Some Blog

  • Company of One

    Company of One

    Now, before you think:

    'ah, of course, Michael.  You're recommending a book about staying at home, bolting the door and yelling "get away from my company, it's mine, all mine, and I can sit in my shed playing Playstation all day if I want to".'

    That's not what this is about.

    Funnily enough.

    Knowing next to nothing on the subject until starting Some Ink Nice, I've read a bunch of (probably the usual) books about starting and running a small business.

    Some have been very helpful.

    Some made me feel like I was in training to sell low-grade vitamin tablets in 1950s America.

    Or perfectly poised to become a charity mugger on the high street, going up to people and saying "HEY, do YOU like FRUIT?"

    (tip 1 - 'always start with a question that involves them saying Yes.  Because then they'll say Yes to other questions')

    (alternative tip 1 - 'don't be an arse')

    But this book stood out.

    (Also - no, I'm not being paid to recommend this.  I mean I'll happily take a kickback for doing so, if you're reading, Paul, but that's another matter).

    It's a book that challenges the basic assumption of why you'd start a business in the first place.  That aaaaaaall the other advice is geared towards.  Namely, because you want to get rich.

    Surely, why else would you start a business?

    To which the answer is, a million reasons.  Reasons that will be different for you, for me, for Gareth your weird neighbour.

    The book feels like a compilation of distilled advice about all the various aspects of running a 21st century business. 

    All adapted and geared towards how they might best be applied to a lean, focused, profitable setup.

    A focus on profit, not turnover.

    A focus on doing the most you can, with the fewest resources.

    A focus on WHY you're doing whatever tasks you're doing, and whether there are simpler, more effective ways to use your time.

    A focus on reducing stress.

    On keeping things simple.

    A focus on what actually works, for YOUR business, not for business in general.

    (For example, I make cards with cat drawings and / or sarcastic captions on them.  What are the chances I have the same life goals as someone who's decided to invent an intruder alarm system that sprays fruit juice onto unsuspecting burglars, and emits an ultrasonic klaxon calling all bats within a ten mile radius to come and 'get them'?)

    (That - to use the correct terminology - would involve a much more committed 'sales funnel' to make any money, for example)

    Also included are common mistakes that companies make, particularly when scaling up.

    And the mistakes that usually lead to a company's downfall.  So you can avoid them from day one.

    In the mangled words of Jurassic Park:

    'your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn't stop to think if they should.'

    This advice applies even if you don't employ scientists.

    Now, while there's the caveat that I'm very much at the early stages of Some Ink Nice, I found it massively helpful.

    Maybe you would too.

    That is all.

    More info here

  • PG Live '19

    PG Live '19
    Well, ladies and gentlemen, the time has finally come.
    The end of days is upon us.
    With everything happening in the world, the surest sign is this:
    I've started a blog.
    Because I'm ahead of the times.
    And I reckon they'll be a thing, one day.
    First up.
    My first trade show.  Ever.
    Provided you ignore the two we went to in the last year, where I walked round with a name badge saying Head of Everything and tried not to make eye contact with anyone exhibiting.
    In case they thought I was a previously undiscovered wealthy buyer for a carefree gift conglomerate, about to shower them with cash and prizes.
    (Because that's the look exhibitors have in their eyes at trade shows when the day wears on.  I've seen it.)
    But yes.  First trade show as an Actual Person.
    Number 1 thing about PG Live:
    Not just in a chirpy, world's-best-customer-service-check-out-my-fixed-grin kind of way, but a genuine, down to Earth, warm and welcoming kind of way.
    Now this shouldn't have come as a shock, because it's the one thing that everyone says about PG Live.  'It's so friendly'.
    And you might expect it, given it's the only trade show in the world wholly dedicated to greetings cards.
    And greetings cards being generally all about sending a nice thought, kind message or a cunningly disguised way of sending a court summons.
    But the thing I forgot about is that everyone there is also running a small business.  In some cases very successful small businesses, usually ones they've built from scratch themselves.
    So to be doing that, it requires a certain level of dedication, and skill, and ability to learn and carry out a whole bunch of new tasks.
    Plus, to do all this in a 'creative' industry.
    (Quotation marks necessary there.  I've met enough people in my time who firmly consider themselves 'the creative type' primarily because they own a brightly coloured waistcoat and / or think karaoke is, on balance, a good idea).
    But an industry where you make a thing, and then show it to the world.
    There's no right or wrong, no good or bad.  Not really.  It's up to individual taste.  You're opening yourself up to all kinds of judgment and potential criticism, from everyone.
    At a card show, there's no demonstrating how useful this new product is.  There's no technology to impress punters with.  Everyone knows what a card is for.
    It's purely:  'I've made this.  D'you like it?'
    It seemed to me that the resilience this either instills or requires in the first place, coupled with the fact that everyone is in - more or less - the same boat, helps massively.
    From a clueless new publisher point of view, literally every single person I spoke to was incredibly kind, and accommodating.  They were helpful, happy to share advice and insider info.
    And best of all, some of the funniest people I've met in ages.  There were - let's face it - a few stretches of time with very few buyers anywhere to be seen. 
    To spend hours on your feet, with few visitors around, yet still feel like those bits were spent having a great time in the company of friends?  That I wasn't expecting.
    Number 2 thing about PG Live:
    Got some orders.
    Number 3 thing about PG Live:
    Was nice to finally put names to some faces I'd been speaking to for a while.
    Or faces to some names, I should say.
    I didn't write names on peoples' faces.  That would be weird.