Rockall Now In Eighth Year

Once again this year, Halloween was a scary date as it meant financial year end for Rockall. Today is the start of Rockall's 8th year.

Whereas last year the growth chart was continuing to show a generally-upwardly trend, this year things have take a turn for the worse.



Although I made enough to live off, what made this such a difficult year was not anticipating or planning for such a sharp decline in turnover. The trouble was that I've never traditionally put money aside to pay taxes. What I've always done is pay what I owe out of money earned in the following tax period. I knew it at the time but now know exactly why this is no way to run a business. When your accountants use the word "insolvent" you know you've done something wrong.

It's been a hard and painful year, but I've learnt some very valuable lesson that will help get me through the next couple of years. Hopefully.

What I've Learnt

  1. Plan ahead. The mistake I made was assuming I'd make the same (if not more) in one year as I did in the previous. Of course there's no guarantee of this and unless you plan ahead you can find yourself - like I did - in a very sticky situation. I've since setup a separate business account in to which I transfer VAT and estimated tax on income as it gets paid. I will never, ever touch this money until it's time to pay it to the tax man. No matter what. I always knew this was the way to do things, but it's a bit like PC backups - until you've been burnt you never appreciate how important it is.
  2. Your customers are not your friends. Don't expect the loyalty and devotion you give them to always be returned. I won't go in to any more detail than that.

There are other things I've learnt, as it always the case, be it a good or a bad year, but these are the two big things I'll take forward with me.

Looking Ahead

Although I said customers aren't your friends I'm finding now that there are in fact potential customers amongst my friends. In fact I'm currently working on a sizeable job for a friend. One of my best friends in fact (we were best men at each other's weddings). He happens to work for a large company who need a website building and he knows he can trust me.

I'm finding myself doing more and more self-promotion while talking to people. Whereas I used to change the subject if ever I told people I was a web designer and they said "Oooh, my [insert relation's name] needs a website" I now find myself giving out my email address. As it stands I'll do whatever work comes my way.

Networking has never been my strong point, but I'm working on it and get better and better. In the real world that is. Networking online is also something I should really put more time aside to do.

What's for sure is that I can no longer rely on the fame that once came with being the well-known Domino "guru" behind codestore.net to bring the work in. There's always chance that work might continue to come in via this site for years to come, but unlikely it will be at the volume it once was. I need to adjust my business model to cater for this.

Looking Further Ahead

Something I've always known, but have had affirmed this year, is that I need a product to sell. Sitting and waiting for work to come to me has always worked in the past but I've never felt like a master of my own destiny. What I want is something tangible I can take to market and pro-actively sell.

I've got a couple of ideas. One for a  web service and one of a mobile app. All I need now is to find the time to build them. Easier said than done, but I will do it.

Whatever happens I'm determined to continue making a viable success of Rockall Design ltd! I've got three perfect reasons why I've got no choice:



  1. re: product to sell - may I humbly suggest something that has a subscription model. I've had plenty of chance to see "per seat" sales amount to little unless you have something truly unique and justifiably expensive per seat. A place I have done business with makes the majority of their income on subscription and or customer direct fulfillment (dev work on demand) and turns less that 10% on their seat based product sales, though they do ask maintenance once a year at the customer's option. The nutty success of Zynga on facebook with all those games is a great testament to microeconomic small fee subscribers. They're worth more than EA doing that silly stuff!

    I forgot - happy birthday to your dad. Here's to at least as many ahead as behind on both his and Rockall's count.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Mon 1 Nov 2010 04:26 PM

      Humbly or not I'll accept any suggestion as to how I can plan for a "safer" future.

      I really wish I'd looked further ahead way back and thought to myself "But really, what *am* I going to do when the Domino work *does* dry up!?". I should have built a product back in my single days when I had all the time in the world.

      Show the rest of this thread

    • avatar
    • YiMing
    • Mon 1 Nov 2010 07:45 PM

    product to sell: DO IT! I always want to make one and have make a framework of it, but it has been left aside for a long time.

    My suggestion is: make a product on Domino, cause it's the tool you are familiar with, then, turn to iPhone or Android dev. Google and Apple is now growth faster then others, the market is bigger and more energetic, I always read your blog and know you can turn to other platform smoothly, cause you learn quickly.

    • avatar
    • Hora_ce
    • Wed 3 Nov 2010 12:48 AM

    Last year link isn't working :p (http://unid/BLOG-20091109-0500/)

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Wed 3 Nov 2010 03:42 AM

      Fixed. Thanks.

    • avatar
    • Kevin Bacon
    • Wed 3 Nov 2010 07:03 AM

    yeah, graph looks bad until you realise that each horizontal line represents £100K ! :-)

    Was the graph highest when you were spending the most (on the house?)

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Wed 3 Nov 2010 08:17 AM

      So you're the Kevin Bacon who happens to share an IP address with Alan Sugar?

      Why not just use a real name?

      Show the rest of this thread

  2. cause he's scared too! LOL

  3. Congrats on 8 years Jake, I'm in same boat except with 2 perfect reasons for having no option but to succeed. As far as product goes I think its a great idea, especially if you can find a client to fund at least part of it. Give thought to an overall out of the box platform that is a product but can be easily customized for client needs. I think we often find that while a product or out of the box solution can be a great thing, clients often have specific needs so the product may fit 80% of what they are after. Subscription model is the way to go, get that recurring revenue. Custom SaaS?!?

  4. Mobile apps? It's still a growing market and now Apple is also releasing the app store for its other lines.

    Bruce Elgort recently posted an entry (http://www.bruceelgort.com/blogs/be.nsf/plinks/BELT-8AF2BV) on how we stumbled upon this for a local business and now he's receiving additional requests. You could always offer local businesses the option to develop applications for iPhones, Blackberries and Android devices. One thing for sure is that this market is not as saturated as others.

    • avatar
    • Jakes dad
    • Wed 3 Nov 2010 03:08 PM

    Thank you Jerry

    and THANK YOU Kevin !!!!!!!!!

    I find your comment "each line = £100k" most interesting and as you posted that 7+ hours ago and Jake has yet to deny it, one can only assume it to be true. As for finding another source of ££££££££

    Jake you should heed what your friend are saying above 'go for it' and don't say "but I haven't got the time"

    if you did less 'blogging', twittering' and as Aaron said

    taking photo's of me while I work?

  5. I'm guessing I know who point 2 is aimed at :-S

    Unfortunately I've had my devotion and loyalty burned many a time in business too. But then while some people might respect those traits (a lot, in my case), unfortunately business doesn't (and cannot).

    We're all in the same boat mate - so I have to do what's right for the busines first as a priority, then overlay that with my own values. Not the other way around. That way I don't feel so bad when something pisses me off personally because the business survives regardless.

    Anyway, you discussed backup plans/products etc. some time ago (http://www.codestore.net/store.nsf/unid/BLOG-20060906?OpenDocument) and it's a path I'd strongly recommend. There's never a right or wrong time to start - other than straightaway :)

    Stay in touch.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Thu 4 Nov 2010 02:54 PM

      Partly, yes. More over it's just a general feeling about a truly terrible year in which I lost my two best customers. What happened with yourselves at the end of the year was just the icing on the cake to top it all off. It was almost comical by that point. Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse...

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CodeStore is all about web development. Concentrating on Lotus Domino, ASP.NET, Flex, SharePoint and all things internet.

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