Setting up that business

Saturday I walked into town and noticed our local butcher had closed down. Whenever I see a small business like that close I am deeply saddened. Not that the butcher was very good – not like his predecessor who was shut down because he did not have some certificate – so it probably had to happen.

No my sadness is what this means for the person involved. The butcher’s life will be destroyed and probably that of his or her family also.

Let us think how it happens in many cases. The butcher has saved up some money and has decided to set up on his own. He has found a location in a prime spot – lovely little shop, gone to the bank for some money to buy the necessary equipment and stock and set up.

Next thing he knows he gets the local health officer, trading standards person, food hygiene bods, food training for staff crew, meat and livestock commission, health and safety board and the human rights commission at the door. This is only minutes before the rating agency, the inland revenue, the PAYE and the VAT people show up.

Not one of these people is there to help the butcher. They are all there to get their take and to ensure that a pile of paperwork is completed.

Having entertained everyone and being completely baffled about what to do next the butcher faces his first bills which include a welcome to business pack from his bank (lots of leaflets in an expensively printed folder – file for some months then bin), please to deposit a minimum of something and pay an account setup fee of something else, and invoices from lawyers for the premises and business registration with standards agencies, companies house, data protection and 3 chambers of commerce, the accountants for talking to him and a notice to pay his business rates now or else …..

Still full of enthousiasm the butcher pays his bills and sets up shop. Things do not work out, the bank debt increases and he eventually closes shop. No worries for the bank, they have a fixed and floating charge on the shop, the butcher, his wife, his  dog, his house, car, kids and their toys – the butcher had no idea what that charge meant and the bank had made comforting noises as he signed his business and private life away. The butcher will have nothing left when they are finished with him and is likely to still be paying for this adventure 15 years from now.

Whatever is said, the system is not small business friendly. I recently set up a new company and was contacted by a bank offering me their services. Being a bit cautious by nature I left it for a while, but today I decided to open an account with said bank. An interesting start.

Please call this 0845 number – this means that I may reach bankruptcy before I start if I use my mobile. The bank could not come up with a less customer friendly number if it handed out numbers in Uzbekistan.

Having called the number I went through 4 menus to be questioned by someone why I wanted to talk to this particular person and could I not resolve the matter with them at the call centre. I finally qualified to talk to the ‘Banking Relationship Manager’. I now have an appointment on Thursday to set it all up, but he still would not give me a direct number or an email address. Bizarre.

Three questions have not been asked :

  • what is your business going to do
  • do you have any background in this business or
  • can we help you do things right?

No, please give us the documentation so we can be sure we protect our interests and get every warranty, guarantee and personal indemnity including your house plus some fees and then …..

Sorry butcher – I liked your shop, but your meat was c..p!

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