With Lockdown lifting and the stock markets – perhaps irrationally – well on the way to recovery, it seems appropriate to write one last Coronavirus blog post.
We are of course privileged to have a business that can run under Lockdown and for that I am extremely grateful. I know all the money we spent on amazing IT over recent years really helped, but fundamentally ‘giving advice’ is something that can be done remotely if necessary. There are so many businesses out there where this simply isn’t the case which must be heart-breaking for everyone concerned.
I have found the last couple of weeks to be very hard. Investment markets have rallied and the fear of seeing markets falling has passed, but we’ve been left with a massive amount of administration to do. Its taking up more and more hours and I’m not spending as much time as I would like with my son. I can see this happening, but don’t seem able to change my working pattern to free up time to spend with him. I will try harder again next week.
After my somewhat downbeat last post, I’m pleased to say I feel more positive this week.
Despite what I said earlier in the my posts, we are entitled to the small business grant (link) notwithstanding sub-letting a room via Regus. It took some effort to get hold of the council and after making no progress, I got my MP involved who helped expedite matters.
I have really felt the pressure of being under lockdown over the last few days.
The weekend was lovely, helped by the continued blue sky and sunshine. I was hoping this week would allow me to make some good progress on that long list of things to do, but it just hasn’t happened despite trying really hard.
We are now half way through April, and so far 2020 has flown by.
I’ve a real mixed bag of emotions to talk about today. Over the Easter weekend I spoke with several friends whose businesses are on their knees. There is no sign of the promised support from the Government, because it’s just taking so long to actually get the forms, or speak to someone or whatever is it that is actually needed to get the grant, or a loan. These are people who know what it is like to work hard and it’s heart breaking for them to sit on their sofa at home, wanting to get stuck in and rescue their business but not being allowed to. This stress then leads directly to a sudden loss of income whilst at the same time having to pay their business and personal bills is beyond words. All I can do is listen and try to keep their spirits up.
Several really nice things happened yesterday. Two clients got in touch out of the blue to check how WE were faring. Not the business, not their investments, but how my team & I were coping. What an absolutely lovely thing to do. We were chuffed to bits.
A fairly short one today.
We managed to complete the task of writing to every one of our fee paying clients with an update yesterday, which means it took 6 working days. The letter was on top of various other communications we’ve issued since the virus shook the financial markets in late February. We’re very pleased with that. We’ve also had some really nice feedback from clients too.
The lovely warm weather in Kent made Sunday in particular feel like it was a mid-August, and that we’d probably be whizzing off on holiday sometime soon. In fact we were supposed to have flown to The Highlands on Sunday for a week away from the usual day to day routine. Oh well, this time next year maybe?!
I managed to tune out of work over the weekend, which is a skill I have learned over the years otherwise as a business owner, you run the risk of being too immersed in the situation, losing sight of what’s really urgent and also seeing productivity drop as you become too mentally exhausted to function properly
As well as reacting to the economic turmoil, we have to carry on running Gibson Lamb too. It’s our business year end on 31st March so I’ve been getting the accounts in order, and one of our crucial (and obligatory) insurances – Professional Indemnity – comes up for renewal on 31st March as well.
My legs ache, which means the new exercise regime associated with ‘stay at home living’ is reaching areas not usually reached!
Yesterday was the busiest day since this crisis started, with every email answered seemingly generating two new emails. The phone was ringing a lot too, and occasionally I struggled with ‘bandwidth’ on the office phone via my PC, but I reverted to using my traditional home phone instead.
I’ve just been out to post a tax year end letter and go for a jog in the sunshine, with the former being urgent work as far as I’m concerned and the latter my ‘out the house exercise’. Did I make a strategic error there, combining the two?
Boris has announced the inevitable shutdown, so I’ve collected a few bits from the office to make my home set up slightly better but I’m lucky to have a pretty good configuration already. I will miss my standing desk though, so need to work on a way to replicate it in a home environment.
I’m not one for blogging every day or every week, but the world has been turned upside down in 2020 and I thought it might be cathartic to write about the challenges we face.
Our clients are worried about their health, their families and their investments. We are worried about these things too.
I am also worried about my business, the impact this could have on my family, my employees and the viability of the businesses that we rely on to support us.
We are all becoming aware of climate change and we want to ensure our business is as responsible as practical.
We have no control over the energy tariff selected by our landlord, and therefore unlike our previous office, we cannot select energy generated from a sustainable source such as www.goodenergy.co.uk.
Last Thursday I glanced at the clock by my desk, flipped my Surface – a fancy pc tablet combo – closed and put it in the squishy travel bag before heading to the station to catch my usual train home. As I commute home early, I usually have lots of space on the train. Last Thursday was no different and I planned to finish off whatever it was I was doing to make good use of the travelling time.
As you know, we are big fans of recycling here at Gibson Lamb. We like to do our bit to help the environment.
We have been recycling for many years and are always surprised when Paper Round provide our yearly statistics every January.
The last 12 months have been exceptional and we thought we would share the results with you in the below infographic!
It had to happen one day. I was driving home from a meeting when my phone beeped to tell me the team in the office wanted to talk. My Windows Mobile phone screens calls for me when I’m driving so I’m not tempted to talk on Bluetooth unnecessarily, get distracted and thus caught speeding or worse.
A few miles up the road I pulled over and called them back.
One of the team had pressed the wrong button at the wrong time and our database was no longer working quite as intended.
‘No trouble’ I said, that’s what we have backups for.
Log a call with support and it’ll be easy to fix.
It wasn’t as easy to recover the data as we expected
I wont bore you with the details but it wasn’t quite as easy to fix as I’d hoped and with hindsight the software house have said their actions and process to recover the data were far from perfect. However, despite it taking longer than we expected, we were able to recover the data and carry on business as usual.
Nevertheless without our backups we would have faced some serious challenges. We have over 1,000,000 client related documents on our server – we’ve been using document management services since 1998 so we’ve built up a lot of information over that time.
How do we backup our data?
They say data isn’t backed up properly unless it’s in three separate places. Therefore we backup overnight using two separate systems (plus the original copy in the office making three copies in total). The first is www.depositit.com which is a cloud based backup. It’s easy to use and not particularly expensive. However it’s limited by the bandwidth of our internet connection so in practice we cannot backup everything to depositit each night.
We therefore also run an old fashioned but robust, reliable backup to tape. The tape is collected by the specialist data security firm Iron Mountain every morning which means a complete copy of our server, emails, databases etc are stored away from our premises by around 9:30am.
It turned out last week we had to fall back on both backups. Initially we recovered a small file from the cloud which worked fine. We had it ready for use within minutes. The software people however decided we needed a lot more files and this was impractical over broadband so we ‘called’ the previous night’s tape back from Iron Mountain which arrived within 2 hours.
The software people then set about rebuilding the system and soon enough everything was running perfectly again.
Test your Disaster Recovery programme
There is nothing quite like testing your Disaster Recovery programme for real. It’s a bit of a nerve shredder to be honest and we could have done without the hassle but all is well that ends well as they say.
Our backups cost us money but, as we have just proved, are an invaluable asset that you hope you never need.
Our advice therefore is not only to back up your data but also to test whether the backups are actually working. We may have been posting a somewhat different blog if we were not so well prepared.
Yesterday was a routine, run of the mill day. A client meeting first thing and then a few tasks to complete in the afternoon. We didn’t think much when a client emailed in to ask for a valuation, via their Gmail account.