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9th March 2015
The Secret to Education is...

Probably my favourite and most inspiring quote to date:

“Formal education will make you a living; self education will make you a fortune” Jim Rohn

Luckily I got through school and college rather well without actually being that interested - I got A's and B's aside from one history exam where I read the question as "talk about three political leaders who have or could've changed the course of history" when actually it said "talk about three British political leaders....". Turns out if Hitler is your first talking point then you're understandably going to get a U as your mark on that exam!

I also have 5 adorable siblings some of whom are preparing for those same exams at the moment. Yet I find it hard to give them the words of encouragement to study hard and take it seriously.


Because the secret to education is being interested.

You're not educated when you learn but you'll become educated when you want to learn - James Markey

Sure, my quote doesn't really make any sense, nor does it involve riches but hopefully you get the point.

Now that I'm a bit older I have a real thirst for learning. I think some people get the bug when they're at school and some don't and that's fine.

So, if like me you've caught the bug outside of school education, or you're at school but want to learn something else, I want to share with you THREE TOOLS to help satisfy that craving.

Future Learn .com (FREE!)

Top university courses (from Aberdeen to Warwick) at no cost to anyone with a computer and an internet connection, it's fantastic. The courses are split into weeks to make them digestible with everyone starting at the same time so it's like being part of the class and a lot of the Professors use actual university students to help contribute to the discussion and answer questions. The sooner Oxford and Cambridge get involved the better, they'd be mad not to!

Open University .ac.uk (PAID)

Okay, Future Learn is actually ran by Open University. You got me. But Open University is, in its own right, a fantastic place to learn from. It's cheaper than traditional University and you can obviously do it alongside work or even college as I did at the time.

The books are easy to follow, you get a tutor for your group and the fees also include day / night schools in a lot of the courses. And finally Open University is starting to get taken more seriously by recruiters.

Khan Academy .org (FREE)

This is the ultimate tool for the curious and also the school goer. If your child struggles with the want to learn at school, create them an account on here and let them choose what they're interested in.

Started by City genius Salmon Khan this is a really interactive site that is geared up with points and prizes to encourage you to keep going. It also builds on what you know and what you learn by having its own prospectus to follow.

Though this may have been what got me that U in my history exam because of how interesting the history videos were about WW2!

Thanks for reading!

For more of my thoughts see "Stand Out" which I wrote on train journeys to and from London. Find out more here.

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5th March 2015
You're More Likely to Win £1m.....

Today is the day I have received my course books to put me on my way to being a qualified accountant (not that I want to leave being a Store Manager to be an accountant but it’ll be nice to be qualified in something). As such, I thought it might make a nice change to write about a different topic after seeing this quote:

"You are more likely to win £1m than nothing in a year with premium bonds"

And if you put in the maximum amount you are 2000x more likely to win £1m than nothing in a year according to The Telegraph.

Isn't it nice to see a positive statistic for once?

If you’re lucky enough to have a few pounds around and haven’t already been tricked into spending it and borrowing more because interest rates are so incredibly low then what should you do with the money? I want to show you why Premium Bonds might not be a bad idea.

Let’s consider the economic environment for a minute:

1 Interest rates are incredibly low at 0.5%. The Bank of England has said further reductions could happen but this is unlikely. I personally think they are likely to go up in the near future (most people suggest Spring 2016) but as people have pointed out (including acquaintances who know a shed load more than I do), this is incredibly unlikely to happen before the General Election at any rate (May 2015) - even if the BoE is “politically independent”. When this happens your mortgage payments are going to gradually shoot up and anything you borrow becomes more costly to pay back.

2 House prices have been stealthily growing since 2009. London is, as always, in its own little bubble and, again as always, incredibly expensive for £ / sq ft. After a big 7.8% average increase last year most people expect house prices to rise 3-4% in the next few years if you were to buy now.

3 The Euro zone is a little unstable. Greece is fighting austerity with people questioning whether they might go bankrupt this month. European stocks are looking OK but the fluctuating oil price is a daily story.

Here’s my experience.

Long story short: I had three jobs and saved some money, I inherited some money and bought (with a loan) a property (a little basement flat) in 2009, sold in 2014. My investment accrued around 8% each year based on the selling price. I've rented since, so I have a little bit of spare cash that I worry will lose its value too quickly in a low interest account.

