Going Solo 18. Pivot and Adapt

Pivot and adapt is a consequence of an honest review.

If there are projects that are not working for you, then you have decisions to make. You may simply want to abandon the project, as I did with You Tube. I just stopped. Investment had been low and the output has no monetary value, so there is nothing to look to sell.

Novel

When I started writing Sean, I imagined that I would write it, edit it, pitch to a couple of agents, find one, get a huge publishing deal and overnight success. That hasn’t happened. So, I have adapted that project, spawning this website – stuartlennon.com. Perhaps, I should only publish here. A serialised novel? Who knows?

Podcast

1857 was an experiment. A sideline. something to support Nero’s Notes. As it is low-cost, in terms of capital and time, I can see that it might, at some point, wash its face (break-even). I envisage investing more time into this project.

Lime

Lime Training and Consultancy was founded to offer advice on setting up foreign exchange locations in Europe. It pivoted to a training company. It pivoted again to a compliance specialist. Throughout those pivots, it has provided a solid source of revenue.

Nero’s

Loggedoff started selling pocket sized notebooks and adapted to a broader-base of stationery. It may pivot again.

Paradox

Going Solo is great because I can be agile and adaptive. Going solo is terrible because I can be agile and adaptive! I have to guard against being too short-termist.

Pivot and adapt

When looking at projects that are not performing to your expectations, it’s too easy to react and make changes without properly assessing why performance is down. It may be that the idea is right – but the execution is not. Before pivoting a business, be brutally honest with yourself. Should you be pivoting, or should you be looking to exit?

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Members 43. Middle-Age 3. Food

Food glorious food.

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”
George Bernard Shaw.

As I type, I weigh around 119 KG, which is 262 lbs. I’m 5’10. You may want to bear this in mind before taking any advice on lifestyle or eating.

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Living the Dream – 68. Back on the Road

I’m back on the road, this time with Margaret. In between guests, we are back in the UK for a week.

Spice is off to Camp Bow-wow, and we’re off to good old Blighty. It may be the last time that we pass through an EU passport holder’s queue. Or it may not.

Itinerary

I have a complicated trip, going from one profession to another and traversing the country East to West and back again. Margaret too is doing a fair amount of internal travel catching up with friends, family and bits and pieces. She is helping out with the pen show, and then we will probably meet up again at the airport in London.

This journey was booked a while back, before I switched across to EasyJet, so this will be the last British Airways flight for a while. We can enjoy free food and a glass of wine. We will be getting a tube to our hotel, which is the venue for the pen show on the following day.

Luggage

I will be on the road with my Away Carry-on and some form of laptop bag. For a 7 day trip, that’s quite a stretch. However, all the internal travel means that I’m going to be on and off trains, in and out of hotels and the idea of fighting with multiple suitcases is too much to bear. The weather forecast suggests that I’m going to need warm clothes that are not averse to getting wet, placing more strain on the packing. My week is business – so I’ll be living in a suit and dress shoes for the week.

Impact

I’m fascinated to see how Mags enjoys the trip. This will be the first time that she has been back to the UK since we move here to Cyprus. Will she board the flight back to Cyprus full of joy and anticipation? Or will she be sad to be leaving the UK behind again? I’m sure that we will have much to discuss on the flight home

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Going Solo 17. Review

Review is important. Writing this series of posts has acted as a review process for me. I believe in experimentation, I believe in taking risks, in trying new things. However, there is only so much time in a day, capacity in a brain.

Measures

– Time is precious
– Are you making progress?
– Are you meeting your objectives?

These are questions that you should be asking regularly. I find monthly too constrictive and perform informal reviews each quarter. However, the real review period for me is annual.

What measures you use are up to you. You might want to go all Marie Kondo:

“Does this project bring me joy?”
You might be entirely more prosaic:
“Does this project make me money?”

Which questions you ask will depend on where you are in life. If your side projects live along side a jobby-job that pays your bills, then I imagine the “Joy” question is more important. If you hope to make a side-project your main source of income, then the money question is clearly the one that interests you the most.

My situation

So – where am I?

First – an example of a cut. I explored the possibility of becoming a “You Tuber”. We have a channel called pocketnotebooks, where I hoped to post reviews of notebooks and insights into the business. I conducted a review, and decided that video did not bring me joy and was unlikely to provide revenue. So, I stopped.

