Cloud (Dis) Ability

Michael Caines at Calvert Trust Exmoor, Whistlandpound

by Paula Byers | 

Have you ever met someone you have long admired, only to be blown away even more by their inspirational story when you get to hear them speak in person?

This was my experience when I met one of my foodie heroes yesterday.  I was fortunate to be part of a group of Barnstaple & District Chamber of Commerce Ltd Members invited to Calvert Trust Exmoor for A Morning with Michael Caines.  The event was to announce that he had become an Ambassador for this amazing charity who provide outdoor activity experiences for adults and children who have their own physical and/or mental challenges.

A candid account

Michael (I feel I can call him that now as he spoke so openly and honestly as if he was talking to a roomful of friends) gave a candid account of his upbringing and his career progression.  To say that he has faced some serious challenges would be an understatement.

I didn’t know before that he was adopted, but by his own account he was fortunate to become part of what he describes as a loving and supportive family unit.  He is the youngest of six children, two of whom were adopted.  This was to stand him in good stead when he later faced the challenge of losing his arm in a road traffic accident, having only recently started as Head Chef at Gidleigh Park and achieved his first Michelin Star.  

His account of the accident was about as honest as a person can get as he described the shock of seeing his hand on the floor as he hung upside down in the car, when it should have still been attached to his body.  However, what was most inspirational was hearing him describe what happened after the accident, how he moved forward and was back at work part time two weeks later and full time within four weeks.  Amazing when you consider he was a chef in a very busy kitchen who, as a right-handed person, had now lost his right arm. However, he worked out one very important thing – he learned how to adapt; how to delegate and to use things around him to his advantage.

He spoke passionately about how he made a conscious decision that losing his arm wouldn’t hold him back.  He challenges what is ‘normal’ and believes we shouldn’t use the word disability, as it should be about ability.

Thinking differently

This started me thinking about the number of Clients who have asked how tech can help them in their business when they have specific challenges.  I am not talking about the usual challenges faced by everyday people in business, I am talking about people running a business who are differently abled (see Michael, I am trying to relabel it!) and the additional challenges that brings.

For some it may be a physical issue, of being blind or deaf and there are some amazing Apps that can help with this, using AI to audibly describe the view that the phone camera is capturing, or turning speech into text.  I was talking to someone who runs a company who deliver business sign language translation services and she was showing me some of the tech available, which just blew me away!  Indeed, even the accessibility settings within your devices can be configured to assist wherever possible.

I was asked by someone whose brother is severely dyslexic & running a landscape business if there was anything that could help him as he was struggling with the admin side of the business.  This is where a combination of cloud accounting in Xero and a little set up support can come into it’s own.  Using the automation and machine learning functions, means that Xero can be set up with the inventory items and automated invoicing to assist him in preparing and issuing sales invoices, entering his purchase invoices and generally keeping things up to date.  With the ability of a bookkeeper to connect remotely to just help out with the reconciliation, he is able to stay on task – doing a job he loves passionately, without the admin side becoming a barrier to building his business.

All about the spoons!

For people with chronic conditions, it’s about spoons!  Let me explain.  There is a brilliant analogy called The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino (@bydls) which essentially explains the limited energy people with chronic conditions face.  This needn’t be a barrier to starting or running a business if you are smart about how you use the tech.  Again, the automation and machine learning can come into its own to speed up tasks, or do them for you, so that you spend more energy working on the business you love.  In addition, the agility of cloud tech can help, such as integrating a range of Apps together so that you can enter the data once and the connected system uses it wherever appropriate.

Obviously everybody's challenges are different and I can't cover everything in one (reasonably) small blog post, but suffice it to say there is a wealth of tech available with a myriad of ways it can be set up to help.


Michael is very open about the opportunities and support he received after his accident.  He very eloquently talked about how important it is that people should reach their own potential and not be limited by others.  Clearly, he is a very driven person with a passion for food and a zest for life itself.  As a result, I have become an even bigger fan – you can probably tell! 

I have long admired Michael, having been an avid watcher of chefs on TV and love seeing him create dishes.  As an acclaimed chef with many accolades, his list of accomplishments is long, including Michelin Stars and an MBE.  But I was really inspired by Michael’s talk – it really hit home for me on a number of levels, so much so that I was so impressed and in awe of him after hearing him speak that I was unable to string a sensible sentence together to talk to him at any length after!  Talk about being dumbstruck and missing an opportunity – the very thing he had said not to do!!  Now I wish I had found the courage.

So, if you are differently abled and thinking about starting up, or in business, don’t miss the opportunity to come and talk to us about how the tech can help you and see if we can get some clever cloud strategies in place to support your journey.  Maybe my own challenges are what make me so passionate about this.

As Michael says, don’t give up on your dreams – work harder at them.  I would also add to work smarter too.  Use the opportunities that cloud tech can offer to change the I can’t into an I can!

P.S.  If you’re a foodie like me and find yourself in Devon, you might want to try The Coach House by Michael Caines at Kentisbury Grange or for the epitome of luxury Lympstone Manor.  Take a look at his website – no reason, just passion.


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