Post Office Application

It’s been a while since I blogged about our progress with the Post Office purchase. The thing is, it’s such a darned long process.

Our offer was accepted back in mid-June (no thanks to our incompetent solicitor) and only then could I begin the process of applying for the position through the Post Office. That involved doing another business plan, which thought would be easy since we’d already submitted one to the bank. But the pro-forma had changed and was, without a doubt, one of the worst Word docs I’ve ever had to deal with. It was locked down tight and information could be added only in the fields provided. Very frustrating. In the one we sent to the bank (which was based on the PO one) I had replaced all the tables with Excel objects, making for a very nice form indeed, thank you very much.

Anyway, long story short, I got the form finished last night and went through the online application process this morning. There were many more questions to go through online, including things like Outline your employment history over the last five years. Strange, since part of or the application form included a CV (which, thankfully, I was permitted to ignore and replace with my own PROPER CV).

So, the application form is submitted. All that remains is to post the photocopied docs today and then await the response. We’re hoping to be able to arrange the interview for August when we’re visiting – the interview is in Glasgow.

Fingers crossed!

Arran Post Office update

I met a chartered accountant at a guitar thing I was and he kindly agreed to look over the figures for me. This he did and was surprised to discover that all we had were extracts of the accounts. So we requested the full accounts, including for the last financial year which we did not previously have. We just heard from our bank manager that he has received those accounts and has forwarded them on to us and a copy to my accountant friend. Unfortunately my accountant friend (to whom I shall henceforth refer to as Charles, since that is his name) is leaving for Spain tomorrow and there’s no way he’ll get the docs before he leaves.

The bank manager also got a copy of the lease which he has forwarded on to our solicitor. The solicitor has to confirm that the lease is being transferred into your name, that there is sufficient
time to repay your 10-year obligation and that there are no restrictive or onerous clauses. The solicitor also to confirm the purchase price of £x.

We did get an encouraging e-mail from the bank manager today, in which he said that the seller seems keen to sell to us. Encouraging news indeed.

We were asked by the bank to put together an income and expenditure forecast based on what we will be earning and spending once we get to Arran. This put me into full procrastination mode as it seemed such an impossible task, but thankfully Lorraine is a bit more together than I and she put together the document very well. I did the whole business plan and current income and expenditure form, but then ran out of momentum. It seems we make a good team when all is said and done!

So, what’s up now? The bank manager has authorised a commercial survey, now that he has the full set of accounts for the last three years, and we should hopefully get an estimated valuation of the business. Hopefully Charles will get a chance to look over them soon, and we’ll get a second valuation that way.

Charles also mentioned that it would be worthwhile forming a limited company rather than buying the business as a sole trader, which was what I was initially planning to do. That kicked off a weekend of research and much head-scratching. Seemingly it’s not quite so clear cut as that, but there do seem to be many advantages to proceeding this way. I got in touch with someone from the National Federation of Sub Postmasters to find out whether the PO is okay with appointing the subpostmaster position to an individual who was an employee of a limited company and this seems to be okay. So more head-scratching to come about that.

We’ll wait until we get the full accounts before we submit our income and expenditure forecast as the most recent year’s figures are apparently better than we had hoped and it could put us in a stronger position regarding the bank loan application. It’s doubtful that they will arrive before the weekend, which is a shame, so it will be the middle or end of next week before we get the next task completed.

So, all in all, we are making progress. It’s a long and difficult process and sometimes the whole thing just starts to seem impossible and a bad idea, but it’s my nature to think that way, particularly when I’m feeling overwhelmed and am facing seemingly impossible tasks. If I were on my own, I’d have stumbled and fallen long ago. Thankfully, the teamwork seems to be pulling us along. We really do want this to happen, so we’ve just got to keep plodding along and dealing with each piece of the puzzle in rightful order.

News update

Lorraine put her back out somehow in her sleep the night before last and is now at the doctor yet again. Her bronchitis also sounds worse than ever. She’s really not having a good time of it at all at the moment.

Thankfully the kids seem okay; the coughs are almost better now and they’re both happy.
Arran wise, progress is slow. I almost completed the RBS business plan template and had Lorraine help me with it. She pointed out that the parts I was stuck with were because they didn’t really fit with the type of business we’re looking at — I guess that’s the problem with templates. So we’ve decided to send the Post Office business plan to the bank instead of the RBS one. I did about half of it yesterday and hope to complete it this afternoon.
Arjun and Marina are coming to visit on Friday for the weekend and I’m really looking forward to seeing them.
Time to change some nappies. I hope to get another couple of blog entries done soon; there are a couple on the boil…

Post Office progress

We got some documentation through on Friday. My good pal Graeme (current postmaster at Prestwick PO) sent me the business plans that he used (one for the bank and one for the PO) and it’s been a great help.

