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Tuesday 21st May 2024

Diary of an SME Owner: remember, Reader, it’s all luck 

SME owner Michael Taggart remembers his spiritual link to a famous comedian, accidentally enters the Lisbon Marathon and spots a huge societal trend – almost certainly prematurely.  

Michael Taggart Diary of An SME Owner


In this instalment of his monthly column, “Diary of an SME Owner”, Michael Taggart continues to tell all about the highs and lows of relaunching and running a tea company, MDTea, alongside his wife, Helen.  

This month, Michael remembers his spiritual link to a famous comedian, accidentally enters the Lisbon Marathon and spots a huge societal trend – almost certainly prematurely.  

Diary of An SME Owner

March 25th 

I was born in Plymouth on a clear, crisp morning in the first week of October, 1975 – a week that might one day be considered one of the most significant in the cultural history of homo sapiens.

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Because, in the miniature form of a newborn baby, that period bestowed upon entertainment-seekers the world over a talent who would eventually bestride the fields of comedy, pop-philosophy, writing and life coaching with Napoleonic command. Yes, that was the week Tim Minchin was born. 

While Minchin would soon be spirited off to do his growing up in sunkissed Western Australia, he made his way into the world – four days after my début on Planet Earth – in the damp East Midlands, just 230 miles from my Devon stable (A38, then M5, then M40 is the route I usually recommend from Plymouth to Northampton).

A coincidence, then, not just of time but also of place. Were we somehow one soul split into two bodies, I often wonder, looking back. These were not the only signs of our twin flame connection. 

MORE DIARY OF AN SME OWNER by Michael Taggart

As Minchin grew from baby to boy, that puppy-faced Perth pre-schooler could not have known that he and I were both the second sons of public sector workers (his parents were doctors; mine a teacher and a civil servant).

Nor could he have guessed, as our four testicles dropped virtually simultaneously (my pair here in Northern Europe and his where the ancestral land of the Aborigines meets the Indian Ocean), that we shared a guilty love of man-scara and guy-liner. It was just a thing we both did.

Adolescence bestowed on each of us pleasant baritone singing voices and we would soon fancy ourselves as vocalists, each eventually taking the lead role of Judas in the hit rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. Minchin’s spellbound audiences in Dublin, London and Sydney must have been larger than mine in a dusty school hall in Crownhill, Plymouth.

But the thrill would have been as intense for both of us, further connecting the parallel railway tracks of our destinies with the timber sleepers of our shared experiences.  

I bring all this up because I happened, in an idle moment this morning, upon Minchin’s famous 2013 speech to graduating students at his alma mater, the University of Western Australia. It reminded me that because Minchin and I are two bodies with one mind, I should listen when he speaks, as one listens to one’s conscience. 

“Remember it’s all luck,” he told those young mortar board-sporting men and women. “You are lucky to be here. You are incalculably lucky to be born and incredibly lucky to be brought up by a nice family who encouraged you to go to uni. Or if you were born into a horrible family, that’s unlucky and you have my sympathy – but you are still lucky.

Lucky that you happen to be made of the sort of DNA that went on to make the sort of brain which – when placed in a horrible childhood environment – would make decisions that meant you ended up eventually graduating uni.

“Well done you for dragging yourself up by your shoelaces. But you were lucky. You didn’t create the bit of you that dragged you up. They’re not even your shoelaces.” 

He added: “Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes, nor truly blame others for their failures, will humble you and make you more compassionate. Empathy is intuitive. It is also something you can work on intellectually.”

I remind myself of this every day and urge every successful business owner to do the same. 

April 3rd 

I suppose it was bound to happen at one point or another – and it won’t be the last time. One of the businesses we supply, a chain of cafés in Brighton and Worthing, has gone into liquidation. That ship will sink with our last invoice still unpaid. It’s a near miss really, as it’s less than £200. But it’s also a reminder for any SME owner to look for the signs a client is in trouble.

Chuck them a rubber ring if you can – but make sure you’re not too tightly tied to a ship that’s definitely going down. It’s also a moment to reflect that someone’s dream may well have sunk and that compassion is the order of the day.

The hospitality sector is experiencing some of the choppiest seas it has navigated in the last half century. And this latest bad news has spurred me on to redouble our sales efforts. When life gives you storms, dance in the rain. 

April 13th  

I’ve entered the Lisbon Marathon and have until October 6th to prepare. I was drunk when I did it but I’m glad, all the same. I make better decisions when I’m fit (such as not entering marathons when drunk). I also have access to a broader range of trousers and shirts, the smaller ones suddenly coming into play. The business benefits of this project are innumerable.  

S’miles to go: Michael kicks off his marathon training with a massive barbecue (it’s a fuel thing, apparently) 

April 28th 

I’m convinced the health benefits of green tea are finally going mainstream. That said, I spent most of the last decade prematurely telling people “the Golden Age of podcasting has arrived”.

In fact it hadn’t – not quite – and when that age finally dawned, I had quit my marketing career and was no longer trying to convince podcastless business owners to release podcasts.

In fact, I had become a podcast-free SME owner myself. I was like an evangelist who, having spent years gleefully telling fellow Americans the Rapture is nigh, disappears to Benidorm for two weeks when the day for everyone to float off into space finally arrives.

Anyway, take it from this SME owner the signs are everywhere that my latest great analysis of UK culture is correct – and not wildly premature. Radio 4, for example, just dedicated a whole 15 minute show to the topic.

The latest research, listeners heard, suggested green tea is good for your heart and mind, specifically helping to: 

  • enhance fat metabolism during exercise; 
  • dismantle harmful arterial plaques, 
  • Improve your mood, and 
  • potentially mitigate against conditions like dementia and heart disease. 

Is this the Green Age of Tea? You heard it here first. 

Michael Taggart

Mouthy Blogger

Ex journo turned media agency founder and now managing director of MDTea. As likely to be found ranting about trains or his misspent youth as doing anything useful.

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