with?

When I was growing up, we were paid neatly on the 25 of the month, all our bills were raised on the last day of the month, bills arrived during the first week of the month and you had 30 days to pay.

One evening each month, you sat down and reconciled your bank account, you paid your bills, and if you were really organized, you entered your payments into you cash flow plan.

Isn’t life complicated now? Employers happily pay you in the first week of the month. Credit card periods end any time. Some credit card payments are due in 3 or 4 days;others in 30 days.

Some firms want direct debits but beware – if they allow a fraudster access to your account, which happens quite often, you will spend ages cleaning up the mess and restoring your credit record.

Needed: easy cash flow payment systems

What we need are some easy cash flow payment systems. I have seen one, I forget where, that liases with a bank but that is pretty frightening. I can’t get into my internet bank reliably as it is (British banks don’t seem to get computers.)

So how do we solve this conundrum?

I am looking for a simple system to manage expenses and to plan payments at least 5 years ahead to cope with payments like domain registrations that get forgotten.

Do you know of such a system?

Life on Market Day in Olney!

Life on Market Day in Olney

I had another delightful day in the village of Olney in Buckinghamshire or Bucks in England, UK.  That’s a long address, isn’t it?

Social Media

Hero of the hour, GarethLRoberts, tweeted well before morning tea that he was back from the markets in London.  A quick look at the blog of MuchAdo deli persuaded me that I was not going to eat noodles this week.  I am going to eat a fresh green salad with tropical fruit and to accompany this extravaganza, I am going to grill mackerel (for the first time in my life).  UPDATE: Catch MuchAdo on Facebook and see the ceiling mural by Lee Farmer unfold.

Market Day

Thursday is market day in Olney.  Market Place thronged with the regular array of butchers and greengrocers, haberdashers, cobblers, and gardeners.  The Coffee Cavern joined Olney100 today bringing their range of exotic teas and coffee.  The Happy Carrot, who are the most-glass-half-full people I know, were the ONLY stall to appear during our heavy snow.  I wish they would blog.  They have a philosophical turn of mind, a ready camera, and extensive knowledge of the whole Bucks area.  This is when I regret using Ning.  People can’t comment without logging in.

Housing Market

After the market, I headed for the eastern corner of Market Place and went to congratulate Taylor’s, the estate agent, for selling a house around the corner from me.  Did you hear that folks?  The market for housing in sought-after Olney ain’t dead.  Poke it with a stick!

Coffee Shops and Youthful Enterprise

A lively young man reminded me of how much fun it is to work with Gen Y – on-the-ball, optimisitic and conecting-connecting-connecting.  Next door at the coffee shop, Beans, young Charlie Ray (17) seized the opportunity to raise the profile of his business Mute . . . Anything but Quiet! – an online store for tie-and-dye shirts.  Charlie and his team will teach us a thing or two about websites and social media with connections to Facebook and Myspace.  He intends to go up to university in a few months to read broadcast journalism – mental note to myself – ask Euan Semple at Amplified09 if he knows any mentors around here.

Hair Salons

Energy levels continued to throb in the next store.  Well, it is a store within a store.  Olney is an old lace-making town and shops are tucked away romantically down alleys and warrens.  To reach Olney’s newest of five hair salons, we weave our way through a baby clothes store.  Secluded, airy, fresh, At the Salon is run by engaging proprietor, Rebecca Green, who also teaches hairdressing in Milton Keynes.

Phonebox

My rounds ended with a visit to the Phonebox – an extraordinary institution.  Ron, or Gandalf, got to the social media business model long before Google.  Funded entirely by advertisements, Phonebox prints and distributes around 50 000 copies of the must thumbed and read periodical in the Bedford – Milton Leynes – Northampton triangle.  Quick remarkable!

And amazingly, we aren’t tourists! We live here!

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Surprised and delighted by Britain

Today’s hero!

I have to be honest.  My favorite people have verve, drive, audacity, panache and plain zest for life.

Today, I met GarethLRoberts for about half-an-hour in Olney‘s delicious coffee shop, MuchAdo.

Today’s project

Gareth and I had a quick chat about a tantalizing mixture of IT networks and the hidden highways and byways of rural England: cereal farmers (not serial, cereal!), millers, bakers and eaters.

GarethLRoberts bakes a mean cherry focaccio. Quite scrumptious and delectably breakfast, lunch or supper.  Gareth also does the buying for MuchAdo at London markets.  Every Wednesday night, he drives down and buys our vegetables from Covent Garden and our fish from Billingsgate.

