Tuesday, 28 August 2012

How it was…No not another canal history lesson but a note to self!

Funny things memories, some you are desperate to keep some you can’t wait to shed. Some triggered by the most random things.

Bad night’s sleep last night. A combination of day three post migraine and chronic indigestion last night, a side effect of my meds. Luckily both are in frequent. Both at the same time did however trigger some memories of my ‘Tuesday after bank holiday Monday’, memories of my last vocation. The dull post migraine thud and the twisted knot of yesterday’s mustard in oesophagus did a good job of emulating how I would often wake up before my brief commute to the high street office I ran as an estate agent in the midst of a double dip recession.  As this blog is foremost a diary of our new life, glimpses of how it was may make good reading when in the future (when I am back in a house doing a usual routine) of why I am now where I am. So I am sitting at my breakfast bar, a little after 6.00 writing this in my merino wool dressing gown with a cup of lukewarm coffee using the last of the water from the flask (too early to fire up LJ and put the kettle on), the dawn chorus has long since sung and the sun is rising over the nature reserve. It looks like it could be a fine day.

Bad night’s sleep last night. I hate the first day back at work after a holiday. More recently even a bank holiday brings more grief, extra pressure of getting six days business from a five day week in an industry that’s not best suited to August. I get a couple of good hours sleep in my luxury deep filled, pocket sprung bed. My Phillips clock radio/iPod dock is willing me to open my eyes and take another look at the over-sized orange numbers. I know it will only be ten minutes after the last time I looked. It is, I give in.

Although my usual morning routine of shower, shave, breakfast bar and a choice of coffee fine teas from my tassimo coffee machine will only take half an hour, I am going to have to get in early today, no time or enthusiasm for breakfast. It is Tuesday, that’s figures reporting day. It’s the last Tuesday of the month, that increases the work load. The end of the month is only a few days away so it is going to be a chocker block week getting all the paperwork in on time; there are so many things to report up, forms to fill and procedures to check, staff performances to appraise, my monthly appraisal to prepare for, managers’ meetings and syndicate group work to organise, petrol claims to check and sign off (I haven’t done mine for a year), league table information to report, petty cash claims – it’s endless . That’s why as a branch manager I am paid on the office income, at least I was in part. Now I am paid half of my commissions on what business I produce myself, so as well as all the other sh stuff I have got to do if I don’t sell I don’t earn. It’s also coming up to an important month, if all goes well I will get paid on anything I sell now in December and it will be a good Christmas. I should start work by 8.30. I will be in by 7.00

I promised myself that if I get all that needs to be done, done by 8.00 I will shut up shop and pop over to Greg’s for  a coffee and a bacon bap. No car-park at work so a few hundred metre walk past the charity shops and waking coffee houses to the office. The sun is already warm and I wished my office had air con, by mid-afternoon it’s going to be a struggle. Secretly I prefer the high Victorian ceilings and leather topped desks over the more contemporary air conditioned offices. I lock myself in and head straight to my little back office where I keep the productivity boards, retrieve them and arrange them around my office desk ready for our daily morning meeting at 8.30. The answer machine light was flashing, do I a) retrieve the calls that could mean business for me as well as lead to personal commission or b) stick to the plan, do what needs to be done and delegate the responsibility to whoever deserves the leads in the meeting. It’s a), any other day of the week or week of the month would have been b) – I am a salesman.

The first board that needs updating breaks down revenue earning aspects of the business down to all fee earning members of staff. I will have to do a similar thing on the computer in a mo but I need this very visual prop for the morning meeting. I would far prefer that my trainee salesman sees the red ‘0’s by his name and concentrate on talking about the areas of the business that will earn me money not fulfil other parts of my obligated contract that I really don’t care about (mortgage advisor costs me, through internal budgets, £4,000 a month. For that I get two days’ work and loose about £1500 a month off my bottom line. My targets for earning are close to unachievable from this revenue source so it is a low priority. I have learnt what questions will be asked of me and what appropriate answers will be required). Boring job but having done it five days a week for a couple of years I do it without too much thought, as long as all the information has been correctly inputted by the team in the electronic diary it is only a case of information gathering.

