Reflecting on the past week

They announced the bronze award winner, and it wasn’t us. They announced the silver award winner, and it wasn’t us.

In the few seconds before the gold award winner was named, two scenarios were playing through my head. Either our name was about to be read out and I would have to do that always awkward walk from the back of the room, up a few steps and onto a stage, to be interviewed in front of a few hundred people.

Or we had failed to win a single thing. It was, naturally, the latter.

Thursday evening was the Surrey Digital Awards, a glitzy awards bash at the HG Wells Conference Centre in Woking.

Before Christmas, we had submitted an entry in the Best Blog category for our personal finance podcast, Informed Choice Radio. One of my marketing goals for 2017 is to be able to apply the label ‘award-winning’ to the front of the podcast. It’s a vanity thing, but entering (and occasionally winning) awards is good for business and helps to raise our profile.

Arriving at the home of the father of science fiction (the town of Woking, rather than the conference centre itself, which shares floor space with a Gala Bingo) I was as interested to discover who I would be sharing a table with, as whether we might win an award. After several minutes of being the sole occupant of a ten person table, my fellow finalists began to arrive.

It was great to be reunited at the table with Penny Power, who I last saw about a decade ago, when I was an active member of the networking site Ecademy, which she formed along with husband Thomas Power. Since the last time we met, Penny was awarded an OBE for services to entrepreneurship in social and digital development. Her latest venture is The Business Cafe, and I enjoyed hearing more about her plans for this.

My other table buddies for the evening included Dani Maimone, a PR consultant and excellent photographer; social media coach and trainer Nicky Kriel with her team, and a couple of people from Brooklands Museum.

So my initial fears of being the solitary occupier of a large table for the night quickly faded, replaced with lots of great conversation and food, and enjoying the winners celebrating their achievements.

The Surrey Digital Awards were one highlight of another busy week, which also featured the Spring Budget, helping to tackle our end of tax year workload, and lots of conversations with journalists.

On Tuesday morning, we met with the senior team from a software provider, to discuss what went wrong with the implementation of their kit in our business in the second half of last year, the lessons we could learn from the experience and how we can work together in the future. It wasn’t a meeting I was particularly relishing — it’s never pleasant to spend time dwelling on the past — but it turned out to be fairly cathartic and certainly positive.

Wednesday lunchtime was the Spring Budget; the first and last from Chancellor Philip Hammond, as he shifts the Budget to the Autumn. We still get two economic events from the government each year, as the Autumn Statement becomes the Spring Statement from 2018 onwards, and in fact this year we get two full Budgets — which might come in handy as the UK economy responds to the triggering of Article 50 in the next few days…

As a Financial Planner, I watch the Budget with interest, looking for any proposed changes which might result in opportunities for our clients or the need for remedial action to keep long-term Financial Plans on track.

After each Budget, I write a concise ten-page briefing note for our clients and professional contacts. We aim to get this out within an hour or two of the end of the Budget statement, which never fails to impress. With most of our competitors, including national firms, outsourcing their Budget summaries to third-party publishers, our clients get their copies a clear 12 hours earlier than their friends and colleagues. This is one instance where being small and nimble offers us a fantastic opportunity to distribute useful information very quickly indeed.

Another benefit of being a small business is the ease with which we can share opinions with journalists for publication in the national press. Because we don’t have a PR or compliance department, the thoughts in our heads can be rapidly communicated with journalists in response to whatever story they are writing.

It was a bit of an odd week for press comment, which resulted in my quotes being featured in the Financial Times a record four times. There was a bit of a faff about a fund manager reporting their performance figures in a certain way, some more red tape for investors coming out of Brussels, and then a merger between two large asset managers resulting in two different stories; one for when a fund manager quit in short order and another where I suggested investors don’t invest in their funds for the time-being.

Another highlight this week was interviewing the international best-selling author Malene Rydahl for our podcast. I was due to chat with Malene over Skype on Tuesday, but the connection was awful. I later found out this was because she was in Morocco at the time, where Skype connections are often unreliable.

We were able to reschedule for Friday, when she was back home in Paris, and it resulted in one of my favourite podcast interviews to date. My intern Matt and I quickly edited the episode, I recorded the introduction and we are publishing it tomorrow morning.

After a fairly busy week, and feeling exhausted from my late night out on Thursday, it was nice to have a relatively subdued weekend. My wife Becky had two days of training (she’s a Beaver Scout leader in the village and has to complete five days of training this year, so this weekend finished off that requirement) which meant it was me, the kids and the dogs left to entertain ourselves.

Next week is already shaping up to be busy, with more end of tax year work to complete with the team, a couple of committee meetings, a Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting, two podcast interviews to record, the outcome of a planning application where I’ve been invited to become a trustee for 60 acres of public parkland, and a couple of client meetings.

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