Small Business IT on a Small Business Budget? No It’s Not Nonsense!

There are many small businesses that are desperate for good quality and reliable IT solutions to support their businesses. The problem is they do not believe they can afford to invest in infrastructure to provide a solid foundation for their company. As a result, many are using out-dated technology that hinders their productivity and growth, which for any business, small or large is a dangerous avenue to walk down.Small Business IT on a Small Business budget is not fiction, it is a reality and implementing bespoke services and solutions is extremely straight forward. The financial implications are low because small companies can take a stepping stone approach to their IT and each solution actively improves your efficiency, security and net-worth.From simple wireless or easy-to-use wired networking to provide added value assets to your office, using a corporate email account with a fresh website to promote your online credibility, centralised storage with backups for productivity and support from an external IT Department (because small businesses are just as important as corporate entities) are all available and most importantly, they will not break the bank.Of course, not everything needs to be implemented in one go, but it is also a good idea to be able to have “Small Business IT in a box” that gives you what you need at a reasonable cost. The majority of individuals and companies will spend money on services if they are really needed and if the cost to obtain is not only affordable but worth it.We have exceptionally good services that can be supplied organically to your growing company or an “all-in-one” solution through our Small Business Package. As part of our business services, we provide you with a consultation on a scalable approach to your small business IT structure and even how we can re-implement your existing architecture to improve your business.Check out our Small Business Services on our website and get in touch with us before you start to walk down that avenue.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Every Great Bachelor Pad Should Have a Great Garden

Unless you’re under 35 or over 65 you might not have noticed that there’s been an explosion in city living. London apartment developments have been popping up all over the capital fed by a growing need for neat single living units and a desire to be where the action is, and at the most within a night bus home.

In the UK some 50% of new homes are apartments, a trend that’s found worldwide, and this has led to some unusual trends in garden design and gardening. In particular it has led to gardens on a tiny scale with a new trend in micro gardening including vertical green walls and grow your own. Community gardening in these new neighbourhoods is a big trend that we’re hearing about. But one trend that has gone under the radar is the rise of slick independent male apartment living – old style bachelor pads with a new twist. They want a garden to match their stylish new homes.

The rise of these new bachelor pad gardens is led by a few different influences. First of all there is a new sophistication for staying home and if you are entertaining your date then what better than taking them out into your stylish outdoor space, sitting around a fireplace at night time whatever the season. Second climate change in city centres has led to more exotic gardening, if you have a warm micro climate in your London garden then you can grow exotic plants like luxurious tree ferns and sexy jungle plants like canna lilies.

The other big influence is technology, serious boys toys for the garden. New LED lighting technology gives a great atmosphere year round and even when it snows what better view than a snow lit landscape. But of course night time garden lighting allows busy city boys to relax in the garden when they get home, have a beer from their slick stainless steel cooling drawer and chill out. Add in a great sound system linked into the internal computerised music feed and an outdoor TV and you’ve got an extension to your small apartment for year round entertainment.

A challenge for every small city garden is seclusion, especially if you’re a bachelor entertaining his latest girl or boyfriend. It doesn’t have to be the usual timber fence and the contemporary horizontal trellis that has sprung up in suburban gardens isn’t enough when your home displays your tastes to people you want to impress.

And plants are just as important to create that secluded atmosphere. In small gardens every plant counts and it’s important to choose wisely. For the gardener he might sacrifice seating space for planting but for many it’s about low maintenance garden design that means occasional gardening whilst enjoying great simple planting schemes with a peak of interest for the summertime. For the minimalist bachelor pad it might mean a single great Japanese Maple but the clear white branches of multi-stem birches and black bamboo are a popular choice. For the single male interested in emanating Gordon Ramsey or Jamie Oliver there’s also an interest in planting more unusual exotic edibles like Szechuan pepper or Cocktail Kiwis that thrive in the warmth of the city.

Whatever their taste for planting and gardening there seems to be a cool modern garden for every bachelor, whether it’s the city banker with his rooftop space for entertaining or the newly independent divorcee retiring into the city rather than out to the country and wanting a city garden to enjoy for gardening and relaxing in. So next time your London garden is looking a bit tired check out the garden of the single male living next door and get a few tips for a fab garden design.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged | Comments Off

Force Of Law And The Law Of Force

I believe in international investing. My colleagues and I dive deep into the funds we consider for our clients, carefully sifting and balancing to create what we consider to be just the right the mix of regions, countries, industries and company sizes.

