Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Final Touches

I guess I shouldn't be surprised but I did not even get a good bye or thank you or good luck or anything from the owners of where I (used to) work. My last day was yesterday.

I felt neutral and slightly relieved to be out of there. No sadness at all considering it has been almost 13 years for me. Maybe I've emotionally left that relationship a long time ago.

The staff were pretty emotional and they will be missed. I intend to keep in touch.

Just a few odds and sods left to buy and organize and I'll be able to open the doors for business. I'm at the notification postcards stage.

The newspaper advertisement is done and paid for. I've called everyone I can. And I have appointments booked for next week.

The only aspect that needs doing is formatting new paperwork. It'll get done on time.

I'm over in my start up costs estimates but hope to recoup it shortly.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I'm Keeping My Day Job

I was on the phone most of the day yesterday notifying clients of my upcoming move. It was satisfying work though I'm not sure I'd ever make a good call center agent.

I found it pretty tiring probably because I was sitting all day and I'm not used to that. A new found appreciation of such a job was developed as I reached my 5 hr mark.

I'm telling myself that once all the start up stuff ends, then I can just concentrate doing what I know best.

Got my first cell phone bill and do not understand what all the line items are about. So a call into Bell Mobility is in order today. It seems like I've been billed for a whole lot of stuff I didn't think I paid for.

A switch flipped in my mind this morning that helped to frame what I was embarking on.

I'm going to start looking at my new venture as my semi-retirement project -- Slower pace, simple way to go about doing business, lesser need to bring in the "big bucks".

Once I started thinking this way, my stress level fell. Let's hope the reality is as rosy as the picture in my head!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Downtown vs On the Edge Shopping

D and I were making yet another trip for office supplies yesterday and I remarked on how convenient the area we were going to was as it had 3 out of 4 stores we needed.

He agreed even though he is a long time proponent of "downtown shopping" vs. "big box store in generic edge of town plaza" shopping.

I was thinking that even though we aren't supporting our "downtown" on this occasion, we were spending less gas by going to the edge of the city. In reality, what we were looking for didn't exist "downtown" but even it did, it made more sense to us not to go this time.

Another example of this phenomenon is the idea of living "downtown" and being able to walk everywhere. In our case (perhaps we live in a strange area...), it is actually more expensive to live "downtown" as well as to buy groceries. Plus there would be high level of temptation to shop and eat out.

Where we currently live, it is easy to buy direct from nearby farmers and pick our own fruit. Downtown, where the version of a "market" is a highly modernized one, you end up being charged higher prices to offset the higher cost of rent.

Speaking of eating out, we've done a lot of that this last week. Both of us have been so tired from working our regular jobs as well as prepare for the move. We intend next week to be easier.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Down Time

It's like the universe has come out and told me it will do everything it can to make me feel better about missing out on my trips.

My apartment I was going to rent in Buenos Aires got rented and I received my deposit back! In fact, whoever rented it end up renting it for a month so the owners of the apartment are giddy about the additional business income.

Today I received notice that I got deposit money back from my New England cancelled adventure. I thought I read in the fine print and it didn't sound like I was supposed to get anything back. A lucky windfall!

The only things I haven't cancelled yet because I've had a million other things to do are some flights and hotel reservations.

Hoping to carve out some down time this weekend.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wrapping Up

I found out yesterday I'll be getting one final cheque next month instead of the customary 2. That's amazing news as I'll be starting with higher than normal cash flow in my first month of true proprietorship.

Administratively I went over my accounts receivable with my office administrator and there are 2 accounts outstanding that will be written off for now. Should it ever get collected, I'll get a little bonus cheque. Total amount just over $400 so not bad at all.

Yesterday the pendulum swung back towards the "uncooperative" side of the scale. Such petty passive aggressive and grasping at control tactics, I am happy to be getting out of there.

I'm no longer scared. The momentum has shifted and no matters what happens, I am putting myself and my business in a better place now.

My new business cards and "I'm Moving" postcards arrived yesterday. They will be put to work today. I'm hoping to get most if not all preparatory things done soon so I can enjoy our Canada Day long weekend next week. After that, it is show time.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Once Overs

My car insurance renewal ought to be showing up soon. There has been a lot of talk "out there" about rates going up this year for no apparent reason.

I don't know how others approach raising rates but here is what we try and do. For example, if our house insurance has gone up say $20 a month, we'll look for another place to save $20.

It can mean changing deductibles, dropping an optional coverage, eating out less, putting money in a different investment vehicle to gain more fixed income etc.

There are no categories that aren't scoured to look for savings. It's a neat exercise. A forced "once over" if you will.

