Thursday, 12 December 2013

Article: Punch - trade secrets revealed

It's a funny thing that one of the many things we all agree on is how we loathe poor business practises in it's myriad of forms from bad HR departments through to aggressive sales practises and appalling customer services, yet the maxim is, "there is no such thing as bad publicity." I would beg to differ as enough bad publicity really ought to result in any organisation, enterprise or business failing or at least result in it being overhauled sensibly in the case of government departments and services to the public.

When you make contact with such organisations and services you often waste your phone bill waiting for someone to answer or waste time and money on emails and letters sent to either get no response at all, abusive response or fobbed off entirely. Such practises should indicate that the service (or product) is not worth the hassle of seeking via that supplier. Things become more difficult when there is no alternative e.g. health, education, utility sectors etc. 

If you finally get through often you find the people responding don’t have a clue what you are talking about because they ‘haven’t been trained yet’ or are ‘only temps’ and ‘it’s not MY fault’. Of course it is... you didn’t have to accept the job with no training with ANY company or engage with any enterprise that only employs lobotomised baboons for staff because that is what it’s actually run by. Then again when that's the only work you can get what can you do? You can complain to the authorities that regulate as that is what they are there for and the media is only too happy to support you in that.

If you’re financially stable enough and a humane being you would just leave and take your chances with the people YOU respect. In the case of government we voted them into power or let get in there by other means such as disinterest, fear and apathy.

When you finally calm down enough to explain the problem you often are told that they have ‘never heard it before’ and can’t understand what on earth you are talking about. BULLSHIT. They hear it all the time AND it’s what they complain about all the time  themselves! Does it change anything... er no. At least, not as often or as speedily as it should in the case of larger organisations who can afford to lose thousands of customers a day by being rude to them or non-responsive... or can they? From supermarkets to mobile phone providers, customers are getting increasingly adept at naming and shaming and voting with their purses and wallets.

When organisations do a fix of the problem it can get worse, so they do another fix based on the bad practises they started with to make matters worse. So you go to their competitor and it it can be the same story but with more buttons and prettier and more plentiful flashing lights! If your computer program does not work in so far as being able to save things or edit things without a glitch do you REALLY think all those bright new shiny flashy things on your NEW gadget will work any better? I mean really, do you?

How often do you use the extra shiny flashy things anyway? The more we have the more confused we get! At this rate chalk, slate and carrier pigeons will soon be the height of fashion again so it’s best to invest in them early if you want to make a killing financially.

Oh... and then there’s the accounts department that never compensates you and we wonder why we end up in a financial crisis when we refuse to spend what money we have and just stuff it under our matresses instead.

It's as if, if we’re not corrupt we are inefficient, if we’re not inefficient we’re stupid and if we are not any of those we are having a breakdown which puts extra strain and pressure on poor sods like me who’s duty it is to mop up and fix things properly only we can’t now because we all just want to have our breakdowns en masse in piece and quiet thereby transferring the pressure and mayhem to someone else for them to take their turn at having a breakdown later. Er... that ain't gonna help.

“Anyone for Beachy Head,” was actually a comment from a brilliant finance manager (now Finance Manager/Venue Manager/Ops Manager/Tech Manager and assistant to the Managing Director of the entire company due to cuts!) But they and the company are still going because they are that determined to succeed and overcome every challenge that comes their way. At the time I said we’d need a convoy of double decker buses to get to Beachy Head at least! (Beachy Head has the reputation of being a prime location for committing suicide for those of your that don't know).

Nothing much changes and what does, does so slowly except when people panic.

Well to ensure things change for better more rapidly I’ve come up with a cunning plan that may, or may not involve... a turnip (ref: Blackadder TV series). It depends on whether or not it needs inserting sideways I think. Then again a caber might be better for some customer service, HR and finance alleged professionals.

And it is simply this... I think what we perhaps need is a name and shame customer service blog site that is owned by everyone to cheer us all up and it would help vent some of our frustrations SAFELY without actually killing anyone. No, I didn’t say I would kill anyone with anything... actually being from Irish and Yorkshire descent rather than a turnip, I would most likely opt for something like a shellalagh smeared in pigeon droppings inserted sideways and send in a ferret with a potato to fetch it out again ready for the next arsehole as punishment. I like to be thorough and think ahead. It was the way I got inspired by proper professionals.