Within hours of our brief chat together using the WiFi provided by MuchAdo, Gareth had his new blog up and running: Connecting with Bread!  Congratulations!

Watch his space!

I hope you will all go over, welcome him to the blogosphere, and bookmark him.  He writes well and he is going to make you feel so well acquainted with rural England, you’ll think your mouse is scurrying across a corn field!

An example of social media helping us be surprised and delighted by Britain!

PS

I’ll pick up some SEO issues later.  For other blogs of Olney, check our blogroll on Olney100.   I am cataloguing the online activity of Olney in Buckinghamshire, England in the UK (or Bucks to the natives).

Flowing motion!   Oh, I do love it when a plan comes together!

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I am good at dealing with recessions!

or will be!

Professional responsibility can be demanding

In an earlier incarnation, I had a reputation for taking on the tough projects – multiple constituencies, vested interests, and consequences for everyone involved.  I loved that work.  It took listening, carefully; it took discretion; and it took carefully working through details to find solutions that others had missed and being very clear about the consequences we asked each party to tolerate.

During most of the time I did this work, I also taught at the local university.  Students were always surprised when I told them, usually to encourage them when they were losing heart over a project of their own, that there was a moment during every project when I felt the project was going to beat me.  There was always a moment when I had felt that this would be the one.

Running a small business is a lot scarier

Starting a small business took anxiety to a whole new level, and the question I ask myself, is why?  Why is worrying about cash flow so much more scary?

Is it because we are so much less in control?

Is it because the stakes are higher – if we mess up we may have to pack up the business?

Is it because running out of money assaults our middle class identity more severely than not acing a professional project that was regarded as difficult in the first place?

Is it because I have higher self-efficacy or self-belief in professional work?

Is it because professional work is for other people and I am less motivated to look after myself?

Psychological advice almost seems flippant

There is a lot of advice around for dealing with debilitating anxiety and I have dispensed a lot of it myself.

  • I like to be well prepared so I have no reason to be anxious.
  • I make sure I have a fall back position.
  • I remind myself of good times.
  • I value my social support – I know it helps.
  • And I make sure I get exercise, sleep, and eat sensibly.

The truth is is when we feel deep anxiety, it detracts from anything else.  We don’t feel prepared.  We don’t have a fall back position.  Good times in the past aren’t really relevant.  We’re on our own.  And now we, can’t sleep, can’t eat or eat too much, and exercise makes us feel like we will pass out.  And if we are really lucky, we have a full scale anxiety attack that looks like a heart attack to anyone watching.

Lao Tzu might have better advice

I pondered this problem for a day and equally pondered the inadequacy of our advice.  We are able to tell people how to deal with theoretical fear, not the real thing.

Then I stumbled on a saying on the Positive Psychology Daily News New Year blog (which is worth reading for itself – check out the Garbage Truck video and the Gratitude Chain).   About four authors down, Kirsten quotes the Chinese Philosoper, Lao Tzu.

Seek not happiness too greedily and be not  fearful of  unhappiness.

This is very much like Franklin Rooseveldt”s “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”, but it says more.  It does not suggest that we should dismiss negative emotions, or try to arrange our life to avoid them.

A full life includes the positive and the negative, all four seasons, spring, summer, autumn, winter, and we need to be competent in managing all of them.  To think of winter as the absence or negative of summer, distracts us from learning how to deal with winter, and more importantly, how to enjoy it.

The idea of happiness promoted by Losada’s work on the dynamics of happiness makes us think of emotional space that includes joy and grieving, linked together on a trajectory shaped like a three dimensional butterfly.  It is just as healthy to be in a place of grieving or fear, as one of joy and pleasure, provided it is a place we are passing through and approached  in a spirit of inquiry, inclusion and emphasis on what works.

After reading the Lao Tzu quote, the mental trick I found useful was to think of myself inside fear – not looking at it, but being inside it, looking at it around me.  That seems to restore a sense of what I am doing.

I have to get good at this!

It is not accepting unhappiness, which one reading of the quotation might suggest, but seeing myself dealing competently and effectively with negative situations.

I hope that this helps anyone else who faces perilous decisions this year!

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

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5 businesses encountered this week (and it is only Tuesday)

I love being a work psychologist

I became a work psychologist because I love learning about organizations and what people do. What makes a business tick?

It’s only Monday and here are five picks of whom I have encountered this week (and it is only Tuesday!)

