First I check the emails. We are on daily Platts now, and the price seems to move with the stock market at the moment. BigOil is my first reference as to how prices will change today. And Total’s email will come in shortly.
Then it’s the bank balances. The best business guide I ever read was ’The Ghengis Khan guide to Business’. Cash flow is all.
We recently had a road closure because of gas works. I find it astonishing that the 1996 Gas Act only allows you to claim compensation if your turnover is less than £1m per annum.
In our case, the road was closed one way - on our side, of course - for 13 weeks and two days.
When it did re-open, I had to ring the local council to ask them to remove the ’Road Closed’ signs. Numpties!
The closure affected our cash flow significantly. Had it been our only site, we may never have re-opened. I wrote to the MP for the site. She wrote back saying that she was not MP for our headoffice and could not take it any further.
However one MP who did pass my letter on was Barry Sheerman. He is a Huddersfield MP who goes out of his way to help, even though we are not his constituents. Splendid chap! He sent it to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath OBE is the minister of State and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords. He wrote to me telling me that "it was felt necessary to place a ceiling on... those businesses that could claim compensation so that claims were indeed limited to small businesses." Numpty.
Of course he could have said: ’You have a good point, and while we can’t help you, we really ought to revisit this so that future problems can be mitigated’.
Guy Fawkes had the right idea. Too many politicians are too busy fiddling their expenses to consider how their poor legislation affects us in the real world.
Now the road has been re-opened for a couple of weeks, but the cash flow will take a while longer to settle down.
Meanwhile we are reviewing our business plan. We try to look up to three years ahead, but the reality is that one year is a long way. So much changes.
Over the years, accountants and bankers have said we should have five-year plans. Why?
It may be prudent for huge companies but we are a small business (hear that, Lord Numpty?) and we need to be reactive, so we prepare a detailed plan for one year and extrapolate it over three years.
Then PriceViewer comes in, and I check the competitor prices. It is like the calm after the storm.
For months, selling prices were several pence below Platts. Margins have levelled again, and it is like waiting for the siren call to scramble. Make hay while the rain pours. And while prices have improved, I haven’t heard the twit from the AA saying how slow we are to move, or how we are profiteering, as he did when I was 4p out and making next to nothing. Numpty!
Does the AA only employ people who talk ’numpty’? Are they all retired MPs?
Next is a site visit - I am seeing the staff at the site which had the road closed ’on our side’. It was very difficult for them: shorter hours; earnings down. Some of them helped out by taking holidays, some took unpaid leave.
Our industry has very good staff, by and large, but customers look down on them. The days of the customer always being right are long gone, especially if they treat our staff badly.
I check that the health and safety book has been signed by everyone to say they had read it; that there are no outstanding inductions; that weekly forecourt checks have been done and logged. The latter is an insurance against the person who comes onto the forecourt and says they broke their leg on a gaping hole which they didn’t see at the time - and that it happened six months ago. The delay in reporting it was due to their incapacitation in a private nursing home because of the nervous break down brought on not by the broken leg but by the damage to some exclusive boots.
The phone rings. "Are you the owner?" someone asks. "No, I’m not," I say. "Can I speak to the owner then?" they say.
"What about?" I ask. "I can only tell the owner," they say. "Bye Bye," I reply. Numpty! And so my day goes on.
=== PAUL SYKES: ===
Name: Paul Sykes
Job title: Managing director
Company: Shaws Petroleum, Huddersfield - five sites
Career history/biog: Joined family business in 1978
Greatest achievement: Not drinking during January
Most likely to say: "Just a pint please"
Least likely to say: "No, really, just a water thanks"
Tip for business success: ’The Ghengis Khan Guide to Business’
Other interests: Family and friends