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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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3rd March 2015
The 8 Office Principles (Part One)

Today I wanted to share with you four of my eight office principles, or values, that I have on the wall in my office that I try my best to live by day in, day out. None of us are perfect, but hopefully I fulfil these most of the time.

So, here we go:

1: Always Keep to Your Word

Every time I make a commitment to someone in my store, I write myself a memo on my phone. If I say to someone that I will organise a day for them to spend in London, I make sure I make it happen. If someone asks me to check how much holiday they have left and I say we will; I make sure we check it.

I think being in a management capacity makes this a vital value. Your staff may not want to remind you or to make you feel like they're badgering you. But if you say to them you will do something then you should do the right thing and remember to do it!

2. Be Generous With Your Time

It amazes me the amount of horror stories I hear in retail, like a new starter not even getting to be introduced, let alone talk, to their Store Manager on the first day of the job. Or that cashiers in large organisations don't even know who their Store Manager is.

So I try my best to delegate the things that don't involve contact with staff (office paperwork, non-essential meetings) so I can spend time with the people that matter. Because I realise that how much time I spend with people can really have an impact on someone's day and I would much rather that it was a positive impact.

3. Have a Point of Difference

One day someone asked me "what is the James Markey brand?" and I laughed. Probably a bit too much, I laughed pretty hard. But later I realised the point, and the point is that you need to have a point of difference to be known for something, so that people remember you.

My point of difference? I would like to think it is my commitment to staff. Every member of my team who shows an ambition to learn more has a personal training programme that we created. I try to deal with issues as soon as they arise, before they escalate into bigger problems and affects others.

I guess only time will tell on that one!

4. Be Compassionate

I think far too many managers, and people in general, go straight into accusation mode before finding out the facts. "You're late" instead of "I was getting worried, is everything OK this morning". Surely it's far better to give people a chance to explain before correcting the error of their ways?

And in the same way there are rules but there are also times you need to bend the rules. For instance, if your bereavement policy only covers immediate family but a member of staff is emotionally attached to their cat and that cat is their life, then do you know what? That person probably does need a little time off just as much if they really cared for the cat. So it's surely better to bend the rule and show some compassion?

Check back tomorrow for the next four!

Thanks for reading.

James Markey

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