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Speaker: Surviving Small

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  • Alastair Thompson,

    Al: Did you find a problem with clients? Did anyone not take you seriously because you were working out of your house?

    Not really. But I suspect that is a bit of a function of the business we are in. Our clients did not as a rule come to visit our premises and mostly they do not do so even now. We are not a consultancy. That said I imagine that many clients in the current environment may be pleased to see that they are not having to pay to cover huge overheads.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    Al: Did you find a problem with clients? Did anyone not take you seriously because you were working out of your house?

    Will they even know? We're Wellington based, but we work across the country - we've got an Auckland phone number & many of our Auckland clients assume we work there - it's all done with phones, email, smoke & mirrors. We don't get that many clients visiting & in any case, our "office" will be a short walk from the CBD.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Not really. But I suspect that is a bit of a function of the business we are in. Our clients did not as a rule come to visit our premises and mostly they do not do so even now.

    It's not such an issue for our little business -- I'm in the position of people tending to need my attention more than I need theirs -- but just answering the phone well for each other does a power of good. Fiona used to do a great receptionist's manner ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Stuart: I used to work at home (for five years - office in the lounge and staff in the shed)and I would definitely say that I prefer working in an office. That said a home working environment has a bunch of beneficial financial effects. You can charge the company rent, pay part of the phone and power etc out of company expenses and commuting is a breeze. OTOH… its not too good for the waistline being so close to a well stocked fridge and not needing to walk any distance to get to the workstation.

    Non-trivial point for people who bring their businesses home: you still need to get out.

    In one sense, so you remain connected to people. In another, so you don't become inactive and obese. Moving home? Buy a bike ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    yes! as I mentioned elsewhere - my rules for working at home:
    * get dressed before lunch time
    * leave the house every day, talk to someone

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2555 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    * get dressed before lunch time

    I feel better in summer. Cargo shorts seem more defensible than tracksuit pants ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    We don't get that many clients visiting & in any case, our "office" will be a short walk from the CBD.

    There are companies overseas that lease furnished and serviced office space on a pay-per-use basis, for the occasional important meeting or if you happen to be travelling in a city other than where you're based. Is there something like that here?

    Cargo shorts seem more defensible than tracksuit pants ...

    For me it's pinstripe suit all the way.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • ange wither,

    I love working from home - as long as I can do a quick commute into town for meetings it works well (remembering to remove gardening shoes, a mistake you only make once). A good coffee machine is essential. I have some clients come here, but only for individual mentoring/career planning type sessions. I prefer to travel out to meetings generally. Any contractors I use also work from their homes.

    As for business attire at home, lets just say I'm glad video conferencing isn't used by my clients yet.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 54 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    There are companies overseas that lease furnished and serviced office space on a pay-per-use basis, for the occasional important meeting or if you happen to be travelling in a city other than where you're based. Is there something like that here?

    What I've noted a lack of is per-hour meeting rooms -- somewhere quieter and more private than a cafe. It does surprise me that there wouldn't be the demand in Ponsonby for such a thing,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    A good coffee machine is essential.

    Yes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Alastair Thompson,

    Just watching closeup. Seems like finally there is some pressure coming onto the big banks to lower small business lending rates.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report Reply

  • Alastair Thompson,

    Ok... one suggestion apply some truth serum to Cameron Bagrie. He just explained that we need to pay higher interest rates that aussies because our economy is in worse shape. Its an interesting theory - blame the victim.

    I would encourage small businesses to move their banking to Kiwibank and lobby the Government to push the bank to provide realistically priced credit. Unfortunately Kiwibank is very credit risk averse and is not altogether friendly to small businesses as I understand things.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Brislen,

    I worked from home for three years and it was bliss. I got to see my eldest daughter every day and join in with the foolish fun of growing up. And (double plus good) I would log on in the morning, send a few IMs and emails to prove I was working and then have a shower/wake up. She didn't sleep too well and neither did I for the first two years. A desk job would have killed me.

    Favourite memory - being chewed out by a minister over a story I'd written and having my too-tired brain refuse to process anything other than "I'm getting a dressing down in my dressing gown".

    But it's not for everyone and in the end it was too hard to work and cope with a toddler. What's the point in being at home if you have to keep the door shut? I'll give it another go when the youngest is at school... maybe.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 198 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Favourite memory - being chewed out by a minister over a story I'd written and having my too-tired brain refuse to process anything other than "I'm getting a dressing down in my dressing gown".

