Welcome to an update with Simon Forder, who is currently juggling his Telemarketing company, RingHello, his castles project, The Castle Guy, a new addition to his family and an ongoing health issue. Simon is actually one of my original 2011 interviewees, with a catch-up in October 2012, and again in November 2013We last spoke in February 2015. At that point, when asked where he wanted to be in a year’s time, he replied, “Ooh, I don’t know. I plan to have made significant progress with The Castle Guy, so that I can devote more time to it, and develop it further. The more I do with it, the more I should get back, so fingers crossed for a successful 2015! With RingHello, I’d still like a bit more stability, but perhaps that’s a change in the marketplace that’s permanent. Either way I am confident that what is right will happen when it’s meant to. And I also hope to be back to full fitness by then too!” Let’s check in on what’s happened in what sounds like an eventful and challenging year.
Hello again, Simon.So, the big question: Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
No. I have devoted a significant amount of time to developing the Castle Guy website (there’s now information about more than 200 castles in Scotland on there), but I found myself falling behind with my RingHello work to the extent that I had to make the decision not to take on more work until I had cleared the backlog.
The shoulder injury has still not healed properly, and when digging deeper into the whole matter I was advised I was suffering from a form of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, meaning that my body was not recovering from any stresses properly. Not only my injury, which has been causing me pain now for well over two years, but also preventing me from being able to reliably predict how much work I was able to do.
So, I had to terminate campaigns and just act in a support capacity to my wife and business partner to the best of my ability. CFS is a nightmare for someone who runs their own business. It is not recognised by the authorities except in its most extreme form, and it can literally be the case that you wake up one day and do not have the energy to get out of bed. That can last for a few days, and then inexplicably you wake up and are fine again. In the end a major contributor appears to have been an undiagnosed sensitivity to wheat, and after doing my utmost to cut it out from my diet for 6 months I am much improved.
I have recently started taking on new telemarketing clients again, and look forward to being able to get back to work properly. I’ve also taken on a few bits of historical work, and have nearly completed my second massive Castle Guide – in addition to Edinburgh I’ll be putting Stirling out there, so that will be the two biggest guides finished.
We are also developing a piece of software to enable small businesses to manage their own cold calling and business pipelines effectively. Most CRM systems just can’t cope with all the people who aren’t customers yet, and don’t help you manage your time effectively. Ours will – and is designed for small businesses specifically so there won’t be overkill like the big boys out there!
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Having had our first baby a few weeks ago, EVERYTHING has changed. All priorities are under review, and time has suddenly become a far more important resource.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
The learning has definitely been health-related. I have learned to accept that sometimes you have no option but to accept that even the simplest things can be beyond you if you aren’t well, and that ultimately you have to take your health far more seriously. I mean, who would have thought that being sensitive to wheat could be so completely debilitating – and given that it’s one of the most common food sensitivities, why is it still being used so widely in food production? I mean, next time you are shopping, just try to get a shop which is wheat free. Look at the ingredients. You’ll see what I mean. It isn’t just no bread, pasta, pastry and breakfast cereal…
Any more hints and tips for people?
Be kind to yourself. If you don’t, why would anyone else think they have to?
BONUS NEW QUESTION: What question would YOU like to ask other small business owners?
What do you think is the most cost-effective way to get mass brand exposure to consumers?
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
I’ll be in a more secure place with regular historical commission work providing a greater proportion of income, we will have the software available with a reasonable number of subscribers (50 at least) starting to provide us with a regular ambient income, and maintaining a regular income stream from telemarketing as well. Maybe baby Olaf will have regularised his sleep patterns by then as well, so fewer black bags under the eyes would be nice!
I’m always honoured when my interviewees share the not-so-great and challenging times as well as the achievements, so thank you to Simon for his honest answers and best of luck for the future. Having just had an injury after a running accident myself, which didn’t take me out of action but did make me very tired with the pain and slightly fuzzy at times with the pain relief, I cannot imagine what it’s been like for Simon – thank goodness for his wife and business partner and hopefully things will be on the up now. He’s nurtured RingHello successfully for a long while now, so I’m sure he’ll be able to pick up the reins, and knowing your capacities and capabilities is a big part of the equation.
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.