Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun…

Sorry I have been a bit quiet! It’s probably the longest period between blogs since I started in 2009!

There’s a couple of reasons – life at the Squash Club has been more than a little hectic – last week we completed the refurbishment of our gym – with a £55,000 investment. It looks amazing. This week the Club plays host to the European Club Championships – and I get to play Tournament Director. With 20 teams from across Europe the logistics have been challenging.

Oh, and work life has been manic too. Good manic.

The blog might have a bot of a one track flavour this week around the squash – so apologies if you don’t play (you should). But not todays blog.

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On Friday I was in St Helier, Jersey – for the day. I had to go to a client meeting. I fully accept that 99% of readers will regard this as somewhat glamourous. A 5.30am start is far from glamorous for me. But I get where you are coming from. A couple of weeks ago I blogged about being ripped off on these flights.

If the red-eye flight out wasn’t bad enough we got delayed coming back. It was something to do with one of the members of the cabin having man-flu. So they had to train someone else up. We eventually took off – with little in the way of apology.

But the best part was arriving back at Birmingham. The plane had obviously been worked hard so was put in a sleeper bay – miles from the airport. So we had to get a coach. Except it wasn’t there. It took 10 minutes to arrive. I just wonder how this works – surely our arrival wasn’t a total surprise to the airport? And we were late so the bus thing might have been early? It never ceases to amaze me how this whole flying function works – or rather doesn’t.

It really must be the only client facing industry in the world where the customer really is the last in line. And the only industry where delays and problems are so frequent that apology is a pointless emotion.

Rant over. On to happier stuff next time – promise!

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What do you get the man who has everything?

It’s my Birthday today apparently. As my late father would say, I’m as old as my tongue and bit older than my teeth.

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Each year I get asked the (nice) question about what I want for my Birthday. This is a tough one – I actually don’t want for anything. Apparently if I want something I buy it. This isn’t actually true because I want a Porsche Cayman GTS.

When I was a boy I wanted a Raleigh Chopper – which was the equivalent of a Porsche to a 7 year old. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me – but I never got one. They were too expensive and so I had a second hand model. I also have a suspicion – never proven – that my parents considered the drop handlebars of the Chopper to be ‘dangerous’. And I was precious. Clearly.

Yesterday – as if God himself was listening – Raleigh made an unbelievable announcement. They were releasing 400 special edition bikes – in Emerson Fitipadi John Player Special colours. Replica Raleigh Choppers!

I’m now the proud owner of an order form for one. It arrives in late September. It’s fair to say that I’m excited – if not a little disappointed with the lack of it today.

The reaction so far seems to rather muted. “Where are you going to put it”, “Are you actually going to ride it”, “Why”.

I really can’t understand why there isn’t universal envy.

The answer to the question at the start is obvious to me – as it has been for the last 45 years – a Raleigh Chopper…

The Fly BE rip off

I have to travel on business to Jersey at the end of the month with a colleague. We have clients in St Helier and we need to see them about a number of their property assets. Last time they came to us – it is our turn to go to them.

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After having booked two flights for a day trip (It is a long day!) we, unfortunately heard form the client that he had been called away unexpectedly. We needed to re-arrange for two days later.

I have no issue with paying the difference in the flight costs – in this case £9.00 for each of us. I don’t even mind if Fly BE needed some recompense for some sort of administration fee. But the latter was £140. This is nothing short of outrageous. The whole change was done by me on-line. There was no necessity to speak to anyone. I did the work – a few clicks and a credit card number.

I do realise that there will be plenty of small-print which if I could be bothered to read I would be proven to be required to part with cash for a minor change. But the costs are disproportionate. The airline have lost nothing – we are still flying with them – just 48 hours later. It’s the same time flights from the same airport.

The flights were not cheap – £275 each – now that climbs to nearly £360! And we don’t have guaranteed seats or any baggage allowance…

It does leave a sour taste when you know you have been ripped off. Well and truly.

Office or no office?

I blogged back in April about ‘Agile Working’ – a term borrowed from my daughter. Yesterday I touched upon the market place and questioned the future of offices.

Cloud-Computing

In the last few months I have started to see a number of different spaces which people work from and, perhaps, a maturing of the technology we use – which will, in my view, change the way we work forever.

