Oooh. Scary

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I’m on a panel discussion tomorrow about start-ups and newly established businesses.   This is what I will be saying……

There were 3 stages of being scared that I went through when I started up my current company.

Firstly I was scared because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.   I kicked around lots of different ideas, some of which were boringly mundane, some of which were really interesting.   My criteria were pretty straight forward – something where I wouldn’t go bankrupt or get bored.   I did it the old fashioned way, making a list of business ideas that I might want to do, writing a short outline business case to test whether it was feasible and profitable.   It was hard when I prepared the list not to censor myself, and pre-exclude anything that wasn’t “realistic” i.e. similar  to what I had done before, and to remove all of the “cool” ideas.   Instinct tells me that people censor their list of business ideas due to a misguided sense of being “realistic”, which in this context is just a euphemism for safe.

The second stage of fear was not knowing how to do things.   I had a briefly run a social enterprise, which had done some great work, but hadn’t succeeded because the people didn’t get on. This gave me some skills, and some confidence about the kind of issues small businesses encounter.    For the distillery there was a lot not to know, both technical and legal, and this required a lot of research and planning.  The newer and more innovative the industry the more there is not to know, which is scary, but also means that you have more freedom.   Good technical support, and networking were the keys for me.  Finding the Institute of Distilling at Herriot Watt and the team up at Strathearn Distillery were key moments.   6 months later people were coming to see me to ask how to do it.

The final stage of fear was worrying about what my old work colleagues would say.  It feels daft in retrospect that I worried about this, but I did. I had come from a comfortable and quite conservative management culture, where risk taking and creativity weren’t widely distributed.  It took a lot to actually tell people what I was going to do, and while some close friends knew the plan, most people found out about it when I changed my job title on LinkedIn.  Ultimately the only way to deal with this is not to give a fuck.   Which isn’t an attitude which comes easy to someone who was a Civil Servant.

This Just Proves What I’ve Been Saying All Along

This Just Proves What I’ve Been Saying All Along

My name is Jon Chadwick, and I run a Distillery.  Before I made Gin and Vodka I worked for the Government, and the NHS, mostly in very senior jobs.   I experienced first hand most of the what the State does from healthcare to prisons.  Now I work on an industrial estate, just outside of Durham.

I am also a miserable twisty faced Nothern malcontent, who hates paperwork and bureaucracy and all that goes with it.  Which is probably why I don’t work for the Government any more.   I should make that clear from the start, as it will influence what I write.

I started this blog, because I wanted to talk about the differences between how the world looks from the perspective of big government, to how it looks from the world of small business.

Specifically why and how I came to discover that lots and lots of things that I used to believe about the UK economy, employment, unemployment and all of the stuff that goes with that, is wrong.

I don’t pretend that what I am talking about is economics.   It isn’t.  Sometimes I will borrow bits from Economics, and Business Studies, but a lot of this is going to be mix of data and anecdotes – trying to compare what we think is happening to what I see around me.

I don’t pretend that everything I am going to write is going to be right either.  In fact part of the reason for starting the blog is try and set out ideas in writing so that they can be tested, and either developed or discarded.

Because I intend to use a lot of anecdotes about real people I will sometimes switch things around so that it isn’t possible to identify the subjects.   I would hate for someone to browse the internet and discover that something that happened in their working life has ended up on here.  If you do think that I have made you identifiable, or I have just got something wrong let me know.

While there is nothing overtly political here I do think that our failure to understand the working lives of so many of the people we meet every day is one of the reasons why left wing political parties are failing to connect with people.   Our lives intersect with lots of other people but increasingly we know very little about their working lives.   What we do know comes from Government statistics and articles in the press, rather than direct experience.    Left wing political parties are stuck trying to manage a map made up of Government statistics, think tank reports and newspaper articles rather than living in the territory of the real Labour market