Peter Delmar is a freelance writer and publisher. A Sunday Times veteran, he was the launch editor of It's My Business, the Sunday Times's monthly small-business publication. In 2008 Peter followed his own advice and took the plunge into self-employment; he wishes he had listened to himself years ago.
His small business consults mostly to big business but focuses on entrepreneurship and travel. Peter is currently writing his third book, on Mpumalanga and Mozambique.
Peter's column deals with the daily tribulations of running a small business. Written with humour and Peter's own new-found insight, the column explores the nitty gritty, the ups and downs, the rewards and frustrations of working for oneself.
DID you know that you can use the word "Stellenbosch" as a verb?
Oh dear, this is all terribly embarrassing. Moneyweb is suing Media24 for nicking its stories.
The whole business plan is so devilishly, even fiendishly clever that, it seems to me, none of you has cottoned on to what the Guptas are really up to this time.
According to The Times (the one they publish in London) more than half of a sample of British tourists were mildly surprised to discover that Cyprus was not part of mainland Greece. This sample of British holidaymakers had one thing in common: they had all recently been to Cyprus.
The French capital is terribly nice, as usual, but there are only so many croissants you can divide between however many million people are queuing these days to get up the Eiffel Tower at any one time. At the summer peak the Parisians are, as usual, grumpy about having to share their splendid city with pot-bellied English-speaking oiks like me.
The people who wandered in darkness have seen a great light.
I am what you might call a Wasp: a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant. My forebears were almost exclusively British, although several generations ago the family on my father's side forgot how we ever happened to come by a Spanish surname.
I'm not sure who collected my rubbish this past Friday, but somebody did. Whoever it was, thank you very much.
Business gurus used to say that, if you really wanted to succeed, you had to make mistakes; the bigger the better.
Modern car engines, it seems, are programmed to start making funny noises the moment they move out of service plan.
I read on MSN the other day that most visitors to Paris would rank the locals' friendliness "somewhere between a kicked rattlesnake and Lisa Lampanelli on methamphetamines".
The son of a blue-collar artisan, I shudder every time I hear about job losses in the manufacturing or engineering sectors.
Since this newspaper launched however many years ago, every Wednesday I have been inflicting my thoughts on untold billions of people with nothing better to do than to put up with me.
When I grow up I really want to work in a shop. I don't want to own the shop and I don't want to be involved in things like buying or budgeting or merchandising or displaying or any of that difficult stuff. I just want to go to work every day and sit behind a counter and sell people stuff.
There's an awful ruckus next door while I'm trying to write this.
MOST startling business intelligence of the past few days: Johann Rupert doesn't know how to fly-fish. What, you have to wonder, is the point of being worth $8.2-billion if you can't fly-fish?
On April 16, a group of people gathered at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange for a few speeches and a bit of sausage roll. I wasn't invited, and I didn't gatecrash because I'm trying to give up sausage rolls.
Waving his bit of laminated cardboard at me, the parking attendant asked me to pay R8.50 to park on a bit of poorly maintained roadside tarmac. Per hour.
I've been suggesting to the management of this newspaper for the longest time that, instead of calling this column "A Small World", it should be named "The Oracle of Delmar" (geddit?).
The skipper of the boat taking us on a jaunt around Loskop Dam on Sunday had a splendid tale to tell.
Enough of the bad news then. Gather round, everyone; Uncle Peter has some good news to impart for a change.
Two weeks ago Exclusive Books had its warehouse sale.
"Dad, where are you going looking like that?"
So there I was, chewing the fat with Velly Ngwenya of Klooks Octet fame, chatting - as we musos do - about the old times, about our songs and our hits and the clubs and the girls and things.
Being a columnist can be a lonely business. You generally only hear from readers when you have really ticked them off.
I recently read somewhere that, according to New York window cleaners, a third of all the computer screens they can see through the windows of the skyscrapers they are cleaning are occupied with the electronic version of Solitaire.
Everyone who possibly can should read The New Yorker. Every week it contains some of the brightest and - almost unfailingly - the most trenchant writing on the planet. (It also has a thing about cartoons about dogs which are invariably very funny.)
This Sunday I was driving on Barry Hertzog Avenue in Johannesburg when I saw something that made me laugh so loudly and so violently that I nearly crashed and wiped out myself and my daughter.
It was only last year that a leading banker dared to question the "strange" things that were going on in government.