Inevitably, we get to a point where the cut backs on certain categories will have been maxed out. I can say we are getting close for some.

Funny day yesterday. All of a sudden there has been an about face with respect to attitude from the owners.

Apparently they had seen our websites and realize we are serious competitors now. So what would they like? To cross link between our sites... so we can promote each other... the comedy just does not end...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Getting All Teckie

It has been interesting observing myself through all of this, especially with respect to the technology stuff. My website is 90% complete.  I'm using a Wordpress platform this time. This part is fine. It's like blogging in some ways and I'm already familiar with that.

The Blackberry, on the other hand, has given me headaches. I'm still not understanding why some people are addicted to this technology. I cannot see it though I've been assured I will never go back to a regular cell phone after this. We'll see about that. Remember I'm the one that let her "pay as you go" plan and phone number expire.

So now we have it such that any online messages/requests from both my associate's and my site gets "pushed" to the Blackberry so everything is managed there. Plus copies of all messages are also sent to a back up mailbox for safe keeping, just in case. I can hardly believe I'm typing about all of this -- considering I don't even like working a sunroof in a car.

The nasty stuff at work has started. Little jabs here and there. Little road blocks here and there. So much for "working with you in your transition"... I was really angry yesterday for a few hours. Now I'm thinking I need to take a day off from all of this and do stuff on off hours when I don't have to be around that type of energy anymore. It's not worth it. My last day is a week from today.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Plugging Away

I literally have to force myself to stop and take a break right now. The 15 plus hr days are blurring into one another as I fervently push to take care of details.

It feels like there are a million things vying for my attention and because I am making plans that involve 2 people -- my associate who is coming to work with me in my space, I am constantly double checking both integrations.

My tendency is to forge ahead and have space to breathe before the launch date. I'm not much of a do everything last minute person, knowing there will likely be last minute things anyways. I can sort of think I see the light at the end of the tunnel now... :)

I will do my best to keep my business cash flow as similar to what I've been used to. With the move, there will be some services that will not be offered anymore. So that will translate to less income. I'm hoping that will be balanced out with receiving rent from my associate as well as my rent being much lower.

My weekend buying spree for business start up is already in the $800 mark and I didn't even buy any equipment per se. Amazing just how quickly things add up. Thank goodness I managed to get some stuff used. My budget is $2200.

There is talk that interest rates in Canada won't be rising as quickly and frequently as first predicted earlier in the year. With all the chaos in Europe, it may buy those of us with variable rate mortgages a bit more time. That works for us.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's Done

Quick note as I have loads to do today. I handed in my departure notification letter yesterday. It's over. I will be flying by the seat of my pants starting July 1st.

The last meeting again, wasn't enough to make me want to stay. They wanted to keep dragging it on with promises and options but too vague to sink teeth into.

When I went over my exit plan, they went along but didn't really believe I meant it until I brought up my timeline. That's when they jumped.

I got an offer to "buy more time" at a slightly higher rent but not as high as it was supposed to be starting July 1st until we figure this out... no thank you.

So this is it. I am putting my money where my mouth it. I've had my panic moments and I've had to remind myself that I already know how to do the hardest part -- my job. I can learn the administrative stuff.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Crunch Time

It's crunch time with respect to my work negotiations. The latest news has been a request that I come up with numbers and a working model...kinda hard to do when I do not have access to their it appears they are not willing to do the work as the owners of the place.

I've already given them a reply with respect to the number they used as starting point. They have chosen not to respond to that.

I sent a response back stating most of the above and asked for an honest answer as to whether this new idea/setup can even work financially for them. If not, my feelings won't be hurt. I just want to know as I am running out of time.

By the way, they have not agreed to keep my existing rent as is. The changes are happening July 1st and I have made the decision not to work under the new rules. I may as well transition out asap and make my own way.

The lack of good will on their end is very apparent. It feels like they are hoping to stall for as long as they can. Final meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.

My trip to BA has been cancelled. If someone rents my apartment then I'll get my deposit back, if not, I was prepared to lose it anyways. Looks like for some reason, I am getting more money back for my flight than I thought -- not complaining!

The trip to Maine and area is trickier. I've already prepaid for some hotel nights and the flight. The flight cancellation policy pretty much wipes out any credit I would have gotten. Plus the points I used for partial payment are non refundable.

Right now, I would like to aim for a trip to France with D in the fall instead so Maine will likely be sacrificed. Plus my final payments for Maine are due in a week, so not much time left to think about it.

