Lee Rotbart

Archive for the ‘Living with the parents’ Category

The entrepreneur in me

In Living with the parents on December 24, 2010 at 11:23 am

Throughout the process of starting a business you hear a lot about entrepreneurs, people who have done this, that and the other – all hugely successfully of course. Names like Richard Branson and Alan Sugar are bandied around, and while I’m quite happy to hear Little Leaf in the same sentence as Virgin (less so with Viglen), I am well aware that I have to temper my ego with the fact that I have over-enthusiastic friends and family.

Does buying a little guest house in St Ives make Danny and I entrepreneurs? While I’d like to think so, I believe a more detailed exploration of the word (ref. Wikipedia) is required.

“An entrepreneur is a person who has possession of a new enterprise, venture or idea and is accountable for the inherent risks and the outcome”

Am very much feeling the accountability and risks at the moment. Eating 3 mince pies in a row while panicking about the mortgage repayments helped a little, but an hour later I just felt fat, poor, and still a little panicky (although this could have been the excess sugar).

“Entrepreneur in English is a term applied to a person who is willing to launch a new venture or enterprise and accept full responsibility for the outcome”

The words ‘willing’ and ‘full responsibility’ in the same sentence are interesting. Risk averse by nature, the last 6 months have been relatively out of character for me. I dislike responsibility and am rarely willing to do things that mean I have to take some. Having had some kind of salaried job for the last 14 years, responsibility for my working life has not been high on the agenda. A die-hard party girl throughout my 20s, my only concern was that I had enough money to pay for pretty cocktails at the best bars, and buy enough pairs of shoes and dresses to look good while standing there.

With all that in mind this idea of being willing to take full responsibility is pretty alien to me; and maybe a more appropriate turn of phrase would be to say that I have been forced to take full responsibility, with acceptance still being quite a way off.

“The entrepreneur leads the firm or organisation and also demonstrates leadership qualities by selecting managerial staff”

Now this I did get right: I selected Danny. While at the time I wasn’t quite sure what I selected him for, it’s come to be one of the best decisions I ever made.

“Entrepreneurs also often possess innate traits such as extroversion…”


“An entrepreneur characteristically innovates, introduces new technologies, increases efficiency, productivity, or generates new products or services”

Hmmm… I’m not sure my work colleagues would agree with that one. Efficient I might be, but I’m not sure I increase efficiency across the board. My constant chatter at work and tendency to panic when under pressure might suggest that I need to hand over the operations side of the business to Danny.

Now, according to Wikipedia (and I must admit to there being gaps in my research into this subject), there are 3 types of entrepreneurs: (i) Social (ii) Serial (iii) Lifestyle. Even before reading the traits of all three I guessed that I would fall into the third one… and this is backed up by the first sentence in the explanation:

“A lifestyle entrepreneur places passion before profit when launching a business…”


“…in order to combine personal interests and talent with the ability to earn a living”

I hope so.

“A lifestyle entrepreneur intentially chooses a business model intended to develop and grow their business in order to make a long-term, sustainable and viable living working in a field where they have a particular interest, passion, talent, knowledge or high degree of expertise”

Interesting. While I am developing an interest, some knowledge, and a bit of expertise in the hospitality sector, I must confess to having zero to start with and I’m a long way from ‘high degree of’.

Passion – not a problem, I have that in spades; it’s a little scatter-gun as I can get equally passionate about a cheesecake as I can about Little Leaf, but it’s definitely there.


“Common goals held by the lifestyle entrepreneur include earning a living doing something that they love, earning a living in a way that facilitates self-employment, achieving a good work/life balance”

And that’s what it’s all about really. I’m not a traditional entrepreneur yet I’m lucky enough to have found something that inspires me. That, despite all the risks and terrifying leaps of faith, Danny and I are absolutely dedicated to being self-employed and doing something that we (more than) suspect we will love.

I never imagined, for one teeny tiny second, that I would end 2010 where I have. I am no Richard Branson – with dreams of running empires since the age of 15. Nor am I an Alan Sugar – selling things out of the back of a van after leaving school 3 years early.

I stayed in education as long as I could (and even went back for more). I’ve relied on employers to look after me, providing me with holiday pay / sick pay and a regular income. I’ve spent more money on clothes in the last 10 years than some people spend in a lifetime, and not that long ago I believed that all you needed to do to have a good life was to ensconce yourself in a trendy bar with endless access to champagne. How things change, and how wonderful to have proof that you just NEVER KNOW what’s around the corner.