What’s left?

Sean – I NEED to publish. A monkey to get off my back.
SL.com – Joy, and I hope, the future.
1857 – Joy
Lime – Income
Loggedoff – This project is under pressure. I have poured in time and money over 3 years. I love the analogue and I love the customers – but this one is certainly on probation.

Discovery

I have surprised myself by typing the above. Much of my own perception of my identity is tied up in Nero’s Notes and I am shocked to read that my subconscious is exhibiting such a ruthless streak.

Loggedoff gets reviewed around January – and I am interested to see where I go with that.

This raises an interesting point on reviews. Write them down. If you are anything like me, you may surprise yourself.

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Members 42. Middle-Age 2. Take a hike

I wrote last week about quitting smoking. Walking was a side-effect of that. A real danger of quitting an addiction is replacing that addiction with another. There will always be people and companies who want to profit from your addiction. Take a look at the vaping industry; most of which is now owned by the same companies that own the cigarette manufacturers. I was keen not to fall into that trap. So – when I craved a cigarette, I got up from my desk and took a stroll.

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Living the Dream – 67. Permanent Holiday

“A permanent holiday, isn’t it? Living in Cyprus?”

That would be nice. Really nice. I don’t know about you, but I enjoy holidays. I eat too well, drink too much, exercise less, but have a terrific time.

Of course, this might explain why I put on 35lbs in weight in the year since moving here. Turns out, a low exercise, high-kebab, high-beer diet is a great way to expand the waistline.

Guests

I have written before about the privilege, and the challenge of having guests. As I write now, our two friends are beside the pool, soaking up the sun.

I must commend these guests, who like those before them, are understanding of the fact that I need to do some work, and are happy pleasing themselves.

The problem is not them, it’s us; or more specifically me. I want to show people #livingthedream. I want to open a bottle of wine and sit on the terrace watching the sun go down. I want to take guests to my favourite restaurant to eat amazing food, served by charming, happy hosts. Right now, I want to be up at the pool, discussing with my guests where we should eat tonight.

Discipline

I’m getting better at it. This morning, I walked the dog early, and was ensconced in my office before anybody else was up. Out of sight, out of mind. I joined them for lunch, and have returned here to my keyboard and my bullet journal. Once hidden down here, I find it easy to get myself into work.

I’m working very hard at moderating my eating and drinking, just having one meal a day and cutting down my alcohol intake, but I’m sure that I am not going to be able to be very strict on myself until we are guest-free.

It’s not a permanent holiday, but I realise how lucky I am – these are hardly tough problems are they?

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Going Solo 16. Sean

In Paperback Writer, I made reference to my Work in Progress (WIP). The working title is Sean 1. The novel exists in several forms. On Scrivener, On Ulysses and in several cardboard folders on paper.

Writing a novel is a challenge on many levels. Finishing the manuscript is tough. Revisiting and editing that manuscript is torture, (I am currently avoiding any and all revisiting) and once one is happy with the product, a whole new avalanche of tasks arise. How to get the novel to readers?

Publishing

Partly as procrastination, and partly through genuine curiosity, I researched the various publishing processes.

1. Traditional.
i. Step 1 is to find an agent. You may or may not succeed and if you do it may take years.
ii. Step 2, the agent finds someone to publish your work. This too may take years.
iii. As author, you will get a small % of the cover price of each book sold. In turn, you will pay a % of that % to the agent.

The above is a gross over-simplification, but the reality is that it’s incredibly difficult to get traditionally published, and then incredibly unlikely that any money will result.

2. Self-publish. The giant in the sphere is Amazon. Sure there are other players – Apple Books for example. However, the majority of e-book sales and even self-published paper books go through Amazon. Amazon takes the majority of the cover price, but unlike a traditional publisher, Amazon does not source the expertise required to publish a novel as a traditional publisher does.

Again, this is an over-simplification, but the result is not dissimilar to traditional publishing – you are unlikely to sell much and if you do, you won’t make much.

Alternative

I’m not an experienced author, but I have done a bit of business – so I looked at these models from that start point. As an author, current publishing models stink.

