Atypical days

The only thing typical about my life these days is that it’s typically atypical. Take yesterday for example. The only real consistency between yesterday and the days before is that I was engaged in very different things, but the things, mostly, different from one day to the next.

So let me see. First thing yesterday was catching up on my emails and correspondence. That’s reasonably normal actually, but more of a ritual than an activity. It’s like brushing my teeth. You get that out-of-the-way and the real day begins.

Yesterday morning it was me writing a script. I get asked to do this on an occasional basis. Basically I get sent a lot of client guff which I’m asked to turn into a usable and meaningful script to be used as on-hold messages. Typically that means a script of between 4-6 segments, each segment of about 20-30 seconds worth of reading. I’ve been doing it for a several years now and do it pretty well apparently. It’s not terribly difficult. The real work is at that start – absorbing all the client info, separating it into distinct selling points or messages, and then identifying the key aspects within each message to highlight in the script. For example, yesterdays script was for a mortgage broker who also deals with insurance and buyers advocacy. I split it into 5 segments (I was told max 400 words, so 80 words a segment thereabouts). In the mortgage section I emphasised how the mortgage is tailored to the customer (from a range of mortgage options greater than their competitors), how the consultants visit the customers at home, and how the consultants will look after every bit of red tape from start to finish.

I find it pretty easy. Once I’ve got the key points at my fingertips I convert it into marketing-speak, the easy, confident language of someone who knows their stuff and knows it’s good. It’s important to impart as much detail as possible – I also ask myself what questions would I have? – at the same time as making it conversational in tone. It has to read well. I might have spent a tad over an hour on that before sending it on to my client in draft version, only for them to clap their hands and tell me it was perfect as is. I don’t know why I don’t do more of these – they are pretty simple, and it’s pretty easy money. I guess I don’t because I do it as a talented dilettante and not a dedicated professional. I like writing, but I don’t really equate it with that. There is some creativity to it, and you have to write well, but it doesn’t inspire me a whole lot.

Anyway, after that I walked up the road to buy some office supplies for the shop. Returning home I made contact with a few people networking and applying for work. More drudgery really.

Mid-afternoon I drove into the shop. From the warmest July day on record the temperature plummeted, dark clouds gathered and rain erupted in a very Melbourne day. By then I was behind the desk filling in as a receptionist for a change. Was kept moderately busy doing that, but dead bored.

In between serving customers, surfing the net, and reading Fast Company I made notes for another business idea I’m keen to get off the ground. I’ve discovered that I’m greatly motivated by creating things, by making things happen. I always have lots of ideas which, in the past, I largely left to wither. Being creative by nature gets me enthused however, and I begin to see endless possibilities.

This idea is a good one. I won’t go into details, but there’s a huge and ever-growing market I’d be selling into, with little if any real competition in the segment I’m targeting (that’s our selling difference, a unique take on the product), and relatively low-cost and manage going forward. And so I scribbled my notes on the back of a few pages of scrap paper from the printer. Now need to source some expertise.

I got home a little after 8, at which point my ‘working’ day was officially over. I slumped onto the couch and did as so many Australians do right now – I flicked between a rum selection of international sport coming out of Europe. The Ashes, the Tour de France, and the British Open golf. Great stuff.

Now it’s Friday – and a completely different day.

Early days as a massage mogul

Mega busy right now getting a handle on the new business. Took over last Friday after the usual round of complications, none of which I can be bothered going into. Walked in the door Friday and basically said, “Hi, I’m your new boss!” It went down better than it might have.

Since then I’ve tried to get a sense of how the joint operates, whilst looking to gradually introduce improvements across the board. Functional improvements are needed, but I don’t want to spook the staff there too much so that’s slowly, slowly. In the meantime I’m implementing some simple marketing jobs to get things up and rolling. I’ve advertised in the online advertising sites, both in general, and looking forward to Mother’s Day and the specials available then. The brochure is being re-done, business and loyalty cards printed, gift vouchers created. At some stage I’ll engage with the local traders to introduce myself, as well as to offer discounted massages. There’s also a hospital around the corner I want to get in contact with to offer discounted massage to anyone who can produce an ID. And so on.

To assist in all of this I brought in my own manager, otherwise formerly known in these pages as the yoga teacher. That moniker may be out of date as she’s also a marketing manager. It’s quite by accident that I got her involved here. I was having a drink with her, mentioned all of this was happening, and she piped up with I’m here to help if you need it. I do need it. She’s happy to take on a part-time possie, and is quite enthused at the prospect of marketing the business.