For the next two days all thoughts of entrepreneurship will be put aside while the merry season commences. After all good hospitality starts with constant thought of others, and I would be no kind of lifestyle entrepreneur if I couldn’t start by applying those principles on home turf.

Have a good Christmas all.

Between dramas

In Living with the parents on December 21, 2010 at 5:22 pm

On Sunday night, around 7pm, I found myself with nothing to do and it was highly unnerving. With so much going on it didn’t seem right to just be relaxing on my bed waiting for the final of The Apprentice to start. I moaned to Danny that we should be doing something and he gave me the obligatory eyeball roll that I have become quite good at ignoring. Persisting in my mission to find something to do I opened up my notebook to start writing a list only to find that the list was already written and there really was nothing more to add to it.

My world started tumbling down around my ears. This is crazy, I can’t go on like this. Just sitting here, feeling impotent, knowing that we have so much to organise, so much to do. There MUST be something.

“Of course there is Ms Rotbart”, says my conscience “for a start you could go downstairs and start backing up the hard drive on your computer which you’ve been meaning to do for about a month; oh, and there’s always the laundry”.

Isn’t it odd that somehow those kind of jobs don’t seem very relevant? The hygiene factor – the stuff that, no matter what is going on in your life, still needs to get done; those are the jobs you never want to do. So much so that in my world of lists, buying and website development, these jobs don’t even exist as things that need to be done. This is the world of the non-jobs. Jobs that only achieve something for a short time until they need to be done again, or jobs that don’t contribute to the bigger scheme of things but need to be done anyway.

Don’t think that I haven’t realised that it’s precisely those jobs which are going to be my bread and butter come April next year, yet in my head that is somehow different as we’ll be getting paid to do those things. I have no doubt that our own laundry, and our own chores will get relegated to the bottom of the pile over and over again as more ‘worthwhile’ stuff takes precedence.

Jobs that don’t directly relate to the business don’t seem to count. They seem irrelevant and pointless and I *stamps foot*, *screws up face* don’t want to do them. For that reason they never appear on a list and I certainly don’t want to be reminded of them by my ever-present conscience.

I’ve become almost blind to the relatively large computer on the floor of my parents dining room, waiting there patiently for me to back it up. The words ‘it’ll get done at the weekend’ seem to trip off my tongue when I’m asked about any one of these non-jobs and, bar the odd mumble from my conscience, I seem to be quite capable of letting Danny get on with the laundry without the remotest twinge of guilt.

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year… all these days mean that I cannot do exactly what I want to do when I want to do it. People are on holiday, companies close down, everyone seems to have the plague and I’m just sitting around waiting for chaos to ensue in January. Unfortunately all that’s on my plate at the moment are these non-jobs which means, at some point, I’ll just have to get on with them.

I can almost see my mother calculating the list of jobs she’s going to remind me I need to do while reading this blog. There’s no getting away from it now; I’ve detailed my procrastination in black and white and it’s open season.

Zero spatial awareness

In Living with the parents on November 29, 2010 at 5:26 pm

It recently occurred to me (no less than 3 weeks ago) that I am dating a man with zero spatial and time awareness. I probably should have recognised the signs when we first met, noticed the odd throwaway comment about how it would only take 10 minutes to get there, that he only wants to watch the football for a quick second, that he just wants to play games on my iPhone for 5 minutes, that the shop was just round the corner, and he was just going to pop to the pub for a quick pint.

The reality of the situation is that it took 45 minutes to get there, that he watched the football for an hour, that he played games on my iPhone for 20 minutes, it’s a 2 mile walk to the shop, and I found him a bit tipsy at the front door 4 pints later.

It’s lovable I suppose, and when we discuss things now I subconsciously double, triple and then add 20 minutes to any amount of time he informs me things are likely to take. That’s fine, not a problem, what makes me laugh however is the fact that despite a ton of evidence to the contrary he still continues to quote these daft figures at me and then argue when I suggest they might be anything other than accurate.

We’ve been dating 2 years in January and so you might well ask the question as to why I’m only really noticing this problem now. I guess the answer to that is that now we are in business together so it’s no longer just about getting slightly irritated by the fact that I’ve ended up doing a 2 mile hike in 4 inch heels, or nagging him to turn the football off once it’s been on for 2 hours, it has a more noticeable impact.

