Category Archives: business life

Big brand bashing

It seems fashionable to bash the big global brands like Amazon, Costa, McDonalds and so on. Regular screams for the castration of their leaders come riding on the back of accusations of tax avoidance and the like.

Rarely do I see any mention of the fact that these businesses employ thousands who pay taxes and spend their money to prop up our economy. No-one wants to mention the benefits that come to their customers in terms of convenience and access. They all provide a service and contribute to the countries that they operate in to some degree, but it is easier for the media, mainstream and social, to bash them. An irony that, especially when you read people using Facebook to do it when that is another of the brands that generates their ire.

A couple of thoughts on this from the perspective of an independent business man. Firstly I would say that about 90% of the meetings that other independents, and small businesses, have asked me to have been in Starbucks, Costa or Cafe Nero and lunches have generally been in KFC, Pret-a-Manger or one of the other big brand fast food outlets. We use them rather than pay for a meeting room at serviced accommodation or an hotel because we only pay for the food and drink. I have even seen job interviews taking place in these places. We use them because they give s what we need and don’t charge too much.

The other thought, here specifically about Amazon, is that a lot of people selling on Amazon are sole traders or small businesses. I fall into the former category and am very happy for Amazon, and for that matter eBay, to give me a global outlet for my wares and an easy way of extracting payment. They might be the scourge of the traditional High Street, but they prop up a lot of smaller traders and provide an entrepreneurial opportunity that was not there fifteen years or so ago.

Bash them if you want to, but they are succeeding because we use them and we do that because they help us to succeed.

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charities are sometimes not that charitable

Chugging has long been one of the basic hazards of the high street and has since invaded our homes through visits at the front door, mail-shots, and the email equivalent, TV campaigns plus telephone calls. Goodness knows how much it all costs and one assumes that it generates sufficient income or they wouldn’t do it, but I wonder how many people do they turn off in the process and how much potential revenue that loses them.

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ever wondered why you had been turned down for a job?

I was in a discussion with a fellow panellist last week on the subject of competition. My angle for the debate had been on purchasing and there were some striking differences between the approach a buyer would take to deciding who to appoint and the way my colleague on the panel would work in their specialism. Let me put it this way: Continue reading

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could a fine mind help you?

Down the millennia it is the power of thought that has moved mankind forward. Thanks to those who have been able to look at a problem and solve it and to those who have had ideas for doing things better or differently we have moved steadily forward and it is to the inventor that we owe so much that we enjoy in modern life. Continue reading

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eastbound

This piece is being written at 37000 feet over Russia which seems a little risky for a child of the cold war era with vivid memories of what befell Gary Powers when he tried it. I half expect a couple of MiGs to slide into position alongside us and fire warning shots. Continue reading

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better things for rail travellers at Swindon and Paddington?

Recently I’ve been back onto the trains and buses to travel around a lot more. I do it as often as I can, not just because of the green aspects, but because I quite like it; I get to look around and to think in a way that I can’t afford to do when I am driving, but looking around and thinking can lead to seeing and realising. For someone who has a long record of customer service seeing and realising can mean trouble. Continue reading

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SEO; who cares? I certainly don’t

I get a bit fed up of people writing to tell me that my blogs and web sites doesn’t feature on the front page of Google, and that no-one will find me as a result. Well I’ve got news for these unwelcome intruders. Continue reading

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going back to green commuting

It’s a quarter to seven in the morning. It’s cold, misty and dark where the street lights have been turned off to save money. I walk through to the main road and the oasis of light that is my local ‘bus stop. I’m early, but have erred on the safe side as I don’t do this often. I’m no stranger to this time of the morning; I’m often well on my way somewhere by now, but that is mostly in my car whereas today I am green commuting, heading off to start a new contract and making a journey that is going to become a regular one for me; the local bus to the town centre, walk to the railway station, catch a train and walk to the office. Continue reading

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the joys of writing part two

Over the last month I have put together my first eBook, published yesterday. I’ve also written my regular column, a few other blogs, an article for a sports industry magazine and about another 10,000 words towards another project. An enforced inability to do what I normally fill my days with has allowed extra time for all this writing, but it has also heightened my respect for those who earn their living from the written word for, whilst I do earn an element of income from some of my writing, most of what I put on paper is not where I earn my crust. Continue reading

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The romance of the rails

Back in the 80 s I used to travel by train a lot on business. At that time it was frowned upon to take your own car and, at our firm, the company car was unheard of other than for a few right at the top.

As I got to travel so much I even had my own book of rail warrants so that I could just write one out when I needed to. And so I would head off, sometimes on a day trip, other times for up to a week, and let the rhythm of the rails waft me from place to place as I earned my crust.

When I was a small boy most of our travel involved the local ‘bus service, and so my early experience of the romance of travel was the bus station in maybe Maidenhead or Reading. There I might see a long distance coach service, and the sight of people going somewhere excited the curiosity of my youthful mind. Railway stations and airport terminals still have the same fascination.

Train travel came a little later into my world after yet another move of house. We lived beside the Tattenham Corner branch line, where I could see the Royal Train take the Queen and her Mum to see The Derby at Epsom, but our station was a one mile walk away. From there we would catch a Southern green electric train up to Croydon to shop, or now and again to the terminus at Victoria on an outing to London.

At Victoria I could see one of the most romantic of trains; the Golden Arrow (Flèche d’Or) with its wonderful chocolate and cream Pullman cars taking people to or from the Continent. But my first solo train journeys were less glamorous; daily commuting into the City via Fenchurch and Liverpool Streets for example.

In the 1980s my job started to take me around the UK by train, and I rode the East and West coast main lines and got deep into Wales amongst other places. I met many fascinating people both in those places and en-route. Then I became entitled to first class where the peace and quiet could be double edged sword: On the one hand it was nicer to work on the train but, when you didn’t need to work there were less people to strike up a conversation with.

There was one great joy to the posh end though, and that was the dining car. A colleague and I used to book, at our own expense, a pair of seats on the up Red Dragon and spend the hour between Swindon and Paddington having breakfast. What a civilised start to the day!

Over the years I have also travelled by train in Denmark, Germany, France and the USA, each of which has brought new pleasures and, at times, a reality check. Once, travelling from Hamburg to Hannover our train slowed, presumably for a section of track maintenance. Some disused and overgrown sidings slid by with what appeared to be an old military camp away beyond the trees. Then we passed a small sign that said Celle. It took the mental Rolodex a few seconds to click round and Belsen came up. Travel does broaden the mind; there I was sat in first class luxury with my cup of coffee observing the site of such horrors that were perpetrated 50 years since, and trying to reconcile that with the German people of today that I worked with, respected and liked.

After a time I gained a company car and that put an end to travelling by train to a large degree. It was frowned on to incur the expense when you had company wheels at your disposal. But by then the trains were being refurbished to, in my mind, a lower standard than they had been built to with old comforts being replaced by small, hard seats and less leg room. And corporate vandalism didn’t stop there; the Network Southeast livery has to be the greatest travesty ever inflicted on a railway in their history.

No, I’m very glad that I was able to enjoy rail travel at a time when it was a pleasure to travel by train.

 

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