As I’ve been writing the story so far – and providing daily updates – the nearest I’ve got to proof reading is a quick check on grammar and typos when I first copy the text of my Word file into the post, and then again immediately before publishing it. The other day, my wife, Margaret, started to read what I’ve posted. Her main problem with the story was that, in Chapter Four Part Two, where I introduce the other members of the group, I hadn’t put enough meat on the bones of the individuals to induce her to take any interest in them. Given that the story will increasingly say more about the individuals in the group from Chapter Thirteen onwards I’ve recognised the need for a sort of retrospective.
I spent some time yesterday rewriting Chapter Four Part Two and, this post is the revised account. I hope that you’ll forgive the need for the update. You’ll remember I hope that this is about the people assembling in the bar after their first in-company course following their redundancy – a course on positive thinking.
An embryo consultancy – the meeting in the bar
I’d phoned Helen to let her know that I’d be later than expected and told her what I’d be doing.
There were six of us who’d found that we had some ideas that would offer synergy within the context of a co-operative. I suppose that all of us were, to some extent or other, sussing each other out to decide whether the interpersonal dynamics were going to work for us. There would be no point in wasting time and possibly money if, even at this stage, there would be someone amongst those present that we simply weren’t going to be able to work with. In the event, for me at least, I could see no immediate problems with the other five. Then again, we’d all have gone through a rigorous selection when we joined the company in the first place.
I was trying to identify what we’d each be able to contribute to a co-op venture – what I mean is that me plus four accountants and a personnel manager would never work. As it turned out the mix looked about as perfect as I could have dreamed of. I made some notes.
Marketing skills – me (Paddy)
IT skills – Ben
Finance skills – Jason
Design skills – Tony
Website development skills – Susie
HR skills – Beverly
From what I could judge, at thirty nine pushing forty hard, I was the oldest person in the group.
The only two I’d ever met before were Jason and Beverly. All of us were in our thirties: Susie and Ben were divorced, but the rest of us were married or in a live-in or long-term relationship. From people’s accents, I guessed that we were all British and that Susie had some Scottish blood somewhere in her family history. I’m rubbish at judging ethnicity but Jason was obviously black and probably Afro-Caribbean while everybody else was white. It didn’t seem to bother him so it didn’t bother me.
We started by talking about what we’d found most useful about the day’s seminar, and I was able to pick up quite a bit about Tony, Ben and Susie whom I’d never met before. A lot of people’s background came out as we talked about what we intended to do next.
Tony – Tony Sheldon – married with no children, lived in Gatley near Cheadle. He appeared to be a few years younger than I am. His appearance, to me, matched his area of expertise – Design. He was the most casually dressed – tee shirt, jeans and moccasins without socks – it seemed an odd choice of outfit given that it had been freezing outside when we’d arrived. His thick, dark blond hair reached down to his collar. He was sat next to Susie, the website designer. It appeared that the two of them had worked quite closely together and had complementary skills.
Susie – Susie Cooke – was a very pretty, green-eyed redhead – slim, probably late twenties or early thirties. I understood her to be divorced and living in Timperley. She was about the same height and build as Beverly and her floral-patterned wrap-around dress suited her well. I expected that she’d get on well with anybody – certainly she and Tony appeared to have a good relationship. She came across as being cheerful, bubbly, energetic, enthusiastic and talented.
Ben – Ben Taylor – the other divorced member was another extrovert-seeming member, which I’d hadn’t expected of someone from computing. I’d have expected him to be geeky and withdrawn – strange how we can get misled by stereotypes. In fact, he was very smartly dressed, curly black hair, tall – clearly over six feet – slim and fit looking, as if he exercised a lot. Not gym-type musclebound, but perhaps a cyclist or runner. From his voice and the way in which he used his hands while talking, I assumed that he was gay – but perhaps that was another stereotype that could be wrong, especially since he’d been married. There we go – another assumption – perhaps he’d been married to another man. I didn’t hear where he lived.
Beverley York was someone I’d often come across before. She was married with two children and was in her early thirties, slim, pretty and only slightly shorter than I am. She was dressed casually, her shoulder length mid-blonde hair toned nicely with her casual attire. I gathered that she and Susie were from the same part of South Manchester. She came across as a shrewd person – well-suited to her role in HR. It seemed as if we were on the same page.
Jason Burntree was the one whom I knew best. He was a couple of years younger than I am. He and his wife had no children and his wife had a well-paid job as a solicitor in Manchester. They lived in Cheadle. I’d always got on well with him when we’d come across each other in meetings. He was of medium height, stocky and his black hair was thinning. His suit, shirt and black shoes fitted him as the finance man amongst us – another stereotype? He was the only smoker in the group.
All of us liked the idea of working for ourselves and found the idea of working as a co-operative attractive. Jason was the one who had first floated the idea. It was clear from the discussion that we’d all got a similar redundancy deal which was related to our leaving salaries and length of service. So, I had ten years of service and would be getting ten months pay tax free. My leaving salary was £30,000 and, given that it would be free of tax, national insurance, pension and similar deductions, I’d have had to have had a salary of close on £40,000 to earn that if I’d not been made redundant. Between us we’d have had a pot of about quarter of a million pounds working capital to start off, other things being equal as economists say. That was without the three months pay in-lieu.
I suppose that my main contribution to the discussion was that the things that were holding us back were pretty basic still – like knowing what sort of business to start or how viable our unique selling point would need to be. Jason, argued that we’d need to know what kind of cashflow we’d have to work with, and what our costs and pricing would amount to. Having someone like him on board would obviously be useful to help us keep our feet on the ground. It was good that Jason had a good sense of humour. Too many of the accounts people I’d come across were bean counters who could always be depended on to find reasons for doing nothing rather than finding ways to get things done. Anyway, what we seemed to be coming around to was still just for starters.
We had all had ideas like creating a new board game, toy or a useful household object that could be three-dimensionally printed. Tony had some great suggestions plus the skills needed to present them visually. He had lots of enthusiasm and this too would be an asset.
However, any ideas we might come up with would need to demonstrate how that big working capital figure would pay us a wage while as we were building the business. Between us we had a useful set of complementary skills, but what we needed now was to take some time to refine our individual ideas before we met again. We needed to clarify what our initial ideas for new businesses would be about so that we could start drawing up business plans to sell to some of the organisations that might be able to provide some grant-funding.
In the meantime, we agreed that we’d continue meeting, but we’d each try to get new jobs to keep our heads above water while we did our front-end planning on a part-time basis. To help with that, we’d all use the free courses being offered by our company and external organisations to refresh our skills in job-hunting, CV preparation and skills in presenting ourselves at interviews. Beverly, from HR, would get us all booked on any suitable company courses to get us started. We agreed to do some more blue-sky thinking about viable business ideas ready to discuss when we attended the first seminar.
In the meantime, we exchanged smartphone and address details
I’ll not re-use the shot of Media City that I provided first time round. I’ll stick with the Christmas theme. So today’s image is another from Liverpool. This shot was taken inside the John Lewis store in Liverpool One and is of lights descending from the third floor down to ground floor level beside the escalators.
I took the shot in November 2018 with my Pentax K50 16 MP cropped-sensor and a 35 mm f/2.4 prime lens at f/8. The shooting speed was 1/40 secs and the ISO was 800.