We have done this for many years. The world has changed considerably in that period, but one constant in our approach has been to avoid any direct investments in Russia and mainland China.

Investment practices our size, especially those with a global focus, generally do not do this. Since our business began in the 1990s, China has grown from a minor economic power to the world’s second-ranked economy. Russia, meanwhile, recovered from its late-1990s economic crisis to become the world’s number one oil producer, as well as a major market for Western (primarily European) and Chinese goods, as well as high-end American real estate.

So why do we avoid investing in Chinese and Russian companies?

In a nutshell, we avoid them because I believe there is a key distinction between investing and gambling, and that committing capital to these countries is more like the latter than the former. As my firm’s founder and president, I passed these views on to my co-workers. They may agree with me or they may not, but on an issue this fundamental, it doesn’t matter. I have the ultimate responsibility, and I make the call.

I define investing as the commitment of resources in the rational expectation of receiving a return. Gambling, or speculation, is based on hope rather than rationality. We can rationally expect, from historical results, that the S&P 500 will be higher 20 years in the future than it is today. It is not at all rational to assume that it will be higher tomorrow than it is today. Buying an S&P 500 index and planning to hold it for 20 years is an investment. Buying that same index and planning to sell it tomorrow at a profit is just a gamble.

Business operates on rational expectations. If we make a decent product for which there is demand, and if we price it right, we rationally expect people to buy from us. If we meet the requirements for government permits, we expect to get the permits; we should not need to plan on paying bribes in order to get them. And if we sign a contract, we expect the other party to honor the contract or the courts to enforce it, if necessary.

In dealing with other nations, we similarly expect them to make and honor commitments, to use established mechanisms to resolve disputes – which are inevitable – and not to resort to violence for political, commercial or strategic advantage. We also expect governments to be accountable to their own people, which is what enables them to make valid long-term commitments on behalf of their nations.

In other words, we should expect to do business under the force of law, rather than the law of force.

We cannot realistically expect that to be the case in Russia or China today. Those conditions have never existed there in my lifetime, and long before. For a decade or so beginning with the fall of the Iron Curtain, we hoped Russia would establish a durable democracy, along with the rule of law, with an independent judiciary to enforce it. Instead, Russia experienced a chaotic period of privatization-driven kleptocracy under Boris Yeltsin, followed by a steadily more autocratic, nationalistic and repressive regime under Vladimir Putin and his bench player, Dmitry Medvedev.

In China the power of the Communist Party remains the paramount consideration, even as communist ideology has withered to irrelevance. The result is a self-perpetuating elite that seeks to maintain its privilege through censorship, repression and nationalistic campaigns against neighboring nations, as well as through the more appropriate means of raising living standards for its people.

In Russia and China, contract and property rights mean whatever the local authorities want them to mean at any given moment. A nation that forcibly seizes territory from another sovereign will have no qualms about seizing foreigners’ local investments.

Investing in Russia means gambling that Putin will not do something unpredictable to seize or impair your investment. Investing in China means gambling that some future crisis over domestic politics, foreign territory or Taiwan will not create an economic or human disaster.

There is no way to invest sensibly today without investing in those countries at all. Too many multinationals have substantial business interests in Russia and China to avoid them as a practical matter. Most of those companies have global portfolios, however; a single adverse development in Moscow or Beijing might be costly, but usually it would not jeopardize the entire enterprise.

Companies organized and managed in Russia and China, however, are entirely subject to the whims and vagaries of local authorities. We can assume that those authorities act responsibly and rationally, but as events playing out in Ukraine illustrate, those assumptions are based more on hope than on fact. In other words, acting on such assumptions is a gamble. Keep this in mind later this year when big Chinese companies like Alibaba and Weibo make their initial public offerings in the United States.

When I direct a client’s investments to a certain place, I am basically entrusting that investment not just to the fund managers who pick the company shares we hold, or to the company managers themselves. I am entrusting someone else’s money to the political, legal and social systems in which those companies operate. I have to at least expect fair and predictable treatment.

I never had that sort of trust in Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin or any Chinese Communist leader. I often wonder how Western CEOs could persuade themselves that these are safe enough places to make big investments. I do understand the jackpots these places offer. I just don’t like to gamble.

Posted in Law and Issues | Tagged | Comments Off