Welcome to an update with Simon Forder, who has a busy life dealing with his Telemarketing company, RingHello, his castles project, The Castle Guy, and being a dad. Simon is one of my few original 2011 interviewees left now (others have drifted away from the series, rather than going out of business, I hasten to add), catch-ups in October 2012, November 2013, February 2015. and April 2016. Last year his comment on his plans for the upcoming 12 months was, “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!” Let’s see how he’s getting on!
Hello Simon! So, how are things going?
I am going to have to make this as brief as I can for reasons which should become clear as I type. Not least, at any moment it’s always possible that our little boy could wake up!
Trying to juggle the amount of time that both the Castle Guy project and Ringhello needed with my health issues has proven to be a bit of a challenge, and adding a baby to the mix definitely increased that challenge somewhat.
At the start of the financial year just ended, Janine and I chose to incorporate in order to allow us the opportunity of growing our business through the use of other trusted freelancers.
We now have a pool of about a dozen people we can call upon to carry out these campaigns, and although there have been hiccups along the way, overall the plan is coming together nicely. The principal challenge has been to do with the drop in profitability due to the use of third parties – an awkward jump for anyone used to being self-employed – and a complete lack of support for the fledgling limited company from the banking industry. It’s now starting to be the case that we need to find more good quality people to work with us and our clients!
We are now at the stage where we are investigating ways of promoting our software, which is designed to fit the gap between Excel spreadsheets and a full-blown CRM, helping small and micro-businesses manage their cold calling effectively. We’re offering it free just now if any reader is interested to ensure suitable feedback from outside users to show investors and potential partners. Just call me if you’d like to know more, readers…!
The Castle Guy project had to take a back seat for a while, and I certainly haven’t been out and about as much as I had hoped, but I did manage to get the second volume in the series published a couple of months ago. (http://thecastleguy.co.uk/books/fortress-scotland-volume-2/) I couldn’t dedicate any resources to publicising it beyond my own social media efforts, but I’ve still managed to sell about 50 copies, which is really heartening given the hike in the price I’ve had forced upon me! I’m hoping to have a second Castle Guide out there soon as well – Stirling Castle. At present it’s an absolute whopper at over 20,000 words, I’m having to put together some hand-drawn sketches which is proving time-consuming.
Health-wise things are on the up. I’ve learned to identify the signs my body is giving me when it isn’t happy with what I’ve eaten. But with a still not-very-sleepy 15 month old (he still hasn’t slept “through” once), sleep deprivation is definitely taking its toll. The CFS isn’t rearing its head (thank goodness) but I do find that I am nowhere near as capable as I was at – for example – doing the gardening. And the shoulder still hasn’t healed.
Are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
Not really. Everything takes more time with a baby to consider, but I think we can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Much is the same. Living and working in Scotland, where we have had a general election, Scottish election, independence referendum, EU referendum, Brexit negotiations – and another general election coming up soon (not to mention a possible second independence referendum), the economy is suffering from a chronic case of indecision. Every time there’s an election people hold fire on investment – and there’s no clear end in sight yet. But people in business are starting to realise they can’t avoid making decisions indefinitely, and that has to be good.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
I honestly can’t answer the first part of that question; the only thing I wish I’d known was that one of our suppliers was going to fold. It’s left us with a gap in promoting our business that to be honest we could have done with some notice to plug properly. Oh, and I would have approached exhibiting at a business expo in London differently. I’m not in the business of naming and shaming, but we’ve been left with a very bitter taste in our mouths by an utterly unscrupulous sales team. Sins of lying and omission, let’s put it that way.
Any more hints and tips for people?
Don’t forget to give yourself time to breathe. And that goes to myself as well…
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
Hopefully in the position I said last year. At the very least I hope that everything has stabilised – but with the political situation as it is, I remain doubtful.
A bit of a complicated year, then, with lots of choices and changes and a lack of stability. I hope the political situation calms down a bit, too, as it’s worrying when you deal with lots of overseas clients like I do. I love Simon’s hint about giving yourself time to breathe. It only takes anything to do with your health to realise that you’re not a business machine but a person who needs to look after themselves!
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.