In my last Tuesday blog I wrote about how it came to pass that we are now running number one son’s gardening business, own it in fact (well nearly!). When he jetted off to OZ to pursue his dreams or at least one of his many women, we agreed that we would run the business on a trial basis for six months. By the end of this period we fully expected he would be jetting right back and would, in all likelihood, be taking up the reigns of the business once more. Wrong, wrong, wrong, very wrong. As I wrote last time it looks like he will be staying courtesy of yet another injection of cash from yours truly and his ideas way above his financial station. Hey ho. The point is, if there is one buried in this saga, we said we would run the business on a trial basis and then we would weigh the balance between stress generated and money earned. What could be simpler or clearer? Well, quite a lot it turns out…
Let me see if I can give you some idea of how this is working out, the trial period coming to a conclusion, as it does, at the end of January. Let’s take the easy part first – the money. Simple we have made very little money from the business in this period. There are a number of reasons for this, most prosaic of which is that any gardening business drops off during autumn and winter, many businesses close down altogether, so that’s all very predictable and something we had in mind when we began. Second, and a little less predictable in the sense that we only found out about it quite recently, is that the one gardener we have left (I’ll explain why we only have one later on) when asked what he was doing that day quite often would say, I’m doing this job for Joe (number one son). At first this puzzled us, wasn’t all the money from the jobs going into the company account? Well, as it turned out, no it wasn’t, it was going into the dear boy’s account. This on account of this being work for landlords and estate agents who the dear boy billed at the end of the year. This he explained was his little nest egg to see him through the lean months of winter. This was how he had set it up before and was still setting it up. This will stop now we have bought the business but all contributed or rather de-contributed to the lack of money going into the business account.
Third, what might be described either as running costs or totally unexpected bills that nobody had ever mentioned. Admittedly two big repair bills on the van couldn’t have been predicted but that didn’t make them any cheaper. What might have been predicted was maintenance costs on the firm’s tools. It seemed like we had more equipment that didn’t work than that did. I never knew how eye-watering the costs of repairing or even servicing various strimmers, chainsaws, mowers (I think we have 5 or 6 mowers and, as far as I can understand, none of them work), blowers, suckers, hedge cutters etc. etc. etc. Oh and the trailer needs servicing again, you can guess that this won’t be cheap. On top of all this, all the usual running costs – fuel for the van, various materials and the ubiquitous (lovely word for a very unlovely activity) trips to the tip. Tip, in this case, being code for an impossible reversing activity down a very muddy lane with me trying unsuccessfully to reverse the trailer and Land Rover down this narrow track with nowhere to turn round. All I have succeeded in so far in this very manly activity is to get stuck and have the indignity of paying the farmer an extra tenner to get me out of the shit. Jolly embarrassing I can tell you. Not what springs to mind when anticipating the joys of running a small business. Should have stuck to cup-cakes, there can’t be much failed reversing down muddy tracks associated with cup-cakes or am I just showing my ignorance of the cup-cake industry? Into the financial bucket throw in sundries such as advertising, business cards, leaflets, hardly worth mentioning really.
So in the making money column not a lot, what about the stress column? You know the one that balances out the previous one. Obviously if we haven’t made a lot of money then it stands to reason (whatever that might be) that we wouldn’t expect much in the way of stress in this column. Wrong again. Uppermost because of a recent conversation with our one remaining gardener, we have to sort out areas of the business like the company website and the two email accounts the company has, not to mention social media which our chap says is vital, so that means Facebook and Twitter he reckons we need to have and, and here’s the kick, update on a daily basis. I feel myself fading away as his list grows longer. Arrange meeting with accountant to sort out tax and try and track down company’s registration which to quote number one son, yes it is registered but I don’t have a Scooby Do as to how you find out the registration number. Cheers for that, son. Every day brings a new opportunity to be great.
All of the above is tedious but needs doing I guess. It is as nothing compared to our major headaches. They go like this – we had two men working for us. We found out one was committing benefit fraud and we didn’t approve of this so, having given him the chance to legalise his set-up, which he didn’t, we, not to mince words, sacked him. Just about the most unpleasant thing I have ever done, when I think about all the psychologists it would have given me great pleasure to sack but couldn’t this, as a retirement activity, was deeply ironic, to say the least. Shortly after this we were burgled. The garage that we thought was securely locked up was broken into (locks subtly crowbarred off) and some gardening tools stolen (most of which didn’t work, ha). Were these events connected? Who knows, but it certainly seemed a possibility at the time, still does although the guy I sacked we treated very well, apart from sacking him that is, and we find it hard to believe that he could carry out or be involved in this crime. Now we’re paying out more money to have our air raid shelter converted into a secure lock-up. Yes, we have an air raid shelter, full of rubbish that, like our garage, we just threw in there and forgot. For the last week we’ve been clearing it out so the tools can live in there in a secure environment. And so it goes.
I need to stop now, a bit of writing therapy is OK but I wouldn’t say it is the total of the ‘challenges’ we have and are facing, but you get the general idea. So retirement and running a small business, not all it is cracked up to be, but carry on like this and we’ll be doing the cracking.
PS, between the time of writing and posting things seem to have changed yet again, but you’ll have to wait for the update as, indeed, will we.