Insuring your business future

iStock_000020557146LargeSome businesses are unique to the individual. If you are a successful writer, then what the clients or readers are buying is you. There are other businesses which are all about the owner; for example, performers such as actors, artists, designers. If the work is so original and cannot be done by someone else, then the income is dependent on the business owner, and that might be you.

Suppose you cannot work for a while. You are ill, really sick. Will your income dry up? You can get insurance which will provide you with an income for a certain period while you get back on your feet. Why wouldn’t you do that, because it gives peace of mind?

Perhaps your business is not unique, but it is your business with a flavour of you? If you could not work, the business would still suffer, even if you have several employees or subcontract a certain amount of work. Of course you should also insure against your getting sick, but you can also get insurance to pay for someone to run your business while you are recuperating. If you never get well enough to work again (perish the thought) you will still have a business to sell.

You might have an employee who is vital to your business. Suppose she has a health problem and has to take months off work. Have you insured your business against losing her services for a while, so that you are able to bring in someone capable of filling her role temporarily?

If it is you who are ill, you need to get treated as soon as possible and get back to work. Do you have health insurance so that you can get treated quickly?

I am not an insurance salesman. I do know that having insurance is not only vital for peace of mind, but is an important lifeboat when the unexpected happens and you have to face a nasty health issue.

Are you insured?

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Mutual envy

Local businesses
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Many of us in business for ourselves feel we would be unemployable if we were asked to go to work for someone else. We enjoy the freedom of making our own decisions and being in charge. We make our own hours of work of course, rather than abide by someone else’s rule, though it is easy to work too much rather than too little. We always want to maximise our income potential and we do need a certain discipline to avoid becoming our own slaves.

We do know we would rather not be wage slaves and have come away from that mindset. That is why if we sell our businesses to someone else with an agreement to work on for a year or so, that situation can soon become very uncomfortable. It is not nice to be looking over one’s shoulder at the person watching us.

At the same time, there was a comfort in the relative certainty we had as employees that we would have a known income at the end of each week or month. If we are doing well in our business we do have that still, but it is down to our own efforts and managing ourselves.

Those still with jobs would mostly be frightened to have the responsibility we have for our own financial survival, but at the same time they envy us being our own bosses, as they see it awarding ourselves holidays and bonuses and time off in the summer for picnics. Of course our lives are not always about picnics, but there is some truth about the freedom if we are doing it right. What do you think?

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Loss of status issues for the newly self-employed

Signpost at the Cape of Good Hope

I remember well what it was like to find myself without a job, not able to get one and with the prospect of “getting on my bike” and earning a living as a self-employed person. I had not planned to be self-employed; it was a matter of survival, which I have discussed before.

In the corporate world of larger organizations we have the concept of status. We know our place, and we have worked hard to get there. I had various titles such as “Manager”, Senior Manager” and “Senior Consultant”. Once I thought these had some sort of cachet; I guess the main purpose was to define our roles, and so that we knew who to report to and others knew that they had to report to us. There are other reasons for titles of course. In the accountancy world, especially in larger partnerships, the title of “Director” is dished out to those who think they should be partners but haven’t been offered this status; it helps them feel better than being a senior manager but really doesn’t have any other meaning.

In the small business area titles are irrelevant to the clients and customers, and one has to get on with building a business. Just the same, if someone had been made redundant it takes a while to recover the self-esteem had when he or she had a designated title. It is bad enough feeling unwanted when made redundant, but not even knowing by what title to call yourself is very hard indeed.

Strangely, many people find it very hard to see themselves as the boss and in charge, and it may be a completely new experience. Of course being in charge has a lot of responsibility, not least in earning a crust to live on, but new business owners amongst those who have lost their jobs need to recognise the freedom they have to make their own decisions. It should be liberating and invigorating, and even if we make the wrong decisions sometimes at least we can change our minds. In the corporate world it can be very frustrating implementing someone else’s wrong decisions.

Running one’s own business can be so much more satisfying than being an employee in someone else’s business. We just have to throw away the conditioning and forget the grand titles we used to have. Just call yourself the Boss. Don’t you agree?

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Why employment is the other side of the fence

I was talking recently to a senior manager of a major financial institution. She is by any measure a successful person, well paid and valued by her employer. She is a person whom one would describe as a serious IT techie as well as a manager of others. She knows how things work in the virtual world.

I was explaining to her about my blogging activities; how often I do it (which is quite often as you know), how I get inspiration and how I manage to blog regularly. Of course I explained a few of the tricks; how one should take advantage of “purple patches” to write a string of posts, how I schedule posts ahead as most serious bloggers do to take off the pressure of readers’ expectation that they will hear from me if they have such expectation. At the same time I can still write about a topical matter fresh in the public domain and slip it in to the stream. This part is perhaps for another post.

The senior manager said to me “I don’t know how you have the time”. Well, firstly, it is about time management, and secondly I write for pleasure to a large extent so some of the pieces are written in my leisure time. Mainly of course, I blog for the market, which means my market, my reputation, and my networking as well as for my friends. It is about marketing to people, and if there is a Google effect, all well and good, and there generally is.

The Googleplex welcome sign

What struck me though was the difference between the perception of a senior employee, driven by the work that comes in, and someone in business on their own account who has to drive the business to make money, to take the business forward and build a future, and of course have some fun along the way. It is the difference between being reactive as an employee and proactive as a business person. It is the difference between being bound by others and being free to make our own decisions.

What do you think?

© Jon Stow 2010

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Are we pre-conditioned for our working lives?

I was listening to a discussion on a news channel this morning in which there was a debate about the new British Coalition’s proposals to get unemployed people to where the work is by helping them re-locate, and how this sat with the review of the current range of benefits, particularly unemployment benefit (known as JobSeeker’s Allowance) and Incapacity Benefit for those deemed unfit to work. There is quite a lot of debate about Incapacity Benefit. Of course the majority who receive it are those for whom it is intended, but there was a suggestion that some long term unemployed receive this benefit because the State currently has no other options.

I do not want to debate these complex issues and there must be people much better able to comment than I. However, what was interesting to me was the general agreement that unemployment in young people in deprived areas was often a culture derived from their parents and sometimes their grandparents; possibly third generation unemployment. One commentator said that she felt that the problem was partly in failing to encourage the young to get a proper education; to pay attention at school. Some parents feel that school didn’t help them to get work so they do not encourage their children.

This seemed to me a worrying view, but when I thought about it I could see the point. It struck me that there is also a culture of employment which tends to make people think that should be their lot. Things have moved on since I started work, but at the time I went for a job in a bank because both my parents worked for banks and it was agreed to be the right thing to do. I only ventured into business on my own account when I lost my (well-paid) job and couldn’t get another of any sort due to a downturn and my more mature status. Running your own business needs a whole different mindset.

I applaud at least one local school which I understand does give near-leavers in the sixth form some time to study independent business – being self-employed – but I wonder how much we are conditioned through parenting and education, or lack of it, to be employed, self-employed or unemployed?

What do you think?

© Jon Stow 2010

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