    Your brain was obviously plenty awake enough and attending to important puns. That's wholly commendable.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    A few years ago when they were fashionable and there were city council staff to run them, we had a community 20 year vision planning thing for our suburb.

    It was expected that the trend to working from home would accelerate, and fewer people would go into the city every day. It was noted that there were local shops, sometimes empty, that could be developed as co-operative type rooms for the purposes suggested above, or other community activities.

    Other trends we anticipated were that there would be local businesses set up to service the home based enterprises such as gardening or cooking and maybe this could be done on a bartering basis. All local so transport costs wouldn't be major, and all built a sense of community.

    All seemed a bit idealistic then, but there is already a bit of this happening with the transition towns movement.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3107 posts Report Reply

  • Alastair Thompson,

    Further to my above possibly intemperate remarks about bank lending to small businesses. It seems that Fed Farmers' Connor English was also kind of unimpressed with Mr Bagrie's remarks.

    Banks Should be Clear on Govt. Guarantees costs

    Banks need to be clear about which guarantee they are talking about and what it costs when they say it is a reason for higher interest rates than otherwise, Conor English, CEO of Federated Farmers said tonight.

    This follows an interview on tonight’s TV One Close Up program when a senior bank economist gave the government guarantee as a reason for higher interest rates than otherwise would be the case.

    “Banks should be clear – there are two guarantees, and for our main banks the costs may not be as great as some may think.

    “The first is the “deposit guarantee” for depositors into New Zealand banks. It guarantees that people will get their money back from the bank if the bank gets into trouble. Depending on weather the organisation seeking the guarantee is a bank or not and its credit rating the charge for this varies, staring at 10 basis points. (details http://www.rbnz.govt.nz/finstab/3463154.html)

    “The second guarantee is called the “wholesale guarantee”. This guarantees overseas banks who lend money to New Zealand based banks who then lend this money out in mortgages or overdrafts to New Zealanders. This is done on a case by case basis. To date we understand that only one bank has actually utilised this guarantee for about NZD $180 million. The cost of this guarantee again depends on the organisation and its credit rating and starts at 85 basis points.

    Meanwhile the news from ASB about its 5% job protection $1 billion lending fund certainly seems a positive development.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report Reply

  • jon_knox,

    re DeepRed's post regarding recruiters.

    Granny Herald 17/2/2009 - Don't exploit staff in downturn, recruiter warns

    Juha had noted (via twitter)

    http://bit.ly/cBlG4 Odd survey from BusinessNZ says firms are overstaffed all of a sudden after bitching about tight labour market for years

    In my own experience working in NZ (a couple of years ago), I can recall roles going unfilled for the better part of a year or more because we couldn't find a suitable candidate.

    I just don't get it and would enjoy a "please explain" being put to the NZPA for their role in this.

    Belgium • Since Nov 2006 • 464 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Graham,

    Well - here's a twist. I signed up to a 'deal' on my rent that meant we are locked in to a four year lease now. Fortunately it's a nice space and we have now rented out our house and moved into the office. The kids love it and I must say, we've enjoyed the air con this summer.

    The key things for me now are to:
    1. trim costs wherever possible - and with publishing there is a minimum to print (and those costs to endure) to ensure credibility - and
    2. make sure we are bringing in every sale we can.

    We are innovating in our approach to our customers and becoming more customer focussed; we are opening up new revenue opportunities; we are cutting deals; we are working hard to reduce debt and we are strengthening our brand positioning. These things are working and keeping our cashflow positive - with the help of our creditors and bank.

    A key lesson in the Financial Accounting paper I did as part of my Dip. Bus. Marketing was that Profit does NOT equal Cash - and lack of cash will drive you broke faster than making a loss.

    After attrition meant low performing staff left, hiring good staff right now at prices I can afford is only going to benefit the business.

    One of the biggest problems is coping with the increased workload primarily landing on me at the moment, while we increase resources in as lean a way as possible without cutting things to the point of costing us money. 'Stretched thin' is an understatement but I'm loathe to let opportunities to generate revenue go past.

    The National Bank has been great - very supportive through difficult cashflow periods - so far, at least. It seems to me via my experience, at least, that banks will support businesses they see as generally well run that are clients of good standing. Communication is all - let your bank know where things are at on a constant basis, every bit as much as key suppliers.

