Before I get into this blog it is important you don’t read it as the “world’s smallest violin” or “poor little Bernie” crap things happen, no one made me do anything and yes it all gets too much at quite a few points.
Don’t get too excited – it does not end well.
So around the time twitter hit the Internet I rolled into my local small business advice centre to “start a business.”
The key here is that I had no fucking idea what I wanted to start, no plan, no history apart from a long time in the hospitality and event industry.
Shortly after I left with a business plan template and filled it in, this first business plan template I’d ever held in my life. They could have handed me a instructions for a gay Japanese sex toy and I would have been none the wiser. (Maybe have ended up happier)
A week later I returned with it filled in and got a £10k loan with business support mentoring and was zooming towards my first million.
Except I was not, in fact the whole operation probably set me back near £25k and I am still paying the £10k loan, which amazingly has crept up to £14k with interest and I am still paying off the THREE PAGE £4k website I managed to talk someone into selling me.
The cheery side of me looks at this ear bleeding debt and thinks, oh well that is cheaper than a £100k MBA. And these cuts are so fucking deep now I won’t be making the same mistakes again. Besides, I am sure no one humiliates you to this level on an MBA program.
It is not the money or the shit credit rating. It is the dumb fuck way the business support service eagerly lent me, the naive, bouncy, go getting Bernie the money in the first place. If my 8 year old niece came back with a business plan for an event service like that I’d throw a sheet over her and beat it until it was crimson red for being so stupid.
How they ever let it get through I don’t know.
Well I do know, they had no idea about the event sector or the Internet. It is the last bit that is really scary, these people only just knew the Internet existed, only a few of them even knew how to make a diary invite in Microsoft Outlook and the rest thought Gmail was something for students.
A big chunk of the loan was for ‘marketing’ – which, for such a large % of where the money was dedicated to was a very un-detailed area and a large white gap on the form.
I was eagerly advised and sold a business account by Natwest with whom they had a close working relationship (which is a good thing) the nice man at the bank was all excited about my event business, except when it came to buying tickets, the bank would not pay for events like that unless they were free 🙂 (Yes you did read that right). But they could sell me one of the first credit card machines in the UK for small businesses like mine.
(Amazingly the same Natwest man later got a job with the business centre and was employed to chase me for money.)
Both the bank and the Business Centre acknowledged the need for an event service like mine in the area, yet when it came to it they were unable to help promote it. Of course I should have asked about this before, or included it in the marketing plan so they could disagree.
I just somehow thought / wished / assumed / invented that between 20,000 local businesses they shared on a data base they might have had a word in one or two ears.
What I really wanted was some advice and support, none of these organisations had a clue, in fact there was a strong sense they had to tick boxes in a pre-Olympic 2012 rush for local business. I know I can charm the pants of a Nun, but being given this loan with such a wafer thin plan was nuts. Sold out about events
So I did my first event, free tickets and got about 100 people to a local hotel for a speaker night. The business centre did their free event, with food, with promotion and Levi Roots off the telly, in a theatre and managed to fill the front two rows.
Not sure what you can do with that last paragraph but there it is.
In an effort to get some cash in I jumped at the chance to run a bar at a local music festival, I’ll tell the full agonising story another day. Here are some highlights.
I got Red Bull, Red Stripe and Union Coffee to support me, the bar looked wicked with it’s leopard skin canopy.
I had some of the best people I know working the bar. The till seemed to be filling up, but when I paid everyone at the end of the day there was about five pounds left in the till and I still had to pay for stuff.
Sure 1000s turned up at the festival, but they were children and T-total Muslims – not a raver or beer lusting Catholic in sight.
I remember smacking my head against the inside of the transit van crying. I hoped to cut my head and knock myself out so I could wake up in hospital to buy myself some time to think my way out of this one. I ended up loosing £5k (that I did not have to lose) in one day. I can still show the scar from this one, it bleeds on a weekly basis.
At the end of 2012 two things happened.
1. I found out (finally) that I am a freelancer not an entrepreneur.
2. I got involved in a Start Up (again) and nearly ended up dying. Not that start ups make you die, but there is a high level of bull shit, uncertainly and risk around this genre of business. I love the thrill of the chase, the adrenaline but really I am better advising than taking part. My brain works faster from the sideline and I am happy to admit that.
