Thursday, January 14, 2010

It's snow good

I live in maritime climes on an island not known for its extremities of weather. We assume that, throughout the year, trains will run, roads will be passable, power supplies will be consistent. The last eight days have rather thrown all of that into a cocked hat - and the knock on effect for Britain's fragile business recovery will probably take some time to gauge.

The middle of last week was a write-off business-wise. It should have been the first week back for most people after the long Christmas break, but just a day in, we were faced with the worst snowfall since 1963. all the schools closed round here, if you hadn't got a 4 x 4 the roads were a no-go area and public transport ground to a halt.

By Monday, all the kids were back to school and normality should have been returning - there was even a slight thaw. I was set up for a day of case study work, followed by the last workings on a 70-page piece of marketing capability development communication with the prospect of the rest of the week being devoted to a project kick-off and all the actions that would flow from yesterday's planned meeting.

But it snowed again. One of my two case study contributors saw his university campus close for the day Monday - leaving him with a 12 mile walk home. Things were no better yesterday. I did manage to speak to the other people I needed, so at least have one case study in the bag.

I waited for the big report to arrive - I needed a hard copy to mark up and it was being biked to me. It arrived 26 hours after it was expected. I spent the next five hours working through my end of the project but had no way of getting it back to the agency until yesterday. Then, yesterday morning my contact phoned: stuck in the snow, miles from his place of work. I finally dropped in my marked-up copy at 1pm - having driven across the Chilterns at about 25 miles an hour. My contact still hadn't made it to his office.

I should, of course, have been in London - but that meeting was cancelled too. Some participants couldn't get to London, others couldn't even get into the UK. I'd planned an agency meeting on the back of my trip to London with the intention of warming up a slow-burning relationship that has been fitfully fruitful over the last decade or so. Needless to say, that face-to-face was replaced by a brief telephone conversation.

At my end of the business food chain, the impact of a freezing week and an amount of snow that would seem negligible if we were in the Alps or Canada, say, has been significant. The work hasn't gone away, but has been delayed to the point where my nicely planned week will crash into other upcoming activities once the white stuff's finally gone. My cashflow's fragile enough at the moment, and delays like this don't help - not do the 'empty' days that any micro business can expect, but that none of us relish.

We did have the snowball fights and the bracing walks last week; I was able to get some university work done and catch up on the boring business admin (which largely involved writing cheques for my accountant and the taxman), but I really wanted to start 2010 with some business momentum.

I sensed a fragile optimism as we headed into the New Year - I hope the stuffing's not been knocked out of it by a dose of Siberian conditions hitting our temperate shores.

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