Those that can do, those that can’t teach.

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George Bernard Shaw penned this sentence in 1903 and it’s a phrase I have often heard throughout my teaching career. Mr Shaw’s actual words were; “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.”.

Shaw seems to imply that doing something has more value than teaching it, and that those who can perform a certain action, should do so, whereas teachers who have failed to perform the action should teach others to do so. Shaw’s apparent premise is that doing is more important and notable than teaching. My own personal experience in the teaching and business worlds suggests that the statement may not hold up fairly in our society or indeed in that world of the 1900’s. No one can deny though that his words have stood the test of time, so there must be something in them. I have without a doubt seen plenty of evidence to support his claim.

For a moment consider a typical small business employing ten people. Would productivity and profitability be increased more by adding a member of staff, replacing the manager with a more capable individual, increasing the appropriate skill set of the manager or by teaching the staff and improving their business acumen? The answer is of course debatable and depends on a range of unmentioned factors but perhaps the latter suggestions would be more profitable in general in the long term. Now consider then that manager who can effectively supervise and develop their team members by demonstrating and teaching them the appropriate skills and habits they need to be successful on an ongoing basis. Someone who has experience and training of teaching as well as experience of a range of business situations and environments. Can we perhaps suggests that the most successful doers in business environments are experienced teachers of some sort?

My own personal route into academia and teaching was a little unusual in that I had already spent fifteen years in assorted management roles in a range of industries across the U.K. And the Middle East. My previous real working world experience, motivation and ethic without a doubt secured me a good degree result. If I had attended University in my late teens I would have likely scraped by with a second or third. If I had then entered teaching at that point in my life I would have without a doubt failed at it miserably. Teacher training teaches crowd control and manipulation. It cannot demonstrate or instil good people management skills. Certainly not within that most hectic single year of teacher training (officially the hardest working year of my life – I was also a single parent of three boys at the time).

Some may suggest that the quote ends with; “ He who cannot, teaches”, because Mr Shaw was implying that teachers teach you how not to do it. Without a doubt the beneficial experience of failure should not be overlooked. I can personally confirm that this is perhaps one of the most driving forces in a majority of individuals business, academic and personal journey’s. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that. A teacher who has the experience of failure is often a better and more able teacher in my book.

In the discipline of people management my own experience is that the vast majority of those who teach it, don’t really understand it, or indeed leadership at all. They can succeed to a degree by managing young adults within a tightly controlled teaching environment but they would not succeed at managing people in a business environment. This view was often supported by the promotion of young teachers to management roles within education. It was assumed a good teacher will be a good manager but this was often doomed to failure and revolt. Of course, the vast majority of those who actually manage people in the business world don’t know how to do it effectively either, as shown by much business research and real business world evidence. As you dear reader can also likely confirm.

So perhaps rather than tie myself up in knots over this statement and it’s meaning which has stuck with me for some years now, I should turn the statement around and focus on myself rather than how it applies to others. Do I think I can lead others effectively? Am I as productive as I could be? How good a manager and teacher am I? What do I need to do to be better at what I do? It seems I will always have some way to go as there is always room for improvement of course.

In conclusion I can only suggest that some people may be great when they do, but the best will often do and teach.

Build it and they will come. Or will they?

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If I build it, surely they will come? Is this a justified business strategy or just a prayer? I suggest the latter. Sadly, just building a website is not enough to ensure a healthy surge of orders from that global digital marketplace. There are many factors that need to be considered before investing the time and expense a functional and profitable website demands.

A SWOT analysis is one of the first things potential business owners may carry out when considering a new business venture and it is one of the tools we would use ourselves when researching a new business venture. Many online resources exist to describe the process. Here is a link to an explanation on Wikipedia; SWOT analysis. Some researchers may take things a bit further and consider a PESTEL analysis or some of many other similar market research analysis framework tools. If once completed you come out the other end confident that you are onto a winner then consideration of a digital outlet or two may be your next consideration.

Things will rarely sell themselves in that ever expanding digital shopping mall. You will generally have to learn how to bring people to you by marketing your services. The work involved should not be underestimated despite the size of your Facebook friends list or your social media reach. Whilst viral escapades are possible for the right product in the right place at the right time these sort of campaigns generally take a lot of research and expense to get them the exposure and take-up they require. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Etsy, etc. all have paid for marketing schemes that will push your product or service under the noses of potential customers but unless properly implemented and monitored these can also get expensive with limited return, if any. Marketplaces like Facebook, Etsy and Ebay are great for guaranteeing footfall though through your digital store and really shouldn’t be dismissed as a poyential first step for suitable products and services. Indeed this is where we suggest you should get your first foothold if viable for your enterprise. Bear in mind though that payment and commission fees through third party marketplaces can generally be expected to be 10-25% of your gross sales. Sales through your own website would generally attract fees of about 5% for payment processing fees plus the cost of hosting which could be as little as a few pounds a month. More figures to consider!