On a very cool news front, there is a good possibility that D is going to be offered a full time position at this current contract place of work. It will likely happen when his contract is up, which is end of Sept. whereby he will get "converted" to full time status, which will come with extra health benefits, partial pension, life insurance, 4 weeks vacation etc. We are very excited.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Myself Be Humbled

Still on the topic of feeling humble, I shared with D a couple of my favorite humbling mishaps. Unlike yesterday's post, I wasn't humbled because I felt particularly full of myself. It was because I wasn't particularly good at what I was doing!

My first humbling incident occurred during my summer of learning how to sail. I went through the sport sailing route so instead of learning on bigger keel boats, I learned on Lasers about 15 yrs ago. Turned out I am a horrible skipper and lost every race I participated in by a huge mile.

The worst result, I think I was 1/2 hr late getting in. Everyone else had taken their sails down and folded them and some had already left. Not only was I slow, there wasn't enough wind so my crew and I had to use our oars to paddle in! At one point before the paddling started, we nudged another docked boat at the yacht club...

If it was any consolation (not really), I aced any and all the written tests I had to take that summer. I just couldn't seem to apply it when I was on the water.

My second humbling experience came about 7 years ago when I ran my first 10km race. Race is a very loose term for what I doing as I am not considered a fast runner. It was my first race ever and I ended up choosing the 10km because it fit the timing for D's race weekend.

I dressed poorly on race morning. I thought it was going to warm up so I skipped over my running tights and went for the shorts. The temperature was 1 degree Celsius and it did warm up -- to only 4 degree Celsius. I was freezing and my legs didn't want to move for me.

I guess the police officer who saw me coming up a hill didn't realize I was so slow, because he held up traffic so I can pass but when he realize I still hadn't made it up the hill, he let traffic go and told ME to stop. After quite a few seconds, I waved at him, pointed at my watch and my race bib...

The race I ran in was in preparation for the "real one" that was to come 3 weeks later when D ran his marathon. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed with my experience. A race volunteer even gave me a Werthers candy, probably because I looked so I had hypothermia...

Three weeks later, I ran the "real race" and came in middle of the pack in exactly the opposite weather -- hot!

Monday, June 14, 2010


D used to work with a couple who are much more materialistic than us. What I mean by that is stuff like: Believing that it is necessary to drive, dress and live such that people cannot possibly think they are anything less than successful. They are also a good decade younger than us and have things to prove.

This is also the couple I mentioned in an earlier blog post who were travelling to Paris, Nice, Cannes and Monaco during the Grand Prix and Film festival. It was an eye opener for them -- in a good way. They came back humbled.

Being the showiest in your small town and neighbourhood is like being the biggest fish in a small pond. Though I would argue if the showy stuff one displays is a result of credit, that isn't true wealth... Wealth where they were was on a totally different scale -- no more small pond and it blew them away.

They described their experience perfectly. The truly wealthy people they saw had faces that looked as if it had been bathed in moisturizer and looked like it never made a stressed expression or seen an ounce of stress or worry in their lives. Those weren't the botox unlined faces prevalent in North America. It isn't something you can fake.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cost of Living

The cottage plumbing came in the mail -- $227.96. OK, I guess. It took 2 guys 2 hours worth of labour. Like with a lot of automotive repairs, it's the labour that makes up the bulk of the bill.

D doesn't envy them as the crawlspace is more accurately described as a slither space. No way ever, will you catch me down there. The sight of the bugs living there alone would give me a heart attack!

Have a Great Weekend Everyone!

Friday, June 11, 2010

2nd Meeting

My meeting the other day was unsatisfying. In a nutshell, they weren't prepared and it did feel like a waste of my time.

However, a number was thrown out into the mix as a "starting point". When I did the preliminary calculations, it doesn't make enough sense. I'll delve into it deeper this weekend.

More importantly, it doesn't look like my current rate will continue until the negotiations are done so that doesn't sit well with me as it was a condition of my continued participation in these discussions.

I toured another potential business location and there is potential there. One of my reservations is that the owner of the business doesn't have an established business direction and structure but is open to ideas.

To me, that translates into "I am open to changes but you will have to lead". I don't know how I feel about that -- walking in and organizing someone else's business.

The bottom line is that they aren't currently used to doing business in the scale that I have been working at. The owner appears to be an honest person and that means a lot. This avenue will take time to develop.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Regular Stuff

A lot of people are awaiting their first of three HST rebate checks to show up in a direct deposit account or by mail starting today.

I too am waiting and hoping to get one these checks. As a family, we could get up to $1000 spread over 3 payments if we qualify. They are an effort of the government to lessen the blow of the harmonized tax that will come into effect July 1st.