    Given my business, like Andrew's, is advertiser driven, the issue we're facing is in convincing those advertisers who recognise the need to continue marketing work to get the business that is still out there that we are the best vehicle. Rod - I think I can make a case for you advertising in a couple of my magazines - can I call you?

    AS an aside, I can't help but feel for the shareholders of Fairfax who will enjoy the benefits of 180 staff being made redundant because profits have dropped to only $35 million.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    It's not such an issue for our little business -- I'm in the position of people tending to need my attention more than I need theirs -- but just answering the phone well for each other does a power of good. Fiona used to do a great receptionist's manner ...

    So If I need to get your attention, is it best to use the phone or email?:)

    I am planing to evolve into business. The sort of work I do (ART) has the romantic notion of somehow thriving on poverty and personal tragedy. I don't believe the hype. However, I do see some scope for innovation toward capturing market share. Personally, It's all about cooperation, I have unique or very hard to acquire, creative resources to pool. It's only a matter of how generous I'm willing to be, and how reciprocal my associates behaviors are, that limits our particularly micro, economic environment.

    I have been working for another artist, my role being the technician. In other words, I help build sculptures to there satisfaction. They, the artist knows there market. That market, is the personally wealthy upper echelon. The people that write the ten thousand dollar cash checks on opening night. We have sent forty odd thousand dollars worth of stock, off to exhibition at two high profile events, and one ten thousand dollar work that was commissioned. The later was meant to be a part of a major landscaping job, thats been put on hold because of what appears to be, hunkering down for the depression; not wanting to appear flashy with public money. I will report back here, on the outcome of these art shows. It will be interesting to see how the frivolities are reacting to the depressing economic expectation.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3865 posts Report Reply

  • Alastair Thompson,

    Mark,

    Your experience and strategies being employed is eerily familiar.

    What are your magazine titles?

    And while we are on the subject - what aspect of the advertising business are you in Andrew?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report Reply

  • andrew llewellyn,

    And while we are on the subject - what aspect of the advertising business are you in Andrew?

    Eh? Moi? I'm in the corprate learning business - I think Mark, when he said this:

    Given my business, like Andrew's, is advertiser driven

    Was briefly mixing up the names "Andrew" and "Aliastair". As is common, in my experience.

    [:)]

    That said, years ago it was my ambition to get into advertising, I imagined a dashing life of bursts of creativity & long lunches (and sundry stuff) with models & actresses.

    Things don't always pan out the way you expect.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report Reply

  • Stuart Coats,

    There are companies overseas that lease furnished and serviced office space on a pay-per-use basis, for the occasional important meeting or if you happen to be travelling in a city other than where you're based. Is there something like that here?

    I recently went and looked at a space run by Servcorp. They have a floor in the Vodafone building in Lambton Quay and a couple in Auckland: the ASB bank building and the PWC building from memory. They do furnished offices and the like on a monthly basis (or more if you want). I'm sure that if you wanted their meeting space or somethig similar they would be able to do something for you.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 192 posts Report Reply

  • Stuart Coats,

    PS As I don't work for this company does this count as collaboration?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 192 posts Report Reply

  • Michael Savidge,

    I have some clients come here, but only for individual mentoring/career planning type sessions.

    Hey Ange, I have a friend who could use services like those. How can I contact you?

    Somewhere near Wellington… • Since Nov 2006 • 324 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Graham,

    Hi - apologies Andrew/Alistair. I knew I should have checked but at 11.30 last night I couldn't be shagged. More fool me.

    I have a title called the Homeowner's Building Guide which is handed out free to people doing building work through councils, home ideas centres and a couple of other avenues.

    Advertiser driven but proud of the fact that it is completely independent editorial.

    Sister publication to that called the Business of Building, which is for builders - an attempt at a slap up the side of the head in dealing with the paperwork, project management and associated items we saw builders generally in denial about and last year was contracted by the Association of Administrative Professionals to publish their magazine - admiNZ - which goes to PAs and Office Managers.

    Well niched titles and pretty good ifIdosaysomyself. But getting good salespeople has been bloody hard the last couple of years. Better now by the looks of it - seems to me companies are cutting good staff, not just deadwood, and there are good people looking at opportunities, too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 215 posts Report Reply

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