Anyway... I was thinking something rather like this... only with much larger boxes to fill in. It’s how I keep my records. I am very sneaky because I then go off and tell regulatory bodies first about bad practises and breaches in the law as prevention is always better and cheaper than cure... and there's always tweeting to the Prime Minister if you have a rotten MP or government department.

Here's just a couple of minor examples from my archives... will be named and shamed next year in full unless it gets it's act together beforehand. I'm over 70 emails of complaints in and they have stopped responding altogether over some basic errors that could be easily corrected if they had wit enough to bother.


Poor strategic planning and non-payment of staff who were trying to save them money by coming up with something better
2 years before and during the Olympics 2012

Fed Ex

Poor delivery of goods as customer could not leave signed authorisation note in the street to be blown away or stolen
Oct 2013

I also research the CEO’s history and then nudge the media behind the scenes so everyone can see where we at with regard to making services and company policy and procedures work for customers and service users!

It's far quicker than going through the hassle, time, money and expense of court procedures. I mean let’s face it and be honest, trial by media really has something going for it these days, doesn’t it? AND it has the added benefit of making us feel a whole lot more secure too as others are only too eager to pipe up about their bad experiences and it's all highly theraputic to begin with at least. With all these oh so necessary, must have devices and channels we won’t be short of options to name and shame anything publicly ever again. Just one tiny weeny snag with all that though...

ALL THIS TECHNOLOGY STILL DOESN’T WORK AS IT SHOULD ANYWAY. Internet of things = Internet of dreams is more akin to the internet of doom, despair, rant and vitriol and personal abuse unless you can phrase things politely, ethically and with logical argument... it takes practice and I have still not reached perfection on this myself. Being human I don't expect to either.

Brains the size of planets? 

(Ref Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, book film, radio and TV series). It can be more like brains the size of fossilised car parks obliterated by all known chemical weaponry and nuclear bombs! I mean, why don’t scientists and inventors behave as such and get opinions first from the point-of-sale customers that will use their marvellous products and services because be assured they can tell you what risks, hazards and potential dangers there are if you ASK them first. Doh!

What I would like science to do before proceeding with any more bright ideas to drive us all insane, violent, to mass suicide or war is to anticipate outcomes more, prior to release of products perhaps with all governments kicking their arses all the way.

So to help with all of that... we need new form of course... As it happens here’s one I prepared earlier, and we the public could get to monitor progress for once... as it happens!

Item to fix
By what date
Why not done
Who’s being sacked
Why not sacked
Is it fixed, if answer is no companies funding by every means possible
 Customer service


 PC program


 Credit Control

New product or invention

New service

What we also need of course is a list of employers that are breaking the laws of every land for NOT complying with them for all the things they do wrong with money. Personally I will leave you to design that one for yourselves for the list of categories stretches from here to infinity for all eternity and beyond... or so it seems to me. But what would I know, I and my former colleagues in health care only have to patch you AND the transgressors up all the time.

“Which currency would you like to pay for your health, social services, charities and ‘benefits’ in? Blood, death, war or cash sirs?"


However, here are just a few of the more notable names in my historic list so far of those who have not abided by the law or who have tried to sue me for things which were not my fault. ALL of whom I have reported to the appropriate authorities already and being historic cases I cannot comment on their practises now.

Tangelo Designs from Barton-le-Clay (non payment of work)
Leisure Connections, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire (breach of employment law, non payment of work)
Luton Borough Council (breach of employment law, awful HR department)
Aylesbury Vale District Council (breach of employment law)

Rushmere Wynne plc (Corrupt business practises, company long since taken over YAY!)

The list continues to grow. Still outstanding for reforms which are under way is of course...

Department of Work and Pensions (non payment of entitled benefits)

It remains to be seen as to whether or not the current overhaul will fix the basic essentials properly or not. So far it isn't for too many people. Then we'll have an election which may or may not result in it all being changed back to what it was before again I suppose. And they call this progress! 

I can say all this because to me it matters not how or when I die, others will ensure that these matters are resolved eventually. It would be nice to think that the solutions come in time to prevent the casualty list of those who suffer or die as a consequence of badly conceived ideas getting longer. What is vital here is for our governments to ensure that all organisations DO abide by the ethical laws of their lands when it comes to business practises so perhaps they will take this suggestion... 

Dear Governments

Please make it easier for everyone to report illegal practises by providing us all with the necessary vehicles to do so and the appropriate regulatory authorities to force compensation out of those who cause the financial abuse of others to the detriment of the whole economy globally. Perhaps several dedicated websites to that purpose might help. #Justsaying, #justanidea. 