I spoke to the seller for over an hour on Friday night and got a lot more information from her to get me started on the business plan. Thankfully I’ve started making phone calls using Skype, the advantages of which are twofold: firstly, it’s cheaper than by regular phone (€0.017 per minute), and secondly, I can record the calls. Having recordings is a great thing as I don’t have to sit on the call writing illegible notes and failing to listen properly because I’m scribbling on the notepad.

We also got some business loan info from the Royal Bank of Scotland, including some software on a CD ROM for creating a business plan. I spent all my at-home time over the weekend poring over the material and trying to put the business plan together. It’s now Monday and it’s not yet complete. I have had to ask Janice another few questions (I’ve just sent her an e-mail) and also Derek at the RBoS (who just happens to be off this week – it figures). So I’ll give my Graeme a call tonight and see if he can help me with my queries. The business plan that he submitted to his lender (not the same as mine) is a lot less detailed than the one that will be generated by the RBS software.

I hope that it will be ready to send by mid week, so that it is on Derek’s desk when he gets back from wherever he happens to be. That means it really needs to be completed by Wednesday morning. I would also like to have had it looked over by a friend of an accountant friend of ours, but I’m not sure how likely that is, given that it’s a friend of a friend and the tight timescale. Well, I guess it’s not that tight; the seller intimated that there are other interested parties but didn’t say as much outright. But it is in our interests to act as quickly as possible in order to be in the position to make an offer before anyone else does.

Watch this space.

Progress report

I completed the bank forms yesterday after calling Derek (business relations manager) and discovering that he also wants a business plan and our CVs. The CVs we can do, but the business plan? How does one do such a thing?

I had a look at the PO website which contains some info on how to apply to become a subpostmaster. It mentioned on there that only UK residents may apply, so I called their HR dept. and it seems that we should be just fine, providing we can prove that we will be resident when the application is made. I did discover, however, that the application cannot be submitted until the current postmistress has formally handed in her notice of resignation. I foresaw a vicious circle. She won’t resign until she has an offer; the bank won’t offer the loan unless we’re accepted by the PO; and we can’t put in an offer until the loan has been approved.

So, I called Derek again and put him in the picture. He was pretty helpful – he’s a bit of a Jack the Lad actually, using such phrases as “rubber ducked” and “lazy bastards (referring to Arran’s plumbers)”. Providing we are approved, the loan can be offered on the condition that we are accepted by the Post Office. At that stage we should be able to put in an offer which will also be conditional upon acceptance by the Post Office. Then the current postmistress can submit her resignation. I don’t foresee any problem with being accepted by the post office, apart from the whole residency thing. But we’re committed to moving anyway, so even if we move and it doesn’t come to pass, at least we’ll be out of Lux.

The Post Office has a template business plan that you can download, as does the Royal Bank of Scotland. On reading it through, I realised that we did not have enough info from the seller, so wrote out a list of questions. I then called my good friend Graeme, who just happens to have gone through this process himself, and got some great help from him. He’s asked that I send him the info I have and he’ll look it over and see if he thinks the asking price is too high. He’s also going to show it to his brother, who’s a business relations manager at another bank. He is also going to send us the business plan that he used so we can see the sort of thing we ought to be thinking about. And he suggested that we get an accountant to draw up our business plan, which is good because it so happens that a good friend of Lorraine’s is an accountant!

So considering Graeme and Irena the accountant’s help, it seems once again that things are stacking up in our favour.Is this my higher power at work? I just have to keep on going with it and not let things slip. At the moment I’m waiting on Graeme’s business plan arriving and I still have to call the seller with my list of questions. I can’t do that tonight as I’m out playing guitar and it seems more or less to have been decided that it is I who will be doing most of the organisation on this. I’m happy with that, and it seems to make sense given that it’s in my part of the world and I speak the same language.

Maybe I’ll call the seller at work this afternoon and get that done.

Meanwhile, I still have the translation to get finished. Lorraine got as far as reading through Chapter 4 of 8, so I can review her changes to Chapters 1–4. Hopefully it won’t be too big a job.