The old saying goes ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy‘. Which, I guess, makes me the dullest of all. Early next year my daughter turns 23 and the last time I went on holiday was two or three years before she was born. I have a few reasons for that, firstly being bonsai and holidays don’t mix and seeing as my bonsai are worth more than my house I am not happy just jetting off with the family for a week in the sun whilst someone else takes care of things. Secondly holidays are, in general, expensive. I prefer to put my money into things that have tangible and lasting value and have done that since I was 10 years old. As a result I have, what i think, is some cool stuff and a nice house paid for at the tender age of fifty. Not a great achievement by some standards but for a dumbass who flunked out of school with virtually nothing i’m happy enough.

I decided more than fifteen years ago that i did not like to have a job, it just got in the way all the time. Seeing as I didn’t have a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of at the time my only solution was to make my life my job. I sat on a river bank fishing one winters day thinking about all the different things I did as hobbies and work. After a bit of deep cogitating it became obvious the thing that really put air in my tyres was bonsai. I packed up and went home and have never been fishing since. At that time I dropped a dozen different things I was doing, sold everything and put all my eggs in one basket. I worked at bonsai a minimum of eight hours a day seven days a week whilst barely holding down a nine hour a day job. This mind set and relentless activity set my future in stone. So, having made my work my life what need do I have of holidays?

Over the last five years things have changed a lot around here. I know some folk think I have this idyllic life spending all my time on cloud nine tweaking bonsai. However the reality is a little different, we run a business in Britain, based in a very small specialised sector where volumes are very low and cost are high due to tiny manufacturing volumes. In Britain today if you run a business the burden of cost put upon you by the powers that be are increasingly debilitating and maintaining customer satisfaction whilst making wages is more difficult to achieve every year. The truth of the matter is simple. Prices today are almost half what they were twenty years ago. As an example when Bonsai Mart first offered Akadama in the early nineties the price was £16.99 plus £9 postage and they were not charging VAT. Today the price is £14.45 plus £8.89 shipping and including 20% VAT. In that period your money has decreased in value by half. In Japan there has not been any price rises for decades as their economy has all but frozen and remains in a deflationary territory even today. So if we take the VAT off todays price the ‘doorstep’ price is £19.45 as opposed to £25.99 over twenty years ago. Working the figures backwards the gross profit margin way back then was £13-14 per delivered bag. Today that margin is £3.45 and remember that money has halved in value. Oh! also don’t forget that way back then standard shipping was seven days and many companies promised to get you your order within 28 days. Back then you didn’t have to spend the equivalent of a small mortgage every five years to create a web site. There was no need to pay a living wage, offer staff pensions or ever offer more than seven days paid holiday and…. i could go on all day but you get the picture, running a business today is not very easy and not always much fun…….

And that brings me to the point I had almost forgotten I came here to make. At the end of today we will be shutting up shop until January. It has become customary here to take the Christmas and new year period for ourselves. Catherine is fed up with spending 10 hours a day doing parcel labels and I am fed up with all the other stuff including starting at 4am. Thanks to you all and you continued support 2015 has been another record one for KB. For the first time since we started I actually feel a sense of stability and security in the business. I have been constantly hounded by a sense of impending doom and imminent failure since day one. But, thanks to all you lovely people and your continued support and patronage I think we just might have a future. We achieved a lot this year behind the scenes and are planning some significant steps forward with some very unique special products next year and beyond as we invest and grow the business. Our intention is to be a one stop shop for EVERYTHING you need and offer the best quality delivered FAST and at the best doorstep price we can.

We are all entirely exhausted and need a break. We are all sick, tired and sick and tired. In spite of my clever plan it’s true ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy‘. We have a few loose ends to tie up and a few emails to do. I have to give my old van it’s annual wash and then it’s time to spark up the Cohiba I have been saving and pop the cork on a bottle we were given and we will be raising a glass to you all. Tomorrow if my head is not too bad I will be throwing a leg over the R1 (or the dirt bike, depending upon the weather) and put a good few miles under my belt. After that I think I will probably end up back in the polytunnel working again because at heat I am a very VERY dull boy!

Seeing as it’s the winter solstice I thought I would share some dawn pictures I took whilst out with the dog before dawn today. Not much compares to Norfolk skies in the early morning.

Have a great Christmas and a prosperous new year.

Best wished from Graham, Catherine and all the folk at Kaizen Bonsai.


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