Saturday, February 17, 2007

Looking to the Future - Mostly Business Related

Um. Away from business related poohs (see below), Emily's had a good week. On Wednesday we celebrated Valentines Day and Emily started off her "notebooking" by finding out lots of information about the history of Valentines Day and writing it up, beautifully decorated, with three love poems as well. Thursday morning she went to tai chi with Daddy, then in the afternoon she created a brochure for Normanby Hall as an English exercise, and also worked on some logical thought puzzles. On Friday we looked at Chinese New Year. Emily researched the history and customs of the celebration, looked up all of our Chinese zodiac birth years and decorated our seasonal tree beautifully with paper cherry blossoms, paper red and gold lanterns and a paper zodiac animal string.
Emily's also been working well on her maths course and reading a lot. The new book she has to review for the EO magazine turned up on Thursday, a pre-publication copy of the first in the Zodiac Girls series by Cathy Hopkins. This didn't go down well with me. Why? Pure jealousy! I've been plotting and planning in my head a series of 12 kids books based on zodiac signs ever since that dratted Rainbow Fairy series came out years ago. But of course, being me, I hadn't got any further than the plotting and planning. Looks like my services will no longer be required. Hrrrmpphh. Despite my dire warnings that she'd better find the book to be absolute trash, and that her review must contain in it somewhere the sentence "My Mum's a real astrologer and could write this series a thousand times better than Ms "Ha! Got there first!" Hopkins ever could"......Emily apparently rather likes the book and is finding it very funny. Oh well.

As home ed goes, that's about all I have to report, so if you don't wish to read about business related angst, please look away now :-)

It's been a serious and hugely thoughtful week for us poor, responsibility laden adults. Jon and I have had to do some serious thinking about the future of our business. This time last year we were on the crest of a wave, with a turnover approaching 250k, special terms with most suppliers, an ever increasing profit and, well, like was looking rosy, business-wise.

Here we are twelve months later having suffered some absolutely appalling runs of luck in the last 8 months, and we're struggling. Can't pretend we're not. Some suppliers are being very patient with us - one or two have been extremely unhelpful and aggressive, and we won't ever be going near them again. At the moment, we're in the unenviable position of not even being able to pay the VAT demand which is due at the end of Feb, let alone supplier invoices for this last month...and HM Customs and Excise are not a very patient lot. Turnover has dwindled dramatically as our supplies have dwindled due to accounts being overdue and on stop and we seem inextricably caught up in the horrific retail cash flow trap - we need to get supplies in in order to sell in order to have the cash to pay for the last lot of supplies, then we need to raise cash to pay for the supplies bought in to pay for the supplies...and such, of course, is an ever decreasing circle.

It's incredibly stressful for everyone, of course. Jon's response is to attempt to work 28 hours a day; my response is to alternately hide and get stroppy with everyone. Neither of those solutions are very good for people's health or wellbeing, let alone finances. Meanwhile, because we're no longer able to draw sufficiently from the business, our personal debts are also mounting alarmingly and if things continue at this rate for much longer, we'll be on the slippery slope of being unable to meet minimum credit card payments etc. It's not a good picture.

We're considering cutting our losses in retail and closing down that side of the business for twelve months once all outstanding bills have been paid. We have (just) enough income from writing to see us through 12 months of normal personal expenses. My theory is that, freed from the constant buy-sell-package-post-buy-sell-package-post time consuming demands of running a retail business, both Jon and I will have time to develop the writing side of the business much, much further. And, whether that works out or not, twelve months from now we'll have paid of some of our personal debts and be in a much healthier position to re-start the retail side again, if we so choose. It sounds perfect (if slightly scary) to me, but it's not so simple for poor Jon, whose self-esteem is horribly caught up in the business success or lack of it. All he can see is "failure", doom and gloom, criticism from his father, "can't write" etc. I, on the other hand, see "freedom", "massively more time", "exciting opportunities", "much higher profit margins than retail" and generally a chance to quit this awful, constantly demanding rat race for a while. Plus it would mean an end to dealing with completely unreasonable customers, of which we've had way more than our fair share recently. Frankly, since I stifle the urge to scream every time I have to reply to an unhinged and rude customer email, that's a huge plus.

Because this is our life, and because it affects Emily so hugely too (in as much as whether we can still afford to stay at home and home educate) it's obviously an emotional time. A lot of our decision will rest on whether or not my contract with the BBC is renewed in April. We shall have to see. Ultimately, the decision could be taken out of hands and us left with little-no choice, one way or the other. We won't know that for certain until April. But the whole situation is certainly casting a shadow over life at the moment. We're going away for a few days next week - perhaps a break from the daily grind will put things in better perspective. I hope so!


Elle at Ellesfuntimes said...

So sorry you're going through such a rough patch Nikki, I'm thinking of you. It sounds like you're both getting your heads round it all and I'm sure things will pick up soon. All the best and hoping you have a fabulous few days away. Elle

Nikki said...

Thank you for your very kind thoughts, Elle. We'll work something out in the end - well, you have to, don't you - but the stress is killing. Just lost my temper with Emily, ostensibly over the state of her bedroom, but really just because everything's getting to me. Apologised to Emily and (I hope) made it all OK again, but it's so unhealthy for everyone being under this pressure :-(

Jax said...

Thinking of you - it all sounds quite amazingly crap right now.

Nikki said...

Thank you Jax.

Allie said...

Sounds like a very worrying time. I hope it all works out for you.

Alison said...

Sorry to hear things are so difficult. Good luck with the decisions xxx

Nikki said...

Thank you for your thoughts, Allie and Alison :)