While I am not one to gather evidence in order to rattle off a plethora of ‘I told you sos’, I am feeling a little obligated to quote a few examples in order to illustrate the extent of the problem.

Just 3 weeks ago I found myself staring at a storage space the size of a portaloo while Danny tried to convince me that we should at least ‘try’ to get all our stuff in there before upgrading to a larger space. I kid you not, this storage room was barely big enough to house my wardrobe let alone a settee, a disassembled double bed, a chest of drawers, 6 chairs, a table, and all our boxes of stuff. I stared at him in disbelief as he started indicating the height of the room and discussing how we would just pile things up to fit it all in. It’s neither here nor there that Danny and I (at our tallest) stand no more than 5’5″ but it certainly doesn’t help, and that room was certainly not big enough.

At my insistence that I wasn’t even prepared to try and squeeze everything in, we upgraded to a larger room and I can’t help but add that, even then, it was only just the right size. As if to demonstrate that point, we briefly debated trying to retrieve something yesterday but decided against it just in case, when we opened the door, everything fell out.

Not one to admit a weakness in understanding spacial capacities, Danny then proceeded to tell me I was being ridiculous by asking my folks to come round and collect a bit of stuff before the final day of the move – just to ensure that we wouldn’t have to do two trips the following evening. I would add that less than 24 hours later he commented that it was a good job my parents had already taken some boxes because the car was fit to burst on that last evening and we wouldn’t have been able to fit another box in.

Gloat?? Me?? Never!

Then there’s the timing… Everything in ‘Danny’s World’ takes 5 minutes. It must be a wonderful thing – really – to do everything you need to do in just 5 minutes. Organisation – not needed thank you very much, mainly because that task will take 5 minutes. Make a list? No way, it’ll take longer to write the list than it will to re-do the bathroom which – yes, you guessed it – will only take 5 minutes. This characteristic, in turn, led to a number of interesting (and repetitive) calls to Streetcar to extend the amount of time we hired the van for, as Danny’s inital estimate that it would take 3 hours (and that was him being cautious) to move him out of his flat and into storage was nowhere near the 5 hours we ended up needing.

While this can be an increasingly irritating trait I wonder whether Danny has it easy? After all, a task may take 3 days when he’s estimated 2 hours but the absolute belief that it will take a significantly shorter amount of time must save that ‘dread’ feeling that I often get when I start contemplating a mammoth task. Erring on the side of caution I probably allow a lot of time to do even the smallest of things, worrying that if I don’t it will surely over run and impact on something else, and I can spend an awful lot of time ‘warning’ Danny that something will take a lot longer than he thinks it will.

Yes, I was indeed right about the storage space and about the capacity of my mother’s car; but I must confess that moving out of my flat did not take 6 hours, it was probably more like 2, and we didn’t really need to leave an entire week free to pack up my wardrobe, a night would have done it.

So, going forward, while I will still take his estimates and double them I should probably also halve my own. We then might – just might – manage this guest house project in a realistic and timely manner.

Living with the parentals

In Living with the parents on November 24, 2010 at 3:46 pm

When I tell people, as I often do these days, that I’m living with my parents they cock their head to one side, roll their eyeballs and breath in through their teeth. Probably quite a similar reaction to the one my parents get when they tell their friends that I’ve moved back home. However, and I’m aware that it’s only been 6 days, I would like to counteract this seemingly universal sympathy vote and tell people that it really isn’t that bad. In fact, more than that, it’s pretty darn good, and I’m having a great time. So much so that I think my parents are quite concerned we’ll never leave.

Where my old flat in the winter was absolutely freezing my parents house is beautifully warm.

Where that flat was up 3 flights of stairs I only have to ascend a steep but short driveway to reach the front door of my folks house.

For the last 2 years my wi-fi has been slightly less than reliable, my parents – on the other hand – seem to have a constant stream of internet that works across my iPhone, old 2004 E-Mac (no – I still haven’t got rid of it) and my work laptop.

It’s quiet. While I’m not sure if it’s possible to ‘love’ the suburbs, after 14 years of living in the middle of London the peace, greenery and general air of calm is a welcome change.