The next job, start planning my day. A list soon grows in my day book; I have always used the same system carrying forward anything not finished yesterday and then prioritising my work load around the available time. My day book will have to have as many, if not more, specific achievable business targets than the rest of my team. If I have less than them it will lower expectations, they need to worry that I have been in looking for the opportunities and be hungry to not let the old man take any more of ‘their’ potential earnings. Dog eat dog!

The phone interrupts my thoughts; the answer machine is still on so I ignore it. It could be a client returning a call or, more likely, a tenant trying to contact the lettings department on the wrong number. It’s not even 7.45; if I answered I will have no hope of getting back on track. My email pings. Ignored, probably spam. My mobile buzzes on the desk. Can’t ignore that, it could be Deb, I regularly got offers to bring in my forgotten lunchbox in at around 8.00 as she was leaving (it would usually be sat on the stairs where I picked my keys and briefcase up). No it’s my far too chirpy regional director, ignored at my peril. I have actually only been at work for an hour since his last call on Friday at 6.30. It’s still not 8.00 but the thoughts of Greg’s bacon bap are fading fast. The questioning starts, always frantic at the end of the month. He will need to know the key business potentials before formal figures that are due in by 10.00 so it’s not a call without at least a reason but my managing director will need at least some of the information from hi, subsidiary director from him  and so on and so on. It is a call without purpose or need, if they could only wait until lunchtime the senior team would have all of their reports they needed and 1200 branch managers would be able to get on with their work – or go to Greg’s.  Difficult to pull the wool over his eyes, he is not fantastically organised but has a memory like an elephant. Previous regional was even worse, he would regularly be waiting at the door at 7.30 – time stealer.

Back to reality, it’s just after 7.00; walkie man has just gone past and is headed for the first lock. And it sounds like Deb is about to make an appearance. She doesn’t, the boat is swaying gently in the breeze and the creaks are coming from the hull being warmed by the morning sun. I wake her, ‘come on we are going to do the flight of 11 locks for walkieman’. Rewarded with fresh coffee gifted to him by boaters that he had helped we are in turn sent away with a pack of bacon to make our early morning sarnies when we bring JL through the 11 towards Brum. I wonder when we will next see Alan and Bracken.

Another report is due to be emailed to the MD’s assistant by 9.30. Only a quick one but if it’s late an email will be out naming and shaming the disobedient ones. I have spent too long keeping on her good side to let a minor misdemeanour send me to the corporate naughty step. I complete the spread sheet with a degree of accuracy, attach a crawling ‘how was your bank holiday’ type message and hammer the send key.

I am running around like a blue ar*** fly by now when my trainee fumbles keys at the door. Eager to please but not yet able to spend time wisely, I wish he would arrive at 8.25 day book prepared the night before, make a brew and sit down at my desk ready. I have to now answer his questions, be empathic with his needs and ask more ‘how was your bank holiday’ questions whilst he steals the rest of my time. My number two is always in early, polite professional courteous and knows what needs to be done and cracks on. I have to delegate my first appointment of the day; the trainee has booked me in for a property appraisal right across the diary slot that says no appointments. I can’t be here reporting figures and miles away in some ones home at the same time. I apologise to number two as there won’t be enough time to fully prepare for the appointment and wining the business from the thirteen other competing agents will be difficult. I add to my day book – ‘trainee observation and coaching, I am now on page two, it’s going to be a late one tonight. I wonder if they will ever learn that now is not the time for trainees but paying experienced people a decent living wage will be more profitable.

The mortgage advisor walks in, grunts and goes through to the staff facilities for a shave (bad night with the kids) the meeting will start without financial input. Previous team member was better, in fact so good that as soon as we were actually making some money they were transferred to a bigger branch. They are employed by a different part of the group. Laws unto themselves. 8.30 here we go…

The day starts…  

Note to self, How it was, not how it’s or going to be.
There were of course good times. When things were a little easier me and my oppo used to get the balance right and were able to laugh it off most days, we would always have the time to reciprocate the lettings girl’s practical jokes. Favorite one was always emptying all the paper hole punches into an umbrella, carefully hiding it and feigning sympathy as one of them was on her way out to an appointment in the rain, waiting at the window grinning like idiots, for the resultant paper mache snow storm. 

There are bits that I miss, but not many.

I look at the Drayton Manor traffic jam photo and think – this is why I am here and you are there.

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