High time that nice companies, enterprises and organisations ALWAYS finished first. High time that in the event of economic collapse there are safeguards in place to prevent community services, vital to the health of any nation ever being in any jeopardy of failing to save lives and prevent suffering.

Just because things have always been this way does not mean they have to remain in chaos. We all have a part to play in preventing disasters no matter what our role, position, background or personal circumstances may be. I am a 'positive possibilitist' I hope, dear readers, you are too. 

Keep calm, keep focused, be considerate of all and above all play nicely and fairly and maybe we can eradicate corruption, cruelty, poverty and abuse of all kinds from our planet in as little as 100 years. For that to happen it requires teamwork as never before as we now live in a world that is totally connected financially. What we now need to do is be in agreement ethically. What matters is not what mistakes are made, but how we resolve them sensibly for a healthy future for every individual on this beautiful planet so that all may achieve something of their true potential. Good luck everyone in that endeavour for all may profit, each according to their abilities and desires. Luckily not everyone wants to be the richest or most powerful person on the planet anyway, so why the fear that the rank and file want their jobs? Daft is what I call it. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Research File: Crowdfunding Pots

Crowdfunding, also known as crowdsourcing, is a way of getting resources for a great idea. If your business needs equipment then this is as good a way to attempt as any. The advantages are that it should take less time in paperwork and planning than any grant application but it is totally dependent on how good you are at promoting your needs to those who might wish to help you. 

Prediction: It is a field that needs more ‘suppliers’ immediately as once others cotton on to what it’s about there will need to be more people providing it to cope with requests. I have no doubt the diversity of such schemes will only increase.

Requests are precisely how it works. You say what you want the money for. The crowdfunder collects the money for you and if it raises the money in the time you set (including the crowdfunder’s fee) you get the money for your project, equipment or resource.

I doubt it’s viable for staffing or premises, but who knows maybe someone has or is trying such a thing. It is also extremely prone to crowdfunder scams with companies setting up pretending that they are raising money for you but in fact just using your ideas to raise money for themselves. What the regulations are to prevent that happening I have no idea.  Only one way to find out if it works though and that is to try it. Being primarily Arts based the equipment required for WildeHeads are of that ilk but for other enterprises it might be a conveyor belt or a garden shredder, the choice is yours.

What to do:

  1. Research for the best price you can get for what you need to buy.

  2. You add on postage packaging and the fee for the crowdfunder.

  3. Then you write down what you need money for and why and make it sound great. ("Houston, I could have a problem here" but I'll just do my best).
  4.  Send your idea off to the crowdfunder, not forgetting to stipulate how long people have got to make their donations into the kitty.
The crowdfunder sees if it is something they want to promote for you and then starts advertising for you.
If you have a website then you can give your customers and target audience regular updates on money raised so far until the deadline hits and you hopefully have the money (or equipment) you want.

Crowdfunders come in a multitude of sizes with different rates, some more suited to the arts, leisure and sports than the sciences or more conventional businesses; but for items which cost less than £5,000 for small enterprises it seems as good a thing to try as any and it is quick to get a yes or no answer to and... to get started... allegedly.

WildeHeads Crowdfunding  -  Pottery studio equipment

So far for my pottery, I have borrowed other people’s equipment and paid per firing, but that has been time consuming and inefficient and at the rate I work for the volume of pottery items I produce it’s time I had my own studio. This will also help with pottery classes delivered to disadvantaged groups such as those with learning difficulties, the mentally ill and the elderly as I can deliver workshops in community centres but do all the firing of pots at home safely without all the hassle of sourcing suitable venues on health and safety grounds. I’ve enough of that to do with the basic materials themselves and all those procedures as it is! Pottery involves chemicals and dust... lots of dust as my sitting room knows only too well!

It also would be handy for me as a potter to enable me to produce products to sell to enable me to write a second book on pottery with lovely illustrations, my first is available through (see pic to the right). For those interested in such matters, it took a year to write due to all the practical demos and photography required, by contrast the first draft of the play, also on sale via took me six weeks (+ over ten years research). Neither will be perfect, but in time errors make them more valuable as first editions... allegedly.

In many cases, do not have to give anything for the money raised, but if you can give something it might well help, so think in terms of discount vouchers and other incentives for people to give you your funding.