So, how’s it going? Hard to draw a line through things at this stage. Had a couple of goodish days, one very nice, and one ordinary. I might be little ahead when I take out all my costs. Given there has been no marketing put into the business since before Christmas, and the lack of general collateral, I’m satisfied that I can make some early inroads once our plans have been rolled out.

So far the biggest challenge has been the personnel. That’s not a huge surprise, and I had been warned. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I should be taking a step back. Here I am a middle-aged, burly Australian male. I’m not the sort you want to bump into in the reception area of a genteel massage shop. More importantly, I represent a difficult demographic when it comes to dealing with massage staff who are almost all Asian and completely female.

Having travelled through Asia a bit I was ready for the cultural divide, but knowing it doesn’t necessarily help bridge it. I’ve spoken very quietly and with a smile on my face, while getting the yoga teacher to act in my stead. I’ve bought chocolates a couple of days running – very happily received – and generally tried to allay any fears they might have. Most challenging is the most important person there – N.

N has worked there for more than two years. She’s an elegant, attractive Thai woman, but like many quite diffident with the likes of me. She works on reception, as well as giving the occasional massage – she is one of the staff customers request by name. She’s quite upset that the owners have sold out, despite the fact they exploited her shamelessly – working her 7 days a week at $10 an hour. She doesn’t understand that. She’s unsure I think of what she wants to do, and claims she no longer wants to do any massage. Complicating it further is that her English is no better than rudimentary, and she seems unable, or unwilling, to say exactly what she wants.

I’m giving her a lot of rope for now. I’m hopeful that she will calm down and that we’ll be able to establish some parameters going forward – which includes at least one day off a week, and a pay increase to the legal minimum ($16/hr). I’ve asked her to think about what she wants, and reassured her that we’ll help out in any way we can. It’s no good though if she won’t do any massage. I think she’ll come around.

In any case I’m advertising for someone else to help us out. A qualified masseuse who is also responsible, reliable, and capable of looking after reception as required. And I’m going to give another of the girls a retainer on top of her massage commission. She’s a go-getter, friendly, and has lots of energy – I’m going to encourage her to be the boss back of the house, of all the masseuse, savvy enough to know what needs to be done and capable of keeping them in line.

Don’t reckon you can have a successful business unless you have the right people. That’s the theory I’m working on.

Hands on

A few weeks back I posted something about how I want to work differently. At the time I outlined a couple of business opportunities I was exploring in relation to that. I can now update with the latest developments.

Second things first. One of the business opportunities – which I can now reveal was based around vertical gardens – is now unlikely to go forward. The woman who pitched it to me is still keen, but the first choice option she put to me 6 weeks ago looks like it’s dead in the water. I met with her again 2 weeks ago, and she put to me plan B. Plan B is nowhere near as exciting – plan B’s generally aren’t. She promises me a 20% return on investment, but that’s insufficient as is given the risk involved. My desire is to lock down residual income, and require a share of her business- in the order of 20-25% – to keep me interested. She’s amenable to that, but then there are problems with the plan B option. I’m sure it would make a return, but a lot of product would need to be pushed to make it worthwhile – I’m happy to start at $1K/month initially after the settling in period, and more over time.

I put a proposition to her. I don’t think there’s enough money in it if it’s marketed conventionally, and going head to head with competitors. Both the challenges and the opportunities lay with spreading the word Australia wide, and getting a distribution network to manage that. My recommendation was to look at party plans as a means of marketing and selling the product. I think it copuld work, and she’s looking at it now. If it’s viable then that’s the only way I’ll be involved, interesting challenge as it might be.

The other option I wrote of was a massage business. As of today I submitted a formal offer for the business. It’s somewhat less than what they’re asking for, but I’m sure we can come to an agreement. After all the scrutiny of the last month both my accountant and I believe that the business is worth a lot more than what they’re asking for it. That is, maybe 70-80% more, so, literally; it would be cheap at double the price, but don’t tell them.

I expect that the deal will be done within the next fortnight, and that I’ll be the new owner of a massage business. I’ll let it run, but look to introduce some initiatives to scale it up further. There’;s a lot more potential for growth. As it is, figures suggest I’ll clear $180k pa in my pocket. Happy to cop that.

That’s where it’s at, and with my eyes open for further opportunities.