Sat, Aug

It’s about this time of year, Wimbledon being over, that Mrs Mole starts pining for France. We’re heading down to the Loire, which is lovely - although Mole Jr always complains that it is shut - but not until the end of summer. I used to holiday in France with my parents and my schoolmates always found it amusing that the whole nation went on holiday for the whole of August. Thinking about it today, I wonder if the French have a point. My inbox has already started filling up with out of office replies, and getting any business done before the end of August becomes increasingly difficult.

‘Five ways SMEs can save money’ said the email heading. Always interested in ways of economising - it’s in the Mole DNA - I opened it but stopped reading after the second tip: ‘Utilise your workforce’. In other words, make sure your workers are actually doing some work. After that devastating insight, I hit ’delete’ as fast as I could.

Bah humbug! My gentle post-Christmas reintroduction to Mole Graphics was disrupted by an email outlying six critical business trends for 2O22. The first was: ‘Turn your marketing strategy into customer journeys’. I don’t know what the other five trends were - I deleted the email in fury.

Ever keen to keep the readers of this esteemed organ up to date, I actually did some research before penning this end of year column. What, I wonder, will be the big trends of 2022?

Alright, I’ll come clean. I voted for Brexit. I didn’t care about immigration, nor did I believe that Eurocrats wanted to regulate the shape of bananas.

“To be or not to be, that is the … gazoormonplatz” That is the punchline in one my favourite Bob Newhart sketches in which a monitor is tasked with checking the theory that if a monkey is given a typewriter and an infinite amount of time the primate will type something as good as Hamlet.

I only work from home two days a week but it has become increasingly clear that this is too much for Mrs Mole. Her principal complaints are that there are too many dishes to be washed, too much milk being consumed and too much garbage being produced. I don’t know why she worries about the rubbish because, under our long-running power-sharing agreement, bin maintenance is the one area where I have complete authority. Even so, in the interests of domestic harmony, my transition to an ‘office-first’ approach to work will have to be accelerated.

‘Connect the facts with the fun’. That’s what our sales director said when I asked what he’d learned from his virtual workshop on winning new customers during a pandemic. When I asked him where he was going to find the fun so he could connect with it, he shrugged.

This ‘new normal’ has me reminiscing. Fifty years ago this month, I spent a day at my uncle’s old school printing company. As I was trying to look inconspicuous in the corner of his office, a bloke came in and said they needed a new plate-bending machine. To my ten-year-old self, the very idea of such a machine sounded exotic, intriguing and, ultimately, baffling. What, I wondered, was this plate exactly?

Am I the only person alive who suspects there’s a conspiracy to pretend that Zoom is easier to use than it really is? The young Moles keep extolling its simplicity and yet, when the link inviting me to a virtual meeting doesn’t work, they just give me a patronising shrug of their shoulders, look as if I’m making it all up, and ask if I’ve restarted the laptop.

“It’s quiet. Too quiet.” That stock phrase from the Westerns my dad binge-watched - before the term had been invented - sprang to mind when I contemplated the speed with which the coronavirus was emptying my diary. Obviously, there’s the trade shows. More than 440 of them have been cancelled or postponed globally, including Fespa, which I had pencilled in as the perfect excuse to visit Madrid in springtime and Sign UK, which I hadn’t pencilled in at all. Then there’s the meetings which metamorphosed into telephone calls which later metamorphosed into nothing at all. I’m not accusing people of panicking - pandemics are not the time for macho posturing - it’s that they are completely distracted by the uncertainty of it all.

I finally have 2020 vision. So, unfortunately, does everyone else, this being the year after 2019 and before 2021. At Mole Graphics, it’s hard to know what this year will bring. There are some certainties - the Olympics will happen in Tokyo, there will be a presidential election in America and a troublesome minority of customers will demand free reprints of jobs they signed off on only to realise later that they had made a mistake. Sometimes you want to ask: how hard is it to use the correct version of your logo? And if you have so many logos you can’t distinguish between them, maybe you don’t need so many.

Once a year, I catch up with a former colleague and current competitor to talk about life, work and the universe. We normally meet for a couple of drinks at some nondescript railway hotel that is equidistant between his company and Mole Graphics. This year we talked about many things: the ignorance of print buyers the simmering resentment of employees who smoke (by those who don’t) and an old school salesman whose annual mileage must have single-handedly increased the UK’s carbon emissions by a percentage point or two. 

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