Above is a pic of unfired gifts that funders will get from me for their generosity. Limited edition I see as a must in this case, not least because I don't wish to be making the same thing all my life as it tends to hamper diversification. For other enterprises factory lines are crucial, hence conveyor belts can come in handy. What funders will not get is the finished pot until after I have my kiln as they cannot be finished without it.

Please note: the crowdfunder is the enterprise that collects the donations, the actual funders are the people who invest or make donations which, one hopes, will one day turn into future regular investors and/or clients so think of them as buyers.

The Crowdfunder is responsible for collecting the money and the contact details and ensuring I make and send all those pots or I’ll be in legal bother which I could do without.

If you order a pot of mine, there is no refund policy just because you don’t like the colour. If it gets broken, you had better be able to prove it as my pots don’t break easily unless someone has been careless with them. In other words be sure you want it first. Pots are like celebrities – they never look quite the same as they appear in a photo – when it comes to people on telly they appear to be even more peculiar in real life or so I've found so far! Er, yes... moving on...


Funds Wanted: The total I need without the Crowdfunder’s fee and postage and packing is £2,000 so with a little more research and mathematics the estimate is approximately £2,500 in total.
Timescale: I’ll give it until April 2014 to see what money I can raise and if it works.

Tally ho, let’s see what happens.

15 Crowdfunders

Below is a list of just a handful of possibilities in alphabetical order, there are more, but not that many... yet. Choose carefully which of them match your funding needs, your project and above all, your way of working. If they’re any good they will adapt their customer service to suit your needs unless they are simply not the right crowdfunder for that idea; in which case, move on and try another but also get advice on how you are wording things and if it's a viable idea. Not all crowdfunders charge a fee, but be careful as they may want something else. Do not get annoyed if these links do not work, they did at the time I wrote this and I take no responsibility whatsoever for the business practices and methods of those listed. I hope they play fair.

Below are a couple of links to explain things a bit further so now you know as much as I do. Would I could donate some funds myself... maybe next year I will be able to. As ever if you need more links, use your preferred search engine and tap in 'crowdfunding' or 'crowdsourcing' and for links to videos do the same via You Tube.

Oh, and the eggs themselves. I've decided to make 100 of these. Designs will vary as they are all worked as individual pieces; the final glaze and firing will determine that they all originated from the same fair hand. Each egg will have to undergo two firing processes, each of 24 hours each (including cooling time), it's a wonder that that anything survives 1300 degrees just once really. Of course, you DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE AN EGG, you can just donate toward WildeHeads first kiln and pottery equipment.

Now all I have to do is decide which crowdfunder to pick to go with.


You might wonder why I choose not to just sell the eggs and the reasons are:

1. There is no guarantee I will reach the right donors without the marketing might of an established crowdfunder
2. Hopefully the process will generate more interest in WildeHeads' activities
3. The full price of each egg would be considerably more
4. I'm just curious to test drive the crowdfunding process anyway - one prefers to speak with first hand experience!

Play nicely and good luck to all who try this (including me!)

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Operations File: Benefitting YOU - Use your heads

I’m too good to you lot...

As my friends, former colleagues and fellow collaborators (spies) at Mindwalking so eloquently keep pointing out more delicately than I always do... the answer to our woes (ALL OF THEM) is not only in our own hands but within easy reach too. 
Below are just two examples of designing forms to suit the purpose. You too could try erasing non-essential questions to get to the nuggets of facts that you seek in your place of work. It helps make work easier when one has one point of focus per form or process instead of dozens at a time. All too quickly we can get sidetracked away from the actual purpose of the exercise.

A good example of how muddled forms can get is the DWP's benefit form filling system for unemployment. More commonly the benefit system in the UK is run on the basis of 'are you worthy of help' instead of 'why are you struggling'. The aim of benefit forms should be to find out 

  • If a person needs assistance and in what form
  • How much assistance and in what form.

Below is an example of the sort of form I myself would have preferred to see when I signed on for benefits instead of having the seven step process of initiating, confirming, repeating, meeting, phoning, checking/meeting/signing before release of payment.

Surely there must be a better way of enabling staff to gain information about a client's needs at any initial point of contact, with consent, quickly and un-obstrusively. I don't imagine for a second the table below will be taken up as a serious contender for 'new look' benefit forms; I merely suggest here that perhaps our approach would be better served in financial and ergonomic terms if we got better acquainted with what is of most important to each individual client, because rumour has it... it varies a lot as much as people do in fact.

