1 Cash flow
For a young business our cash flow is pretty healthy, but delays by clients in paying their bills can still cause anxious moments. At the end of the month we were waiting for a large cheque to arrive so that we could pay the salaries. It arrived by courier just too late to pay into the bank, but it still warranted the opening of a couple of bottles of bubbly.
2 Dodgy expenses
In the early days, before we had set up the bank account and persuaded suppliers to give us credit terms, various people bought computers on their personal credit cards and then claimed it back on expenses. After I had spent several hours trying to reconcile invoices (architects don't seem to understand the importance of keeping these boring bits of paper), expenses claims and physical equipment, I realised that we hadn't lost over £3000 worth of computers – it was just that two architects had claimed for the same purchases! The problems don't stop when the claims have been agreed and the expenses reimbursed: one architect was amazed to discover that our cheques don't survive a visit to the washing machine.
But it's not only architects who have problems with expenses. We acquired a company debit card so that individuals would no longer need to use their own credit cards for business purchases. Unfortunately, a subsequent expense claim from an admin person included an item bought on the company card!
3 Black and white colours
Do some companies have colour fax machines? We wanted to buy some coloured pencils from one of our stationery suppliers, so they faxed us a page showing the available colours. It looked really good on our black-and-white fax! And since the names of the colours were too small to read, we couldn't even guess what colour each patch was supposed to represent.
We needed a photocopier, and we thought we would pay a little bit more and get one that could also be used as a scanner and printer. (We have one good, but very slow, colour printer at present, which can take two hours or more to print a multi-page brochure.) So we chose what we thought was a suitable machine from a well-known supplier.
The engineer who installed it told us that the model we had ordered couldn't be used for scanning: we would need the next model up. But it did photocopy and print very nicely – until the next day when it stopped working and displayed an error code that the engineer had never encountered before. Of course, it started working again just before the engineer came, and stopped again soon after he left. Eventually he tracked the fault to the finishing unit, which would have to be replaced.
Meanwhile, both the sales person and her boss had gone on holiday. After some frank discussions with the sales director, we decided to stick with the non-scanning model. Usefully, the engineer showed us how to coax the copier back to life after a seizure while we were waiting for the faulty part to be replaced.
By far and away the most important emails we get are ones that start "Today's cake is lemon polenta with white wine lemon syrup poured on top . . ." and invite us to use "voting buttons" to show whether we want the cake in the morning or the afternoon. I was quite impressed by the voting buttons, which I had never seen before, but they were as nothing compared with the cakes (chocolate runs the lemon polenta a close second), which are made by Megan and her partner Paul. The company is buying them a 12-inch springform cake tin, so the cakes will be large enough for our ever-expanding office. Doughnuts are so last month.
6 On the move again
We now have the whole of our current space to ourselves, and we have almost filled it. Planning for our next move (to another nearby building, probably next month) is well advanced. The plans include some novel, architect-designed desks and chairs, which I hope to report on at a future date.