Saturday, December 6, 2014

Where to start…

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The fields outside of St. Albans lie quiet and frosted in the early winter light, a few remaining leaves glowing, burnt by the rising sun.  Inside Sopwell House an investor is thumbing my presentation, writing questions in precise script,  finishing a coffee.  I pat one pocket for business cards, the other for props. ‘chins up, smiles on, off we go.

While life is generally full and good, it’s also been incredibly busy.  I was surprised to find that that a full month has shot past since I last wrote here.

There’s no lack of scribbled notes for topics, narrative photographs for stories, that I want to put up.  Although it goes against the grain, I’ll do a bit of backfill before getting back onto a more frequent update.

My month of days have been consumed by fundraising except for a well-earned two-day break alongside a necessary weekend meeting in Florida.   I do what I can, but faithfully walk away from my desk by 7, away from the office on weekends, and regularly take time Plansfor dinners in London and walks along the coasts, I wrote to a friend.  I learned my lessons last year about stress and trying to do too much, myself.

Fundraising is Sales: compile contact lists and referrals, reach out and get a conversation rolling.  I’m developing a merchant’s instinct for my prospects after each call.  When positive, there are progressive discussions about evidence, plans, valuation, exits.  When conversation turns negative, though, there’s a period of silence followed by a polite denial with reasons rather than questions.  I’ve always held that the secret is persistence: the w.wezen presented me with a chocolate tack hammer to honor the process.

DSC00173 (1300x975)“When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stone-cutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before."

-- Jacob Riis, Danish-American social reformer

WP_20141127_001 (1300x695)I believe absolutely in our products and people, in the  business the impact that we can make on clinical care and institutional costs.  Our risks are well managed and our investors can do very well when we reach market.

Nonetheless, the journey can be difficult, and  people sometimes ask if I lose hope along the way. 

No, never.  I have faith that we’ll get there: I care about the outcome.

DSC00130 (1300x975)Caring requires making a conscious effort, the FT's Shrink counsels.  I agree: Keeping sustained energy and steady optimism is key.

My only qualifier, though (lessons learned), is to keep perspective on where that effort is directed.

First for self, then relationship and family, colleagues and friends, finally the business. 

It’s a journey, but I’ll arrive safely.

Monday, December 1, 2014

‘tis the season

Andre XmasI know it’s Christmas when Andre Rieu spreads his arms and opens his Advent Calendar.  All music, lights, and schmaltz, it’s a warm combination of theatrical excess and hometown homily.

Locally, the mansion houses across Dorset are holding their annual Christmas Fairs, with church choirs and community groups laying out festive (usually Victorian-themed) programs and baked goods. 

The weather has been clear and cold, and I’ve started exploring east up the coast past Christchurch.  Mudeford Quay is a favorite stop, crab salads and sailing clubs.

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But the Christmas-touch venue lies a bit beyond.

Highcliffe CastleHighcliffe Castle was built in the early 1800’s by a retired diplomat recreating the Romantic-style chateaus that he admired in France. A mix of Gothic arches and Gallic stones, the house suffered a series of negligent owners before suffering fire, collapse, and abandonment 60 years ago.  It was restored in the 1990s to become a museum and event centre.

Set well back from sea bluffs, the Castle looks more like a university hall set alongside box gardens.  Its well back from the bluffs and seaward views, but the stone and wood interior rooms radiating from the entry hall are warm and filled with afternoon light.  The local artists and clubs that fill Dorset had put out a wonderful display of artworks

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Cakes, teas, and a walk along the red-pebble beach round out a nice day.  The Isle of Wight was clear in the distance over the flat seas, cold wind blowing through the acacias topping the bluffs.

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It’s not quite the palace that Andre lives in overlooking the Maas, but it’s a nice afternoon destination inside and out.  Stately homes throughout the area are holding similar events, check What’s On Dorset and Visit Dorset for a full list.

And, no, I didn’t buy anyone the Figurative Frog, apologies….