It wasn’t that long ago I used email for the first time – 1994. I remember having a blackberry for the first time – I think that was 2006? WiFi is now everywhere and my internet connection is 152Mb at home.

It seems that the server is now dead. We will soon be working from servers in ‘the cloud’. This means access anywhere with a connection. Digital dictation and photography are ‘normal’. FaceTime on apple and Skype are as good a videoconference facility as most people need – often for free (even around the world). Connectivity is getting easier. Most of this stuff can be done in a coffee shop.

So why do you need an office.

In London, where prices for space reflect the scarcity there are organisations who now operate a ‘not your desk’ policy. It is genuine hot-desking. You turn up and grab the nearest desk. Your ‘phone’ is now part of your computer – it switches between a landline and VOIP. Some firms have moved away from desk phones – relying on mobiles. I do to an extent – not many people call me in the office.

So the only real reason for an office is social interaction and organisational discipline?

The state of the market

More so than any other time in the last few years I am being asked about the state of the property market. My particular interest is in the commercial property sector – or in land deals for all types of property – including residential.

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It’s fair to say that there is a North – South divide. The London and South-East market is clearly red-hot. Too hot some might say and a cooling is inevitable. However, talk of a ‘crash’ seems unlikely to me. London is a world market – investors from outside the UK make a up a significant part of the demand.

In middle England we see things slightly differently. There is usually a ripple effect when a market improves (or falls for that matter). It takes a little time for the ripple to reach us. I would suggest that it is doing now. We are seeing quite strong bids on residential land – and good stock is back at pre-crash prices. I have seen bids of £1m per acre.

There also seems a change in retail fortunes too. In a couple of cases recently there have been a number of bidders for well located city centre shops. I haven’t seen the latest data on vacancies but I suspect it will show a fall. There’s a bit more life out there in Nottingham.

Sadly the office market seems still slow. We have too much stock of the wrong type. We have little Grade A stock – which sometimes holds us back. I do think though that the way in which we work is changing – rapidly. Offices may have had their day? More on that tomorrow!

Summary – it’s better than it was. The Election next year though might just change that?

Squash – the time is now?

You’ll probably know that I am a keen Squash Player, sometime Coach and (part-time) Chairman of Nottingham Squash Rackets Club. In the last two years I have learned a lot about Squash – that is ‘behind the scenes’ Squash. I have met and engaged with England Squash. I have run a professional team – raising sponsorship and selling out home matches at The Park.

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I have always been told that we are a dying sport. A minority sport that is ‘exclusive’ – played mostly by the middle classes. Of course, perception is so often different to reality. But changing perception is very difficult – akin to turning an oil tanker around!

The Squash fraternity were hugely disappointed not to have been included in the 2020 Games to be held in Tokyo.

But over the last few weeks the sport has had a chance to show itself off at The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The Squash is still on – now they’re playing doubles. But the English men cleaned up. Gold to Nick Matthew, Silver to James Willstrop and Peter Barker took Bronze. These guys play in the PSL where ‘my’ pro-team compete. Laura Massaro took Silver in the Ladies.

The final between Matthew and Willstrop was, in my view, one of the best games I have seen in recent times – it went to five games – Matthew edged it. But these are two players who are at the very peak of fitness. The spectacle was amazing.

Squash has worked hard on making it easier to watch and faster paced.

You have to wonder quite why it didn’t make the Olympics. But in the meantime – we are seeing some more interest in the game – which can only be a good thing!

And if you fancy a go – come down to NSRC. You’ll be very welcome – tell them I sent you!

Social media and oil painting….

I was asked last month to write an article for the RICS Magazine ‘Modus’. This is the professional monthly update on all that’s happening in the world of property. The ‘naming bad boys bit’ is the best.

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My point in the article was that social media is important in the world we live in. Twitter, blogs, Instagram and the like have a huge part to play in today’s business world. But some people disagree.

I view social media as an essential part of the marketing we do as a firm and I do personally. Google are clever enough to work out that it is content and refreshed content that attract people. If you ‘vanity’ google yourself it will give a clue as to how good your own profile is. If you have an unusual name it’s a bit easier – especially if you have a Facebook or LinkedIn account. But more common names are more difficult. My google rank for my name has been number one for the last four years or so.

