One area that highlights the division between American English and English English, as opposed to other versions of English, is the different pronunciations and accentuations on words.

Take the words laboratory and controversy for example. Our US friends prefer to accent the first syllable and the English prefer to accent the second, and continue to do so, despite the huge influence of American English on our daily European lives.

One difference I can’t get my head around is munging the last syllable of words that end in ‘-ile’. I remember watching an eipsode of the 6 Million Dollar Man back in the mid-seventies and they talked about a dangerous ‘missle’. What the heck’s a missle? In English English we put the accent on the first syllable but still give the second syllable a bit of a dance as well.

Futile is another one. Or Fyewtle as the Americans would say. Now that’s a futile pronunciation if ever there was one.

There are plenty of laudable examples of American English changing the spelling of words for simplicity’s sake. I offer you color, realize, maneuver and celiac for that argument.

But futile, missile, versatile, agile? Why not change the spelling on those too?

Advertisements

Business is awash with shorthand.

Good shorthand uses TLAs or jargon that everyone understands to save time and effort. Bad shorthand leaves people unproductive, confused and alienated.

I’ve always used ‘mktg’ as a shorthand for marketing. So much so that I use it in the domain name for my business website, M4 Marketing. It’s a nice short domain. The only problem I have is that I have to spell out the domain name over the phone, which is not ideal.

I think that the mktg shorthand is good shorthand, no? It’s like ‘mgmt’ for management. Pretty much everyone knows that shorthand and uses it freely.

Time, as I’m fond of boring you over the last nearly 5 years, is a most precious resource. Which is why we should, in my opinion, be really good at managing it. Yet we’re not, really, compared to other precious resources like money, water, temperature, sales, sales pipeline, marketing leads, fuel and so on, which we’re really good at measuring.

That’s because most have a monetary value easily attached to them. Time does as well, or should, but tends not to, unless you charge by the hour.

Some Irish folk have a fairly relaxed approach to measuring time, or at least estimating its duration. That’s why in our house we have a joke about Irish minutes and English minutes. I’m English and when I say I’ll be about 5 minutes, I’ll be about 5 minutes. When her ladyship and others say they’ll ‘just be 2 minutes’, or ‘I’ll be back in 15 minutes’, I ask if that’s Irish minutes or English minutes.

Then I know what’s going on. It’s like saying you’ll ‘just be 2 ticks‘. How you can ever be close to 2 seconds? Drives me mad.

Working in, or for, a small business is fun. How much fun, I never knew until I was much older.

With a small business, if you’re involved in a non-technical role – in other words you’re on the business side, including sales and marketing – you get to do lots of different things. The variety is great, at least it is for me. You also get to do these lots of things relatively well, rather than spectacularly well in one niche area. You can be part-finder, part-minder and part-grinder if you want.

As your small business becomes more successful and grows, you find yourself doing fewer things, and you need to do those fewer things better. It becomes a medium-sized business.

When I did my Master’s degree in Business Administration a hundred years ago, there were courses on offer in running a small business. I had never worked in a small business, nor had anyone in my immediately family. We weren’t particularly entrepreneurial, we had worked for large organisations. Consequently I had little or no interest in finding out about how a small business worked.

It’s ironic how over time I’ve migrated from working for large companies to working for, with and running small companies.

August is a deceptively busy month.

On the surface, everyone’s on holiday and you can’t get anything done. If you’re relying on getting stuff back from suppliers, partners, or customers, you’re done for. It’s the holiday month. Don’t ask me for an answer, a budget, or a decision, it’s not happening.

But August is a deceptively busy month because everyone comes back on the first of September and immediately has to hit top gear until the next silly season hits around mid-December til the second week of January. To be ready to go in September we have to do the work in August, getting everything ready and managing our projects and our lead times.

August is a great month for getting the work done, undisturbed, so you’re ready to go when the wheels start screeching in the autumn.

As long as you don’t need anything back from anyone, that is. It’s a great month if you only need you to produce what it is you’re producing. But, interaction, collaboration? Forget it. Shoulda got that done in July…

Water is essential to life, human life anyway. We can’t live without it, much as we can’t live without oxygen. No oxygen and we’re done for in a minute or two. No water and we’ve got a few days of excruciating agony before we slip away.

We’re supposed to have at least 2 litres of the stuff per day, that’s 8 glasses. The more the better too. They say that if you’re 1% down on hydration you might be 25% down on performance.

Me, I can’t stand the stuff. It’s boring, I don’t find it particularly refreshing, unless I’ve had a salty meal or I’ve been exercising hard. I inherited this from my mother. She can’t stand water, so much so that she never bothered to learn how to swim. She’s not shy of the shower, she simply doesn’t like water.

When we were kids we didn’t have water with our meals. We drank milk. I hardly had water as a kid, and I did OK, except I’m on the short side, and I don’t think you can blame the lack of water for that.

About a decade ago, I paid for one of those full health check-ups with a private hospital. It was partly discounted by the company’s health insurance and I felt I should go in for a 50-thousand mile service. I remember scoring very well on the hearing test, nearly off the chart. The doctor said to me in the debrief that my hearing was very good. ‘Pardon?’, I said in reply. I know, I thought it was funny, a had-to-be-there moment.

The doctor didn’t laugh either, but what she did say was that I could take me 8 cups of water in any form I wanted: tea, coffee, cordial. I don’t think beer counted.

