First of all let me wish you all a Happy New Year. I was asked if I would like to do an end of year review type thing. I thought about it and concluded it would be too bloody depressing. Having said that, I have to acknowledge there were some highlights which should be remembered. The Olympics and Paralympics were great and I did really enjoy them. I also enjoyed and thought it amazing when that guy jumped out of his balloon capsule right on the edge of space. One other thing that got me all excited was solving a problem with my model railway layout. The Queen's Jubilee; straight over the top of my head, although I have to confess to watching some of the messing about on the river (on that day when it poured with rain). I can’t think of anything else worth talking about from last year (other than the various highlights/things that happened in my personal and social life, but that’s for me to know about and for you to guess at).
So instead of looking backwards, let’s look forward to what’s coming next. Well, I told you about this government's plan to start charging to use some or all roads on a two tier system, i.e., the more you use the roads the more you pay (don’t forget I also warned you that you wouldn’t be paying less if you use them less). I expect this nice little earner will be pushed forward with a bit more energy this year.
I also expect to hear more from our little friend Michael Gove on reforming education, particularly replacing GCSEs with an English (wait for it) baccalaureate. Phew, I ‘m sure that’s how it’s spelt (I wonder how many points it’s worth for getting it right). Although not planned for introduction until 2017, I’m sure there will be much to talk about. Now I’ve always been a practical sort of person and I can tell you that long before Mr Gove got interested in politics, my school days were well behind me and I had a good understanding of what makes the world go round. I have seen far too many politicians get involved and mess around with education. And it seems to me that none of them are qualified to do so. Can you imagine what would happen to one of the large FTSE100 companies if every so often the MD calls the other directors into a meeting and announces that as from now the guy in charge of production will be responsible for sales, the sales director will now be the finance director, so on and so on. What would happen if they did this every year? I don’t think they would last long and yet we have unqualified MPs put in charge of the various government departments following elections and/or reshuffles. I know they have civil servants as advisors and all that but it is no way to run a country. It would do Mr Gove (and this country) a lot of good if he were to pay a visit to Poland and find out what the secret is that instils the work ethic that we see wherever Polish workers are. Many of the Poles (and Lithuanians) that I have spoken to are students taking a year out and taking the opportunity to earn some money. In some cases, it is to help pay for their student accommodation the following year. It really gets up my arse when I hear people bleating on about them coming over here and taking all our jobs.
There is a lot to be learned just by watching these guys in the car wash business. I wouldn’t want to do it (but I would if I had to). My observations are; first of all, someone has stumped up the money to set up the business in the first place. Having managed to persuade the supermarkets that their presence is good for business, they are in just about every supermarket car park round my part of the world, and it doesn’t matter come rain or shine, they are there getting cold and wet (getting each other cold and wet sometimes). Sometimes when it’s been really shitty weather and they are out there with cold wet feet, I have to wonder are they under some form of duress. (I’ll let someone else worry about that one). There appears to be no shortage of volunteers (and no shortage of customers), even in a recession.
Fortunately, I do see signs that some of our young people are learning from them as other car wash locations spring up round the town. Unfortunately many of the best locations (the supermarkets) have been taken and we are actively encouraged to leave our cars (and keys) with them while we do the shopping. It will be interesting to see the outcome when someone makes a clam on their car insurance for damage whilst admitting they left the car unlocked with total strangers. I know these guys (and gals) are being very careful but sooner or later it’s going to happen. As I said, I have noticed some of our own youngsters (in some cases not so young) setting themselves up in the car wash business and I wish them all power to their elbows. However, I feel I must just offer some advice. If you are going to do it, please try to do it better. Try not to set up on some piece of waste ground. Ok, so that’s not so bad, as I said, most of the best locations have been taken. But it strikes me as hopeless when I’m driving along a main road and see some scruffy old piece of wood, propped up against a lamp post with a message on it saying there is a car wash 500 yards up the next turning on the right. This is usually some narrow over crowded street that is out of my way so I, and I suspect most other drivers just drive on by. And it really doesn’t help if the side street in question has warning signs telling drivers that it is a no right turn. And please do something about the sign(s). Please, please do not use a 4 inch paint brush. Do not use mixed upper and lower case letters. If this sort of thing is not one of your strong points ask around for someone to do it for you. Do not write in chalk so that at the first sign of rain it’s just a piece of wet wood. If any of you guys involved in this activity are reading this, I’m sure you will be feeling a bit pissed off with me right now. Didn’t mean to upset you, but for crying out loud. I really want you to make a success of it so just sit down again and think it through again. (It’s called constructive criticism). As I remember, there was an old saying in sales that went something like; before you can sell anything, you have to sell yourself. Try and see you and your business as others will see you and your business. Not for a minute am I suggesting that all our problems can be solved by washing cars, or that you’ll get rich doing so. But I think these little nuggets of wisdom need thinking about by anyone, particularly youngsters trying to make a go of it, whether it is car wash, computer programming, cake and/or dress making or whatever.
And remember; don’t use a 4 inch brush (unless you are setting up as a painter and decorator). I really went off at a tangent then so I think I had better stop now and leave the rest for later.