I have struggled to find time sometimes for this blog – but it still gets lots of comment and gives me opportunities for further exposure and profile – both with local radio and TV and the national press.

The point about marketing is that you never really know what works and what doesn’t. If you did know you could save a lot of effort on the things that didn’t work. But generally we don’t – so we have to keep pushing and keep our profile ‘out there’.

The only issue with my article – the RICS though I looked better in oils and not in photo style – I’m not so sure!

The Boris Bus

Now that I am back on the Apple system I can fully use the CityMapper app in London. It is brilliant and allows me to weigh up how to get about. This week I needed to get from Mayfair (the blue one on Monopoly) to St Pancras. It seemed that the easiest way was via a number 10 Bus.

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Yes a B U S.

I am not used to these forms of transport. I am the person who attracts the nutter (not very PC I know but true nonetheless). Also I fear missing my stop and ending up in Scotland. But I risked life and limb and stepped on a Boris Bus.

The Boris Bus desires a special mention. It is the first bus to be re-designed in 500 years. It is green (actually they’re red but you get the idea). They have three entrances. They have two staircases. They know where they are so can warn you. It even told me if I got off at The British Library that I need to be careful of the traffic…No shit Sherlock.

But I have a few wee beefs. These buses cost three hundred and fifty five thousand pounds each. Each. £355,000.00. The price of a large house where I live, a cupboard in Mayfair.

They have no opening windows – so on Wednesday they resembled a Swedish Sauna without the Swedes. I lost three pounds…

Talking of pounds – you can’t actually pay on them – you need an Oyster card. The clippie doesn’t take wonga! That’s not terribly ‘inclusive’?

But I mentioned the doors and stairs – did anyone actually look at the gross to net floorspace? Clearly no surveyor did. Should have asked a valuer.

Normal Service Has Been Resumed

I am wring a formal apology to Apple this morning. I was became lost in the wilderness and moved to the dark-side for a short period. I dared to imagine that the Galaxy S5 was going to be a suitable replacement for the humble iPhone. I even wrote about it here.

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It was a mistake.

A big one.

So after just over two months I have returned to the promised land and have a new Apple iPhone 5S. The Galaxy is back in it’s box where I think it will remain.

The good, the bad and the ugly?

Well in fairness the Galaxy has a great screen and a brilliant camera – each better than Apple. The battery life is really good too. The bad – the operating system (OS). It is awful – clunky and slow. It all seems rather disconnected. The ugly – the lack of synchronisation between Apps. Apple were always criticised for their stranglehold on the OS – and that they wouldn’t let you hack things. I now see why. I’m back in a world where everything just works.

The screen size is quite small – and hopefully the 6 will address this. But overall the fact that everything just neatly fits together is just brilliant.

Welcome back me.

Michael Gove – whipping boy?

Sacked. No other word for it. He has gone. Michael Gove has been ‘promoted’ to Chief Whip(ping boy).

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He was my least favourite of the Government Ministers. I found a brilliant video – which I posted a short time ago here. Gove fell into that wonderful camp where , despite not being a teacher, he showed the teachers how to do things. But not in a global holistic way -in a micro-managed style. He won’t be missed by many teachers.

I saw a fantastic letter from a school yesterday – it was sent home with the kids who had just sat their KS2 tests (I’m assuming that is Key Stage 2). I can do no better than copy and paste!

“Please find enclosed your end of KS2 test rests. We are very proud of you as you demonstrated huge amounts of commitment and tried your very best during this tricky week.

However, we are concerned that these tests do not always assess all of what it is that make each of you special and unique.The people who create these testa and mark them do not know each you in the way that your teachers do, the way I hope to and the way in which your families do. They do now know that many of you speak two languages. They do not know that you can play a musical instrument or paint a picture or dance. They do not know that your friends count on you to be there for them or that your laughter can brighten the dreariest day. They do not know that you write poetry or songs, play or participate in sports, wonder about the future or sometimes you take care of your little d brother or sister after school. They do not know that you have travelled to a really neat place or that you know how to tell a great story or that you really love spending time with family members or friends. They do not know that you can be trustworthy, kind or thoughtful and that you try, every day, to be your very best. The scores you will get will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything.

So enjoy your results and be very proud of these but remember there are many ways of being smart.”