So you have a presence on other third party marketplaces and social media and you are now ready to go solo and create your own digital abode. Should you go DIY or employ a website designer? The reality is that most people can now put together a functional website for a small business even with limited website building experience. There are a plethora of online systems online that offer simple drag and drop systems that enable users to create functional and presentable website solutions for small business. This could mean saving lots of money but losing lot’s of hours getting things working and looking exactly how you want them to look. Indeed whilst we are happy to build you the website of your dreams we would much rather teach you how to do it yourself. Some of you though will be asking yourselves; why would you want to learn how to do it yourself? Well…

Maintenance of websites is ongoing. It does not end once it’s built. It has to be hosted by a third party and this will require some basic expertise especially if things go awry. Technology is moving at a pace and today’s third party outstanding help system for building, hosting and maintaining your website may not suit your growing business needs or be easily transferable to another construction or hosting system which means starting all over again. These third party systems are also there to make money of course. That simple website that suits you now may need more features and tools which you will pay a hefty subscription for if indeed they are available at all. Building a website yourself on a tried, established and flexible platform such as WordPress will ensure that you can get it to look exactly how you want it to look and do exactly what you want it to do, for minimal costs in the grand scheme of website building things. It would be a lot cheaper for you if you could do all that yourself, but hey, you could also employ someone. Typical maintenance and hosting costs charged by a third party for a small business website would normally be in the region of £50-£1000 a month depending on the work involved. For example a simple website advertising a venue may need little change or amendments on a daily or even weekly basis requiring only an hour or two maintenance a week. A more complex website may have products or services that need to be updated, added or deleted on a daily basis. It may need promotions advertised or today’s menu or availability updated requiring an hour or more of work a day. This will be expensive if you are dependant on a third party to do it for you.

We would urge anyone considering starting any type of small business online or off to chat to an independent business consultant. Family and friends will be encouraging but their views likely jaded. A third party with relevant experience can give you input you may not be able to acquire from your closer community. A casual chat for an hour with an independent party may seem like an unnecessary outlay but it could save you thousands, and a big chunk of your life. Nothing upsets me more than seeing small businesses start up full of energy and enthusiasm only to see it wane over the months until the inevitable closing down sale sign appears or the website fails to load…

So. If you build it will they come? Yes, if they can actually see your product or service and they need or want it. If you maintain, optimise, promote, analyse and improve. Otherwise generally only if they are pulled, pushed or paid.

Still unsure about your new business idea? Do you need a totall unbiased, totally forthright, perhaps upsetting opinion on that new business idea you are about to plough many hours and a chunk of your capital into? Well you now know at least one person you could bounce your idea off!

What’s in a name?

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Surely a rose by any other name would smell as sweet? Very often though names are amongst the very first pieces of information we gain about individuals and organisations and that is when human nature decrees that we start making judgements. I have not encouraged discussion about the name of our new venture with anyone apart from my life and business partner but have been interested in people’s response to date, and so, if you hadn’t got it already, this was our little journey. Not unlike one of the first many will make when putting new businesses together for the first time I imagine.

I like unusual combinations, plays on words, things that are a little different, words and short sentences that demand attention. Some of my children’s names and the names of our other business interests would confirm that! Take Virgin for example. A company I favoured immensely during my business studies but they and he have since fallen out of favour with me, especially with recent development (note to self. “No politics”). That single word was without doubt one of the major booms in the growth of Mr Branson’s early business practices. I spent some time and money with the brand in my youth and felt pretty cool doing so.

So how did we arrive at frukit and what is it all about?

It needed to create interest, pull people in for a second look. Or even just a second brief glance! I wanted it to say what we did, concisely but not necessarily obviously. Think Alan Michael Sugar TRADing. It needed to be memorable. It needed to be short. I have made the mistake of having business names that were too long in the past. All that wasted time typing. If I got frustrated, I bet customers did too.