FIRST Assessment of Health by Tasks performed

1.        When unsure, guess or leave blank, or leave a comment.
2.        Add more detailed comments underneath if the tasks are stressing you out in any way.
3.        You are not required to ask anyone anything on this form you do not understand. So have fun with it!
This is a test of how simple and useful this for is for you.
DOES it work for YOU?

How YOUR time is spent
Time taken
Comments – (optional)
All health appointments (including spa treatments etc)
10 mins
It’s Sunday!
Additional shopping you need for your health only

It’s a day of rest allegedly
Attending work appointments (planning and booking only)

Do behave!
Personal finances (planning and budgeting)

10 mins
I update my own records, I still know how to even if you don’t!
Career development (planning time only)

I want to, even though I’m a PENSIONER!
Career advisor time

Well, provide one then, and I’ll see!
Career home working time (e.g. business planning)

Does this include studying pottery?
Charity and volunteer work time

Looking, but they treat you like slaves and are rude with it
Charity and volunteering travel time (how you get there)

Can’t get to anything as I live in a small town
Meal time (include preparation, shopping etc)

30 mins
I had a curry , sherry trifle and plenty of snacks instead of a roast I can’t afford
Laundry and repairs to clothing time

2 mins
Got my washing in as it looked like rain. Then it didn’t rain as usual!
Complaints, disputes and wasted effort time

10 mins
Wrote a letter to the Guardian, but thought better of it given I worked for GCHQ in WWII
Dealing with those you owe money to time

It’s SUNDAY! They can go swivel anyway.
Household maintenance (decorating and repairs)

As above, I have no funds for such things anyway and my roof is leaking
Incapacitated (unwell) time

Still very poorly. I can’t walk and can’t switch off my brain as the news is so bad.
Personal fundraising time (e.g. Car boot sale)

I want to keep my HIERLOOMS, but that’s a good idea.
Personal fundraising planning time

Well if I sell my stuff it saves it being stolen by thieves of all kinds! Ahem @Gov/banks!
Project budgeting time

Not a clue what you mean unless you mean financial statements. Do behave.
Project doing time

WTF? Perhaps my advisor will help explain this to me she’s a nurse.
Legal matters time

I haven’t done my Will yet, but as for suing everyone, I can’t be bothered at my age
Time spent dozing due to additional sleep needs

I am in my 80s you know!
Travelling and transportation time

Now you’re being silly again, I’m a wheelchair user due to a bomb
Time spent getting annoyed or upset by things or people

Am constantly annoyed that I have to budget to contact family, friends and veterans
Time spent annoyed with IT and technology and forms

Not much, I just ignore it all as much as I possibly can. Done my stint/shift.
New ‘must do tasks’ PLEASE TRY to list them here

I must remember to contact the British Legion in time for Remembrance Day




Anything else that worries or confuses you. Just add your comments below. THANK YOU!
I must say this type of form makes a refreshing change.
Why couldn’t it always have been like this BEFORE I was a pensioner on benefits?
WHEN will I get my money AND support then?

The answer to that last comment should be immediately as the basic rate for this type of vulnerable person, especially if they are a home owner. Anything else could be asked by an advisor, social worker, volunteer (e.g. CAB) or ANY medically trained professional if people were concerned.

It would:
1. Crack down on paperwork
2. Make it more accurate from the outset
3. There would be no duplication of effort
4. Nothing currently covered under Data Protection would need to be recorded unnecessarily
5. People would have greater control over their own privacy
6. People would possibly trust the support services provided a little more
7. Infringements would be clearer to spot
8. Policing and legal system would find it easier to track AND prosecute criminals if anyone lies
9. It would result in it costing us as tax payers less money for essential services
10. Essential services would have more time to function efficiently

Until we screw it all up again that is!

Now I don’t have the answer as to whether or not the Prime Minister is going to take this on board or not, but with an election looming I rather think ALL political parties will, don’t you?

The second example is even simpler appointment cards for all services and... for all types of people in need of help.

   A GP Surgery, Near YOU Street, Regardless of Postcode, UK


              To cancel or book appointments = 1234 567890-1
         Please call 1234 567890-2 for Test Results or concerns

Naturally I've leaned this toward health and care sectors but administration is an essential part of working and social life for things to get processed, one should hardly need to point out how many sectors could benefit from some prudent form-pruning papercrafts! 

Surely the way to start to regain command of emails, notes, agendas and other business administrative essentials all too commonly tied up in hours of frenetic computer activity, is to consolidate and condense to eliminate duplication of effort.