I don’t walk out of my door into nasty markets which sell everything from batteries that have fallen off the backs of vans through to thinly knitted jumpers for a fiver. Instead, a short walk from the house, there is a rather pleasant coffee place selling TeaPigs tea, a (designer) second hand store and a Budgens supermarket. Being on a budget I can’t afford to shop at any of them, but they’re infinitely easier on the eye than the Rising “only 1 in 20 people get knifed here” Sun, and the Camden “you don’t have to be an alcoholic to drink here, but it helps” Head pubs on the corner of my old road.

It’s really friendly at home. More than once over the last 5 days an argument between Danny and I has been diffused by the fact that we’ve stopped bickering to chat to the other members of the household. By the time the chat is over we’ve forgotten what we were getting so heated about (normally it’s the usual ‘one sausage or two’ style debate) and the discussion continues at more manageable levels.

After 6 years of living on my own I quite like the joie de vivre that is inherent in a house full of people who all live interesting lives and have an opinion on everything (did I mention there are also my parent’s 20-something lodgers – a gorgeous couple who are any housemates’ dream). There’s always a chat to be had, a comment to be made, and story to be told; and even the fact that Danny and I are sleeping in single beds cannot dampen the enjoyment of not having the responsibility of a flat and the chores that go along with that.

Oh and did I mention it was warm?

This is what I’ve spent the last few months waiting for: The days when there was nothing else to think about bar where we were going to, rather than where we were moving from. Our two flats have been like millstones around our necks – elements that had to be ‘dealt with’ in order to get to the point where we could focus wholly on the establishment and running of our guest house. It’s surprising how much time we have now we are not running around like loonies juggling estate agents, solicitors, mortgage brokers, bankers and vendors.

My parents house is like the calm between the storms. The place of respite. The oasis in the desert. It’s what my parents have always offered me and what I’ve always taken for granted. This time however, knowing what’s around the corner, I’m going to do my damndest to appreciate it while I have the chance, and promise to be a better houseguest this (and most probably the last) time round.

I quit… (nearly)

In Living with the parents on November 22, 2010 at 10:51 am

This is the week I will quit my job. On Thursday I will hand in my diplomatically written letter of resignation and the 3-month countdown will begin. Fortunately for me my resignation happens to coincide with one of the most difficult periods at work I’ve had to deal with, and this makes things easier. It makes it less likely that I’m going to be ambushed by the False Loyalty fairy who often comes to visit every time I have had to hand in my notice. It’s a little voice that whispers in my ear ‘How are your clients going to cope without you?’, ‘How will your colleagues feel?’, ‘You are a mean, horrible person for putting your own needs before theirs’, and ‘You should work at this company forever’.

Obviously that little fairy is not loyalty at all, it’s really my HUGE EGO which tells me that my work place, which survived quite happily without me for 11 years, will somehow not be able to go on once I hand in my notice. At the moment, however, my desire to quit is so overwhelming that the other little voice (I suspect this one is called SELF-PITY) is drowning out the ego.

Before I go on I would like to just clarify that the little voices I talk about are purely metaphorical and please don’t let it put you off coming to stay; I can assure you that among my many unnerving characteristics multiple personalities is not (yet) one of them.

So… as I was saying, self pity is totally consuming me. So much so that I want to just email the entire company and tell them I quit because I can’t be treated like this any longer: CUE: Carmina Burana style music, soft focus lighting and the back of my hand held dramatically to my forehead.

I have spent the weekend dreaming about how I’m going to hand in my notice, how guilty I’m going to be able to make them feel, and how they will forever change their ways once they realise they’ve lost me. I suspect, reading this back, that my ego is not as drowned out as I thought it was, and as you can see, left to my own devices I can actually forget that I am resigning anyway: That since June of this year I have been planning a whole new life in St Ives and how work do or don’t treat me is neither here nor there, more importantly it’s actually nothing to do with the origianl reason for leaving.

It’s going to take all my energy to behave myself at work today and to not think ‘What the hell, I’m leaving anyway’; mainly because come the end of the day I will feel icky if I’ve done that. Personally I blame my Jewish upbringing for the disproportional amount of guilt I have a tendency to feel which, incidentally, also hampers my ability to pull a sickie.

So today I won’t do anything I will regret, instead I will just wait patiently till Thursday, whereupon I will resign in an appropriate fashion – no tantrums, no self-pity, and as little ego as I can manage.