2013 is turning into quite an extraordinary year for Puddlecote Inc which has led to my slipping back to working days of 12 hours plus, something I thought I'd left behind in the late 90s/very early noughties.
It's mostly as a result of winning a far greater amount of work than I'd planned when placing bids for long contracts. The general success rate I budget for is around 20%, so when awards come in at around twice that, there is a hell of a lot to do. Any businessman will tell you that rejecting work will inevitably harm your quality score with the client, making future awards far less likely, so is to be a last resort. Yet already, for cold practical reasons we've had no alternative but (with much tearing of hair, gnashing of teeth, and almost tears from yours truly) to hand back two smallish offers and are desperately struggling now to cover the rest with a competent service until the cavalry arrives.
The juggling this entails with begging overtime from current employees; desperately pursuing swift recruitment; and - most annoyingly - striving to comply with state red tape which seems designed specifically to hinder growth or put us out of business altogether* is a proper headache. But this also comes at a time just after we have opened a new south coast branch which requires special nursing (hence my journey there recently), and also while we are preparing documents and liaising with a client to defend our two stand out biggest contracts when they come up for re-tender, after five years in our care, in March.
Sounds good, doesn't it? Well, yeah, mostly. But financial concerns then come into play. Finance for new vehicles is front-loaded, and everyday costs for running trucks, paying staff etc have to be incurred well before the 30 or 60 day credit receipts start rolling in. The only way round this is by talking to banks about creative finance arrangements and banks - as you will have read widely in recent years - are extremely careful these days when it comes to lending cash. On any given day in the past month, we've been a couple of days away from running out of liquidity. Big suppliers of parts, tail-lift engineers, and maintenance contractors are being wonderful in accepting subsistence payments, while a fuel card bill which is constantly close to its credit limit has to be serviced almost hourly with part payments to keep the engines running. All while the VAT and HMRC bills sit there with their rigid deadlines saying "fuck you, pay me" like some character out of Goodfellas. No point in trying to negotiate with them, you just end up with an inspection.
So I'm producing cash flow forecasts up to three times a day, and compiling monthly debtor predictions right up to February next year to make the case for extending credit facilities beyond where our bank feels in its comfort zone. It has required forming a new debenture on directors' assets, the creation of an invoice financing draw-down scheme, and an overdraft extension of 60% for the coming 30 days, all of which needs to be approved by the credit management personnel at the bank ... none of whom we will ever meet, and who don't seem to understand the concept of urgency because boy are they leaving their decisions late!
If that great big jigsaw puzzle fits together, we're gonna have a relaxing and happy Christmas and around 10 more people are in employment; if one piece doesn't fit, the whole thing goes bang and Lord knows where that takes us and 107 brilliant current staff.
So ... if you don't see anything on these pages for a day; two days; even more, that is most probably the reason. Actually, scratch that, it is the reason. And if I owe you money, please don't ask till November, at least (cos I can't even bloody pay myself at the moment!).
* Up to 13 weeks (a quarter of a year!) for VOSA to change a single ASC11 character of our O licence, for example. Plus a pointless state regulation which cost us £20,000 to overcome in the past year, £20k we could really do with right now.