Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Out with the old and all that

So it's January 2nd and I'm back at my desk though I can't say I'm really working. My three kids are much in evidence around the place today and most of my clients are still off so it's a chance over the next couple of hours to clear the mountain of 'pending' that piled up during a very busy December before the pressure to entertain my offspring means work has to take a second place to Christmas holiday activities.

Christmas and New Year passed off pretty well here and this this very short lull before the grindstone gets turning again has given me a bit of time to reflect on the good and bad parts of 2007.

The pluses

Leapfrog has been busier than in the two previous years with a good variety of work mixing b2b publication work with change projects and tactical internal comms projects. I spent a lot of time with one particular client, but for once managed to keep my other work going in parallel without any client work suffering.

I've had some of my history writing published in BBC History Magazine and am working on a commission for a publication detailing the secret role of one of the UK's stately homes during WW2.

I've embarked on an MA in International Relations at Brunel University , and while it's tougher than anything I do in work, and has taken just about every spare hour I have in the week just to keep up with the reading, it really has given me a new spark. After probably five years of feeling in a bit of a rut about work, I'm finally seeing real possibilities to expand into new areas - and perhaps take a slightly different direction once the course is complete.

On the margins

My TV wannabe-ness got me onto the BBC's Mastermind. It was a fabulous experience and I felt great just to get through the selection process and into the famous black leather chair. But once there, nerves and a slightly daft selection of specialist subject combined. While I was never going to win the heat, I didn't do as well as I could or should, so left the studios in Manchester a little disappointed with my own performance.


One downside of being a microbusiness has been having to turn down work. For the first time in three years I've been approached for projects I simply didn't have the capacity to fulfil. some I was able to pass on to associates, but I simply had to knock back a few other opportunities. 2007 was certainly the year when a couple of clones would have been very useful.

Another downside of being stretched workwise and by the MA was having to give up my CiB involvement for the time being. The final straw for this was the huge apathy within the organisation for making the changes necessary for it to remain relevant to the communications industry. There are a few people who do a great job to keep CiB going - but it's all too few. For a year, I was part of a membership group that delivered very little. Partly this was the perennial problem of a volunteer organisation: too little time and little money to back plans. But more so it was down to a much wider apathy. Initiatives got little support and most members simply wanted to get everything spoon-fed without making any effort to put anything back in. Around 70 people out of over 1100 could be bothered to vote in council elections, and when just 62 participated in a CiB-sponsored communications survey in the Autumn I really felt I was wasting my time. I had little enough of that time available anyway, so putting CiB on the back burner wasn't hard.

Finally, 2007 saw the usual tale of projects that started but got pulled; late payments and mounting costs. I'll need to review my rates early this year, since they haven't really changed for rather too long now, while all of my costs have spiralled. The present government has made it harder and more expensive to run a business, and too much of my time is spent on bureaucracy when I should be earning money. We may well face a consumer recession this year, and I'm genuinely apprehensive about how the credit crunch will affect this distant link on the business food chain.

However, I'm going into 2008 with a good pipeline, strong contacts and enough nous to get me through any potential tough times.

Anyway, I hear the call of squabbling kids....

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