I love a little banter. Could we squeeze that in too? How about a nod to the frustration that our customers sometime feel when using I.T. It would show we have an understanding of their fruking frustrations. What about our location, our history, where we are from, where we are based on the international digital stage. So…

fr = France. Our new semi-permanent home has been kind to us. I’m hovering between the U.K. and France at the moment spending more and more time here and most definitely feeling myself pulling pulled in the French direction. Although on reflection it might be more of a push from the U.K. Side (remember, NO politics). Depending on the outcome of the Brexit negotiations it may be that I make a full move to France, lock stock and barrel.

uk = Yup. A nod to my birth country and the language our services are delivered in. I have worked all over the United Kingdom in a vastly contrasting range of roles. If you look deeper you may draw some significance in the uk appearing after the fr. Although that may also be because it just fits!

it = Information Technology. I’ve picked it up and put it down over the years. Sort of waiting for the technology to catch up. Frustrated at its limitations. It was the only O Level I got at a grade A thirty years ago. Then after an I.T. hiatus of ten years in my twenties (caused in part by a disastrous I.T. job in a double glazing company in my late teens, a later blog post!) I went back to University to study computers and business again, and ended up teaching both subjects in the U.K. Now with fingers in assorted successful online pies I can categorically disprove that; those who can, do, and those that can’t teach.

frukit = Like everyone who uses I.T. a lot I can get frustrated. Losing work, slow Internet connections, spam, things not working as they should at the start of a lesson I have been putting together for hours. Sometimes I hide it well. In more relaxed environments I have been known to let the odd F word out once or twice at black boxes. Sometimes even I go a little red in the face! It does not get much more heated though than some of those angry interactions my family have had with I.T. over the years… I have witnessed my mother have many an unnecessary melt down as she has struggled to get to grips with her latest online ventures. Most entertaining of all though have been my boys. All of which are now grown men but they all went through an immensely angry period which would often see them ruining assorted computer hardware as the got beaten in the latest online game by some unknown guy or girl sitting on the other side of the world. Now I play games. I would class myself a veteran gamer of 35 years, but never have I thrown my laptop across the room or smashed a controller into pieces on my desk. The language from them though… well. Pre 16 I tried to contain it, I really did and would say I was reasonably successful. As an ex-single parent of three boys I am nearly ashamed to admit though that as they got older I just shut the door and played the music a bit louder. When it got really bad I would take or shut off all the bandwidth, claiming; “The Internet’s down again”, which would calm down things a little after a short-lived tirade of swearing of the highest order. For the record, taken away from the games they are chilled, relaxed, and big softies. They won’t play with me any more now though… I guess it must get a bit embarrassing getting beaten by your old dad on a global platform. Repeatedly, for years. Newbs. The picture shows three of them on holiday ten years ago, prior to all that angry stuff!

In closing I would just like to add. IT’S NOT PINK. It’s a sort of salmony rosey peach! Colour is yet another later blog entry though…

 

Still waiting

Posted Posted in Blog

I still seem to spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for the technology. In fact, come to think of it, it’s not changed much in thirty-five years from the point of view of pondering finger fidgeting time. Then I was sitting around waiting for things to load or save via the ever so temperamental cassettes storage systems on my Sinclair ZX81 and Spectrum. Working with technology that was far from reliable and efficient. Oh that wobbly 16K RAM pack. The bane of my teenage programming years. Things improved over time as things shifted to cassette drives and floppy disks but then I was waiting for more complex images to load or increasingly complex and demanding code to RUN. If it worked it would often crash and I was back at the beginning reloading or re-inputting reams of data.

As things moved on the great technological breakthroughs I have witnessed and exploited have without doubt saved me time in the great scheme of digital things. Although they can often be more demanding of that precious commodity. For example; Taking a picture twenty five years ago was quite a simple process. Point it. Click it. Send the film off for developing then whack it in the album or pin it the wall. Simple process. Simple result. Now though it’s far more complex. Decide on the hardware for the job. Install and update the software. Make sure it’s charged. All of it. Set it up. Work out what that button does. Adjust the multitude of settings. Take the picture, often several times, sometimes dozens of times. Download it. Load it into photo editing software which you have spent far too many hours playing with. Edit the picture after much contemplation deciding which one of the several is the best. Improve it. Then improve it. Crop it. Improve it. Un-crop it. Revert to original copy and then improve it. Reach the ‘that will do for now’ point. Print it, share it, resize it, change it’s format. Publish it. Publish it. Share it. Publish it.