Geographer who locates supermarkets (location, location, location)

Valuer of cars in Russia (great when it freezes and plenty of work until the insurance market matures)

Broker of Nepalese art (deep relationships with artists = supply chain management)

Furniture retailer in Sudan (steady as she goes – continuity and cost leadership)

Retail banker in Sri Lanka (get that customer served – be reliable and dependable)

What I do (my core competence, if you like)

HR always seems so obvious to people in the business.  If it works well, it becomes part of the “taken for granted” set of value assumptions in the underwater part of the cultural iceberg.

Non-formally trained business people take for granted what they do, twice over.  What they seems natural, it also seems childish not to know.

The fun of being a work psychologist is drawing out the assumptions business people have held for so long that they haven’t mentioned them or talked about them to anyone for a long time.

What is it like to have a conversation with a work psychologist?

I am having fun. What do business people gain from talking to me?

  • My interest is a mirror where they can see how their business runs.  They enjoy the experience and are reassured and steadied as they work in other areas that may be shaky.
  • Talking aloud to an appreciative listener allows them to put into words what they have been acting on, but not thinking or saying.  Often we don’t realize what we think until we say it aloud in the presence of someone else.
  • The principles of what they are doing are now out in the open where they can inspect them, consider them, and consider how relevant they will be in the future.  The valuer in Russia, for example, has trained valuers in distant city so he can take advantage of the current boom in valuing assets.  He also knows the boom will peak in a few years.  He is perfectly aware of both facts but may allow the situation to drift if he does not say what he knows aloud in front of someone else.

Why a psychologist and not someone else?

A business person talks to many people – their banker or their associates at the pub.  Why and how are we different?

  • We draw out the assumptions about HR.
  • We are trained to challenge gently, and reveal those long taken for granted assumptions that operate like the underwater part of an iceberg – essential to the visible business but deadly if forgotten.  A friend or banker is concentrating on what they need to hear, not on what the business person needs to hear themselves say.
  • We deliberately restate assumptions clearly so they are on the table for discussion and sharing with other people – new employees, bankers, and people we are talking to during times of change.  A business person talking to a psychologist in any setting, say a conference, a training room, an interview, should come away feeling invigorated.  They should feel clearer about what is important to them and confident that the important things are being attended to.

And it is only Tuesday!  This is a great job.  People are endlessly fascinating when they are talking about a job they love and do well.

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Will you join us in our Contribution to the Recovery?

I am pleased to announce the formation of

ROOI LIMITED

Psychologists working with Social Media

Our mission is to put social media at the service of businesses, colleges and communities to help focus on “the good and the true, the better and the possible”.

We have a clear goal.  As the clock strikes twelve on the 1 January 2010, we will will be looking forward to a year of work and study that is more vital and connected than we had ever thought possible.  I hope you will be there with us!

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I want chips

A Skribt request on Scott McArthur‘s blog throws an interesting challenge: let’s talk about the basics of HR.

I gave that a bit of thought in a wander around the block. And I thought of three things.

Big and small firms

1. The basics of HR in big and small firms seem, on first glance, to be quite different.

Paper work and consulting

2. If the owner of a small-enterprise, asks us for help, say in appointing their first employee, our minds probably leap to ideas about writing the employment contract, for example. I think the leap to paperwork underpins the essential credibility problem of HR.

Yes, the business person is probably in a hurry. And yes, the paperwork and government regulations appear to be the most important issue. We are failing our client, though, to deliver what is after all for us a form-filling exercise.

The issue facing the small business is not paperwork, though it is good to get that right. The issue facing the business person is change. Yesterday, the business accommodated the aspirations of one person. Tomorrow, the business will accommodate a second person’s hope and dreams, expectations and life chances. The minute a second person walks in the door, that business is changed irrevocably.

Are the interests and motivation of the second person a nuisance? Should we try to contain their energies and motivations with contracts and rules and processes, or whatever else?

OR, should we treat the second person as an asset? Should we engage the business person in a discussion that reveals opportunities the business person had not previously thought of? We may need consulting skills to have this conversation, but have it we should.

Admin and managing many conversations

3. Is the HR task any different in a large firm? I don’t think so. Not when I think of HR as leading change.

It is just that in a large firm, we have the aspirations of so many people to consider and formal procedures are useful. That is all recruitment, selection, job evaluation, etc. do for us: manage conversations in a way that our diverse aspirations add surprising business value.

The challenge though is to engage a business manager in a hurry.

Thanks to the anonymous person on Scott’s blog. Does this help anyone else?

UPDATE: I can confirm.  The difference between HRM in small firms and big firms is that in small firms you have to work as fast as everyone else. In big firms, we learn to be slow and unwieldly.