It's almost exactly a year since I started my "Notworking Blog". Its first incarnation was in the Guardian Work section which followed a career trajectory similar to my own, folding quietly in June. After a bit of self-coaching, re-reading Steve Jobs's 2005 Commencement Address and immersing myself in the Dalai Lama's Google + stream, I picked myself up and a found a new home here at the Huff.
Many of you have joined me in my journey into the worlds of social media and networking as I have attempted to launch my second career as an executive coach. (I've been touched, by the way, by the many tweets and blog comments that have offered me no end of practical advice).
Today my journey took me to Bovingdon to meet my accountant, Jeremy of Chaffinch Chartered Accountants. It's also my year end and time to put the finishing flourishes to the Annual Report and Accounts of Geoffrey Wadhurst Coaching (UK) Limited.
Sat in Jeremy's pleasant High Street office, we browsed through the draft accounts. Forgive me for not disclosing the precise number against "turnover" but let's say that it, er, reflects the start-up nature of the business.
"You can, of course, carry the losses forward to next year," said Jeremy reassuringly. "This is all quite simple really." He put on his reading glasses. "You do seem to spend a lot on subscriptions." That would be the myriad of networking breakfast groups that have lured me into joining. Those monthly direct debits do add up.
I felt the need to ask a question so I quizzed him on the depreciation number. Jeremy leaned over and pressed a button on his phone. "Amy - send Julian in would you." He smiled. "Julian's closer to the detail."
A bespectacled boy of about sixteen entered the office carrying a ring binder and sat down.
"This is Julian," said Jeremy. "He's my son. I have him prepare accounts for me in his summer holidays."
"Hello," said Julian quietly, avoiding eye contact.
Jeremy repeated my purposeless depreciation question. Julian flicked through the ring-binder and quickly muttered something incomprehensible but utterly plausible.
"Thanks, Julian," said Jeremy. "That's everything." Julian got up and left. "I don't let him near anything important," said his father, beaming. "Naturally, I supervise everything but I really didn't need to with yours. He's about to start the sixth form at Haberdashers'."
I nodded. "Terrific school." I don't think I entirely succeeded in stopping myself from wincing. The latest GCSE results have led to a good deal of parental wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Wadhurst household. "I don't think Ollie's really cut out for an academic career," I said. I chose not to mention Ollie's growing hostility to everything including parental discipline and the concept of paid work.
"So," said Jeremy, once the draft accounts had been finalized. "How's business doing?"
I briefly looked down at the file in front of me. There was little point in following my usual pattern of saying "Great!" and claiming to be "really busy". "It's slower than I'd like," I said casually.
"Yes," said Jeremy. "I hear that a lot from clients. That's why I insist on them paying my fees up front via monthly direct debit." He laughed. "Most of them are completely skint."
"And you?" I asked.
"Well, it's all been rather good these last couple of years," he said. "These networking groups seem to bring in dozens of start-ups."
Feeling something between despair and venality, I cleared my throat and said, "And what about you and your growth plans - have you thought about coaching? For yourself?"
Jeremy smiled. "Yes, we talked about that when we had our one-to-one." (We're both members of the St. Albans chapter of the NBI, the US referrals-based networking group).
"Things have moved on," I said. (They haven't.)
"I do need to learn more about social media," said Jeremy. "That's why I've taken on Steve as a digital coach. You know - the chap that had a roofing business."
I nodded. "Yes, I know Steve."
"There is something you can help me with, though."
"Yes," said Jeremy. "It's Julian. I'm a bit worried that he doesn't get out much. Doesn't seem to have much of a social life." He paused. "Any chance he could come round to yours some time and play with Ollie?"
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