Of course a lot of my current waiting around is due to our rural location in France. Our low Internet connection speed is by no means unusual here in the French outback. It is one of the well noted downsides of living in the beautiful French countryside. It is just as well the scenery is so majestic as it is unlikely you will be binge watching the latest Netflix series at any pace. You will likely encounter many intermission (loading) breaks allowing you to peek out at the scenery and eat ice cream. Woe is you if you have teenagers in the house demanding their share of your bandwidth.

France has it’s aspirations. See a Reuters article here: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-broadband-eu-idUSKBN132169. Indeed we have been promised a better fibre optic connection for years in our tiny village but the delays just keep coming. They talk a good talk, with village meeting after meeting… but when it comes to the walk, well it’s not happened yet. I’ve always thought (original source un-recalled); Action talks. Bullshit walks.

So I sit here once again in one of those common down times. Waiting for at least a minimal internet connection to get on with today’s electronic tasks needing connection to the wider world. Wondering just how much time I have sat waiting for technology. It must be months. Likely a year plus. If I had spent all that time writing I would have had that novel by now. You know, the one you always say you will get round to writing. Oh well, at least my word processor is more than capable of keeping up. Indeed it always has been. I expect it often has the same thoughts of me. Frustrated at my pace as it waits for me to input data at my very slow single finger tap. I’ll continue to dream of the day when all of my technology is always waiting and ready, perhaps even anticipating my next move…

Oh a beep and a green light. Orange.fr has just decided I can stop looking out of the window for now.

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Under construction

Posted Posted in Blog

If you have ever been part of launching a business you too will have jumped through some of the many hoops we are currently performing all manner of acrobatic manoeuvres through. Starting and launching a business can be a haphazard, urgency fuelled unplanned race to launch, a carefully considered, strictly timetabled academic like process or  something in-between. Add foreign languages, lands and bureaucracy into the mix and you have a journey which will not be a short trip no matter how well it is scientifically planned or artistically applied and interpreted. It will without doubt be somewhat scenic and bumpy.

Scientifically we have the qualification to know the process. We have studied the theory. We know the planning required. The analysis typically applied, the critiques that should be considered (SWOT & PESTLE et al) and the advisable qualitative and quantitative research that should be undertaken. Artistically we are comfortably placed well outside of the box. Things are rarely if ever finished. They can always be improved. No matter how many times a paragraph is proofread, a logo is redesigned, a work process is completed, there are always improvements to be made. This constant drive to improve can be problematic at times of course…

Previous experience dictates that we are fortunate in that frukit.com is not in a rush to be launched. We already manage a successful online business exporting antiques and collectables from the U.K. and France globally (see it here: EVE). frukit has started taking shape after ongoing and increasing requests for help from local english speakers. A local need for one on one computer and business services was clearly apparent and with previous teaching and business experience in the sector. Well add a little Brexit into the mix. Sprinkle on a little uncertainty. The human need for security. The wish to spend more and more time in France and contribute to our local community. Well. You get the picture. So we announce the fruition of frukit. The conception if you will. The fruk of fruckit.

“Why launch the website and start a blog now if the business is not even operational?”. Well, we think it may be useful to document the process, for us and for some of our readers. At time of writing we are just a few days in from basic website creation and a week or two away from realising that we cannot keep doing this for free! It will help advertise and promote the business. It will add a human front to our website. You will be able to get an insight of how we tick and hopefully we can also have a bit of a giggle along the way. Nothing makes the work day better than a little banter. Although I would suggest that a good lunch is pretty much equally as important.

When I was a business nipper. Starting out on the shop floor in the world of retail way before the world of e-commerce and my academic studies, a respected manager said to me; “There are three things you need to do every day to be successful in business. 1. Read a newspaper (he never said which one). 2. Always carry a notepad and pen. 3. Always wear good shoes”. His advice was sound, although now I am fortunate that my sources for the daily goings on in the world are digitally at my fingertips and way beyond the scope of a single newspaper. The notepad and pen have been replaced by incredible tech which far surpasses the limits of pencil and paper (although should you and I reader ever meet to discuss a business plan or website – we will start will notepad and pencil!). The shoes well… I have an excuse which if you stay tuned we will likely discuss at some future juncture. Let’s just say my shoes are very comfy, but they never need polishing.

Thanks for dropping by. You may consider signing up for our newsletter or joining us on our social media and witnessing the warts and all creation and development of a small family business in rural France. If you have any questions or would like to register interest in our services then please drop us a message. Whilst not yet, ‘open for business’, we are always open to feedback and critique. Or of course, just connecting!

 

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