Friday, 29 March 2013

Whitewater Nursery: Fun amongst the greenery.

In the event that you fancy some hog roast and seeing some startlingly beautiful plants and people in an exquisite location , get yourself down to the grand opening of Whitewater Nursery this Bank Holiday weekend.

You can find them here. Really, go and see.

So what has top flight garden design got to do with me, the urban computer lady whose own garden looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland?

The truth is, I was lucky enough to land a gig as the computer support person for Hortus Loci when they started a year or two ago. I love going there. The energy and buzz there sometimes makes me have to dance in the office.

Now they have revamped the retail plant centre that was on their site when they moved in: the aforementioned Whitewater Nursery.

A few weeks ago, Mark called me over and asked me to build a brand new computer to power the retail centre. The spec was make it good and get it going before Good Friday. "No problem" I drawled with a lazy confidence, "That's ages"

I brought the spec home to Caversham and the guys set about designing and building a bespoke computer. It looked good on paper. The thing is, you don't know till you've got the bits all over the workbench that the power supply won't reach the motherboard. The front USBs won't fit in anywhere. The fancy case has a dicky on button. Etc.

Time was marching on, and we entered a frenzied phase of ordering different bits . We are now knee-deep in high-quality components that won't talk to each other.

Finally, at 2:30pm, on the day before Good Friday, I drove down to Hound Green with a set of cardboard boxes that housed the finest computer in the world. "Right up against the deadline there Helen" Mark remarked, perhaps a little more strained than usual. "It'll be fine" I trilled, bricking it.

With only 3 hours to go, Caroline (from Whitewater) and I decided now might be a good time to completely redesign the layout of the retail centre office.

The main challenge was turning the desk as per this diagram. Simple, right? Look again. Impossible, right?

How did they get it in there in the first place? Witchcraft?

Caroline and I succeeded in flipping the desk onto its back, legs in the air and then we were stumped.

One of the benefits of working there, is you just call and a hench young man turns up to help. In this case,  the game Toby, with his set of allen keys.

We took the top off the desk and now we had a bare set of legs, almost the same size as the desk itself. Same problem. I sunk into despair, but no such loser-ish behaviour from T and C who somehow did it. They had to knock a few chunks out the wall, granted.

Yes! Legs in position, all we now had to do was reattach the top. We all three lay on the floor under the desk and offered up our screws. The next ten minutes became increasingly hilarious.
"I can't find the hole!"
"It's not going in!"
"Oh yes it is! Yes it is!"
"Have you got yours in?"

We were finally floored into helpless laughter by Toby's remark that he thought he was finally managing to get it up.

Good times. I was then left to actually set up the computer. But the gods of servers, software and printer drivers were for once smiling on me and the computer was good to go by 5:30pm. "Tis done" I intoned. Finally we could all admit that we had indeed been bricking it.

Good luck with the relaunch guys. The place looks fab and hey! the sun is shining.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

ADHD and Running a Business

Astoundingly, just after my 50th birthday, I was diagnosed as having ADHD. I aced those tests.I romped home. You get the picture.  I nailed it.

Anyone who does not suffer with ADHD may have sufficient focus to read the description of this charming and annoying condition here. Everyone else can skip it and skim this list which shows some of the ways it has affected me during my chaotic half a century.

  • I have spent a total of 7 years looking for my keys
  • I can't listen all the way to the end of a description of how to get the post office yet can spend 10 hours straight writing a computer program that seems to transcend my actual ability
  • I never leave anywhere once, having to return once for my glasses, once for the keys and once for the glasses having put them down while finding the keys
  • I sit for hours worrying about the next thing, but never getting on with the next thing
  • I have lost thousands of pounds by the simple act of never writing the invoice 
  • I can reduce any premises to the level of a bomb-site within minutes, even though I try really hard not to do this
  • I have lots of brilliant ideas, half of them started and 0.0005% of them completed
I could go on and on, but what's this? I lose focus.

In the post-diagnosis euphoria, I attempted to forgive myself for my lifetime of rubbishness. I then went on to experimentally congratulate myself for running a business for 6 years in spite of having many unbusinesslike traits.

I wondered if I was the only business owner ever to have suffered from ADHD. I suspected I was but I Googled it and found an extraordinary fact. Ready? If you have ADHD you are 300 times more likely to start your own business than someone who hasn't.

That statistic comes from Fortune magazine. Once I became less startled by it, I saw why it was true. 

Firstly, people like me can't work for anyone else. In my case, throughout my..ahem...career which includes over 30 jobs, I tend to start brilliantly. Fast forward 6 months and I am either staring out the window slack-jawed with boredom or rocking in the corner stressed out at not having completed a thousand important tasks.

Secondly, starting a business is much easier for someone with ADHD. They skip all the traditional nonsense (eg making a business plan, doing market research, thinking about it) and instead go straight to the nub of the matter. They write "It's Gone Funny - friendly computer support!" in felt tip on a large piece of paper and sellotape it to the wall of their house.

One thing the Fortune research doesn't explain is how many  of these nutters are successful in creating a viable business. 

Armed with my new knowledge I went back to Google to find out how to increase my chances of doing that. One thing shone through in the body of work on this topic. I'd better find someone sensible and organised to work with.

Truth to tell, as the popularity of It's Gone Funny increases year on year, the danger of me going to pieces and  throwing in the towel becomes ever larger.

For this reason, I'm going to find not one, but two sensible and organised people to work with.

One will be my PA. Watch this blog for details of the job advert if you fancy a go at the almost impossible task of removing the chaos from my life.

The other will be my business partner. Watch out, my sensible, organised and fierce friends. You know who you are and I'm coming to get you.

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