I saw all of this trouble with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner long before the rest of you.
I must admit that, until this past Sunday, I'd never heard of Manny de Canha or the company he runs, Associated Motor Holdings.
I have never been one to live with my head in the sand, but I tried it these holidays and it is, I must acknowledge, a practice to which I believe I could quite happily become accustomed.
Two weeks ago, I was scribbling about fresh produce - sweet melons in particular. Upon publication, the head of this column's Big Fancy Words Department opined that that particular piece was, as usual, a mightily edifying and thoroughly percipient contribution to the nation's intellectual discourse. But then she suggested that I actually knew very little about the business of growing and selling fresh food and might benefit from a bit of practical exposure to this world.
A little while ago my eight-year-old daughter press-ganged me into giving a brief talk to her Grade 2 class about what work I did.
Last Friday I spotted a melon in my fridge.
So, wife tells me the other day that it's time I got a real job.
In my culture, we don't go around dressing weirdly and soliciting something for nothing from perfect strangers.
Once in a blue moon I turn movie reviewer. This is one such blue moon.
Insouciance is a grand word. It's quite a big, fancy sort of word and, like so many of the words we got from the French, it just sounds nice; like croissant or crepe suzette or langoustine. (They say you should never write a column on an empty stomach but I forgot.)
At 9500 feet we were floating inside the clouds. It was a fine place to be. The gentlest of breezes was nudging us along at less than 10km/h, but I had no idea in which direction it was gently moving us.
Is it just me or does every second news "story" these days concern somebody or other's thumb-suck masquerading as a scientific poll or survey?
Scholars of my work will know that the oracles visit me weekly to impart the super-human intelligence they wish to convey, through the medium of this column, to the knowledge-hungry masses.
She was middle-aged, but not that ugly. Had she smiled, she might have had what I imagined one might call a cheery face.
There is a lovely road that runs from Groot Marico into the hills. And the hills are covered with bush and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.
Every weekend there are marathons and bicycle races all over Johannesburg which somehow get by without my patronage. I absent myself from these events not because I am averse to exercise (which I believe is good for you), but because my agent tells me that, at my age, I can't command much in the way of appearance fees.
You mark my words, it won't be long before you will be able to buy a packet of Tannie Sannie se Kampioen Koeksisters manufactured by Ying Yong Enterprises, Guangdong.
I owe Hartbeespoort Dam a great deal.
Recently this newspaper ran a rather curious spread featuring letters women journalists wrote to themselves as 16-year-olds.
I realise what I'm about to do is quite out of character, even heretical, and that by doing it I risk being reported to the Avusa public editor, the press ombudsman or the Spanish Inquisition or some similarly dread and draconian body, but I am about to say something nice about our head of state.
So, there I was in a land far, far away (East London, to be precise), striving to haul my sorry ass back home to the loving, warm bosom of my little nuclear family.
This weekend I discovered that I own one Wilbur Smith - and 12 Lawrence Greens (I even own an autobiography by Green's father, a one-time editor of the Argus).
When the people of Port Alfred have been very good, when they have eaten all their veggies and said all their prayers, then God sends them days like they had last week.
Two Free State provincial government officials are talking on the phone: "Hello Gawie, it's Vusi here. Can you talk? Where are you anyway?"
The other day I did a very bad thing.
King James I (he of The Bible fame) was an annoying character. He almost never took a bath and he was very ugly. And he had a very high opinion of himself, believing implacably in the divine right of kings like himself.
It's one of my very earliest memories: my father holds my hand as we walk to the corner shop to buy a loaf of bread. It's an early evening in July 1969.
Apart from the mountains of money they pay you to do the job, there are several advantages to working in the media.
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away - a land of deserts and camels and palm trees, sheikhs and belly dancers - a young African got himself a job.
I'm a bit slow out of the blocks when it comes to technology, but fortunately you don't rely on me for insightful insight into breaking IT news; for that you have the Monday guy, Toby Shapshak.
Once upon a time I decided that I wanted to work for myself. But I did not want to start an insurance-broking business or run a hamburger franchise because these things, though you can perhaps make piles of wonga out of them, are boring.
The Sunday Times broke the story of a Durban family who got themselves registered as secret agents, allegedly collecting large amounts of what in Durban they call moolah from the police's secret spook fund for, it seems, not doing very much.