We have been "eating from our fridge/pantry" this week in the effort to use up food stuffs so that they wouldn't get freezer burn from sitting too long or expired from being forgotten.

So far so good. It's a nice feeling to see the space appear in the freezer again -- to be filled with new stuff.

I broke down and took an allergy pill yesterday. There is so much stuff floating through the air that I couldn't handle it anymore. Normally I hate taking medicine of any sort but it couldn't be helped as I thought my eyeballs were going to burst or get scratched out by yours truly.

The construction that started in March a block away from us has ended. They did a good job and it is nice to be able to sit outside and open windows again without being covered in dust.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tug o' War

I'm a bit sick and tired of thinking of work so much. It's not like me to do so.

Then there are the calculations of how much it will cost me should I end up cancelling my trips -- $1422 -- doesn't make things any better knowing I'll have paid that amount to see absolutely nothing.

OK. Enough complaining.

Philosophically, I feel I shouldn't have to cancel anything; new business implementation or not. I know I may be acting a bit spoiled here and doing the equivalent of stamping my foot and shirking responsibility.

But, I do believe I have worked long enough and is established enough to be able to pull this off. So the 2 sides of me have been battling it out for the last week or so.

No side has claimed victory yet.

***My above mini rant doesn't even rate compared to the news we just got from friends who found out their youngest child has a rare genetic disorder that will render him unlikely to live much into adulthood.

Words cannot express our shock and sadness for them and their family.***

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Post Vaccines

It has been a week since my Yellow Fever and Typhoid shots were done. Since then, I've felt cold at the end of each day and seem to have a slight fever. At the injection site, there is a bruise like mark that feels itchy.

The Yellow Fever shot in particular stung as it was being injected. The travel Dr said he likens it to getting vinegar sprayed on an open wound. It takes 10 days to build up immunity. It is important you are not allergic to eggs for this one.

Total cost of the vaccines and appointment, $185.

I also got a script for malaria pills just in case I decide venture into infected areas. Plus I was told about an effective oral vaccine for travellers' diarrhea available should I wish.

Of course the nurse and Dr didn't know anything about what was going on with my work and that the likelihood of me going on this trip was shrinking. I didn't want to cancel my appointment and just smiled and thanked them when they wished me a good trip.

So now, I am fully vaccinated for the above diseases. Add to it my previous vaccinations of Hep A & B and recent tetanus; I am pretty set for a lot of places.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Enough of the Work Drama -- A Fun Post Today

I miss the colours of Berlin. The hot pink phone booths (that's right!), the fluorescent orange garbage trucks, the spring green and white police cars. Where do they come up with this?

Perhaps it is the ever practical German mind that decided to colour coordinate service items to make things obvious and simple. I like it.

We feel in love with the fun and retro look of the Amplemann, figures of the "stop" and "go" of the crosswalk traffic lights. I kinda wish I did buy a mug when I was there.

Another Berlin thing to do is to eat currywurst at various street stands, served with fresh cut fries. At first we didn't really get it. It was OK tasting but didn't knock my socks off.

(That probably had to do with me knowing I had french pastries from Lenotre in my shopping bag waiting to be eaten.)

Oh yeah, Berliners didn't tend to eat with their hands whereas I like to eat french fries with my fingers. I got some looks. So I used the mini plastic fork provided.

After a couple of days though, you start craving the stuff. There must be something in the curry ketchup...or in the coarse salt on the fries... D missed it badly for a couple of weeks after we returned from the trip.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Long Week

It has been a very long week. Seriously, most days this week, I had to think about what day it was and if I had eaten lunch yet. My years of professional experience was what got me through the client work, nothing else as my gas tank was hovering on less than 1/4 tank.

Dramatics aside, we surprised each other at the meeting. I talked for over 80% of it about my philosophy of doing business, what I built it on, how it has been changing in the last 6 years, how I have been simpifying my life and household in the last 3 years, how the new fee guideline conflicts with how I would like to manage my business expenses, how I am looking for more control over my business.

Bottom line, when I ran the numbers from Jan to now and for the rest of the year plus where I'd like to be 2 years from now, it doesn't work for me.


How could they not see this coming?! Ah, that's right. Because they judge power by what one wears, what one drives. As I am not into showing off and drive a 13 yr old car, neither of them know about my properties or my lifestyle. So to them, I'm a dependent in quasi self employment shoes they "own". I did however, show up wearing all black :)

The back peddling started. No, they weren't trying to back me into a corner. No, they do not want me to leave. They have always (right!) believed in creating a place where different business people could run the type of practice they wanted. They didn't want a clone of them (right!).