Maybe I am feeling especially nostalgic today as it was about this time last year that my weekly early morning vomiting moved up to a more regular daily activity.
I had even less answers, I could see no way out and would be wondering down the road and suddenly role playing committing suicide in my head.
I remember shouting at my Doctor after they said “take some paracetamol, lots of people get a bit run down at this time of year” I asked if lots of people plan their own death while ‘feeling a little under the weather.’ A week later I was sitting in a Therapy room in South Woodford.
Smacked in the face and Sturdy Welsh Choirs.
Now every month when I pay (or try to pay) the latest instalment of the “small business development loan” it is like someone knocking at my front door and smacking me in the face with a very smelly wet trout that is covered in broken glass then throwing a bucket of Tabasco sauce over me and then firing up a choir of sturdy Welsh men singing “Mitchell is a looser.” (It really does feel as long as that very long last sentence).
What happened in 2013?
I have learnt a lot about relationships, honesty, saying no and gaps my in attitude to life over the last year.
I have still said yes to things I did not have the capacity to cope with, I have let people down and that hurts me as well as shitting on them. When I think I am getting better I crash again.
I have had to slow down to speed up, I am still not fixed yet, but getting there.
The agony is that every little interaction with past mistakes is exaggerated and made ten times more painful every time. Right now I get knocked down and takes me longer to get back up.
My dear friend Clare said to me in a Pub in Angel in 2004 ‘Bernie you have to realise you are not invincible’ I know what she means – now. I have got to know a man recently who lost £3 million in the 2012 Olympics after no one used his building. It is all relative, but that does put my mistakes in perspective.
2014 is set to be razor sharp focus on blogging, podcasting and saying no.
Also on sleeping a lot and cooking with #Babybernie and #Supercoolwife. Too many things over the past three years have been a dumb fuck mindless scramble to salvage something and get a bit of cash in. Birth and writing and being a chicken
The day before #Babybernie was born I did a very intense personal coaching session with a dear friend. I walked away the most enlightened I have ever been and exhausted – the outcome was I had to write. That was it. That was “the answer”, “Bernie must write” – I have been side stepping this for two and half years now.
It is not because 24 hours later I was a Dad, it is because I chickened out.
Writing this blog and being open is simultaneously both embarrassing and liberating. I don’t like where I am right now but I know that where I am heading is slower, calmer, clearer and with more home cooking.
In fact just knowing where I am heading is enough. Now I am really exhausted I am sick of family and other people (who are still under the illusion we are meant to go to school to get a job) asking “What do you do?” Or “What is Bernie doing now?” “Have you got #Babybernie’s name down at a school?” “Have you got a pension?” All I want to think about is my wife, my child and writing myself sane. (And of course you, my reader.) One of the key reasons I am sooooo on love with the Sharing Economy is that it has woken up to the the fact there “are no jobs for life” and we are allowed to think for ourselves, not for the Government or Advertising. Apart from people that run their own business no one really understands. “Why don’t you get a job?” “Well I have, it is called freelancing.” “No a real job.” “Can’t you get a job managing a restaurant?” “No, I gun everyone down and then jump head first into the fat fryer to finish the job.” Should have killed me last year I have a very clear idea of where I am going in 2014, who I am going with and why I am going there. The pain, blood, sweat, tears, lack of control and depression of the last few years have brought me to that place. Of course I’d have loved to have come a less painful way for me and those close to me. It is hard, even awkward to to be super chirpy with so much unfinished business, debt and loose ends. I am not even at the stage where I can truly say “I would not change a thing it has made me who I am today.” There is blood and tears everywhere, worried friends and family, broken relationships, people I love who I have not seen for AGES because I just can’t afford the drink or time. Some people it is easy to phone up and say “I am skint so I am not coming” and that is it. Most people it is easier not to even invite the conversation. Fuck it. I know I’ll get there soon and people will just have to wait. I have been kidding myself that it is being fixed for fucking ages and now I am not doing anything else until it is really fixed. I want to stop treading water and start swimming again. I have not “swam” for ages, sure there have been good times, but I crave the zest and energy I had when I first landed in Argentina with #Supercoolwife when we landed there we were not meant to end up here. Please don’t feel sorry for me. That is not why I write here. It is a “share” not a cry for help, I have a core group of people taking very good care of me and they know who they are – they are the ones that can get hold of me by phone these days 😉