About half of my money is currently in a Premium Bonds account and in twelve months I’ve earned 1.25%. The rest of it is in an ISA account earning 1.45%

The Benefits:

It’s not taxed

I'm not for tax dodging but when you've already earned the money and you're trying to save for the future, it's nice not getting taxed twice. If you pay the standard 20% then you’ll (effectively) earn an extra £20 for every £100 interest you get by not having to pay tax on it. If you’re doing pretty well and pay more tax then there’s even more reason to store your money in here.

It’s safe
Unless the country goes bust (and I’m no betting man but I think we look OK) my money isn’t going anywhere and its earning me more money so it’s a win-win and they don’t come along to often when money’s involved.

It’s Liquid
I can get my money out from the Premium Bonds and into my bank account in around a week. So when interest rates come back up I can move it into a high interest account if it makes me more money.

The Facts

You can store up to £40,000 in an NS&I premium bond account. All "prize winnings" are tax free. No penalties for withdrawals. 100% Security over your money. (Via NSandI)

Remember, I’m no expert (and when it comes to YOUR MONEY, I don’t think anyone really is!).
So make these decisions for yourself and make your own destiny.

Thanks for reading!

For more of my thoughts see "Stand Out" which I wrote on train journeys to and from London during my time working there. Find out more here.

More articles and blogs at: The James Markey Homepage.

After Thought

As soon as interests rates rise above probably 2%, it's probably time to rethink about your Premium Bonds. Don't be tricked by the idea of "prizes" when you can guarantee a higher return!

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4th March 2015
Four More Office Principles

I would like to share with you four more of my office principles,or beliefs if you will, that I use as a guiding tool in my day-to-day management of a retail store.

1: Say Please and Thank You

"Forget your manners and they'll forget you."

Because courtesy goes a long way.

There are times in retail that staff will (happily or not) work through their tea breaks to serve customers. There are also times in retail that you need to get someone in on short notice. So when things get hectic and you're running around trying to get everything sorted it's easy to forget the little things. But when these times happen never, ever, forget to say "please" and "thank you": let people know that you appreciate their help, their support, their flexibility because you'd be nowhere without it.

2: Give People Something to Aim For

"The person who sets another being's reputation is a powerful person"
- Author Anonymous.

This is what someone once told me and it's true. In any responsible position you have the power to give people something to aim for. So, when someone joins your team and you say "Welcome. I can see you're going to work hard and get on here. I need people like you. Welcome aboard." then you've just set their reputation as a hard worker and they've got something to aim for.

In the same way that when you do performance reviews not everyone wants to progress, and that's fine, but everyone wants something that they can aim to achieve. Even if all you're saying is "thank you for everything you're doing. If you can keep your sales at this level for the next six months then you really are doing something special."

3. Let Your Team Succeed

"Their win is your win. Remember that."

I'm dreadfully competitive, I always want to be the first to come up with a solution to a problem.

But my job is to lead my team.
Even though my title is to manage but forget about that.

It may sound obvious in hindsight but I find that the store's I've managed where I take the time to train all my staff, challenge and inspire them are the stores which have succeeded and completely blown everyone's expectations of what we could achieve. At the time when you want an immediate solution though, it doesn't seem so obvious.

4. Positive Benchmarking

"Without the spur of competition we'd loaf out our life."
- Arnold Glasow (Please correct me if I'm wrong!)

It might sound a bit controversial to say you should always compare yourself to others but I do think there is positive benchmarking and negative benchmarking.

The type of thing I'm talking about is always being open minded and have an eagerness to find out if there's a better way of doing something. I spend a good proportion of my time with my team going out and building relationships with staff and managers from other retailers near my shop. The reason is (other than it's quite nice and quite fun and creates new friends) is that I'm always interested in seeing if other people can show me how they do something so I can potentially learn, take something away from it and better myself and my store as a result.

All of these are included in my book "Stand Out" which I wrote on train journeys to and from London during my time working there. Find out more here.

Thanks for reading.

More articles and blogs at: The James Markey Homepage.

Please let me know if you have anything you would add about your own values or beliefs below!

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