I decided to give them my pitch.

I told them that should we were meeting for the first time today and I was an existing business owner in town looking for a new place to hold my small business, this is what I would be looking for... would you be able to accommodate this new business model?


They admitted they had never considered anyone who would want to practice this way. I didn't think I was asking for a flight to the moon. Just a few rooms, reception, perhaps billing service -- A hybrid model.

Here's where I think I sold it too well.

What they would gain would be my prime time real estate. Right now I hold the best group of times and space for doing business. If they could build/arrange a new space for me, then I would be freeing up that area whereby they could rent it to a more "conventional" full time business whereby their cut would be higher.

They liked it and I saw light bulbs go on and eyes get slightly bigger. They aren't very good with the poker face.

I was asked if I had a number in mind. I didn't (other than "much lower") as I really didn't think they would go for it. As we ran out of time, we will be reconvening next week with numbers for 3 scenarios from least to most services provided.

I waver between wondering if I did the right thing by pitching them my new idea and signing myself up for another week of this or if it would have been easier having it end right there.

I'll be sending a summary of our discussion as well as a guideline to further negotiation/discussion which will make it necessary for them to accept that I will be paying my current rates month to month to a maximum of 3 months (thanks I'd rather be sailing!) until we come to a resolution. Should they not accept the above, an appropriate exit strategy will be put in place. Those are the conditions for my continued participation.

Meanwhile, I've been spending the other waking hours fine tuning my home office idea. Whether it end up being here or elsewhere, the same preparations need to be made.

D is up at the cottage this weekend surveying the plumber's work (they fixed it and water pressure is normal) and doing the big spring cleaning. I'm going to do my best to take the weekend off -- which will likely mean working at only 50% capacity on the business :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

New Mortgage Numbers

The new mortgage payment numbers are out today. For our house mortgage, each payment is going up $5.20 and for the ski condo, $1.69. Not bad and not too much of a shock. We can handle this. Our amortization stays the same.

Remember we have the type of variable mortgage where we cannot lower our payments when interest rates go up. Not all variable mortgages behave this way. When the media is trying to scare people, it is this type of mortgage they commonly refer to.

The real estate hunt for potential new offices was very successful. We saw 7 and about 3 worked and 1 was a stand out. It also was the one that required leasehold improvements. At lease I know what my options are. I have someone working on a quote and time frame for the renos. Meanwhile, I am still developing my home office option.

I am not worried about my meeting today. Why? Because I am going in there and telling the truth about what will and will not work for me anymore. I'm no neophyte in this business and I do not appreciate being treated like I need them more than they need me.

D feels I should dump the idea of a counteroffer and just give my notice. I think I'll know by the tone of the conversation how it will go. So it will be a game time decision. Either way, I'm starting to get the feeling I will not be going to BA in 3 weeks.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Work Updates

No news yet from my bank regarding the new mortgage payments following the Bank of Canada rate increase yesterday -- hopefully by tomorrow -- I like to know where I stand.

End of May numbers are in and I made $1185.62 net extra. More fun money! Speaking of fun, my 2 upcoming trips are in jeopardy because of this sudden onset of work chaos. I need to make a decision soon or I will forfeit too much.

Lots of meetings set up for today -- a couple of hours with Realtors to look at rental and buy options for my business, just in case the numbers work out. More time with co-workers brainstorming.

The "big" meeting will be tomorrow with the dude who is behind the increase. I am in the midst of coming up with a counter proposal based on a completely different business model than I am currently on. Of course the price tag will be much lower.

Not sure if they will bite or even care to negotiate. If not, then the meeting will turn into a serving of my notice of departure. I tried, right?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Here We Go

The first increase by the Bank of Canada happened this morning -- 0.25%. Our new rates will be 1.60% & 1.75% respectively. Tomorrow, I'll be able to see the new amounts payable for our mortgages.

Planning for what may be the next phase of my business has been going at a quick clip. I estimate 75% of the details have been sorted out.

I'm at the point where I need to thinking of when to set up the exit strategy meeting. From the way things have been going, I am preparing for what they will say or come back with.

So, I feel it is better to have made up my mind first and come up with answers to potential counteroffers/comments before I proceed.

Some questions I have for myself include:
  • Is there anything they can say to make me stay?
  • Do I want to be a solo office manager?
  • Do I want to buy another property?
  • Do I want to sign a lease for 4 people?
  • Do I want to learn to do payroll?
  • Am I prepared for less than 100% transfer of clients?
  • What do I know about advertising and marketing?