This was music to my ears, but I have since heard conflicting reports that it really should be ‘unpolluted’ water. I do track my water intake and it’s rarely 2 litres per day, and usually 50% of it is tea or coffee.┬áMaybe that’s where I’ve been going wrong all these years.

On the odd day that I do make a concerted effort to up my water intake, I find that I need to use the bathroom almost every half an hour. That’s simply not practical when you’re in meetings, presentations or travelling.

 

Drink driving limits vary by country, but, at the risk of generalising, if your blood alcohol levels exceed between 0.05 and 0.1% – or between 50 and 100mg alcohol per 100ml of blood, you’re committing a crime.

Again, at the risk of generalising, that meant for an average sized person one drink and you were OK to drive. A bottle of beer, a glass of wine, a spirit, a pint of lager, that sort of thing.

I have always kept religiously to that rule, because I’ve lived in countries where it’s been 0.08% or 0.1%, even out in the country where’s no public transportation and no taxis. It’s not worth it, for so many reasons.

Not any more.

Ireland is now 0.05% and at least a 3-month ban. I checked, 0.05% means half a pint or a small glass of wine puts you at risk of being over the limit.

I remember about 30 years ago my Dad was returning from an afternoon game of golf. He was a similar size to me and back then the conventional wisdom was a pint and a half and you’re fine, which he never exceeded. On this occasion he was breathalysed and told he wasn’t over the limit but he was borderline. He never had a pint and a half before driving again.

I’d be interested in seeing what my degree of driving impairment would be after a small glass of wine. Would my reactions and judgement be noticeably slower or would there be less jerkiness and over-reactions because I was a tad more relaxed?

It’s a moot point, because it serves no purpose to have a single drink and get in a car any more. I’m fine with that, since the ramifications of excess drink are unthinkably bad for another family, but I’m not sure how folk in the country will get on, whether their quality of life in massively unpopulated areas – where you’re unlikely to meet another car or pedestrian and you’re only risking yourself which is your own fault – will suffer.

 

When I’m cleaning the house, I’m usually tempted to do a relatively good job, but not a deep clean, a pull-out-all-the-stops clean. Enough to make it look decent for a week or so.

But then, once in a blue moon I do a proper clean, a proper wipe, a proper dust or a proper vacuum, the kind that we used to call spring cleaning when something gets its annual out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new clean.

There’s no such thing of course. Spring cleaning is something we have to do all year around, or at least once a season, or once a quarter, as we’d say in the business.

Speaking of business, it’s the same thing. We do an annual purging of the CRM system, our email inbox, or our sales pipeline. We should do it all the time, and certainly once a quarter, so it doesn’t mount up into something seemingly unsurmountable. Tidy as you go, and clean as you go too.

The trouble is, it’s a constant struggle to maintain this discipline in the face of the other business – and cleaning – mantra. Just enough is often good enough, and good enough means simply better than the alternative.

Every month or so over the summer I declare a war on weeds at the front of our house. We have what you might call a low maintenance front area, with a lot of it paved for a car and the border is a mixture of pebbles over weed-block tarpaulin and plant areas.

The thing with weeding is that it’s a bit like sales and marketing. It’s all or nothing. You either do it properly or you don’t bother. You can do a half-cocked job and they’re back 2 weeks later. I thought they were growing up through two layers of tarpaulin, but, following a root and branch – see what I did there? – analysis of the blighters they appear to be growing between the pebbles and then pushing down through the weed-block with their sturdy little roots. They’re all over the edges of the borders, or perhaps I should say the borders of the borders, sneaking in between the concrete and the weed-block edge, and helped by the zealous over-watering of the overhead balcony plants by Mrs D. Getting at the roots is tricky.

I can almost see the weeds looking up at me when I turn up with my trowel and my brown bin, and saying. “Here he is again. We’re not going to go through this charade again, are we? You realise you’re just giving us a haircut, right? Give us a couple of days and we’re going to be looking even better.”

So I’m turning up the heat on my war on weeds. No more Mr Nice Guy. No more vinegar mix and organicy stuff that cosies up to the weeds. I’ve bought the real deal, armageddon in a bottle and spray. This stuff will kill everything in its path, only stopping and evaporating at the earth’s core.

I just need to wait for a dry spell, in the west of Ireland renowned for its lakes, rivers and soft days…

 

We’re generally on the receiving end of irony. Things that end up being ironic are almost always not in our favour. Irony in business is the same. Commerce tends not to like irony. It likes to deal in good fortune and certainty where possible.

Towards the end of 2017 I finished the final draft of a book I’ve written on how we should deal with our lot in life and leisure if we’re generalists rather than specialists. People who can do a few things well, but are not standout in any one thing.

Since the end of 2017 I’ve been trying to find a agent to take on my project, get behind it and find a publishing deal. In other words, I’ve been trying to persuade a number of specialists that a book written about generalists is a worthwhile project.

The irony of this task is not lost on me. In fact it’s a constant companion. ‘If you’re only pretty good at a few things, why should I, who am great at this thing, take on a project, and why should readers read something, that is probably only pretty good, pretty well written?’

I’m going on holiday shortly for a couple of weeks, which necessitates having at least half a dozen blog posts ‘in the can’. Notwithstanding these literary guardians at the gate, I might publish a few pages of my book as posts, to see if I get any kind of a reaction.