OK, let me start to paint you a picture of office life at Mother’s Garden, the English/Catalan micro business based in a little office in our old farmhouse in The Priorat, Catalunya, north east Spain. It will be self evident why we need to evolve. Perhaps this is how things are for a few of you right now, if you are small like us.
While Maggie kick-starts the household at 7am or earlier I go to our office (unless I am on a book project then it is 5am) and fire up the 5 year-old Dell Vostro 1710 laptop that has had a dead battery for an age but is still cutting the mustard. When I bought it direct from Dell I had it loaded with extra muscle which cost a lot but has been worth it. The evolution of computers means, of course, that standard laptops are more powerful, but we don’t want or need to change it yet. I back everything up on to a separate hard drive once a month, which is nowhere near frequent enough, but I also use Gmail to send myself basic stuff on a regular basis for further piece of mind.
Software? Not a lot. I use Word for correspondence and raising all our invoicing(I know, I know), Excel to keep track of orders/sales/olive oil shipments, Gmail for our key clients contact info, WordPress to run our website, and Photoshop Elements to prepare photographs to accompany my articles and blogs.
Does that sound familiar?
It all keeps me on my toes and it devours time, not least the treble checking in case I have missed an order or anything, and errors happen. One ridiculous example: To ensure I have numbered an invoice in sequence I have to cross check with our Excel spreadsheet all the time. Remember, we are talking about a two/three people business that has three threads – olive oil exporting (in Catalan and English), a holiday business and writing assignments – so we are dealing in variable VAT rates or not at all, different languages and different spreadsheets.
We have reached this point because these are simple software systems we know. They cost little and it we have patched it all together to make it work, but it turned into a quilt of alarming complexity and weight and we have less and less time to grow the business and to enjoy growing the business.
As for our accounting and VAT, this might make you smile. We have ledgers. Yes, a sharp pencil and a rubber and reading glasses on the end of my nose. For several days at the end of every quarter I plough through everything and take these ledgers to our Catalan accountant. There are four ledgers because we are both self employed (income and expenditure ledgers for each of us). In truth, there is something edifying and important about sifting the paper and carefully assessing each quarter in this way, away from a computer, but maybe we will look at the online service too. It is not a priority for me, for the reasons I have stated. Maybe it’s my age.
An aside – when I bought our computer I rang Dell in Madrid and spoke to a highly efficient and helpful Moroccan who then arranged for my Polish built computer to be loaded with my selected programmes in Ireland before being sent to me here in Catalonia.
More about our evolution next time.