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Bombay Breakfast

Within ten minutes of two adult humans meeting for the first time, there is a 98% chance that one of them will say to the other, 'So... what do you do?' What follows will typically be a brief exchange of job titles accompanied by some feigned expressions of interest before the conversation inevitably moves on to Netflix shows. Now, I like a good debate on Stephen Avery's innocence as much as the next person, but I'm also very interested in what various jobs entail. In one lifetime we generally only get to experience a few professions firsthand so I like to ask people what a typical week in their job looks like. The answers can often be surprising. We may know that a teacher teaches, a bus driver drives and a politician makes wild accusations based on zero truth with the sole purpose of advancing their political career, but we also know that there's a lot more to our own jobs than meets the eye, so it's a safe assumption that the same applies to others.

When people ask us what we do and we reply, "We're greeting card publishers," we're normally met with faces of blank confusion. We go on to explain that we design and produce greeting cards which we then sell into the shops. Suddenly a lightbulb appears behind the eyes and they reply, "Ahhh, shops like Clintons." "Well, yes sort of like Clintons," we concede, "but actually did you know that one in six retailers sells greeting cards? In fact they're stocked in more types of outlet than any other product!" (By this point we can see their eyes glazing over and their interest waning so we quickly change the subject to Breaking Bad.) While that will be enough to give somebody an impression of what we 'do', it certainly doesn't describe what we actually spend our time doing which is often very different. Let's consider a typical week at Lanther Black, this week is as good as any. Right now it's 4:13 on a Friday morning. We're in the office and it's starting to get light outside. I've been refreshing my web browser continuously for the last 17 minutes. I look over at Jack, I think he's doing the same. He's also eating something; I think it's cereal. No, wait, he's eating Bombay mix out of a bowl with a spoon. That's not weird at all. I refresh my browser again. 

We recently started working with an Australian distributor and two weeks ago they asked us to send out a full set of samples so that they could show them at the Melbourne trade fair. We sent them out immediately but on Tuesday they still hadn't arrived so we sent out another set by Fedex directly to the exhibition centre. The show starts tomorrow and the cards still aren't there. Unfortunately, Australia is in the future so we've only got a couple of hours of hope left. If they don't arrive, we won't be displayed at the show which means we'll miss out on lots of potential orders and our relationship with our distributor will get off to a really bad start. Woe will be us.

For the last 24 hours, the tracking information has shown the cards to be on transit from Singapore. At midnight, I resigned myself to the fact that the cards were not going to arrive and went to sleep. At 3am, Jack resigned himself to the same fact and also went to sleep. At 3.35am, however, I awoke and tracked the parcel one last time for luck. "JACK," I yelled, "THE CARDS ARE IN DERRIMUT!" Jack sprang up from his slumber, emitted some sort of war cry, launched into a combat roll across the floor and adopted a martial arts pose by the door. I think I scared him. "Dominique!!" he cried, sweat beading down his forehead, "I thought we were being murdered!" "No," I explained, "The cards are in Derrimut. Although Derrimut is an anagram of Murder it, so maybe that's why you were confused?" Jack, too bleary eyed to argue with me, asked wearily, "Where's Derrimut?" "I don't know," I replied, "but it sounds Australian doesn't it? G'day mate, I'm having a bonzer time in Derrimut!" I said, in my best Australian accent, "See?" Jack looked at me wide-eyed before turning wordlessly and leaving the room. We arrived at the office and discovered that Derrimut is indeed in Australia and a mere 20 minutes away from the exhibition centre. Jack has emailed the exhibition staff asking them to look out for the Fedex guy and deliver him to the correct stand. I have emailed the distributors asking them to ask their people at the show to look out for the exhibition staff who will be delivering the Fedex guy who will be delivering the samples to the stand. We have done all we can, now we are refreshing our browsers desperately hoping to see that magical word 'delivered' appear on the tracking page. It will be a devastating blow to come so close and fall at the final hurdle. 

Although the last 24 hours have been devoted primarily to fretting about Australia, we haven't been able to let it completely consume our week. We have one month to go until our next exhibition at Autumn Fair so preparations are in full swing for that. That means organising business cards, brochures, samples, stand design and van rental, because we've finally had to admit to ourselves that at some point we are going to get arrested for the dangerous overfilling of a hatchback. We've also been tying up loose ends from our previous exhibition at Harrogate, which means fulfilling orders, following up leads, preparing reports for existing agents, sending out packages to new agents and booking our hotel for next year because the early bird gets a place to sleep and the late bird will be sleeping in the car. In addition to that, we have a VAT return to file and some invoices to pay before 6000 cards arrive which will need to be counted, packed and organised. Finally we'll have to find some people to pack cards for us so that maybe next week we'll be able to get back to our standard business of actually designing and producing greeting cards.

Maybe there isn't such a thing as a 'typical week' in this industry. Next week is likely to have an entirely different to-do list, a new bunch of challenges to face andsome other problem to fret about. But for now, it's 7am and I've just received an email from the distributor. The samples have arrived at the exhibition centre, the display has been completed and our cards will be on the wall when the doors open tomorrow. Good job Fedex. The disaster has been averted and we're going to celebrate with a beer before heading back to bed for a few hours. Bombay mix and beer for breakfast? Just a typical Friday at Lanther Black. 


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