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“The music was only intended to be a hobby, the paid gigs came later as it turned itself into a business when I wasn’t looking.”

Paul Hurst runs several niche micro companies from his home. His companies range from providing accounts and admin support for others, organizing and performing period and traditional music & entertainment, and has recently converted his book into an ebook and ended up sorting out books for other members of the Society of Authors.

His talents are spread mainly across three companies. Barndance Ltd that provides live bands and callers for barn dances and callers. Minstrels Ltd does the same but is themed around medieval entertainment, jesters, fire-eaters, magicians etc. Solutions Agency Ltd is a little more mainstream covering work in accounts, admin, and bookkeeping.

MO: You have quite the interesting business portfolio! Will you expand on each of your companies?

Paul Hurst, The New Business Doctor - Owner


Barn dances and ceilidhs
Live entertainment for weddings, parties and corporate events, fun lively and light hearted events suitable for all – regardless of age or ability. We’ll travel as far as budgets permit.

Medieval banquets – More specialized events, usually costing a lot more. Each one tends to be put together specially. There are a lot of castles and stately homes in the south of England, these tend to be our usual venues. Performers have to be multi-skilled so we can give a whole show with only three or four of us. Hard work, but great fun.

Admin and accounts – This will gradually merge with the ebook sales as the range expands.

Writing – I set this site up earlier this year as part of my ‘recon’ period:  Have been converting and setting up books for other authors in exchange for 20% of sales. More importantly, this is enabling me to gather data on what is popular, what pricing works best, how to promote ebooks etc. Will use this info next year when producing more books of my own.

MO: Can you tell us how you got into each of these industries?

Paul: In 1977 a friend invited me to see his Morris side dancing out to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Had never played an instrument before (I was 23), but loved the sound of one of the ones there I decided to learn to play it (melodeon). The music was only intended to be a hobby, the paid gigs came later as it turned itself into a business when I wasn’t looking.

When made redundant following the collapse of a civil engineering company I was working for, had to rely on it more to bring in an income. Started taking it seriously then. The medieval side came as a natural follow on as the range of gigs expanded. Barn dances and ceilidhs tend to happen in the summer, banquets in the winter. Not always, but it helps even out the dips. Added magic and fortune reading (tarot) to expand the show.

Book keeping and admin came from previous day jobs – just something I seemed to be able to do. Left school with no clear plan as my first choice (merchant navy engineering officer) was denied for medical reasons. Became a clerk for a local branch of a bank, hated the job but got a pretty good basic training. Then moved on to be a manager of a family jewelers, great fun but lousy pay. Then took the exam to become a middling grade Civil Servant because we needed the extra income to buy a house. Again, great training but hated the work. After that, apart from a couple of spells in PAYE employment mainly worked as a self-employed book keeper and administrator for local firms as it was more efficient on the tax side, and was no longer entirely dependent on a single company.

Still have a few clients, as it provides security and a handy top-up with the music income. Could go full time again doing this, but would die of boredom.

The writing came later, realised that the music and magic is at risk as my fingers may give up at some point, and the recent financial kerfuffle has not done good things to my pension fund. Have always enjoyed reading and writing. First printed book in 2009, moved into ebooks this March and seems to be a pretty good match for my skills and abilities.

MO: You have a full ‘no-quibble’ money-back guarantee on everything you do. This is rather unusual for performers! How do you manage this guarantee?

Paul: Very unusual, if not unique, but a very powerful sales incentive. I’ve always concentrated on getting performers who are solid and reliable, rather than prima donnas. If you understand the reference (from the English Civil War) always say that I’m looking for Roundheads, not Cavaliers. My regulars tend to have very good day jobs, but love the opportunity to get paid ‘pocket money’ (£140 per gig +) for indulging in something they enjoy. Usually I’ll drive, and sort out all the admin. Very few gigs go wrong now – the experience helps, and sometimes I’ll offer to accept a gig as offered, but cannot give a guarantee as what they are asking for will probably cause problems. This really makes the client decide if they want to take the risk, or trust my judgment. Only had a couple of clients take the piss, a drop in the ocean (pardon the pun) compared to increased turnover.

MO: Can you tell us about the books you have written?

Paul:  Music and entertainment – all free except the ‘Tarot’ one, details here: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Barndance2Banquet

These are mainly to save me time and help customers make an informed choice about the entertainment for their event. In the bad old days had to go through the same questions constantly. Used to use PDF files, so ebooks came as a logical progression.

Business books : If you want a review copy of ‘Business Survival & Prosperity Guaranteed, code to get a free copy is CR25Q

It’s a fun and hopefully readable book covering the basics of ‘Get Comfy Slow’. Pretty auto-biographical, so covers a lot of the points here.

Will write more next year – will probably take another break from my Open University degree.

MO: Why is it important for you to remain a team of 1?

Paul: Legislation. The moment I employ anyone directly as a member of staff, a whole heap of legislation is just waiting to fall on my head. No thanks, have had the experience of a normal job. If not careful, the income rises but so do the hassles and costs. Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity.

I prefer being a benign despot. So long as my musicians enjoy the gigs, they’ll cut me a lot of slack in terms of the earnings split and staying focused and flexible. All the regulars have pretty heavyweight jobs, so they understand not only the pressures, but the importance of customer service.

I’m always trying out new performers. Running everyone on a gig by gig means there is no automatic right to future work, it keeps everyone sharp and focused.

My first two bands were run committee-style. Never really works, having one person in charge and responsible is a lot better.

MO: What are you looking forward to in the future of all of your businesses?

Paul: Music – to run on for as long as I can still provide a decent service to clients. Will probably have to make changes to our catchment area, and style of events over the years. It’s all great fun at the moment, but will stop if that changes. Plan B would be to specialise in the tarot readings.

Admin and book keeping. This has always been my infill and back-up work, will continue to be so. Can do from home, and with no real overheads. My pension plan if necessary, not that I’ll ever retire as such.

Writing – would like to build this up over the next few years, so it can replace all or some of the entertainment income. Given a choice, would do this fulltime, except making a living as a writer is probably a lot harder than as a muso. Still, was told it was impossible to make a profit from folk music. Sure I’ll find a way.

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