Hence, stuartlennon.com. I have a membership model. I ask members to pay £12 per year. £1 per month. In effect, buy me a coffee once every 3 months. In return, Members get access to me directly in a bespoke Slack channel, a Members post each week and early access to anything that I publish during their membership. There are costs to hosting a website and managing a membership scheme, but other than those, that £12 per year comes to me. Not to a publisher, not to Amazon and not to an agent.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not picking up hundreds of new members, and anything that I write will live or die by its quality, but as a businessman, maintaining control at least makes me feel that I am in charge of my own destiny.

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Members 41. Middle-Age 1. Got a fag?

Not Middle-Earth, but middle-age. I daresay people warned me of this, but I didn’t listen. Over the next few posts, I will explore getting older and how it surprises, challenges and scares me. Not the sort of thing I would share on the blog – but we’re in a safe space, aren’t we?

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Living the Dream – 66. 12 months

12 months (and two days) ago, Mags and I arrived in Cyprus, to make a new life for ourselves. We were excited and full of optimism.

Tragedy

In October, our hearts were ripped to pieces, when our beloved and much-missed pet Nero was savaged and killed by a village dog, that habitually chained up, had been let loose, and snatched Nero from Margaret’s arms.

Nero chillin'

The fact that Nero’s killer remains in the village haunts me still. However, led by Margaret’s bravery, we persist. The winter was wet (the wettest in over a hundred years) and seemed to go on forever.

Recovery

Gradually, though, we settled into life. We have taken Greek classes, and it’s back to school next month for level 2. Spice, the smartest dog that I have ever met, has joined the household, bringing joy and enthusiasm to every day.

Award-winning pooch
The summer has been hot, but not too hot and we look at each other wondering where it went. It seems only a few weeks ago that were welcoming the sun, and now the nights are drawing in and dawn is getting later and later.
As I type, we are entertaining guests and preparing to head back to the UK. I have some work to do there, and Margaret is seeing friends, family and completing some hassle/admin stuff.

Future

Can we see our future here? Yes, and No. Mags is firm that she wouldn’t want to stay here ‘forever’ but is happy to stay a while. We have 12 months under our belt and it looks like we’ll go for another 12 months. We are making the house our own, making friends and getting on with our businesses.

Brexit looms over us – mostly because of the seemingly endless prevarication of the politicians. It will be much easier when the guesswork stops and everybody just gets on with it.

The Last word

I’m loving the sun, the beer and the golf. Working from my own dedicated space is a true privilege – and as the clock ticks towards midday, I’m delighted to be able to type; I’m off for a swim.

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Going Solo 15. 1857

“Let’s call it 1857.”
So ended a conversation and began a podcast. I can’t reveal the detail of the conversation, as the origin of the title is a closely-guarded secret.

Origin

TJ was a friend of pocketnotebooks.co.uk and when I took it over, I got in touch with him. We agreed that he would shoot some brief videos on a variety of notebook brands. The videos can still be found on the pocketnotebooks You Tube channel. I learned that commissioning video is too expensive a method of marketing notebooks, but I gained a relationship with a kindred spirit.
One thing led to another and TJ and I recorded a trial run of a podcast. We borrowed heavily from the Erasable Podcast, Pen Addict and RSVP, our favourite stationery themed shows. A standard format emerged, and we used the structure to facilitate a weekly conversation.
That’s all it is really. A conversation. TJ and I are a generation apart. I was 21 when TJ came into the world and this becomes prominent when making references, particularly to popular culture.

Future

Might 1857 become a commercial project? It might. The production costs of the show are met by listener’s donations, merchandise purchase and underwritten by Nero’s Notes. There is a marketing benefit to Nero’s, but it’s difficult to quantify.
Producing 1857 is a channel for our creativity and a communication medium with customers. We have a Slack channel for listeners, and talking to them there is one of the few places where I talk directly with customers. It’s also a lot of fun.
To date, TJ & I have been disciplined. We record once a week and release once a week, so far, without exception. We pre-record episodes to cover vacations, maintaining an unbroken sequence of weekly releases that is approaching 90, as I type.

Value

I enjoy the anchor that a regular schedule provides in my week. The discipline of researching, recording and releasing is good practice and I’ll be honest, I really look forward to my weekly conversation with TJ.
We have only actually met once, when Mags and I flew to Belfast for a weekend, where TJ and Meg showed us the town. Naturally, we recorded a show – which you can find here.