Back in the day, Mark Shuttleworth invented some or other internet gewgaw and started a business on the back of his invention. Then, a few years later, he sold it to some Americans with more money than sense and made a killing.
Some years ago I had a job in England.
Is it just me, or are some of you also puzzled about why most people have become so weird?
If I read another column going on about what a good thing the film Material is and how everyone should go and see it, I am likely to become violently agitated.
Billionaires of all hues have been in the news recently, with last week giving us that Hardy Annual bit of tat, the Forbes Rich List which exhorts us to give a tuppence that (white man) Bill Gates's net worth has gone up or down a few billion dollars and that (Hispanic) telecoms mogul Carlos Slim is still the richest of the lot.
On the wireless the other day I heard a chap from the BBC telling a bemused interviewer that white people - the right sort of white people - were welcome to join the organisation.
Every year, as the Highveld winter wears on and on and on, Wife and my domestic suffer mightily from the dryness associated with that time of year.
Some families have dogs. Some families have cats. My family has bunnies.
"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree; where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea."
I have desisted from writing this column for four days.
Those clever Americans have graphs for everything. They even have graphs for how many times their president uses certain words in his state of the union address.
If last week was a bit lousy for you, consider this: imagine that you're Francesco Schettino right now.
A few years ago a mischievous opposition legislator introduced a motion to the Council of the Provinces declaring, more or less, that said upper house of parliament was full of dozy nincompoops who wasted taxpayers' money.
You need more than a lousy Senior Certificate to make sense of the 2011 matric results. According to our minister of schools, the fact that the overall pass rate went up last year by 2.4 percentage points proves that all sorts of remedial actions and policy gerrymandering are working.
Just suppose the following: David the office messenger and general factotum takes the petty cash down to the TAB when he's supposed to be running errands and, dipping into it, has three or four beers and then blows the rest of the company float on a hopeless nag running in the Fifth at Greyville and, while he's getting motherless on company money (and time) he completely forgets to deliver to the Very Important Client the documents I'd worked on throughout the night before.
It is mid-December and that can only mean one thing: time to buy myself some Christmas prezzies.
The metropolitan council that runs Durban is called eThekwini. Do you know what "eThekwini" means?
If you eat a banana from Uvongo it'll probably contain a flesh-eating bacteria that will devour you one cell at a time. Then you will die. In extremis. That's the good news.
To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I'm not sure I would ever be happy working for a company that would hire someone like me. Not if it had made me do a psychometric test to get the position.
Last week was a good week. A very good week indeed.
This Saturday I was reading the cracking manuscript of an historical novel written by a friend.
YOU white people! What is it with you people?
A FRIEND and I were both going to be in the same part of Johannesburg at the same time last week so we arranged to meet for lunch.
IT'S Sunday afternoon. Mum and daughter have gone out. Son and I are at home. It's a glorious early summer's day in Johannesburg: it's father-son bonding time.
There has been a weeping and a wailing and a general gnashing of teeth Down Under after brewing giant Foster's was bought by those odious upstarts from South Africa.
According to last week's Sunday Times, I am "well-heeled".
Why can't we be more like the New Zealanders?
So there I was, driving on this highway last week. Never mind which highway it was; I'm not going to tell you anyway.
It's Tuesday morning and almost time to send my column to the paper. It will soon also be time to do something I have been dreading since Thursday.
A CHAP called Steve Hilton has caused an almighty ruckus over in England by suggesting that it might be a good idea to close the government's job centres for nine months - to see if anyone noticed.
Standing in front of the clothes rack at Woolies in Rosebank, Johannesburg, I realised that I had absolutely no idea what the size numbers on the shirts meant.
I LEAVE the planet for four days and just look what happens: the whole place goes to hell in a handcart overnight while I'm on answerphone.
ACCORDING to research which the Packaging Council of South Africa has just made up and which has been peddled to a gullible media as "news", precisely 88000 South Africans earn their living picking through waste.
In some countries they have grouse-shooting seasons. In Ulster they have the marching season.
ONCE upon a time, in a previous life, I landed a curious job.
Recently I found myself queuing on a bitterly cold morning outside the Swiss embassy in Pretoria.
JUST bear with me for one more week; I'm almost off the BEE hobby horse I've been on recently.
What sort of offices do you get for a R1.1-billion rental these days?
On Friday I plucked up all the courage I could muster and told myself I had lived a (mostly) blameless life and so had nothing to fear.